As we of the present are apt to say, the history is past. What’s done is done, look forward to tomorrow, etc., etc. It is what it is has become the mantra of the exceedingly droll. What if history were malleable, able to bend at the will of any artist or writer? In the dark recesses of Ventura, history is being rewritten in a subtle yet noticeable manner and is unwinding on the pages of a graphic novel.
With The Adventures of the 19XX, author, graphic artist and Russ Manning nominee for “Most Promising Newcomer” Paul Roman Martinez gives us a startling alternate reality tale of secret operatives working for the United Nations in an attempt to stop a terrible prediction from coming true — another great war, only years after the end of the First World War, as seen by clairvoyants. Set in the bustling ’30s, Martinez draws from a foundation of historical fact to build his fiction upon.
“The 19XX as a group reflects the period of the time,” said Martinez. “The thirties were this dark valley where half the world was terrified that the next war would happen and the other half really wanted it. The group as a whole represents that.”
Alternate reality fiction isn’t new. Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds both invoked elements of the genre, but there are levels ranging from completely morphing reality to only meddling with it. The Adventures of the 19XX is a product of the time, existing as fiction but surrounded by reality.
“The reality comes from a global obsession with the occult and spiritualism,” said Martinez. “It traces back to Darwin’s Origin of the Species, a crisis of faith after the Spanish Flu epidemic and how many people were killed during World War One. A lot of people went looking for a new solution, and you had a group like the Nazis who took advantage of that.”
Martinez left his previous job to work full time on his graphic novels after completing a very positive and successful Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website that allows anyone to launch a campaign and ask for pledges from fans (also known as backers), allowed Martinez to skip the traditional publishing houses such as DC or Marvel and go it alone — writing, drawing and publishing the book himself.
After his initial successful campaign, Martinez released the first in the 19XX series, a collection of his comics from when it was an online-exclusive series. 19XX Book One: Rise of the Black Faun was so successful that Martinez began a Kickstarter campaign for book two, Montezuma: 1934, which met its funding goals well in advance of the deadline. His latest, a campaign to fund the reprinting of his original graphic novel in a hardcover edition with added artwork and goodies, has already more than doubled his $9,000 funding goal.
When the campaign ends on Jan. 21, Martinez hopes that it will give a jump-start to the long road ahead — comic book convention season.
“Self-publishing is all about time management. I have my first big convention on March first in Seattle. I’ve timed all of this so the book comes in mid-February, I can go right away. My second is Wondercon in Anaheim, and this year I’ve secured a booth at the San Diego Comic Con, which is incredible.”
Martinez credits tenacity and a bit of luck for his success. After his first Kickstarter campaign, he kept the e-mails of those who had funded him and reached out again when he made plans to release his second. With their help, Martinez has crafted a mythology both of the age and from it. With his success, Martinez has been asked to speak at conventions on how to use Kickstarter to one’s advantage.
“One thing I say is, do your research,” said Martinez. “What else is going on that’s similar to yours? I wrote down what kind of pledge levels they had. I had a really good estimate of what I’d get, then I put my actual goal below that.”
Martinez’s next step is to get the book into stores. Already in talks with comic book distributor Diamond, it’s possible to see The 19XX on local shelves — perhaps for the first time at Ventura’s Hypno Comics and again at Ralph’s Comic Corner where his first book sold out.
“This is set to be a big year for me. I’m expanding nationwide and into digital PDF. I also have a board game that’s nearly done and I’m planning on doing a Kickstarter for that as well.”
As for the future, Martinez’s is yet to be written.
“I like it when fiction can bump up against reality and the reality is still visible.”
To learn more about Martinez’s latest project or to contribute to it, go to www.kickstarter.com and search The Adventures of the 19XX.