Gabe Schmidt love for Greek gods and science-fiction from an early age may have propelled this talented author into his writing path. Let’s find out a bit more of his history.
Where did you come up with the concept for Mars2577?
10 years ago, I was traveling on a trip with my parents to visit my older sister in Washington, D.C. It grew off of the fact that there’s a place on Mars called Mount Olympus, and I began to think of a sci-fi setting where Greek gods are simply rulers over different areas of life. On the long drive, I wrote down in my notebook the different roles that could be played by Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, and Hera. While I liked the setting idea, when I thought of stories, I wanted them to be about the heroes of Greek mythology living in this world created by the gods.
Did you always envision it as a webcomic?
Definitely not. It started off as a regular book. Back then, there were only three other people who read any of it. One of them, Shamus, suggested it as a comic book instead. He hooked me up with an artist he knew, but the artist was not consistent enough to get any work done beyond the slightest glimpse of concept arts. It was for the best anyway; the story has evolved a lot since then, in both my writing ability and the plot itself. I did keep my eyes open for other ways to tell the story, though, and when the chance to work with Outland Entertainment presented itself, I leapt at the opportunity.
There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?
I am honestly not familiar with the debate around digital comics. However, I have been reading webcomics for a very long time. While the first ones I read were basically daily jokes (Penny Arcade, PVP), some of them were long and developed plots with plenty of jokes so it was easy to transition from the normal webcomic group (Order of the Stick is my favorite of these, Goblins is also good). While the former had the feel of newspaper comics (with material you would never find in so public a forum), the latter felt more like normal comic books that knew how to crack a joke. I think it is inevitable that digital comics are a core part of the comic community, whether or not anyone decides to debate it along the way.
Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre? Which one?
Science Fiction has always been my absolute favorite, in both writing and reading, but I try to diversify my interests as much as I can. Vonnegut has had a lot to do with my love of science fiction, and I was reading a lot of his works when I first started getting back in to writing in high school. The ability to use science fiction as a vehicle to discuss any topic you want without the restraints of modern-day technology or world situations is something I’ve always found liberating.
What was the first thing you ever wrote?
When I was in elementary school, there was a standardized writing essay for the state or the federal standards. Don’t remember all of the details for sure, but I remember the topic was “What I Did Over Summer”. I asked the teacher if it had to be real or if it could be fake, and she said it shouldn’t matter. I wrote about how I was abducted by aliens and kept in some alien zoo. (This may explain my later attachment to Vonnegut, as something similar happens in Slaughterhouse Five.) The essays were sent away and processed by someone or some committee I’ve never met, and I received a low grade, closer to a C or C- in normal standards. The negative reinforcement discouraged me from writing for years, until I got in to high school, when I restarted my old passion. Now, of course, I realize that negative criticism is essential for becoming a better writer; when someone reads my work, I’d always rather hear what they didn’t like than just a general, “It was good!” with no further explanation.
What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?
I’m sure the very first book ever read to me was something along the lines of Dr. Seuss, and I know Goosebumps was some of my early reading. However, the first book that I specifically remember reading was Jurassic Park, after seeing the movie many times in theaters, when I was eight. I didn’t understand a lot of the scientific mumbo-jumbo, but it put me on the path to pursue that understanding, and it also gave me a good introduction to science fiction.
And comics: which were your favorite ones?
I didn’t actually start reading comics by issue until I was 16, and I’ve since gone back to reading comics by the trade instead. My top five trades, in no particular order, are Green Arrow: Archer’s Quest, Maus, Saga Vol. 1, Criminal Vol. 1 and 2, and Habibi. As far as superhero comics, in addition to Green Arrow, my favorites were the Punisher MAX series and Marvel’s 1602.
Nowadays, what can we find you reading?
My four favorite authors are Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and I inevitably go back to reading a book by one of these four between other books. Recently I’ve been trying to diversify my reading list across different subjects, from The Elegant Universe to Heart of Darkness, from The Journey to the West to Snow Crash.
Are you a person of idols?
I am. I love the gods of mythology, the heroes of stories, and the protagonists of real life. I have a tattoo of Anansi, a god of storytelling and trickery, the very type of idol that sings to my soul.
Who were your childhood heroes?
Definitely Batman, from Batman: Animated Series, and Joker, from the same. Han Solo of Star Wars and Jack Burton of Big Trouble in Little China.Beast from X-Men and Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (There’s a chance I was always destined to be a nerd.)
And today? Who do you look up to?
It may be generic, but my parents. My dad is the embodiment of a hard worker, and he would do absolutely anything for his family. My mom was one of the first strong women (of many) that I’ve known, and helped establish that from the beginning of my life, so I’ve never struggled to write female characters with depth who are more than just a Damsel in Distress. (Or, at least if they start that way, they evolve out of that state.) My sister, Rachel Schmidt, is also on the list, as she is a successful artist out of Washington, D.C., proof that if you work hard and have an amazing amount of talent, you can go far in the creative world.
What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?
I practically grew up out of my local comic book shop. While I didn’t start my own pull list until I was 16, all of my other hobbies (card games, miniature games, roleplaying games) were played at Gatekeeper Hobbies from the age of 10 on up. I wasn’t the first one to think of putting Mars 2577 in a comic form, but I feel like the medium is both natural for the material as well as something I had been familiar with for years.
Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?
Mars 2577 is my first big project to get published, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Hopefully other projects of mine will show up before too long, but we’ll just have to see.
And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?
I always end up working on more than just one project at a time, but there is one I’m trying to channel most of my writing energy in to. The project that I am focusing on writing the most right now is called Shattered Worldsoul. It is a post-apocalyptic novel revolving around eight different characters, in a town being harassed and eventually attacked by bandits. It started as two linked short stories. The first tells the story of a man waking up in the back of a van, not remembering anything of his life from before that moment, and immediately falling in love with the woman driving the van. The second tells the story of the woman, who had lived a hard life, and who met the man when he was in love with a different woman half the world away. When he was having surgery that would cure his amnesia at the cost of triggering it one final time, she broke in and burnt all of his notebooks about the woman he originally loved, so she would be the world for him. From there it’s evolved a whole cast of characters and outlines for 66 chapters (although significantly less than that is written so far). Hopefully, when that’s finished, readers familiar with Mars 2577 will have another fun setting from me to read.
Thanks Gabe for letting us get a glimpse of your creative world!