H.T. Altmän is an actor and producer, who also enjoys writing comics. While you may have seen him in Monster Quest and Sea Wolf hopefully you will soon be referring to him as that guy who wrote Strong Box. Thomas was nice enough to stop by First Comics News and let our readers know what to expect from Strong Box.
First Comics News: Why is the series titled, Strong Box, Big Bad Book of Boon?
Hasford Thomas Altmän: I’ll start by saying that Strong Box refers to an interdimensional conduit between two dimensions, Earth and the Anti-B3yond. The strongbox itself, when opened, serves to transport (and transform) Frank and the Savance through the fabric of space and time in an instant. It’s a tool used by the Savance for hundreds of years to propel themselves in secret to and from the Earth when needed.
The “Big, Bad” part infers to Frank’s [sic] teddy bear persona. Frank, as we discover in the opening frames of Marked 4 Murder, is physically imposing big as well as big of heart, big of soul and spirit and big in the eyes of the people he has sworn to protect, the citizens of Chugwater County, U.S.A. “Bad” is more an expression of the vernacular of the era the story is set within, while also inferring a certain presence about Frank (i.e. he’s bad to his enemies, tough as nails, intimidating, threatening), but also (bad) in the sense that he is one a “bad-a**” dude.
I titled the series “Strong Box” as a double entendre inferring Frank himself as a form of a strongbox himself as well as the aforementioned.
1st: When does this story take place?
Thomas: I set the series in the year 1980. Initially, it was modern era, but I wanted Frank to strive toward real-world physical relationships and didn’t want him to have the ease of use through advantages of cell technology or the internet. I also find it far more endearing to write through the text of a bygone era that featured so many nostalgic anachronistic structures. In doing this, I also opened Frank’s backstory to the exploration of his time growing up during the Great Depression and serving as a Marine in the Vietnam War, two massive inspirations to the layering of his overall character motivations.
Thomas: Frank, overall, from the outside, is your quintessentially All-American good guy who likes beer and football and trucks and guns. He is one of 14 children and was born into destitution on the floor of a chicken coop in 1933. Through various forms of the hero archetype, we find at his core he is a multi-layered man of justice, a man of honor and a man who seems to be at times, utterly selfless. Frank was recruited by the NFC to play football but forced into retirement early, once ran with an outlaw biker gang known as the “Derby Saddles” and served as a Marine Corps Master Sgt. during the Vietnam War. This latest chapter of his life sees him as a Detective Sgt. for the homicide division of the Chugwater P.D.
In the eyes of the people of Chugwater, Frank is a celebrity iconoclast and the very heart and soul of the county itself. Though a detective, the people of Chugwater prefer to call him by his less formal titles, such as “Mr. Hard & Practical” and “the Flying Eye Detective”.
1st: What is Franks world like?
Thomas: Chugwater County, U.S.A. is a town, set somewhere in the south, with a storied history, not unlike any other town. It has ebbed and flowed over the years from known haven of vice and corruption to a more subdued and centered mini-metropolis. There are several street gangs that tussle with Frank and the police from time to time and your usual expectations of civil disobedience, but overall Chugwater itself hasn’t (until recently: see Issue 1, pg 2-9) presented Frank many problems.
1st: What is Anti-B3yond?
Thomas: The Anti-B3yond is a non-linear dimension that exists in a place that transcends human concepts of space, time and thought. Its location is unknown and unknowable, but its existence has been secretly documented by a select few human beings, known as “Fantastic Exceptions”, over millennia.
1st: Who are the Savance?
Thomas: The Savance are some of the metaphysical beings that exist within the Anti-B3yond. They are an enlightened culture who flow gracefully within rhythmic beats produced by mathematical cloud formations. Through the use of prismatic thought processes, they can, for a brief time, assume material form when summoned through a “host” on the Earth using the Strongbox. In this story, Frank inadvertently summons them to aid him in his pursuit of the villain of the story.
1st: Who is Dixon the Dread?
Thomas: Dixon is a being known in the Anti-B3yond as a “Dread Hand Black”. These are the manifestations of the conventional predator in this dimension, only Dixon and his ilk do not wish to only thin herds, but rather to transcend dimension after dimension in the ultimate quest to conquer all dimensions. In this story, Dixon utilizes a “Crimson Cloud”, a dark and evil nebulosity that serves to transport him to the Earth for a time, where he cultivates a “Circle of Bitten” through the employ a strange, bug-like creature called a “banthwayte”. This creature targets one specific human stings an egg into its body, and this egg emits a punctuated psychic connection with Dixon, who uses it as a living tracking device directly to the victim themselves. Dixon exploits the use of a third instrument of sheer evil, a Sick Knife. A jagged, obsidian bladed knife that can metamorphose into various weapons through Dixon’s will. His command of this weapon increases along with each passing victim as their psychic energy empowers him further.
1st: What is the Slayer Foil?
Thomas: According to Savance-folklore, the Slayer Foil a weapon said to have been formed from the fang of a celestial dragon eons ago. It is the Kryptonite of the Dread Hand Black as its very touch will eliminate from existence anything its handler desires.
Thomas: The Savance are both trustworthy and have their own secretive agenda. They know Frank is limited in his scope of power and understanding, so, due to the constraints of linear time (i.e., change), they choose to the convenience of selective communication when it comes to forming and sustaining their alliance with him. This may come back to bite them in the end, however…
1st: Who is Rosemarie Palewood?
Thomas: She is the eclectic author of several novels and short stories that seem to be influenced by past and present Savance adventures. She plays an archetypal role of “wise-woman” or “soothsayer” in this story and leads Frank to the strongbox. There’s a lot more to this character, but you’ll have to read the book to get the full scoop.
1st: What made Sebastian Sala the right artist for this project?
Thomas: I had over 100 submissions to the series through an online ad, but I was looking specifically for a Bruce Timm/Michael Avon Oeming styled artist who could embody a minimalist/angular style based on silver age era comics of the 1950’s and 1960’s and when I saw Sebastian’s portfolio, I thanked God he submitted to me. He captures the essence of these characters with near perfection in every page and panel and is a joy to work with.
1st: The first issue came out from 507 Book Club last year, why the move to Antarctic Press?
Thomas: I decided to self-publish at first, but when I realized how much of an investment of time, resources and money it was going to take I decided on a more pragmatic approach and submitted to a company that was already established, with the goal I could learn the business from the inside out and not the other way around. Antarctic Press was the perfect company for this book, and they have been highly supportive and encouraging all along the way.
Thomas: Honestly, it’s just unique. I feel (with full objectivity here) that Strong Box resonates with a voice unlike anything currently out there. There’s a heart and soul to the character of Frank Boon that is refreshing in an era where a lot of books pule out a different version of the same thing again and again. This book is written in an 80’s tone and doesn’t take itself too seriously while providing rich story arc structure with layered and fun serial enjoyment. I think if you read issue 1, you’ll be hooked on the whole series.