Bluewater Comics and Brent Sprecher Get Spaced Out
Earth’s Mightiest’s own Brent Sprecher discusses his upcoming comic book release, Spaced Out, from Bluewater Productions.
AK: What kind of story is Spaced Out?
BS: On the surface, Spaced Out is a fun romp through many genres using our little hero, Bops, as our point of reference to the strange world of Centroa. However, I hope I’ve written enough subtext into the story to make it a more complex read for our more mature readers. There’s questions of loyalty, of self-doubt, of alienation…I thing it’s pretty unique.
AK: Is this story your original concept?
BS: The story is completely original, but the origin of the idea, and of two of the main characters, Bops and Max, sprang from the fertile mind of Bluewater President Darren Davis. He gave me the starting point of a primate in space with a little sidekick and everything else just started spinning out of that. I created all of the other cast members as a way of populating what I thought would be a really fun environment for Darren’s little hero.
AK: Tell me about NASA’s "Astrochimp" training program.
BS: See, that’s a funny thing. It sounds like a goofy sci-fi comic name for a space program for chimpanzees, but...that was the actual name of the NASA training program! As soon as I hung up the phone with Darren after our initial conversation, I started to do research on animal astronauts and found a ton of information about the various insects and animals to be blasted off of this rock before they were ready to send up humans. Obviously, being highly intelligent, extremely dextrous and, genetically, as similar to humans as you can get, chimpanzees were a natural test group for pre-human space flights.
AK: Tell me about Bops. What makes Bops different from the other chimps in the NASA "Astrochimp " training program?
BS: Great question! Actually, Bops should have washed out of the Astrochimp program. I didn’t want him to be an “obvious” hero type. In my initial pitch to Darren I wrote, “Bops was not the smartest chimpanzee in the astronaut training program, nor was he the largest. In fact, he was rather puny and somewhat dim-witted, as far as chimpanzees go. However, Bops remained in the program because he was able to stay conscious in the gyroscope longer than any other test subject to date. Besides, the program needed a ‘control’ subject to test against the other chimps.” Following events that will be revealed in the story, Bops becomes the only viable choice left for the launch and thus “lucks into” the superstardom that I hope he is destined for.
AK: Do you feel Spaced Out is an all-ages group comic?
BS: Absolutely! I’m not just a writer of comic books; I’m also a voracious reader of them! What made so many of today’s classic characters popular was the fact that the 60’s and 70’s comic book writers told stories that were suitable for children, but with plot lines that teens and adults could get into. I’m proud of the way the comic book industry has grown and I appreciate the fact that comics have matured along with the reading audience, but I think many of them have forgotten the younger audience. Many of the comics I read today are either too sophisticated or too “adult” for me to be able to hand to my nephews. I want to be able to give my nephews a copy of Spaced Out and have them enjoy it without subjecting them to gore or sexual situations. At the same time, the story has many layers and overtones that a more mature reader will be able to appreciate.
AK: Tell me more about the characters.
BS: Again, when Darren and I discussed the idea, there wasn’t much to it. I started thinking, “Okay, what’s a chimp going to be able to do? How do you have a story where the character doesn’t think or talk like a human? How would he relate to aliens?” I had to change Bops in a big way. He couldn’t be “just a chimp.” When Bops travels through the wormhole, he is radically changed by the experience, both physically and mentally. The Bops that emerges on the other end is smarter, stronger, more capable than any chimpanzee on earth, which equips him for some of the challenges facing him on Centroa. But, he’s not alone. His sidekick and constant companion is Sir Farrington Maximus “Max” Bungle, a diminutive coward with a big vocabulary and an even bigger ego. We also have Amir Skuttlebutt, a large crustacean-like alien who helps Bops in his quest to escape Centroa, and Sha’A La, a beautiful outcast from her tribe who takes a liking to our fuzzy friend. The “big bad” of the story is called Overlord Jardu Krush and he’s as mean and nasty as they come.
AK: What is the origin of the conflict between NASA and the USSR?
BS: The Soviets make for great villains! Just ask Indiana Jones! I mean, they’re the flip-side of us Americans, aren’t they? They look like us, dress like us, act like us, but they’re scary, man! Remember Ivan Drago from Rocky IV? That dude scared the heck out of me when I was a kid! When I started to think about the story in terms of real-world circumstances, I needed a reason for NASA to be pushing the “Astrochimp” program. Well, in reality the Soviets had their own program, but it wasn’t chimps so much as dogs. In the story, we find out that Bops isn’t the only earthling to make it through the wormhole to Centroa. There’s a little Soviet surprise waiting for Bops!
AK: Do you recall stories of monkeys in space?
BS: Ha! No, I’m too young for that! We were already using the Space Shuttle by the time I knew anything about the space program.
AK: Did you do lots of research when writing the script for Spaced Out?
BS: Yes and no. I initially did the research to let Darren know that I was going to attack this story with some solid real-world evidence to back up the concept, but there’s such a thing as too much research. If you try to get too authentic with a topic you can really limit your ability to write an entertaining story.
AK: How hard was it for you to write about putting a chimp into outer space?
BS: Honestly? It was a snap! I mean, I live for this type of stuff! I grew up on comic books, kung fu and Star Wars. Spaced Out has a little bit of all of those things all mixed in and twisted together.
AK: Did you become emotionally attached to Bops?
BS: Of course! As a writer, you have to invest a little bit of your own heart and soul into every one of your characters if you want them to appeal to the readers.
AK: Did you try to be historically accurate? Are any of the characters in Spaced Out based on real people?
BS: I wanted to be historically accurate only in that I wanted Bops’ adventure to be “possible.” That’s it. Was there an “Astrochimp” training program? Absolutely. Did they shoot chimps into space? Oh, yeah. Did some of the chimps fail to return to earth? Yep. So, once those bases were covered, I felt free to let my mind wander. No, there are no real-world parallels in the story to anyone that I know.
AK: How do you feel Ramon Salas is doing with the art for Spaced Out?
BS: To be honest, I’m amazed! I should have known that Darren would come up with an artist who’s talents were up to the task, but you just never know. You invest a lot into the characters, concepts and situations and you just pray that the artist will want to invest the same amount of effort. Well, I can assure you, Ramon Salas is up to the task. His characters have personality and movement…the book’s going to look great!
AK: Where do you live? What kind of family life do you have?
BS: I live in Ocean Beach, California, with my beautiful Brazilian wife, Erica. “OB” is a super-chill San Diego beach community and quite the contrast to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, where I grew up. Most of my family is still in Wisconsin, but my sister and her family moved out to California last year, so I’m happy to have them close. I’ve been in San Diego going on 14 years now, which qualifies me for “local” status, and I can’t imagine ever leaving the place. That is, until Hollywood starts calling…
AK: I'm curious to know you got your start in the comic book industry. What are some projects you worked on in past years?
BS: This is my start in the comic book industry! I went to school for psychology and criminology and did well at it, but I never loved it. After moving to San Diego, I ran a comic book shop for a number of years, then I worked in the video game industry and most recently I was a casino consultant. But, I’m a creative person at my core and I just wasn’t fulfilled doing any of those things. So, I went back to doing what I love: writing and drawing. I started doing comic book reviews for a few web-sites, which led me to interviewing the incomparable Ray “Clash of the Titans” Harryhausen for Darren and Bluewater Productions. I maintained a relationship with Darren following that and just started scratching at his door for things to do. Darren was cool enough to offer me the chance to do some pin-ups for books like “Insane Jane,” “Sinbad” and “Judo Girl,” among others. As for writing…this is my first gig in what I hope will be a long fruitful career.
AK: Do you recall some of the earliest childhood comic books that you read?
BS: Absolutely! I still have most of them! Actually, my very first comic books all came from my uncles. They were both in the military and came home from the services with boxes and boxes of war and wild west comics. They were a little too graphic for me, but they sparked in me the interest in comic books as entertainment. The book that hooked me on comics was “Thor #338” by the incredible Walter Simonson. I was in the grocery store with my mom and that image of Thor and Beta Ray Bill clashing against a white background jumped off of the stands and into my brain. I begged my mom to buy me that book and my obsession with comic books was born.
AK: I imagine that there were some individuals that really inspired you creatively. Who were some of your comic book influences?
BS: Oh, of course. When you devour as many comic books as I do, it’s hard not to be inspired by the incredible talents that created them. Growing up, I looked up to guys like Walt Simonson, Gil Kane, John Byrne, Mike Zeck—loved that guy’s Captain America—Frank Miller, Mark Waid, Dave Gibbons, Mike Mignola, Mark Silvestri, Jim Lee, Travis Charest. Today, I’m into artists like Salvador Larroca, Leinil Yu, Carlos Pacheco, Steve Uy and writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and Geoff Johns. Geez, there are so many that I could just go on and on. I love the medium of comic books and hold it in high regard.
AK: How did you manage to get hired by Bluewater Productions?
BS: Hmm, good question. Maybe you should ask Darren what he was thinking? No, just kidding. I’ve always written, but I never really tried to be a writer, you know? When you love comic books and science fiction as much as I do, it kind of hurts to watch others do it poorly. So, one day I just say, “Enough! I’m going to start writing stories that I want to read.” I taught myself the structure of the screenplay and wrote a wild sci-fi adventure called “Infinit.” When I felt that Darren had gotten to know me well enough, I sent him the screenplay and told him that I wanted to write for him. He contacted me shortly thereafter and we started to talk about “Spaced Out.” I thought, “This is my chance. I better knock his socks off.” My pitch for Spaced Out was probably a little wilder than he expected, but he said, “Alright, run with it.” So, here I am! Hopefully, we’ll be chatting again next year and I’ll be telling you about the new Spaced Out movie that Darren and I are working on with Guillermo del Toro!
AK: When will Spaced Out be shipped to stores? How many issues will there be?
BS: That I don’t know yet. Putting together a comic takes a lot longer than you would think. As awesome as Ramon Salas is, he’s just one man and he’s got to draw all of the crazy stuff I pack into every issue of “Spaced Out.” We should see the first issue hitting the stands in the fall and the first arc will be four issues in length. If it’s successful, who knows? The world I’ve created for Bops is vast, so there are story possibilities galore.
AK: Will there be collected edition of Spaced Out?
BS: I think that’s likely. Collected works, trade paperbacks, graphic novels…whatever you want to call them, are the future of comic books. They’re essential to the growth of the industry so it makes a lot of sense to put together compilations. But, that doesn’t mean you should wait for it! Buy each issue as they come out! Please!
AK: Do you or have you went to many comic book conventions?
BS: Oh, yeah! I went to my first convention in Chicago when I was 16 or 17. My friends, who were not into comic books, dropped me off and were supposed to pick me up afterwards, but they never returned. I was waiting outside of the deserted convention center when I saw this gaunt figure in black come ambling up the sidewalk smoking a cigarette. It was Frank Miller. He stopped to chat with me—we were the only two people anywhere in sight—and he turned out to be about the coolest dude ever. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a stack of comics, which he signed and gave to me, and then he winked and walked off into the fading light of the day. Classic! I was hooked. I wanted to meet everyone that I had ever read about. Sometimes, meeting your heroes is as epic as you imagine it will be and sometimes you realize your heroes are just people and that’s just as cool because you think, “Hey, he’s just like me. I can do what he does.” I go to the San Diego Comic Convention every year—it’s only 10 minutes away from my house—and try to hit other shows when I can. The more work I get in this business, the more shows I’ll likely be going to.
AK: Are you a fan of a certain genre of movies? What are some of your favorite movies?
BS: I consider myself a student of film, though I’ve never taken any formal film schooling. I love the structure of film and I think that’s reflected in my writing. As for my tastes, I love science fiction, but I’m very critical of it. I love the classics—2001, Blade Runner, Star Wars—but also some of the modern commercial successes like The Matrix and The Island. I also like some of the more cerebral sci-fi films like Solaris. I enjoy Anime and consider films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell to be amongst the best films of any genre.
AK: Do you like reading novels? What are some of your favorite novelists?
BS: I do, I just can’t seem to find the time anymore. I’m currently attempting to re-read the six-part Chronicles of Thomas Covenant from Stephen R. Donaldson, which I think is one of the best fantasy epics of all time.
AK: Do you have any pets?
BS: Just my chimpanzee, Bops, who I smuggled out of the Congo in a backpack when I was volunteering with Beyond Borders as a teenager. Just kidding! There goes my imagination again… I’ve got three stunningly awesome…fish. Betas, actually. And, no, I don’t let them fight each other.
AK: What are some of your favorite foods and places to eat?
BS: I’m a sucker for Mexican food and eat it almost daily, but I love sushi. Fortunately, there are no shortages of these types of restaurants here in sunny San Diego. If I had to choose? Zen5 Sushi in Pacific Beach is the king! Where else can you listen to reggae while watching beautiful people eat raw fish?
AK: Do you like to listen to certain types of music while writing?
BS: I absolutely have to have music on while I’m writing. Actually, if I could have my own personal soundtrack running throughout the day that would be ideal. When writing, it has to be upbeat enough to keep me stimulated, but without lyrics I’m tempted to sing along to, so I often listen to Sterolab or Thievery Corporation.
AK: What are some of your hobbies?
BS: Reading, drawing, watching movies, swimming in the ocean and practicing kung fu are my favorite things to do.
AK: What is the best way for someone to see samples of your work? Also, what is the best way to contact you?
BS: Anyone can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can check out some of my artwork at:
Brent’s DeviantArt Page
AK: What projects are you set to work on after the Spaced Out comic?
BS: I don’t know yet. I’ve literally got dozens and dozens of concepts and storylines just waiting in the wings. I’ve been putting together a pretty solid comic proposal to pitch to Darren as a follow-up, but I’ve just been waiting for the right time to drop it on him. I want to do something very different from Spaced Out to show my range. We’ll see.
AK: Thank you, Brent Sprecher, for taking time to do an interview about your writings. I hope you never have "writer's block". What inspires your creativity?
BS: No, thank you! I’m usually the guy asking the questions, so this is a unique thrill for me to be answering the questions. Writer’s block is very real and can be very painful. You know the feeling you have when you’ve lost something important? Maybe it’s just your car keys or your wallet, but you panic because you think that you’ll never find it? That’s what it feels like to have writer’s block. You know there are ideas in there. Heck, you were writing like a champ the day before, but today >poof< it’s all gone. Where did the inspiration go? Will it ever come back? The thing to do when writer’s block hits is to acknowledge it, realize your creativity will return and just move onto something else for a while. I’m inspired by life, but what actually inspires me to sit down and write? Wanting to be the next Frank Miller or George Lucas, I guess. Wanting to create something that inspires others and brings joy to the lives of those around me. That excitement, that wonder that I felt when I looked at Walt Simonson’s “Thor #338.” That’s what inspires me. Wanting to give some other kid out there that feeling that Walt gave to me.
AK: Do you have any thoughts of wisdom to lead us out of interview?
BS: Believe in yourself and never give up!
Also, check out these exclusive interviews with more of today’s hottest comic book professionals!
Click HERE for an exclusive interview with UK sensation Liam Sharp!
Click HERE for an exclusive interview with Secret Invasion artist Leinil Yu!
Click HERE for an exclusive interview with Wolverine artist Marcelo Frusin!
Click HERE for an exclusive interview with Hero By Night creator DJ Coffman!