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A Radical Interview with M. Zachary Sherman "Shrapnel"

Posted By: dsmith
Wed, 04/29/2009 - 14:25

It's not too radical to think that within the next few hundred years, humanity probably will colonize the planets closest to Earth.

However, this not-so radical idea is appearing in Radical Comics' comic book Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising with a radical twist. It seems that government, called the Earth Alliance wants the human residents of Venus to submit to their authority.

And the Venusians have instead turned to the former space marine, Samantha Vijaya, to help lead the revolt.

Shrapnel writer M. Zachary Sherman, a pretty radical guy in his own right, talked with Cosmic Book News about Samantha, the military, and working for another radical science fiction franchise "Star Wars."

Not bad for Sherman a comic book writer/ Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) special effects wiz!

CosmicBookNews: You have an amazing visual effects resume.

You did effects for movies like Rocky , Eragon and "The Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, as well as The Nativity Story and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe .

Why branch out into comic books?

M. Zachary Sherman: Ever since I could walk, I had always wanted to be a part of the movie industry, the entertainment business and also I have always been a writer.

When I was in college, I was a creative writing major and journalism minor.

My father was a navy captain and on his very last duty station in Los Angeles, before he retired, he worked as a technical advisor for movies. So he advised when they made movies like The Hunt for Red October and Flight of the Intruder.

And while in L.A. and I got bitten by the movie bug and I pursued this, I got a lot of support from my parents to follow my dream. They said, "You can do whatever you want as long as you bust your ass to do it."

And I agree with that sentiment and I give that piece of advice to everyone who asks me, "How do you make it in the world of comics?"

CosmicBookNews: On your IMDB.COM entry, it says you worked for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace .

Did you have anything to do with Jar Jar Binks?

M. Zachary Sherman: [LAUGHS] I only did the compositing, painting and rotoscoping for the movie.

I was a 2-D guy. Basically I had to figure out how they made the lightsabers move in the first trilogy without using a computer.

CosmicBookNews: How do you go from digital effects to comics?

M. Zachary Sherman: At WonderCon in 2002, I had the chance to meet DC Editor Bob Schreck and I leaned over and introduced myself and said, "I'm Zach Sherman and I am a big fan of the Batman universe and I think Nightwing and Chuck Dixon are great."

And I said to him, "I am interested in writing comics." And I am sure every editor wants to hear that [LAUGHS].

When you average 100 editors in the industry and everybody who attends the San Diego ComicCon has an idea for a comic...[LAUGHS].

So Bob rolled his eyes, but I told him I worked at ILM and that made him kind of look at me differently. He saw that I was not just anyone, but I had some professional experience and I had a career.

So he said to me, "Why don't you write something on spec, and send it to me." So I did.

About a month a half later, I got my script in the mail with red pen marks because he had edited my script. I almost melted.

There was a note that said, "Better than most I get. Keep it up."

And so I did.

CosmicBookNews: And here you are writing Shrapnel for Radical Comics.

Can you talk to us about Samantha Vijaya, the star of Shrapnel?

M. Zachary Sherman: Well, first, the members of the enlisted corps, such as the privates through the sergeants, are Helots. The officers are all genetically engineered genotypes and they run the military and the fleets.

Samantha comes from a modest background - a middle class background. Her parents could not have her genetically altered at birth and Samantha did not have the luxuries that the genotypes had. She came from a poor medical class and she never finished and got the accolades and the genotypes received.

Because of this, Samantha is a Helot, but she is one of the few people to ever become a Marine Corps officer. She is infamous in some circles and in others she is super famous. The rank and file marines look at her and think, "Wow!"

And the fact Samantha has risen in the ranks means that she is one of most skilled tacticians ever devised.

CosmicBookNews: Right.

M. Zachary Sherman: However, besides Samantha, the story is all about humanity, and that is something I try to capture in Shrapnel. That feeling that we're all brothers and we need to find a common ground.

CosmicBookNews: It seemed there were a lot of echoes in Shrapnel to the real world and current events. Did you do that on purpose?

M. Zachary Sherman: When I worked on this project with Mark Long and Nick Sagan [the creators of Shrapnel ], we decided that this was not about making a political statement but good science fiction.

However, what good science fiction does is mirror the times. The best was Star Trek in the 1960s. The show talked about drugs, the Vietnam War and all kinds of things that were going on in the 1960s.

The only reason why the censors allowed them to get away with what they did was because they did in under the guise of science fiction.

As for Shrapnel , our story is about a governing body invading another country and it is hard not to make a comparison between the two, but it was never consciously something I was going for.

CosmicBookNews: You were in the United States Marines, and a lot of that comes out in Shrapnel .

M. Zachary Sherman: The original concept for this story belonged to Mark Long, the CEO of Zombie Studios and he and I had met a comic book convention, so we had gone way back.

CosmicBookNews: So how hard it is to write dialogue and keep things technical?

M. Zachary Sherman: I tried to and it is hard it is to mirror the way people talk, especially with military dialogue and technical expertise.

However, one interviewer called me the "Tom Clancy of Comics" and I took that as a major compliment.

I try very hard to keep technical jargon as correct as possible and I want those who are "in the know" in the military not to look at something I have written and have them say, "This is crap."

CosmicBookNews: Did you have a technical advisor for any of your projects?

M. Zachary Sherman: Yeah for my comic SOCOM: Seal Team Seven for Image Comics, I had my father and a Master Chief who was embedded with the SEAL team in Beirut, and a couple of people who can't be named go through it.

And it came in handy because during a San Diego Comic Book convention in 2008, this big brick house of a guy came to me and he said, "I bought this book and I saw there was an American launcher on this type of deck."

"Did you read it all the way through yet?" I asked. He said he had not.

So I pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and I said, "The launcher will pay out in the long run. You come back here tomorrow and this bill will be waiting for you if it does not play out in the story it will be waiting."

The next day he came in and slammed it down and said, "Sign this bitch!" It turned out he was a member of the real SEAL Team Seven.

CosmicBookNews: That is awesome!

M. Zachary Sherman: [LAUGHS] Yeah, it was!

CosmicBookNews: Hey, thanks so much for your time.

M. Zachary Sherman: Thank you.

Check out the latest projects M. Zachary Sherman is up to, visit him at

Look for "Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising" issues 1-4 out now with issue 5 out next month.