Interview with Andrew E. C. Gaska

IMG_2537 Tell us a little about yourself and your background? (Where are you from, where you grew up, when did you start writing?)

Hello! I’m Andrew E.C. Gaska, the founder/creative director of the guerrilla integrated media studio BLAM! Ventures. My graphic novel and prose work include Critical Millennium, Space:1999, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century® and Planet of the Apes®. I also serve as a franchise consultant to FOX.

I was born and raised in New York, and lived in the tri-state area my entire life. From a very young age I was an artist, participating in elite art programs through grammar school and beyond. I would have to say I started actually writing in the 5th grade when I became a game master for me and my friends’ Dungeons and Dragons campaign, but I started much earlier than that as a storyteller. When I played with my friends with Star Wars and/or GI Joe figures from age 5 and up, I was always guiding the “story line” of our play time. When friends wanted to bring multiple Luke Skywalker figures into the mix, I concocted a story about how Luke was cloned by the Empire in order to make use of his Jedi skills on their side. If someone wanted to kill a main character like Han, I wouldn’t allow it. My rational behind this was “can’t kill Han, he needs to be alive for the next movie”. So yeah, the beginnings of the craziness that is my writings likely started there.

 

To start, I wanted to ask you what exactly is BLAM! Ventures, you seem to have a mix of licensed titles and creator owned. Also, can you talk a little about what it is like to run your own comic creating studio?

BLAM! Ventures is a full service guerrilla design studio that produces integrated campaigns and high quality multimedia entertainment. I wanted to bring a cinematic scope to sequential storytelling, be it in comics, animation, or more, with the IMG_2536intention of reaching a broader and more diverse audience than ever before.

What all this means is that we are essentially “a book packager”. This of course does not mean we put books in boxes, but rather either secure a license for a beloved property or start with one I’ve created in-house. We then get the project attached tot hat property 50-75% done before shopping it around to the right publisher to release it through. This way I avoid the headache of publishing itself, I’m able to take advantage of another publisher’s already established distribution channels, and can ensure the project is crafted with the love and respect it deserves rather than creating a cheap cash-in. Running all this can be frustrating and overwhelming, but at the end of the day I am creating/guiding quality products of my own creation and of licensed properties that have had special meaning to me.

 

What drove you to want to be a comic creator?

IMG_2539I dabbled in the concept of comics in High School, because I have been a life-long reader of them. As my career path was originally art-oriented, the college I attended was the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. My instructors included such luminaries as Carmine Infantino (creator of The Flash and Batgirl, and artist on the 1970’s Star Wars comic) for layout, Walt Simonson (artist/writer on Thor and New Gods) for graphic novel design, and Denny O’Neil (writer and director of Batman’s legacy, and creator on The Question, Green Arrow, and Azrael) for writing. At that point it seemed pretty clear what I wanted to do. As time went on in college, I started to realize that while I had a great grasp of layout and storytelling, I was no longer able to create finished art that matched what I saw in my head. As Denny morphed into becoming my mentor, it seemed pretty clear that I was on a path to being a graphic novelist/prose author.

 

IMG_1476In Critical Millennium (Check out my review of Critical Millennium here) you masterfully create a sort of dystopian future world and you meticulously build this world for your story, adding loads of detail. Yet by the end I felt that this was just a back story to set up what is going to happen, where the real action in this story was going to take place. I felt heavily invested in these characters by the end. Why did you write CM like this? Is there a sequel in the IMG_1486works for CM, and if not for the love of GOD please make one haha!

Critical Millennium was conceived as 1,000 years of mankind’s rise and fall in outer space. There are indeed several sequels planned, first with Thomm Coney and the crew of the Black Rabbit, and later tracking the trials and tribulations of Coney’s descendants. The delay in the next installment was two-fold: 1. creative differences prompted me to hold off until CM’s rights lapses completely back to me from the publisher, and 2. as artist Dan Dussault moved on to other things whatever artist takes over for him will have big shoes to fill. I’m looking for that next artist now, and they are very difficult to find.

 

In publishing Critical Millennium, why did you go through Archaia Comics instead of your own studio, BLAM! Ventures? IMG_1488

I feel like this one was answered above, but in addition to that, former owner of Archaia Mark Smylie is an incredible publisher and was helping to move Critial Millennium in the direction that it needed to go. Because of this, Critical Millennium set the standard for how BLAM! has released all of it’s projects up to date.

 

IMG_2538I was really blown away by the story in Space 1999: Aftershock and Awe. From where the story started to where it ended took me totally by surprise. How did you come up with this idea, and why did you want to use the theme of a 1970’s television show to intermingle your idea with? I have never seen the show, but it seems to me that this plot would have been fine on its own, without the Space: 1999 umbrella.

Shame on you for never seeing the show! SPACE: 1999 was an attempt to bring the science fiction wonder of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey to the small screen, and even several people who worked on 2001 worked on SPACE: 1999. While there are several clunkers, the best episodes of the series embodies gothic space horror and the wonder of the unknown. The show is very inspirational to me and has always been one of the series I had hoped to contribute to. The concept of the moon blasting out of orbit because of a nuclear accident is rife with scientific improbabilities, but the core of the series is fantastic. One of the goals I had on working on SPACE: 1999 was to put some science back in this work of science fiction, and to correct some continuity errors through storytelling rather than fan service.IMG_2545

I conceived the second half of Aftershock and Awe when I discovered that the only reason SPACE: 1999 got made was because Lew Grade, the back of the series, was tired of Earth-based science fiction programs and would only approve of it if Earth was not shown in the series. That left me thinking “What happened to the friends and family of those brave souls on the moon?” There is a lot of science behind what would happen if we violently lost the moon and the disasters that the characters face in Aftershock are based on real possibilities rather than pure fantasy.

Am I talking too much? I think I’m talking too much, let’s go to the next question!

 

IMG_2548Based on your body of work I think it is safe to say that you like writing Sci-fi, why, what about this genre do you like so much? And secondly it appears that you are somewhat obsessed with 70’s and 80’s science fiction in particular. Why are you trying to bring back these stories and characters?

I can answer all those questions in one fell swoop. Science fiction and the properties I grew up with helped shape me into the person I am today. Star Wars was my gateway drug followed by Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Planet of the Apes, SPACE: 1999, V, Alien, and the rest. I have been immersed in these properties since childhood, and am a fountain of useless knowledge about each one. I decided that with my career I wanted to do two things. One, give something back to the properties that inspired me and got me through rough times, and two, create new properties that would do the same for a new generation.

 

I have seen where you have just released a brand new book about the character Buck Rogers which is available on Amazon. Can you talk a little about this project and why you wanted to write this story?IMG_2566

I wanted to be Buck Rogers when I was 8 years old. When the licensing representative for the property saw my Apes book on the shelf at a bookstore, he tracked me down and asked me if I’d be interested in doing for Buck Rogers what I had done for Planet of the Apes.

I asked a quick series of questions: 1. We are talking about the 1970’s TV show program, right? (Nods). 2. Will I be able to expand the series into a third season and essentially create the new canon for the property? (Nods again). and 3. Can I kill off characters? (Nods one final time). And with that, I was in.

The first three short novellas take place between seasons 1 and 2, and explain the changes in status quo between the two seasons. After that, I am flashing forward to season 3 in an additional six novellas. All nine novellas will eventually be collected into three deluxe hardcover illustrated editions, similar to the Planet of the Apes book.

 

IMG_2546Talk to me about your project called Frenzy, the artwork on the BLAM! site has me very interested. When do you think that will be ready to go?

I was a big fan of Jaws growing up. When I was 3 years old, my parents could not get a babysitter and thus took me to the drive-in theater with them to see the film. I was quiet through most of it, and then started bawling uncontrollably when the shark was killed at the end. When asked why I was so upset, apparently I said “The shark was hungry, he was only trying to eat!”. As I had seen Bambi earlier and equated the name of the deer with being the protagonist, I had mistaken the shark as the hero of the film. Since then I’ve had a fascination with sharks and almost pursued a career in marine biology. The concept of Frenzy is that it’s a series of tales about killer sharks wherein the sharks are the anti-heroes and man is the enemy. There are plans to launch a new Kickstarter for Frenzy, this time with the story told as a graphic novel. Depending on scheduling and workload, that Kickstarter will appear later this year or early next.

 

IMG_1487Of all your projects which one are you most proud of, or which one means the most to and why?

To date, it’s Critical Millennium, but that’s probably because it’s completely my baby. To tell the truth, I’m extremely proud of every book that I have written and BLAM! has produced. While I become frustrated when I discover the occasional typo or error, I still feel the quality of my books presentation outshines those things. It’s always my hope that readers can see the labor of love that each of these projects are.

 

As a successful writer, do you have any specific goals? Maybe something that you set for yourself either words written per day, or how many novels you would like to complete each year? What drives you to keep pushing forward?

My day is a juggling act, so it’s hard to sit down and maintain any such goals. What usually winds up happening is that I will write in bursts, sometimes producing an entire prose novel in 4-6 weeks. I’m looking forward for the day when routine schedules can once again become part of my life. For the past several years it’s been all about working hard. After a while, that takes it’s toll. So in the past year I’ve been tempering working hard with some playing hard as well. Otherwise, madness!

 

IMG_2488What is your favorite action figure that you own, and why? (My favorite in my collection is Sargent Bananas from TMNT, mainly because of his name, that and he comes with coconut hand grenades and an Iguana gun.)

Unfortunately my answer is nowhere near as exciting as yours. My favorite action figures as a toss up between Kenner’s 18 inch Alien and the original release all in black Snake Eyes figure from GI Joe. Alien for the obvious reasons, for Snake Eyes it’s because I had seen this new line of toys with beautiful art on their packaging that consist of army men. Being so immersed in scifi at the time, I had little interest in playing Army. Snake Eyes was different than the rest and exuded an air of mystery about him. My next GI Joe purchases were Cobra Officer and Cobra Soldier (this is before Destro was even released), and I sent away proof of purchases for Cobra Commander. It wasn’t until after reading Larry Hama’ GI Joe comic that I realized just how cool these Army men were.

 

As an aspiring writer, can you offer any advice to me or anyone else out there? What do you attribute your success or perhaps failures to throughout your career? What has helped you the most to become successful?

Write what you know, and write from your heart. If you want to write about something you don’t already have knowledge about, it’s time to get knowledgeable. If you’re faking it, the reader will know it. And for the love of god, use a thesaurus. When I write, I write stream of consciousness and then go back and look at it and find that I may have described something the same way multiple times. That’s when it’s time to pull out the thesaurus and go back into your work. What also helps is to think of things outside of their context, for example instead of saying the sun is setting, you could say “The sun was a lazy red ball bouncing on the horizon.” Finally, don’t overdo it with adjectives, let the actions of your stories speak for themselves. I’m actually putting together writing panels to be presented at various conventions in which I will cover things like this and much more.

 

Can you tell the audience about any new projects you are working on, what does 2016 hold for Andrew Gaska?

I recently became a freelance franchise consultant for 20th Century Fox on such properties as Planet of the Apes and Alien (finally, a job where my useless information is useful!)

In addition to that, I’m continuing to work on the Buck Rogers novella series, and finishing up writing my next Planet of the Apes novel to be released through Titan book. I also have two creator-owned graphic novel projects, Charger and Madness, in the works at Titan as well. I’m also looking for artists to attach to several other creator-owned properties I have in the works. All this plus my other consulting jobs and my con schedule means there is never a dull moment!

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

If anyone of your readers is interested in checking out a dense alternative science fiction universe that is relevant to our times, I urge you to check out Critical Millennium.

Everything I write and BLAM! creates is a labor of love. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be worth doing.

 

LINKS –

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndrewECGaska/

Buck Rogers Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BuckRogersSeason3/

BLAM! Twitter: https://twitter.com/blamventures

Author Page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-E.-C.-Gaska/e/B004FYZPD4/

Official BLAM! Website: http://blamventures.com/

 

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