Billy Martin Unleashes Vitriol: The Hunter, a Superhero Sci-Fi Horror Story
In a post-apocalyptic future, Basilika City is dominated by the sinister Lord Barthus and his legion of vampires. Humanity’s only hope? Vitriol, a conflicted hero burdened by his family’s own dark past and determined to set things right!
This is the world of Vitriol: The Hunter, a six-issue miniseries written and penciled by Good Charlotte guitarist Billy Martin, with co-writer Brent Allen!
We had the chance to interview Martin about the evolution of Vitriol, what comics he’s loving right now, and the exclusive soundtrack he’s recorded under the name Villain, available as a free download in the comic! Check out his insights below, as well as a five-page preview of Vitriol: The Hunter #1, out February 27 from IDW Publishing.
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TFAW: Can you introduce us to Vitriol: The Hunter?
Billy Martin: Sure, Vitriol is the unfortunate victim of his father’s bad choices. The city Vitriol lives in has fallen victim to supernatural beings that were released from a government experiment led by his father. He loses his family and is badly injured due to his father’s negligence, and now at an older age, he is set on clearing his family’s name.
TFAW: The premise is really interesting: a gothic horror sci-fi adventure–set in the future! How did it start?
BM: I just was thinking from a fan or a reader’s perspective. I love superhero comics, but I also love horror themes in general. Vampires, zombies, etc. I can’t get enough of that stuff. I also love stories that are set in a post-apocalyptic setting in the future, where things seem hopeless and some of the technology is just rehashed concoctions made of old and new objects. So I really just mixed all the stuff up, and Vitriol was born!
TFAW: What were some of your inspirations?
BM: The movie The Crow was a big influence on me in general. I love James O’Barr’s books as well, but the dark grittiness of the movie has always stuck with me. Batman, of course, because he has that mysterious brooding superhero vibe without having super powers. Crimson is a favorite of mine as well, and Humberto Ramos is hands down my favorite artist drawing comics right now.
TFAW: How did you connect with Brent Allen, and what’s your collaborative process like?
BM: Well Brent is my brother-in-law, and we have been writing stuff together for years. We wrote and produced a cheap zombie film together a few years ago and that really kicked it off. We started writing scripts together and even developed an animated series pitch. I had the idea for Vitriol on tour and started jotting ideas down as a proposed video game.
I love creating characters and worlds and stories, but I’m too impatient and I really wanna just start drawing. Luckily Brent and I work really well together in that sense. We can sit and brainstorm ideas or bounce emails back and forth. He literally can understand all my ramblings and turn it around into a great script the next day. Brent likes more slasher-horror and futuristic sci-fi, whereas I like the more supernatural monster horror and creature-based fantasy stories.
TFAW: What’s the most interesting thing about Vitriol, your hero?
BM: As a writer, Brent is really into giving every character a very believable story. We gave Vitriol some personal demons to battle along with the vampires he’s fighting. He can’t fly, he can’t crawl on walls, and he’s not rich, so he has to rely on his strength and his passion to pull off being a “superhero.”
TFAW: What motivates the villainous Lord Barthus?
BM: Barthus was basically a lab rat for the government. So as much as he is the villain of the series, it’s fairly justified. In this story arc Barthus realizes that the only reason the city is still intact is because he only rules the night. If the vampires could rule the daylight hours, he could achieve his world domination goal.
TFAW: What do you think is going to surprise readers the most about this comic?
BM: I grew up drawing Disney characters, so naturally I have an animated quality to my drawing. Usually, horror-themed books are very serious looking and gritty and realistic, whereas this book has a serious tone in the story, but a very stylized look to it. Storywise, Brent is always looking to add the “twist,” so we have a lot of cool and unexpected turns in the story that will keep the readers excited about what’s next!
TFAW: You’ve jumped into the role of comics creator with both feet–co-writing and drawing the comic on top of touring with Good Charlotte. What’s been your favorite part of the process?
BM: The best part has been watching myself grow as an artist. I’ve had to really learn new techniques and draw things I never imagined drawing before. When you draw for fun, you draw what comes easy and you never think about drawing a character in a boring pose. So often a story calls for two people to be talking and one of them has it’s back to you and I had think how do you draw a back? Haha. Looking through the books I really think you will see the art gradually taking a step up from book to book.
TFAW: What’s been the biggest challenge?
BM: The biggest challenge has been time! I started this project four years ago. Since then I’ve released an album, toured across the world, had two sons, and completed six issues of a comic book! I am very grateful that I can do music and art, because I love both so much. Very quickly IDW realized that I could not make a monthly book deadline. I brought my art supplies with me and I was working every minute I could, backstage, in hotel rooms, on airplanes.
On top of that I wanted to combine my art and my music, and I created a six song instrumental soundtrack to accompany the book. I’ve been remixing and producing for other artists under the name Villain, and this will be my first official release of original music as Villain. The best part is it will be a free download! Luckily my wife has been very patient with me, getting to be a dad and have your dream job is not something everyone gets to do!
TFAW: What comics are you reading right now?
BM: My favorite ongoing series is Invincible. Ryan Ottley is so good and Kirkman is unstoppable right now. I love the Amazing Spider-Man stuff that Ramos was drawing. Chew is really good, Skottie Young’s Wizard of Oz books are great, too!
BM: Absolutely! Even before I picked up a guitar I dreamed of drawing comic books. I’m so thankful that IDW gave me this opportunity, I hope it opens other doors for me in the comic industry to draw more books.
TFAW: What are your post-Vitriol comics plans? What else are you excited about?
BM: I just can’t wait to get it into the reader’s hands. I know anytime someone from another entertainment genre, like acting or music does a book most people will be skeptical. I hope comic fans will give this book a shot and see how passionate Brent and I are about this story. I am excited for people to hear the soundtrack as well, it’s really a big moment for me all around. Hopefully people like it and support it because we have a lot more stories ready to go for Vitriol.
Our thanks to Billy for filling us in on Vitriol. Make sure to pre-order Vitriol: The Hunter here at TFAW and save 20% now!
Are you excited for Vitriol? Post your comments below!