To really make Atomic Action stand out, Chris Mills combines the best aesthetics of the silver, bronze, and copper age of comics with his own excellent sense of story and character.  HE selects great artists to work with and shows great respect for the characters he uses from comic history past. I caught onto what Chris was doing with Savage Saga’s (in fact, you can find me in that issues letter pages!).  I decided to write to Chris and interview him on his excellent story featuring Gardner Fox’s Crom the Barbarian.

JOESEPH SIMON
Savage Sagas is a perfect example of a well-told fantasy comic. Great story and art with the bonus of paying tribute to a great creator in Gardner Fox.

In addition, your company, Atomic Pulp, is a love note to comics that our generation grew up reading (the 70s and 80s). You have taken a great effort to continue that feel, yet create original content. Given all that, what led to Savage Sagas’ creation?

 

CHRIS MILLS
My intent with the “Atomic Action” line of comics was to make comics like the ones I loved as a kid. The same kinds of comics that inspired me to make my own as an adult. Among my favorites back in the 1970s were the sword & sorcery/barbarian comics. Conan, of course, but also stuff like DC’s Warlord, Atlas Comics’ Wulf & Ironjaw, and even Gold Key’s Dagar. When I sat down to figure out what kind of comics I wanted to create as part of this project, a barbarian comic seemed natural.

 All of the “Atomic Action” comics feature my versions of old public domain Golden Age heroes, so Gardner Fox’s Crom seemed a good fit. And I’m also a big fan of Fox’s later sword & sorcery novels, so getting to play with his earliest barbarian hero (in a respectful manner, of course) was also appealing.

JOESEPH
In addition to fantasy, Atomic Action features stories with superheroes (Black Owl, Black Terror, Ms. Fury, and others) and science fiction ( Space Hawk, Rex Dexter – Star Pirate, and others). How important was it to you to include fantasy storylines?

 

CHRIS
Well, as I said, fantasy and barbarian comics were a big part of my childhood, and I figured this was an opportunity to try my hand at such a story, and pay a little homage to all of the Seventies sword & sorcery heroes.

 

JOESEPH
People know Gardner Fox for many, many different things. In comics, we know him as the equivalent of Stan Lee for DC’s Silver Age of comics. Without Gardner, DC comics would be completely different. At the same time, Gardner was a prolific writer in just about every genre. How did you discover Gardner’s work and what was it about Gardner’s fantasy pulp stories that compelled you to tackle those creations?

 

CHRIS
I first encountered Fox’s work as a kid through the DC 100 Page comics of the mid-Seventies, which reprinted many Silver and Golden Age stories. Fox wrote tons of those, and eventually, I began to associate his name with characters like Adam Strange and The Flash, among others. Later, as a fan of pulp adventure paperbacks, I started to stumble upon some of his fantasy books in used bookstores. They seemed to be in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, so I bought and read all that I could find. I also enjoy many of his really “out-there” science fiction novels, too. Not everything he wrote was great, but it was always imaginative.

With my Crom story in SAVAGE SAGAS #1, I’ve tried, to the best of my ability, to capture some of the flavor of Fox’s fantasy novels, while still incorporating my own storytelling style.

 

JOESEPH
You are in many ways very much like Gardner Fox! In addition to fantasy, Atomic Pulp features stories with superheroes (Black Owl, Black Terror, Ms. Fury, and others) and science fiction ( Space Hawk, Rex Dexter – Star Pirate, and others). How important was it to you to include fantasy storylines?

 

CHRIS
Artist Joe Staton often jokingly refers to me as the “Master of All Genres.” I don’t believe that I’ve actually “mastered” anything, but I enjoy reading and writing in all sorts of genres, especially space opera and sword & sorcery. I decided that if I was going to go to the effort of publishing my own comics, I was going to take the opportunity to write the kinds of stories I most enjoyed reading and stretch myself with genres that I may not have tried writing before.

 

JOESEPH
Some say Gardener’s Crom started out as a pun or a tribute to Conan (depending on who you ask). I don’t know, myself. What is your take on Fox’s Crom and who was Crom to you when you wrote him?

 

CHRIS
Honestly, I’m pretty sure Gardner Fox knew what he was doing, and created Crom as his own version of Conan. I don’t believe that the Conan stories were widely available in the early 1950s – that would be when they were in those limited edition Gnome Press hardcovers – so Fox probably figured that his young comic book audience wouldn’t be familiar with the source material. Fox’s original three Crom stories are littered with names and references to Howard’s creation – right down to the name “Crom” itself.

When I sat down to write my Crom story, I used the three original Avon Comics stories as a springboard, but I chose to make the character older and more experienced than in the original stories, where he was portrayed as a youth. I also used the story to play with some ideas that I’d once intended to use with another character of my own creation – the idea of a legendary warrior trying to live down his reputation.

 

JOESEPH
I am a fan of Gardner’s as well as Jack Katz. Their team-up on Crom in Jungle Tales is an epic collaboration for me just on name value alone. It was quite a surprise when I found out about the pairing. Have you read Katz’s First Kingdom?

 

CHRIS
Fox and Katz never did a Crom story, as far as I’ve been able to determine. A Fox fan did re-letter and reprint one of the “Zangar” jungle stories they did for Skywald Comics in the early Seventies as a “Crom” story, but it wasn’t originally printed that way. “Zangar” was a Tarzan-type character that appeared in Skywald’s short-lived (all Skywald titles were short-lived!) JUNGLE ADVENTURES series. 

I am an admirer of Katz’s art, but I’ve only read a few of the early chapters of THE FIRST KINGDOM.

 

JOESEPH
Speaking about great writer and artist collaborations, you have an amazing cast of artists throughout Atomic Pulp. I know you have an interesting history in your pre-Atomic Pulp history. Is there a connection? Who are these great artists and how did they get on the titles they’re on?

 

CHRIS
I’ve been writing and editing indy comics professionally since 1990. Although I’ve never achieved much in the way of mainstream success – or much of any kind of success, for that matter – I’ve worked with a lot of artists and other creatives over the years, and in most cases, have maintained good relationships with them. Some, like Peter Grau, who drew my first two SPACE CRUSADERS comics, approached me about collaborating on new comics, while others, like Rick Burchett (the artist of SAVAGE SAGAS #1), I’ve been working with on-and-off for years on various projects.

 

JOESEPH
You mentioned many of Gardner’s fantasy creations that you are featuring in new stories. Are there others that you have featured that we haven’t discussed or new Fox characters that you will be introducing and what was it about all of them that intrigued you enough to write about them?

 

CHRIS
The first issue of SAVAGE SAGAS includes a short back-up story starring my version of Cave Girl, a character that Fox co-created with Bob Powell for magazine Enterprises back in the early Fifties. The second issue of SAGAS is scheduled to star Thun’da, another Tarzan-like character that Fox created, in this case, with Frank Frazetta. Right now, those are the only other Gardner Fox creations I’m planning to use.

I didn’t set out to mine Fox’s back catalog for characters. As I stated before, my intent with the Atomic Action line was to use existing, public domain characters and reimagine them as the Seventies, “Bronze Age”-styled comics. The best barbarian character available was Crom. The most interesting jungle hero was Thun’da. They’re great characters with lots of potential, and, being in the public domain, are available to use.

 

JOESEPH
Will you be introducing any fantasy characters from other creators or mingling Gardners with any of your own?

 

CHRIS
All of the “Atomic Action” comics take place in the same universe, so there’s potential for any character I use to meet or interact with other ones. I do have a crossover plotted with Crom meeting, fighting, and then teaming up with my version of the Golden Age superhero Black Owl, and I plan to have Thun’da meet some of my other characters in his story.

 

JOESEPH
What Gardner Fox fantasy stories would you recommend to readers? What other fantasy comics or/ and books do you recommend to readers and why?

 

CHRIS
I would recommend any of Fox’s “Kyrik” sword and sorcery novels. I believe most of them are available as reprints or e-books.

As for fantasy comics, for me, it’s all about the classics. Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith/John Buscema on the original Marvel Conan comics. Mike Grell’s Warlord. Don Glut and Jesse Santos’ Dagar from Gold Key. Good, Old School, no BS sword & sorcery stories. A lot of Dark Horse’s Conan comics were good, too.

 

JOESEPH
I’m curious what would you say to new comic book readers on what they’re missing out on from the 70s / 80’s feel that you are bringing back?

CHRIS
I don’t know. I guess I just find comics from that era more accessible. They used to write comics so that you could pick up any issue and get up to speed pretty quick on who everyone was and what was going on. I don’t find that to be the case with most modern comics. With my work, I try to make sure that every comic stands on its own and provides the reader with a complete, satisfying story.

 

JOESEPH
As a writer, do you have to get into different “mindsets” to write fantasy, superhero, and sci-fi?

 

CHRIS
Not really. It’s all about telling a good story. Each genre has its own set of conventions and “set dressing” – i.e. a sword & sorcery tale has supernatural monsters and primitive weapons, etc., while space opera has more fantastic technology to play with – but they all come down to the characters, their motivations, and the same basic, three-act structure. 

I do tend to listen to appropriate music while I write, though. I listen to a lot of film and TV soundtracks while I write, and when I’m writing sci-fi, I often listen to stuff like John Williams, for example.

 

JOESEPH
What else does Atomic Action have in store for us and what is the best way for readers to keep up-to-date with Chris Mills, Atomic Action, Savage Sagas? Where are your comics available for sale?

 

CHRIS
I have several new “Atomic Action” comics in the works. 2020, with all its craziness, was not a very productive year for me, but I’m hoping that 2021 will be better. SAVAGE SAGAS #2, starring Thun’da, is being drawn now.

The best way to keep up with what I’m doing is to follow AtomicAction comics on Facebook. I post updates and previews there fairly regularly. The comics themselves can be purchased through IndyPlanet in both print or digital versions. The link is: https://indyplanet.com/atomic-action

There are four “Atomic Action” comics available so far: SAVAGE SAGAS #1, SPACE CRUSADERS #1 & 2, and SLEUTH COMICS #1. Each comic is available with your choice of three variant covers, or as digital downloads.

 

https://www.firstcomicsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/46142148_322950445210513_8821664643308060672_n.jpghttps://www.firstcomicsnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/46142148_322950445210513_8821664643308060672_n-150x188.jpgJoeseph SimonInterviewsAtomic Action,Chris Mills,Savage Sagas,The Might Crom
To really make Atomic Action stand out, Chris Mills combines the best aesthetics of the silver, bronze, and copper age of comics with his own excellent sense of story and character.  HE selects great artists to work with and shows great respect for the characters he uses from comic...