Atomic Fist Punch Creator Drew Maxwell Q&A

GameStop, Inc.

by Jessica Greenlee
Staff Writer

Drew HEADSHOTDrew Maxwell is a freelance illustrator, comic book creator, concept artist, feature-film screenwriter, producer, and director. He is also the creator of Atomic Fist Punch (www.AtomicFistPunch.com), an all-ages webcomic about the adventures of siblings Xander and Zoe Shaw. In the current, first arc, their father, eccentric scientist Dr. Alan Shaw, is kidnapped by his creation, the rogue robot Zero-1. It quickly becomes apparent that the police cannot handle the situation, so Xander and Zoe team up to rescue him and to prevent Zero-1’s evil minions from taking over the world. Zoe provides the equipment and technical advice while Xander does the punching,.

The webcomic is zany, fun, free and updated weekly. In addition to the comic itself, Maxwell offers coloring pages, games, and an upcoming iPad/tablet/smartphone video game.

Here, Drew Maxwell answers questions about writing an all-ages comic book, the future of Atomic Fist Punch, superpowers, and more.

 

Jessica Greenlee (JG): Many webcomic creators choose to have their comics load one panel at a time. You have chosen to have Atomic Fist Punch load several pages and have people scroll down. Why is that?

Drew Maxwell (DM): Great question! For me, when I read comics online, I find that it takes me right out of the story when you have to click on links or navigation buttons and the page has to reload every panel or page break. That’s not how comics are meant to be read in my opinion. I designed Atomic Fist Punch to have a certain flow to the reading experience with cliffhangers at certain points that I hope pull the reader into the story. So far I’ve had some great feedback from fans and reviewers about the layout of the site, so I guess it’s working.

 

JG: You say on your website that Atomic Fist Punch has been developed as a multimedia experience. What different elements exist now? What aspects are planned for the future? Can you describe the game you are planning more fully? Do you have an estimate for when it will be ready?

DM: Yes, Atomic Fist Punch is designed to be a multimedia experience including the comics / graphic novels, iPad/iPhone games, toys, animated productions and maybe even a feature film down the road. Atomic Fist Punch has received quite a bit of attention from Hollywood that I can’t talk about quite yet, but I am very excited about where things are headed! Right now, I am working with a great team of very talented programmers and artists on the first iPad/iPhone Atomic Fist Punch video game. We are close to beta testing now and hope that the game will be ready for release early next year. I am extremely excited about the game. Players get to run through maps based on the comic and fight evil Attack-bots with an arsenal of powerful Atomic Fists to choose from! The game has a big robot boss to defeat at the end of each level and you will need to use the best Atomic Fist upgrades to beat the bots! Also, each time you play the game it will randomly generate threats and enemies that you have to deal with, so no two games will be the same. It is going to rock! While I am excited about the games, animated projects, etc., the Atomic Fist Punch universe will always stem from the story in the comics. To me the comics are the hub that everything will branch out from and it will always be the story and art that is most important. Without an engaging story and characters, you don’t have the rest of it. The comic comes first and always will.

JG: What was the appeal of working on an all-ages comic? Are there things you find yourself unable to do because you’re looking at a wide range? Are there things this frees you to do?

DM: Another great question! I love working on all-ages projects for many reasons. I really am just a big kid and love cartoons and comics more than just about anything. Yes, there are some things that are mature themed and violent that I may not be able to explore but the world is so full of dark disturbing media already so I wanted to focus on an all-ages comic this time around. I wanted to make something that kids and adults could get into together. I feel that the best all-ages stuff is not made to be just for kids. As a kid I was drawn to stories that weren’t talking down to the reader or viewer. I have never liked worlds where kids were always safe and there was no real threat to deal with. That’s just not the world we live in and kids know this. I liked the cartoon Johnny Quest as a kid because they treated him like he was just one of the adventure team and could do dangerous things. “Here, Johnny, take the jetpack and go find Race Bannon in that volcano!” It was so cool that he wasn’t just some little helpless kid, he had value and could get things done. So to me all-ages stories don’t have to be devoid of danger and real emotions that are complex. Kids are very smart and insightful and love to be challenged by real feelings and adventurous situations. The best all-ages stuff asks questions and confronts scary things that force the reader to think a bit. Also, stuff made for a mature audience can often be jaded and take itself way too seriously. As far as it freeing me up to do certain things – I like the zany stuff that you can only get away with in all-ages projects as well: giant robots, monsters, aliens, ghosts, mad science etc. Kids’ suspension of disbelief is always on and they do believe that a nine-year-old can just walk right up to an evil giant robot and punch it with the huge atomic fists that they made themselves! I hope that Atomic Fist Punch brings out the kid in all of us.

 

JG: How many arcs do you have planned for Atomic Fist Punch?

DM: I am getting close to finishing the first graphic novel soon and I will collect that into the first story arc. From there I have 3 more story arcs planned out next that I want to do, but Atomic Fist Punch is such an anything goes kind of world so I see no reason to stop there. I love this project and hope I have the opportunity to play in this world as long as I want.

JG: Will Zoe and Xander grow up over the course of the tale or is everything going to take place while they are still nine and twelve?

DM: That is a tough one. I don’t want to keep it static forever but I also think that the ages that the characters are now really lend themselves to interesting storytelling. A nine-year-old boy is full of endless energy and action. There is an innocence and earnestness to their motivations that is sometimes lost with age. They really see the world in simple, right and wrong, terms. If you see a huge evil robot, you smash it! What more is there to discuss? The conflict comes when you get a bit older and see that there are consequences to your actions. That’s why I like having Zoe more mature. She is finding herself and forced to make big decisions in a more complex, thoughtful way. The world is more grey than black and white and it will take confidence to navigate through it. Playing the two personalities off of each other is fun to watch.

 

JG: When will we see Fluff Bomb in action?

DM: Fluff Bomb is Zoe and Xander’s pet rabbit that we have only seen a bit of so far but I have big plans for this fuzzball. When the first story arc is complete I am planning a spin-off side story starring Fluff Bomb. He will be exposed to atomic particles in the lab that give the rabbit amazing super powers and intelligence. I’m planning a comic-within-a-comic where you will be able to follow along on Fluff Bomb’s secret missions. It will be very zany and just a ton of fun.

JG: Do you have a favorite tale? What format is it in?

DM: Wow, that’s tough! I like so much stuff but if I had to point to an all time favorite I would say the original Star Wars is most likely the thing that affected me the most as a kid, but the work that just always blows me away is Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson is just amazing on every level! His artwork is incredible and his storytelling is so simple that it is deeply complex and thought provoking in a way that speaks to both kids and to the most jaded of adults. One story is pure zany comedy and the next is a social commentary that presents issues in simple emotive terms. I also love that Mr. Watterson just made the comic the way he wanted, said what he had to say and ended it when he felt he was done with it. He wants it to JUST be the comic. No big CGI feature film that might diminish what he made. Calvin and Hobbes works best in the format it was made in: comics. Also, it has T-Rexs’ flying F-16 fighters and what could ever beat that?!!

 

JG: You mention in your biography that you have worked on several films. What are some of the films? What does film making offer you as a creator that work in comics does not and visa versa?

DM: Yes, I am the co-owner of a film production / VFX company. We mainly do two things: write, produce, and direct feature films for various distributors / studios from LA. Many of these projects have been cheesy sci-fi/action/horror type films. They are fun to make but are not endeavoring to be ‘high art’ in any way. Lots of creatures and big guns and fun stuff like that. We also work with independent producers to help them get their films made. This includes anything from producing, shooting, editing, directing, VFX, to distribution. As far as how film making affects my comics work? Well, my first love has been and remains comics. Film is a great medium in itself but for me comics are way more freeing to work in. Film always comes down to budget. It is an endless set of budgetary compromises as far as what stories you can tell. With comics, you start with a blank sheet of paper and if you need 100,000 evil monsters to attack Earth, you draw it and, boom there it is! The only limit is you and your ability to tell any story you wish. You find this in novels as well but only with comics can you artistically show anything you wish. Look at the Avengers movie: It was really great, and I was blown away by it but they wanted to show an alien invasion of Earth and really because of budget, they chose to show it only taking place in NYC. Yes, you could say that they did that to keep the heroes together, but in a comic you could and most likely WOULD show the entire Earth being waylaid. Again, it all comes down to story. The thing I love about comics is the melding of story and art. You can see the artist in the work and that gets lost in most films.

JG: You’ve done collaborative work before. How does partnering with someone else differ from working on your own? What freedoms do the different forms offer?

DM: It always comes down to the person you’re working with. If you love what you are doing, and put your heart and soul into it, it is a bit like being a parent. I mean not really, but you work so hard to create something of value and there are always struggles in the process. If you are in-sync with the person you are working with, you can do anything. If not, it can be tricky sometimes, but that is where being a professional comes into play the most. If you are working for someone on their project, then you don’t need to have it your way. You should always tell them your thoughts and opinions but it is their baby. You have a job to do that supports their vision and that can be great. I really love writing and illustrating a project myself. I find that projects almost always change and evolve as you produce them. It is great to be able to recognize an opportunity in the story as you are making it come alive and then having the ability to explore that option. It is very freeing and you can really be surprised by the little magical things that can present themselves when you work this way.

 

JG: What is one question you wish you had been asked, and what is the answer?

DM: You asked some great questions and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share my excitement about Atomic Fist Punch and comics in general. I guess I don’t know what question I wish I was asked but the one that kids ask me the most is this: “What super power would you like to have?” Answer: The ability to freeze time! Just think of all of the fun trouble you could get into with that power! You could freeze time and then go around the world and tie the shoelaces of every living person together and then when you unfreeze time again BAM! Hilarious! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Oh the possibilities!

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