Exclusive Interview: Andy Burns Goes Ballistic With Writer Adam Egypt Mortimer

ballistic_coverThings are going Ballistic for comic book fans this week, as Black Mask Studios unleashes a new series from writer/filmmaker Adam Egypt Mortimer and The Boys artist and co-creator Darick Robertson. This steampunk/futurist tour de force is something pretty amazing – it’s entirely unique. How often do we get that in comics? We’re very luck to have had the opportunity to talk to Adam Mortimer via email about the series, what to expect and lots more. This is the first of our regular feature on the series, so dig in and enjoy!

Andy Burns: Congrats on a kickass first issue of Ballistic! For everyone who is about to discover the series, why don’t you give them the basics of what the series is about?

Adam Egypt Mortimer: Thanks man!  It’s taken us a while to get here and now the fun begins!

So… Ballistic is the tender story of a simple air conditioning repair man and his foul mouthed, drug addicted, psychotic gun.  So it’s kind of the ultimate buddy action story, really.

An eco-apocalypse has fueled a meltdown in the western hemisphere.  New forms of technology have had to replace the old, environmentally destructive forms.  Here on Repo City State, technology is alive.  Not only is it inspired by nature, it is grown from the endless possibilities of DNA.  Red algae converters and living solar panel membranes power a city full of jellyfish streetlights and winged drones that eat off off electrical lines.  Long extinct species live again and are engineered into unthinkably weird new forms.

But technology has not cured the human condition.  People are still assholes.  The dominant goal in this city is to be a famous gangster.  So much so that TMZ-like blogs cover the styles and tastes of criminals.

Our hero, Butch, is a guy that shares this view of celebrity.  He is an air conditioning repairman, but he longs to be the John Dillinger of his time.  He’s in that mode of life where he is trying to psych himself up to make some kind of big move — like rob a bank — but he keeps getting in his own way.  He partner and friend — maybe his only friend — is his GUN.  A living weapon, it is a cranky motherfucker who essentially berates Butch for being a failure and cajoles him into making terrible choices.

In the first issue, Butch is finally propelled into taking a shot at a big heist, and when his gun does not cooperate, their cataclysmic failure sends them off into a very unexpected adventure involving a city-wide plot involving warring crime lords, tech moguls, and a disease that drives technology insane.

Andy Burns: Where did the story come from? That is, what inspired this world and story you’ve created?

Adam Egypt Mortimer: The initial image of a guy screaming at his gun — and the gun screaming back.  I started with that idea.  In some important ways it was inspired by figuring out what would be my version of Die Hard: the quintessential American action stunner — a guy, his gun, and a problem.

But once you have the gun screaming back, you have to figure out what world you’re in that makes it possible.  Instead of the Gun being from outer space, Green Lantern style, I saw a whole world as an organic-tech driven city, one which would have flying cars flapping giant bat wings.  And this was when it became time to get Darick Robertson.

BallisticAndy Burns: How did you wind up working with Darick Robertson on the series? 

Adam Egypt Mortimer: We drank a lot of whiskey together, back in our New York City days.  One night we were at San Diego Comic Con together, in the back of a pedicab headed to see the Aquabats.  I told him I wanted to write a comic about a guy and his psychotic gun, flying around a crazy city in a bat winged living car.  You could see little spittles of drool forming in his mouth as he imagined himself drawing such a world.  Soon that hunger would turn into an intense physical pain as he began devoting himself to drawing a comic depicting, in every single painstaking panel, a world no one has ever seen before.

Andy Burns: Could you give us some insight into how you both collaborated on the visually stunning world of Ballistic? 

Adam Egypt Mortimer: I have done tons of research about bio-mimicry, genetic engineering, visionary architecture, environmental solutions, the future of computing, DNA-based fashion, etc.  I have just endless piles of data, images, references.  I took a trip to Singapore that really sealed the deal on my understanding of where this island would be, what the population would look like.  I think i took a few thousand pictures in the one week.  So I put all this stuff together into a rough bible for the world and started knocking it back to Darick.  He took all that stimulus, and after nearly slipping into a coma he absorbed it all into what can only be described as an incredible artistic mutation.  He spent a long time drawing this unbelievable panoramic shot on page three — the shot that had brought him into the world in the first place: Butch’s flying car swoops over this living city.  It’s an amazing page — drawn sidewise, for full wide-screen effect.  You’ll have to rotate the comic to see it properly.  Once he had the image done, his eyes and heart were firmly living in Repo City State and we were off to the races.

Andy Burns: Ballistic is being published by Steve Niles’ Black Mask Studios – how did you wind up working with them?

Adam Egypt Mortimer: I accosted Matt Pizzolo at his Halo-8 booth two years ago  and waved around a few sketches Darick had drawn.  I was a fan of Pizzolo’s psychotically anarchistic approach to the business.  I was even just a fan of saying “Pizzolo” over and over.  It’s a fun name to say.  It better be, given how much I have to say it, in pleading tones, these days.  We didn’t get anywhere making it a Halo-8 book, but then he called me out of the blue when Black Mask was coming together.  He liked the batshit crazy world Darick and I cooked up, he loved Darick as an artist, and he thought our story represented something about the Black Mask attitude.  Several gallons of coffee later, we had a deal.

The Black Mask people have been so great to work with.  Pizzolo is super hands on with story advice, marketing ideas, and a general encouragement to push things to the edge.  It’s awesome.  And it was fun to talk to Brett on the phone and explain to him the climactic moments of this story.  I was quite relieved when, instead of hanging up on me and firing Pizzolo, he laughed uproriously, made some helpful creative comics, and then started cooking up an utterly amazing but as yet unveiled plan for some future Ballistic material.

Andy Burns: How are you feeling, now that Ballistic is about to blow the minds of the public?

Adam Egypt Mortimer: I feel like Al Capone, peaking on a late stage neurosyphilis high, pumping a Tommy metaphysical gun full of rainbows, kittens, and rabid explosive rabbits!

We’ve gotten a few advance reviews and so far people are really into the colorful out-there approach.  I think the world was just now ready for a hyper dense science fiction action crime adventure.  I don’t even want to call it HD — the colors and density and ideas are so packed into every page it’s like the first 4K comic!

Thanks to Adam Egypt Mortimer for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop! Ballistic is out this Wednesday, July 10th from Black Mask Studios. You can get  it direct from Black Mask Studios here, in all sorts of cool configurations. If you’re going to San Diego Comi-Con this year, be sure to check out the Black Mask Studios panel with Adam Egypt Mortimer and company, Thursday July 18th at 8:30pm in Room 8.

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