When we say MCA Studios supports Aussie independent comic creators – we mean it!
We travel from Brisbane headquarters to Adelaide, to talk to comic-creator, Dr Mike Cooper, who took some time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions we put forward about his comics, his Kickstarter campaign (which you should definately go and support by 17th Feb 2017!), and himself as a creator. We have a bonus for you as well – Dr Mike 2000 has included some pretty cool pictures of him at work, his inspiration, and his process.
(Universe Gun Issue 1)
1. Who are you, and what do you do?
During the day I’m Dr Mike Cooper, an ex-physicist turned games programmer, and now a teacher of games programming. At night, I’m Dr Mike 2000, purveyor of psychedelic superhero fiction!
I started the whole Dr Mike 2000 identity back in 2002 making mods (self published add-ons) for the Australian-made superhero game Freedom Force. I gained a reputation in the mod community for my technical skills, but also for the wild story ideas and memorable characters I created. I also did a fair amount of loading screen art in a comic style. This was a really big deal for me, as it was the first time I’d shared my stories and art with the world.
These days I’ve turned to comics as a way to further use and develop my writing and drawing. I’m the writer, artist and publisher of Universe Gun, which started as an experimental 7 page strip and has grown into a 12 part mini-series.
(Dr Mike 2000)
2. How long have you been creating for? In particular, how long have you
been doing comic-art?
I’ve been drawing comics on and off for decades without finishing them. Me and my brother made comics when we were 5. I started drawing a bit more seriously in my teens, doing character designs for D&D characters. I started a few strips at university, never getting beyond a few pages.
In early 2013, aged 43, I decided to get serious about it. I think it was an intimation of mortality that got me going. I’d been building this universe and its inhabitants in my head for a while, and realised that they’d all die with me if I didn’t make them some kind of lifeboat for them. That’s what the comic is, a way for these characters to survive in other people’s heads. This wasn’t spurred on by any health crisis, just me getting older and my daughter growing up. Once I’d made this decision I pretty much dived into Universe Gun feet first. I started hanging out with the rest of the Adelaide indie comics community, who are awesome, by the way. Most importantly, I set myself a goal of completing a page a week, and have kept on rolling from there. I’ve changed careers and moved house during this time. Life keeps rolling on, but as long as you devote a little bit of each week to your comics work, it keeps stacking up, and suddenly you’re looking at a table full of printed work.
3. What would you consider your must-have supplies?
I need a graphics tablet of some kind. I started off with a Motion LE 1700, a clunky old industrial tablet that I bought off EBay. I’ve since graduated to a 24″ Cintiq, which has been worth every penny! I do draw with pencil and with ink on actual paper sometimes, but I really can’t paint to save my life, or use markers or any other means of applying colour. This is what sunk a lot of my earlier projects. I love pencilling with real materials, but for finished artwork I’m a slave to Photoshop and Manga Studio for their nice smooth flat fill tools to get the effects I want.
4. How did you come up with the idea for “Universe Gun”?
It all started with the characters. Ms. Amazing’s been in my head since 2003 or so. The Life Star was an idea I had when working on some Star Wars games back in 2006. I was in work late, looking at a Death Star level, and kept rolling that phrase “Death Star” around in my head and inverted it to “Life Star”. The Universe Gun itself came about shortly after, a fictional weapon that wakes its targets up from a virtual reality by “shooting them in the universe”. These ideas featured in my last game mod, The Amazanauts, and got woven into the backstory of some of the characters in my comics.
My girlfriend Yolande gave me a set of blank notebooks to keep all these ideas in, and I created a group of future superheroes for Ms. Amazing to visit, similar to “Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes” from the 1970s. As is usual for me, I created the characters and a backdrop world for them, but with very little in the way of antagonists, conflict or actual stories. That part all started to come together once I decided to make it into a comic, mainly out of necessity.
By this point I’d become more politically aware than I had been for a while. Thatcher’s death prompted me to pick up a newspaper again, and I started to wake up to all the bad things going on around our planet, like growing wealth inequality and the effects of the war on drugs. I started weaving sci-fi analogies to these issues into the Universe Gun storyline as it grew. Despite all the wild ideas and psychedelic art, Universe Gun is a very grounded story. It’s also almost entirely devoid of the horror elements which played a big part in the superhero comics of the British Invasion and early Vertigo. In my work, there’s no Evil with a capital E, just greedy people exploiting those who can’t fight back, using media distortion and state-sanctioned theft. I tend to work out the details on my bike commutes to and from work.
5. I love the colours and style you use. Do you think we’ll see a return to
the bright psychedelic style any time soon?
Thanks! I think it never really went away. The psychedelic style has become another item in the vast “style wardrobe” we now have in the 21st C. Early youth culture and style movements, from the 60’s through to punk, tended to be pretty didactic, and said that their way was the only way to dress or display art. These days we’re far less bound to a sinlge idea of what current fashion is, and happy to raid old styles and mutate them as we see fit.
There is that sunspot theory about an 11 year cycle between hippy and punk styles, and I think we’re currently at one of the punk peaks. But I don’t buy that. Not after a year that saw Guardians of the Galaxy and Dr Strange do so well. Modern psychedelia and softer “hippy” values are everywhere, in film, music and of course comics. Christian Ward’s artwork on Ody-C is a great example of a modern psychedelic style. Tula Lotay on Supreme Blue Rose. Valentine de Landro on Bitch Planet has a psychedelic edge to his work. Story-wise we have The Wicked and The Divine, Shade the Changing Girl and the new Doom Patrol and many more.
5. Who is one of your biggest inspirations?
As a writer, I’m a hopeless Grant Morrison fan boy. I love his “anthropologist” approach to superheroes, of trying to step into their world and see how they would see their world. Ideas such as superheroes earnestly discussing the possibility of a resurrection at a funeral just do it for me. I’ve definitely drawn on this approach for Universe Gun. I love writing the 37th century characters’ distorted view of our times. This first comes up when Moon Girl ( a 21st Century hero) joins the group. I’m also in the middle of a sequence in #9 right now, detailing the way our universe first appeared to the inhabitants of the Life Star, a race of beings who took superpowers for granted.
As an artist, it’s hands-down Seth Fisher. He was an American living in Japan, and had a wonderful fusion of western and manga styles. He was just making waves at Marvel and DC when he met his untimely death in 2006. I loved his toy-like drawings and clean-line finish, and his meticulous detail without ever getting over-fussy. Thorough drawing, with a simple elegant finish. But most of all I loved the sheer joy that was evident in his work – you could see how much fun he was having on every panel. One day I hope to capture some of that verve in my work.
He was like Mike Allred, one of those artists who transformed anything he worked on and obviously had a fair amount of input as a co-writer. Check out “FF/Iron man – Big in Japan” as one of his best pieces.
6. As a cat-person, I see you have a cat in “Universe Gun” – who is the cat
Haha! The cat, Agni, is based on Leo, my little white fluffy familiar. Me and Yolande are crazy cat people, we had five at one point. My original idea for Agni was that he could not only self-replicate, but could flame on like the Human Torch. The idea of his fluff growing back immediately afterwards always amused me, as well as the image of a human being overpowered by a gang of flaming cats. When I started the comic I decided that was too much, especially since I wanted to have at least half the team – Princess Amtora, Kid Identity, Venus and Cyberius – be primarily non-combat characters.
One of my other cats appears briefly. “Mr. Rang-ma-Tang” (a reality-altering cat who used to fight Ms. Amazing, like a feline Mr Mxyzptlk) appears in one panel of the strip and in a guest artist card by my good friend Haylee Snook. He was based on Kuni Mitsu, one of my old cats.
7. How can we get a copy of the “Universe Gun” trade paperback?
Kay, I’m glad you asked! I’ve got a Kickstarter going for the first trade paperback at my Kickstarter page.
Another option that I’m very keen to encourage is for people to order the trade via their local comic shops. All Star Comics in Melbourne, Impact Comics in Canberra, and Greenlight Comics and Pulp Fiction in Adelaide will be stocking the trades. Buying the comic from them supports a vital part of the comics infrastructure of this country, and encourages them to stock local indie work. These places have very well stocked local sections – so while you’re in there check out what else is available!
I love that Dr Mike 2000 has included some progress shots from Issue 8 of Universe Gun, for use to check out! By the way – Issue 8 is ready for the printers, and Issue 9 is currently being worked on.
Dr Mike 2000’s other art and information can be found at: