He’s the man behind the Florida based Publisher known as Cosmic Times and for years has been at the writing helm of his own take on King Arthur! He is Martin T. Pierro and today he joins us in the Mind Meld!
1. Hello there! And welcome to the Mind Meld here at IndieComiX! For those who may not be aware of you and what it is you do, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thank you for doing this interview, it’s highly appreciated. I’m Martin Pierro the owner, publisher, editor, and occasional writer for Cosmic Times. I started Cosmic Times in 2008 out of sheer boredom. I had spent a good chunk of my life working in film, television and on stage … Yet suddenly found myself working a 9to5 IT job. While I enjoyed the people I worked with, the job was creatively stifling. A friend of mine and I had plotted out and written a 6-issue mini-series … But that project cooled and we went our separate ways. I still wanted to publish a comic, so I dusted off an old concept I had been sitting on for years and launched Cosmic Times to publish my story. MegaCon 2009 rolled around and there I was with my first book – Arthur: The Legend Continues.
2. You’ve currently got a Kickstarter going centered on King Arthur, what can you tell us about that?
Yes, currently funding with less than a week left is Arthur: The Legend Continues – Volume II – Issue Two. It is the middle chapter in a three issue story that is the direct sequel to the original Arthur: The Legend Continues, published in 2009 / 2010. This Kickstarter features that new issue along with the other four issues of the saga thus far. It’s the story of King Arthur in a post-apocalyptic future, facing crazy dangers that couldn’t had been dreamed of in his time. I’m excited to continue the “legend” and hope that folks will follow the story to see where it goes.
3. As mentioned on the KS, your take on King Arthur and the founding of Cosmic Times essentially go hand in hand around the same time, what led you to wanting to write about the Mythical King?
Cosmic Times and Arthur: The Legend Continues both debuted at MegaCon 2009 … but have been around for much longer. Cosmic Times actually dates back to 1985 … back then the comic industry was very different. In a pre-internet world comic news was hard to come by … But I had a few sources and decided to throw my hat into the ring and at 14 I published my own fanzine … Aptly titled Cosmic Times. Fanzines were a staple of comic shops back then and I was proud to have my little magazine carried by a few stores inside and outside of my home state of Florida, where I still reside and still shop at the same comic store as I did in 1985.
I had always been a huge fan of the legend of King Arthur, most notably the musical Camelot. Now my take on the legend, thrusting Arthur into the future, originally began as a TV pitch … Something my girlfriend and future ex-wife were kicking around. The elevator pitch was – King Arthur meets Mad Max. The concept back then was quite different, it was written to be shot low budget in the desert with easy to build sets … Very much in the style of syndicated shows in the early 90s. Nothing ever came of that … However, I believe there are no bad ideas … So I took that concept totally retooled it and created our “flagship” series Arthur: The Legend Continues.
After all that … Cosmic Times and Arthur: The Legend Continues are still going strong today as you can see by our current Kickstarter.
4. My pleasure on doing this interview! There’s a considerable gap between the first story of Legend Continues and Volume II/Issue 1, what led to that happening?
The gap between Volume I and Volume II was never meant to happen. I actually plotted this second series and wrote the first issue back in 2010, however Cosmic Times really started to expand in 2011 and I put my own pet-projects on hold to help develop other titles as I took on more creators. By 2014 we were nationally distributed by Diamond and I really focused on building the company and less on my own projects, so Arthur was put away. Fast-forward to the COVID times and I was looking for something to get me excited about comics again and it was my son who suggested that I bring Arthur back. Obviously the industry had changed in the years between, most notably the rise of Kickstarter … A platform that took me sometime to embrace. So last year I partnered with a new and incredible artist Carlos Tron to take another swing at the once and future King.
5. How’s reader reaction been so far where Legend Continues? Especially considering its King Arthur meets Mad Max.
It’s funny, I was just talking about this very thing. Back in the early days at a convention I would simply say “King Arthur returns to a post-apocalyptic England” and people would get excited and buy the book Jonny-on-the-spot. Now when I say the exact same pitch, I get blank stairs, especially with younger readers, makes me wonder if the legend of King Arthur isn’t as relevant to popular culture anymore, I think that is something I will need to reflect on.
I will say that the core Cosmic Times fans were excited to see the series come back. Believe it or not I still run into folks who have those old issues, in fact a at a recent InfinityCon, someone brought their copies from 2010 for me to sign, that was a little surreal. Also thanks to the power of Kickstarter I am able to expand my reach, finding all new readers who are intrigued by the concept.
6. Do you expect there to be another long gap in between releases?
Yes and no … Not nearly as long. Once issue three (the final book in this current story arc) drops I do have a few other projects to focus on. That being said I have already plotted out Arthur and the Clockwork King to be another adventure in the post-apocalyptic world and have a modern day spin-off/prequel planned as well as a possible Zanora centric one-shot. But that’s putting the cart before the horse … Let’s see how this current series is received in the direct market first.
7. Cosmic also has several other titles under it’s belt as you mentioned previously that some may not have necessarily heard of, what can you tell us about those?
Cosmic Times has always been story focused so when an interesting concept comes along, I tend to get drawn to it. In recent years we have found success with Deep Space Tragedy (the story of a teenage robot rock band on the run), From Blood (about a super powered mental patient), Takedown (about a cop in the future looking for vengeance), and the all-ages The Good, The Bad, and The Prehistoric (a historically inaccurate tale of dinosaurs and cowboys). But that’s not all, we have a small catalog of previously published books and have many more in the pipe-line coming out in 2023 and 2024.
8. As you also mentioned earlier, you think that King Arthur might not necessarily be all that relevant in popular culture anymore. Do you think that might have something to do with the various takes on the character that’s been done over the years and giving a sense of character fatigue because of that?
I’m not sure – it seems to be a recent phenomena. It could have something to do with our current throw away society – where you can have everything you want whenever you want it. There doesn’t seem to be any respect or resonance for the old legends like there use to be. I could be totally wrong … it could just be that the current crop of comic-con attendees are more interested in manga than traditional comics and that probably extends to traditional stories as well.
9. You mentioned earlier that Kickstarter took you a bit to embrace, what made you hesitant for so long before finally beginning to use the platform?
I believed that if you created a new and attractive product … that folks would be drawn to it and the revenue would come. When Kickstarter first debuted I didn’t fully understand it … I used to call it hobo-money. But then Michael Kingston sat me down and talked about it … he along with a few others showed me that it’s just another marketing tool – or rather a new way to reach potential readers in the current marketplace.
10. Outside of King Arthur, what’s another mythical figure you would consider trying your hand at in a setting outside of what they are normally connected with?
I don’t really like using preexisting characters … or characters that are in the public domain, I prefer to create original new characters. That being said I do have a story idea about the Greek God Zeus being forced to live in a small apartment after his wife kicks him out of Olympus. I think I could mine that for comedy gold.
11. As someone who has been involved with comics since the 80s in one way or another, you’ve essentially been present for a lot of changes because of that, do you think quite a bit of it’s been for the better? And if not, what do you think could benefit from some positive changes?
That’s the million dollar question … I have seen the industry fluctuate for sure, I could go on and on about all that has happened good and bad, but I’ll try to be concise.
I do think comics both mainstream and indie have a serious problem that is literally eroding the industry from the inside out. There is simply too much content. Marvel is flooding the market with substandard comics that in the 80s or 90s would never see publication and there are way too many guys and gals fighting for the small piece of the pie that is left for the indie market. I wont name any names but you have companies picking up books (some from Kickstarter) that are poorly written and illustrated, but they do it because they see comics as a numbers game.
Just in the last 6 or 7 years I have watched the trends turn away from quality to quantity and its doing nothing but filling the coffers short-term while sacrificing the long term. I think everyone should make whatever money they can … I’m not here to judge … but I am watching this industry eat itself and no good will come of that.
12. Lol! I love that idea about Zeus! I’d definitely read that! Regarding what you were saying about the Industry, what do you think should be done to resolve the problem?
That’s a tricky question … As long as corporations like Disney and Warner are involved, I think the “Big Two” will keep doing what they are doing until something implodes. For the larger “Indy” publishers, I think the writing is on the wall, companies like IDW and Valiant are hanging on by a thread, Dark Horse Comics was sold to keep going … But for how long?. Lion Forge merged with Oni and sort of became non existent. You see companies like Aftershock over spending and I think they are just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately I think we are seeing a mid-level collapse happening in real time and that is trickling down to the Small Press Guys just below them. I really think the future for guys like me … Or similar sized publishers is to focus on one or two projects at a time, cultivate an audience and focus on quality … In essence becoming a boutique publisher.
But the resolution … In my opinion, is to shrink output, like I said there are just too many books being published to a very small audience. Also to get comics into new readers hands, I love comic shops – like I said I’ve been shopping at the same location for nearly 40 years … But I found it because I loved comics … That love was fostered on a spinner rack at 7-11. Something needs to be done to cultivate new readers … Reach those kids playing Batman video games, watching Spider-Man cartoons, playing with Superman toys and going to see Ant-Man. It’s been said since I got into comics … If we don’t find new readers … There is an end date for this industry … Part of me worries that that time might already be up.
13. When it comes to Print vs Digital, where do you stand on it?
I just want people to read my stories, I put out comics for people to read, not collect. So if they read them as a floppy, as a digital file, or in trade paperback … I don’t really care as long as they read the words I write and appreciate the art my artists create. I don’t think traditional American comics are really thriving in the digital market … If so Amazon wouldn’t be killing ComiXology. However there are young people reading comics in digital formats … Mostly through apps like Webtoon. That’s something I’m trying to embrace, in fact that Zeus story I mentioned was first conceived as a webcomic and still might be one day.
14. For my final question, what advice would you give to those looking to get into creating comics?
Learn. Simply put – learn. Kickstarter is a double edged sword … It’s great for creators looking to find an audience, but it also celebrates mediocrity. I see so many comics doing well in that crowdfunding space because of sexy or flashy covers or because the creator has cultivated an audience through social media or YouTube … But ultimately those books are horrible. So many writers today don’t take the time to learn their craft or at least try to improve. If you have a great idea for a comic … But have never written anything or have never been taught the basics … Take the time to actually learn how to write, how to construct a story and characters with some depth. The same goes for artists … Always keep trying to improve, make sure you know your anatomy and how to visually tell a story …
Not just draw pretty girl pin-ups. I have been making comics since 2008 and yet I still study the craft, in fact just last night I was learning more about exposition and the denouement, not that I didn’t already know … But I want to be better.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview – it is highly appreciated.
My absolute pleasure! Arthur: The Legend Continues is in its final 5 days on Kickstarter with 80 backers and is at 2,449 of its intended 2,500 dollar goal. With your help, this project will surely be a Mythical Success! And for all you Print Lovers out there, beginning at the 30 dollar tier level you can get your hands on the first volume’s printed issues in addition to the current second volume!
Interview by: Rob Wrecks