When I saw a comic about Heavy metal and an alien invasion on Facebook, I thought that sounds right up my street. So, I contacted Michael Johnstone the writer of Thrashers to find out more.
Interview by David Jenkins
MM: Thanks for agreeing to speak to me, Michael.
Michael: Thank you, David. I appreciate you reaching out to me. I am always game for talking about Thrashers.
MM: Heavy metal and an alien invasion. What a premise. How did you come up with it?
Michael: Well, that’s a very long story, but I can give you the CliffsNotes version. When I was younger and just starting to dive into writing, my Mom and Dad always told me to write about things I know and am comfortable with. So, since I know sci-fi and heavy metal, I tumbled things around in the Mosh Pit of my mind and out came Thrashers.
MM: Thrasher reads and looks like a film with the opening scene being the destitute city of Sacto. How UFOs aren’t introduced till late. There’s so many film like aspects. Was this always the intention?
Michael: Yes. I wanted to create something that was more than just a comic book about aliens and metal heads. I wrote Thrashers as a tribute to all the great Sci-fi movies I grew up watching.
MM: It’s unusual having song lyrics in a comic and the lyrics forebode what is happening, so you can focus more on the gang. What made you think to include song lyrics? And were there any other songs you considered using?
Michael: I love Heavy Metal music so songs and the lyrics will be a part of every issue of Thrashers. That’s been the plan from the beginning. The songs/lyrics will be used in places that you would normally hear music. The opening of the book takes place at a concert so I thought it would be cool to put songs in there that are foreboding. I wanted to create an atmosphere that was fun as well as this time paying tribute to songs, by bands, I grew up listening to. There were a lot of songs I considered, but just didn’t seem to fit the mood or weren’t written yet.
MM: The ending of Thrashers # 1 was unexpected. What else do you have in store for the series?
Michael: Dude, you want spoilers? Well, the first story arc is four issues and will cover the first hours of the invasion. Issue one focusses on a group of friends. Issue two will introduce a group of misfit Army mechanics. Issue three will see the Metal Heads and Army Mechanics meet up. Issue four, will be a crazy, crazy, crazy all-out battle. There will be a lot of action and some death. Issues three and four are in production and they should be ready, hopefully, by the end of the year. I have Issues four through eight written and they deal with the ragtag team coping with day to day survival.
MM: The art used in the comic is colourful, yet gritty and has an eighties feel. How did you find your art team?
Michael: That’s another long story, so CliffsNote part two. I noticed Jose Pares’ art on Instagram, lots of great work, he had a drawing of a singer and a guitarist rocking out and I knew this was my dude. I saw Rodrigo Ybanezs’ work on twitter as part of another crowdfunding campaign. His coloring was bright and just popped and fit perfectly with what I was looking for. I just didn’t want my story to be about the eighties I wanted it to feel like the eighties as well. They both absolutely nailed it. All that, accompanied by Nikki Powers lettering just wrapped it all up perfectly. I am so humbled to have such a great team with Issue one. I brought in a new artist for issue two, Nico Valdez, and he is doing stellar work, I found him on Facebook.
MM: This isn’t the first time you’ve tried to crowd fund Thrashers. What have you changed from the past and how do you stay motivated to keep trying especially in the current epidemic?
Michael: David, it’s been rough. I can honestly say that the first campaign failing really hurt. The original story was going to be a 64 plus page graphic novel, so I decided to split it up into a smaller format. Then the second campaign failing, crushed me. My wife has been amazing during this whole time she isn’t going to allow me to give up. I’ve also had so many great supporters that have kept me going. Now I have to back up a little here and get a little deeper. I have lost a lot of family members in the past few years, my Mom, my Dad, a Sister and a Brother. I started all this as a way of honouring them. My company name Chromosome 21 Comics is in honour of my sister who passed. She had Down Syndrome. The stories I write is in honour of my parents and brother, who always encouraged me to write. This book was going to happen no matter how long it took.
As far as the epidemic, I delayed the Kickstarter campaign about a month or more because it just didn’t seem right to do this until it looked like it was starting to get better.
MM: You’ve got a few comics in production at the moment like Metal Melee and Gen Exe. Can you give me some details about them?
Michael: Sure thing. Metal Melee is another Alien adventure mixed with a love story that takes place in the late 70’s. Two alien adversaries Josh-Ua and Jeth-Ro have been at war for centuries collide in a small town in west Texas. It doesn’t help that Josh-Ua doesn’t know that he is an alien, but Jeth-Ro remembers everything.
GEN.EXE is a Superhero type story. Three siblings are accidentally exposed to a genetic experiment. Their DNA is modified amplifying their natural abilities within to extraordinary levels. In their search for answers they find out that this isn’t the beginning, but the end of a greater plan.
MM: Last question what are your favourite metal bands?
Michael: Dang, there are so many great bands out there, but I’m still a child of the eighties, so it’s Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Social Distortion, Ozzy, Dio and Metallica just to name a few
Find out more about Thrashers here