Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your series, Maurice & The Metal! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Aaron Sammut: The comic is based on that idea of music having an ability to affect people; it can drag us down and it can lift us up, it affects us emotionally. Well, for the comic, the hero is affected physically. He has incredible strength but only when he listens to heavy metal and other genres of music can take it away. So, pop music is his kryptonite! Maurice is aided by his Walkman that has been possessed by the spirit of a Black Sabbath roadie and with his newfound strength, he goes up against a gang of pop goths who really despise metal. But, I don’t want to give away too much!
The idea came to me when I was walking to work one day and I was not in a good spot. I was depressed and, looking back on it now, perhaps a little bored. I had been working in publishing for 15 years and was tired of always working on books and magazines for other people. Whatever music I was listening to on my way to work was not working, so I decided to listen to some metal, Metallica’s Master of Puppets, at an insanely loud volume. With every riff, I started thinking that I could get through the day. My overactive imagination kicked in and by the time I had made it to work before the song had finished, I had what would end up being about 70% of the book already written in my head! I made notes during the day, and the ideas just kept on flowing! I hopped back on the bus at the end of the day and on the way home kept on writing notes, combining all my notes and all while listening to some metal classics… I looked up from all this and I noticed that I had overshot my bus stop by about 30 minutes!
That was 7 years ago, and this comic really did give me my passion back for publishing and kept me sane … and insane at the same time. So much fun working on it!
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in working with artist Jesse Hamm, and what have been some of your creative influences?
AS: I connected with Jesse Hamm through the studio Helioscope (helioscopepdx.com). We have been working on the book back and forth for the last few years, and it has been great, even despite the distance and the fact that is all through email correspondence. It does not stop the creative process.
Jesse Hamm is an absolute professional and a super-rare talent. He has such an amazing knowledge of the comic book industry, both past and modern-day comics. I had never worked on a comic book before, so I am forever grateful for his commitment to this project. He really did offer me a lot of great feedback about what was working in the comic and what I need to work on as far as structure and character. I feel like at times it was clear that Jesse has illustrated more comics than I have actually read!
For this book, I was influenced by metal, by music, by '80s movies (the good ones), and those creators who like to work across multiple artforms… like those stories where music is just as important as the characters. Comics like Phonogram, Love & Rockets, and Scott Pilgrim. There is such a rich world in all genres of music, and this is just how I imagined a thrash metal story would play out and how it would connect with other genres. At one stage in the '80s and '90s, genre did not mix. In fact, there was major hatred between genres, so I do try to use history to help write this story. I am not a fan of telling people that the comic is a “this” meets “that” story, but I do tell people that Maurice & The Metal is what would happen if John Hughes met Ozzy Osbourne and they decided to collaborate on a project.
As for my favourite creators, I love the universes and characters that Stan Sakai and Mike Mignola created and how they used history and myth to influence their stories.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Maurice & The Metal’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
AS: I hope the readers will connect with the story, the characters, but also the genre of music, and the idea of music giving us strength. It will connect to the older metalheads, and those who are getting into it, but I have tried to give the comic broad appeal. One thing that I wanted to do with the comic is to dispel the stigma that thrash metal was demonic or that metalheads were part of satan worshipping cult. I have avoided making it all about the \m/, you know the devil horns. Thrash Metal was just a bunch of bored kids playing loud, aggressive music, because they couldn’t get it anywhere else; they were misunderstood and acted out. They may look aggressive, but I worked as a music performance photographer for nearly a decade and the metal crowd are the nicest people you will ever meet.
The music and culture are so rich. So many interesting characters to explore, and I think the way that the media and overbearing parents depicted metal was unfair and turned a lot of people against it. You can focus on how loud and aggressive the music is, but when you do listen to albums like Metallica’s Ride the Lightning, you should be able to appreciate how well-composed these songs are. It is genius.
The story of Maurice & The Metal is important to me, because it is at its core a coming-of-age story, that important time of life where we all grew up with music. Maurice is like any other teenager, growing up in a family, and in town where his type is the black sheep of the household and society. So, I think that people will connect to that, as well. I can remember growing up in the '90s and my family not understanding the music I was into and that is what made it so much more exciting and made it easier to write. There is a scene in issue 1 where Maurice is arguing with his sister about music, pop music vs. metal and it is largely influenced by my own childhood and I imagine a lot of people have lived through this scene.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
AS: For me, I am solely focused on Maurice. No other projects in the pipeline, but I am always interested in getting new ideas out there, and I am always writing ideas down for future projects. If I did start working on a new project, I would lose my mind! I will continue working on Maurice until the passion leaves me, but the way the ideas are coming, that won’t be for a while. I have just finished the first draft of issue 3 and will move on to issue 4, as well. So, I am constantly working on this comic! The ideas keep coming and originally I had planned 7 issues for this series, but now it is looking like there will be 9-issue series. It is so much fun.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Maurice & The Metal and your other work?
AS: I have the comic for sale through my website (maurice-and-the-metal.com) for print. Also, you can find the book on ComiXology.com, and you can track down Maurice on social media (facebook.com/mauriceandthemetal and instagram.com/mauriceandthemetall), and also checking out the Kickstarter campaign from issue 2. There is a great video of me ranting about the book for you! Alternatively, you can get in contact with me through the website. Happy to let you guys know more about the book and why it kicks ass!
ISSUE 1 - https://www.comixology.com/Maurice-The-Metal-1/digital-comic/766222
ISSUE 2 - https://www.comixology.com/Maurice-The-Metal-2/digital-comic/900807