Billy Martin and Brent Scheitlin are the two minds behind IDW’s latest futuristic vampire series, Vitriol The Hunter. You may know Billy Martin as Good Charlotte’s guitarist, but he’s recently turned toward his other passion, writing and illustrating comics. Martin and co-writer Brent Scheitlin are telling a gothic sci-fi tale set in the fictional city of Basilika in 2127. “Vitriol” follows the journey of the titular character as he stands against the evil Lord Barthus and his vampire gang.
“Vitriol” was initially set for release in 2010, but due to a relentless touring schedule, Martin had to put the book on hold. Here we are three years later and issue #2 is about to hit the stands on March 27th, 2013. Martin and Scheitlin took the time to chat about their blood-sucking fictional future and what the series holds in store.
BD: Can you give readers who are unfamiliar with Vitriol the down low on the series?
Martin: Vitriol is a gothic/sci-fi story about a lone vigilante set on making good for his father’s mistakes. It’s set in a futuristic city where the government’s testing has led to a city overrun by supernaturals led by the vampires.
BD: The series was initially supposed to be released in 2010. Why the delay and how do you feel now that it’s finally out there?
Martin: When I first started drawing the series I was in the middle of a heavy touring cycle with my band. I was drawing in hotel rooms, airplanes, tour buses, really anywhere I could get some done. IDW realized quickly that I wouldn’t be able to make a monthly series schedule. so they suggested I finish the whole series before releasing any. Never expected it would take almost four years to finish, but I’ve learned so much as an artist during the process and really happy with the product. Obviously I look at issue 1 compared to issue 6 and I see so many mistakes, but thats all part of the process.
Scheitlin: Billy’s band did a ton of touring right after we signed with IDW so unfortunately that caused the delay in the making of Vitriol. I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing though because it gave us a chance to make edits to the storyline which affected the story in a positive way. It feels amazing now that the comic is coming out. It’s been a long process that Billy and I have been working on since the summer of 2008.
BD: Did the time lapse force you to make any major changes to your story?
Martin: The story was written in full before I started the art, so it didn’t change much at all.
Scheitlin: We weren’t forced into making any changes to the story. We did, however, make changes we felt made the story and characters stronger.
BD: You teased the idea that lycans would be entering the fray in later issues. What can we expect from them?
Martin: Our original script had all kinds of supernaturals for Vitriol to face in it, but luckily we had a great editor (Denton Tipton) who convinced us to scale to story back a little and focus on one element at a time. So we chose to introduce the Lycans as the only other villains besides the vampires in this arc. Our Lycans can be transformed at any time via a serum, so it’s a little different than your average full moon wolves.
Scheitlin: When we created the creatures for the story we looked at it in a scientific way rather than a “just because” way. I’m a huge science fiction fan so this got me pretty excited. The Lycans are these scientifically made beasts that can destroy anything in their path. I’d almost say they were on some kind of addictive roid rage.
BD: Vitriol is an interesting hero. He’s obviously got some issues with authority, and a vigilante complex. What went into developing his character?
Martin: Thanks! That was all Brent really. I had came up with the original concept for Vitriol along with some drawings, but the characters had no back story. Brent really dove in a gave the characters life. Vitriol obviously has some issues and we let them slowly unfold more and more as the series goes on.
Scheitlin: We wanted to create somebody that people can connect with. Somebody that has gone through a lot but still has something to fight for. We didn’t want a super depressed character that hates everybody and everything or a total badass that has tons of powers and can do anything. In a scientific way Vitriol ended up getting a power that makes him different than other citizens of Basilika. It just so happened that this power came to him by accident and was needed to save his life. With his view on authority, I honestly feel like he just doesn’t want to get close to anybody anymore. Pretty much everybody he has been close with has died so he kind of treats authority without respect to keep them away from him at a social level.
BD: Vitriol also has some unresolved daddy issues. You mentioned in an interview at IDW.com that he now feels it is his responsibility to make up for his father’s mistakes. How does this parent/child relationship drive him to rid the world of monsters?
Martin: His father was in charge of the unit that was testing on the supernaturals. He got greedy in thinking he could use their powers to make him more important. It obviously backfired and resulted in a city full of fear.
Scheitlin: I think everybody has the goal of making their parents proud and Vitriol is no exception. Now just imagine your father doing something that put humanity in a position that it will struggle to survive. Something so evil that it makes your father hated by the world. You would be devastated and you would probably do anything to fix it so that the rest of the world doesn’t see your family as the same type of people that your father was. Perhaps the only way he feels he can make his father proud is to do something so dramatic as to save humanity from something so drastic. Something that his own father created. Maybe it’s Vitriol’s way of seeing himself rise up to the power that his father was except in a more positive light.
BD: The artwork in the book offers an interesting mesh between Gothic and futuristic cityscapes. What was the process behind in creating this world?
Martin: I’m always drawn to old gothic-scenery like castles, churches and graveyards. We decided to set the story in the future and I also love the look of post-apocalyptic stories like Bladerunner and Mad Max. So I thought trying to mix the two would make for a really cool environment to set our world in.
Scheitlin: Billy and I are both fans of gothic films and science fiction. We were imagining a world that would look like The Crow except taking place in the future. Movies like Dark City and Blade Runner went into the look as well. A lot of people think since it’s in the future it needs futuristic gadgets in every panel. I don’t feel it needs that. We’re not trying to shove that down the reader’s throat. It’s a natural progression of the future. Cars and communications have evolved faster than anything else because there is more money in that. The clothes people wear don’t necessarily need to look a ton different than what we wear right now. Not to mention all the wars and bad investments that have plunged Basilika City’s economy in the tank time and time again. Their world has gone through the same troubles as ours and I think it shows.
BD: It seems from the first issue that the book takes a wealth of influences both classic and modern vampire lore. How do you strike a balance between the two?
Martin: The story really helped guide our vampire rules. Certain rules like having to be invited in would really stop the action of the book. Not being allowed in sunlight however plays a big role in our book. I love vampires, always have. I have a ton of books about Vampire mythology and lore, so it was all in my head, had to just pick and choose.
Scheitlin: We are both huge vampire fans and we definitely are influenced by other people’s work. I’m a huge fan of the movie Near Dark and I really wanted to capture that hopeless feel that that movie held. We are also fans of what Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and Chuck Hogan/Guillermo Del Toro (the Strain) did in how they created an organic vampire and wanted to pull from the threads of the lore of those stories.
BD: With so much vampire fiction coming out in literature, comics, and film, how do you keep the vampire story fresh for both you and readers?
Martin: I certainly considered this when first working on the book. I think you have to be passionate and truthful about your story, I love writing about and drawing vampires. I think our story is Vitriol’s story and vampires just happen to infect his world. It’s a vampire story but that’s only a part of the whole picture.
Scheitlin: I know some people say that vampires are over done, but tell that to Robert Kirkman and what he is doing with zombies. Zombies were everywhere and Kirkman made it work on 2 different platforms. I think as long as you can come up with something fresh then it will work. Our story explores vampires in a more scientific light. They aren’t sexy like Dracula and Edward and they aren’t total animal-like such as The Strain. In future issues you will really see the science fiction side of the Vitriol story which pushes it to a realm that I think is fresh.
BD: Do either of you have any other series in the works?
Martin: We have a ton more Vitriol story written, so hopefully we can share that sometime soon. No other series in the works.
Scheitlin: Billy and I are always working on different story ideas. We have thrown quite a few in each other’s direction. Once the right one is found we will definitely be seeing where it goes!
BD: Thanks for taking the time to chat with Bloody-Disgusting!