Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your latest comic book, Strike Team: Code Name: Diamond Force! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Michael Tanner: The story premise is very simple: When the President’s mistress is kidnapped by ninjas, only one team can save her, Strike Team: Code Name: Diamond Force!
The big story with this is the background of the lost Primo Fumenti film. He was an action exploitation director from the '70s and '80s. Strike Team: Code Name: Diamond Force was set to be a big, international hit in 1981, and a small comic company wanted to do a comic book adaptation of it (since those were so popular at the time). Sadly, the movie never was released worldwide and is considered a lost action classic today. The original comic company folded shortly after with all of the printed copies of ST:CN:DF comic being lost in a mysterious fire. I have managed to recreate this lost comic book for this lost movie, complete with ads from the time period.
Then, the other story with this is that… well, that was all made up.
I love those low-budget action exploitation movies that used to run at grindhouse theaters in the '70s and then made their way on to cable TV in the '80s. About 9 months ago, after rediscovering my love for that genre, I got the idea that a comic book like those old movies would be pretty cool. The title actually came first, inspired by movies like Force Five and Raw Force (the movie with the most direct influence on the comic) and the tendency for exploitation films to have long, engaging titles. I wanted the team itself to hit on some exploitation stock heroes (with a robot thrown in for good measure), and, of course, it had to have an over-the-top main bad guy, the Moon Ninja Master.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working with artist Lukasz Kowalczuk, and what have been some of your creative influences?
MT: When I started developing the idea, I knew the only person I wanted to draw it was Lukasz Kowalczuk. His work on Knock-Off Wars really inspired me. Luckily, he agreed to take the job. If he hadn’t, I probably would have shelved the idea for a while… maybe forever.
A lot of the development was thinking, “I bet Lukasz can draw that and make that look really cool.” We also had a good shared pop culture vocabulary even though he’s in Poland and I’m in California. Originally, my description for the Duncan Winchell character was “He looks like '80s WWF Rick Rude” and he knew exactly what that meant. The character’s look later changed to be more inspired by Richard Harrison, an actor from that time who totally would have played that part in the movie.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
MT: My hope is that they’ll smile the whole time. I wrote this book not to make people laugh (although parts are funny). I wanted them to wear a nostalgia smile and see it as a loving homage to niche genre of film. I hope someone reads this book and then goes and buys a Blu-ray of Raw Force or better yet, tracks down a VHS copy of that movie or Enter the Ninja or even After the Fall of New York (which our cover is an homage to).
BD: Do you have plans to expand the Strike Team world into an ongoing comic book series?
MT: Not necessarily with Diamond Force, but I do have dreams of expanding the “Fumenti-verse” and doing adaptations of some of his other “movies” that are mentioned in the Kickstarter videos and seen in the comic itself. (The back cover is a “coming to VHS” ad for a movie called Madame Wu and the Triad of Pain.) I have an outline for that story written; it’s just seeing how well Diamond Force does to find out if it’s worth the time, effort, and money to pursue that line.
A kind of minor thing that makes me really excited to pursue the idea is that I think it would be fun to reuse some of the character likenesses from Diamond Force in that new comic. It would play with the idea that these are “actors” playing different parts in this other movie. “Oh that actor playing the cop played that thug who got his head cut off in the first scene in Diamond Force.”
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your series into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
MT: I’d love a video game. Either in the style of an early Atari game where everything is just a different color and arrangement of squares or something more modern like a side scroller “Metal-Slug”-style game.
Lukasz’ style lends itself to animation so well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say an animated short wouldn’t be welcomed.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MT: Volume 2 of Junior Braves of the Apocalypse from Oni Press has a solid release date of August 2018, so that is pretty exciting for us (meanwhile Greg Smith and I are about to start scripting volume 4 of that series).
I have a few other projects that might happen in 2018, but a boy has to keep his secrets for now.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Strike Team?
MT: The Kickstarter runs until January 14th, so I encourage anyone interested to check that out. If they miss the Kickstarter, the physical books should be available in April (crossing my fingers they might arrive early in time for Wondercon), but since this is self-published, the only way for sure is to get it will be direct from me at cons (or from Lukasz at European cons). People can check out my website for more information, bymichaeltanner.com.