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Interview with Pistol Whip Press Founder Scott Schmidt

by Aaron Reese on October 26, 2016

Steele Vs
Comics The Gathering
sat down with Pistol Whip Press founder and Steel Vs. creator Scott Schmidt to talk about his past and future projects.

 

Schmidt is not your typical upstart comic book creator. He does some things you’d expect from anyone in their early thirties, of course. He will detail his favorite video games or horror movies and he can probably give you his top-10 favorite Marvel moments, although we didn’t ask him about that. If you stop digging there, you wouldn’t know that he can deftly navigate conversations about niche music, modern poetry, or Victorian literature.

 

He’s not too proud to relish the genius that can be found in pop culture and he’s not too intimidated to pay homage to Shakespeare. He’s one of the few who will talk to you about Milton’s Paradise Lost, but understands that sometimes a comic should just be about punching people in the face.

 

Schmidt became a comics creator later than most writers. His desire to plunge into the medium started a few years into college when he started reading Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s The Damned and Anthony Johnston and Christopher Mitten’s Wasteland.

Steele Vs

“Those books made me realize that you didn’t have to be from a major U.S. city to work in comics,” says Schmidt. “You find out from the backs of the books that Cullen is from St. Louis and Brian is from St. Louis. Another one was Revere by a KC pair of guys, Ed Lavalee and Grant Bond, about Paul Revere fighting British werewolves because he was a silversmith...Those books were just so far outside the realm of what the ‘big two’ were doing, but people were buying them...Seeing these creator-owned comics that were done more-or-less locally blew my mind. That’s when I knew that the [type of] writing I knew and gravitated toward could fit into the medium of comics.”
 

While chasing his new dream of becoming a comic book writer, he got his name out by submitting several short stories for anthologies, but it soon became clear that short stories weren’t his endgame. The world-building and production that went into every short story became too intensive for what the reader saw in the finished project. He decided that self-publishing was the best way to do what he wanted to do.
 

“I was finally just ready to jump into a 22-page story, to jump into a 4-issue mini-series,” he says. “I just wanted to do it. I didn’t want to have to wait for an idea to get picked up by a publisher...I just went for it.”

 

He founded Pistol Whip Press with its flagship series Steele Vs, a historical fiction adventure comic that pits a legendary real-life Mountie named Sam Steele against some of Canada’s myths and monsters. For the Americans who don’t know, Sam Steele was the third person to enlist in the North-West Mounted Police (Mounties). He defended construction of the Canadian railway, settled territory disputes, and is widely considered to be the most important figure in the history of the organization. As Schmidt says, “he became instrumental in everything, from their training to their cavalry tactics to their equipment, even down to the hat they wore.”
 

People often have a stereotypical impression of Mounties, in the vein of Dudley Do-Right--innocent, silly, not too bright. In reality, Mounties are hardcore badasses. They were formed with the purpose of policing one of the most dangerous and treacherous frontiers ever confronted. That’s part of what inspired Schmidt to take on the project. Although, natural hardships of the great northern wilderness weren’t enough of an obstacle, so Schmidt stacks the deck against Steele.

 

“It takes the historical foundation of the character and frontier of Canada during the 1870s and 90s and, as any good comic does, will toss in myth and monsters and over the top action and violence,” Schmidt says. “With every issue of Steele Vs. things get a little bit further away from the historical and leans more toward myth and legend. It’s more fun to see a mountie fighting monsters than to binge on Canadian history.”

 

The first two issues of Steel Vs can be found on Comixology. After a partially successful Kickstarter for the newest issue, Schmidt says he will pay the rest of the cost  out of pocket and we’ll have the next installment soon.

 

Because of Schmidt’s varied interests, he’s diversifying into other genres. He’ll soon be taking a break from historical fantasy to jump into something completely different...from just about anything we’ve seen. Along with artist Brian Atkins, Schmidt will pay homage to 1980s and 90s fighting video games and beat-em-up side-scrollers with Final Street.

 

A video posted by Brian Atkins (@brianatkinsart) on



“It’s my favorite genre, the beat-em-up genre,” says Schmidt. “I was going through my games from that genre. It just kind of formulated that the ridiculousness of this genre would be really fun to see on paper, to see it highly stylized.”

 

“The genre really does lend itself to comics in a lot of ways,” he continued. “If you pick up a comic, especially from Marvel and DC...75% of the comic is punching and that’s what those games are all about, just punching people in the face.”

 

Scott says that the idea just popped into his head. He talked about it with Atkins when they were both promoting their work at a comic shop. Together, they came up with concepts that make the comic truly feel like a retro video game.

 

“We’re not even calling them issues. Each issue is a stage. Issue one takes place in Old Town. It’s going to be fighting on the streets. Fighting gangs. Brian Atkins has designed all the characters and has them all on Instagram. Each issue, the main characters, Sullie and Kumi, are in a different setting, fight a different group of people, and fight a different boss at the end of each issue”

 

“Each Stage is going to going to have a downloadable music track. When you buy the issue, there will be a QR code right on the title page where you download the song for the price of the issue. It just goes with it. You can listen to the song as you read the book. There will hopefully be a theme and four songs to go with each issue.”

 

Scott says that he and Brian came up with the ideas in snippets over lunch and started spitballing. “The next thing we know,” he says, “we have a quite expansive idea of what we could possibly do as a comic book.”

 

“We’re not video game makers; we’re comic book makers, but we believe strongly that we can make this almost seamless interpretation of a video game as a comic book.”

 

Schmidt says that Final Street will also come with a manual that has information on the stages, weapons, and special character moves found in the comic.

 

While 1980s video games are cool and all, Schmidt admits that the beat-em-up genre had one glaring flaw that he and Atkins hope to address in the comic. “If you look at all of these games, almost all of these games feature a storyline of a woman being kidnapped and these casts of male characters have to crush as many skulls as they can to go find this woman. We’re basically flipping that idea on its head and our two main characters are females. The lead character, Sullie, her boyfriend gets kidnapped, so she has to go through all these stages, along with her best friend, to get her boyfriend back.”

 

Schmidt and Atkins hope to unveil Final Street in April 2017 after each of them finishes up other projects. They plan to shop the first issue to publishers at C2E2 in Chicago. If they don’t have any takers, they won’t be deterred, says Schmidt, “If that doesn’t pan out, we’re probably going to have a Kickstarter.”

 

You can purchase Scott Schmidt’s work from Comixology.

Follow him on Twitter @PistolWhipPress.

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