Oklahoma author Charles Martin creates a modern reinvention of the serialized dime store novel in “The Wonderboy Serials,” an online series from Literati Press.
The first six chapters have been collected into a print edition, available at local book stores and comic shops, in addition to online at literatipressok.com.
“The Wonderboy Serials” is inspired by comic-book series like “Watchmen” and “Kingdom Come.”
Martin has promoted the novel at various conventions across the country, including the recent Planet Comicon in Overland Park, Kan.
“There’s been a strong crossover from both comic book readers that wouldn’t normally pick up a novel and novel readers that wouldn’t normally pick up a superhero story,” Martin said. “It’s early yet in the pop culture season, so I will have a better idea in the fall after I’ve seen some of these same readers again after they’ve had a chance to crack it open. Convention-goers tend to be brutally honest, for better or worse, but early indicators have me feeling optimistic that the story will really resonate.”
Martin touches on several issues throughout the novel through the lens of a superhero story.
“Security versus liberty is the big one, specifically what sacrifices will society make to feel safe,” Martin said. “Issues of national sovereignty and justice also pop up regularly, but the real meat of the story centers around society’s willingness to allow its celebrities to set the moral compass. When a beloved superhero is sexually aggressive, devalues women, distrusts the gay community as well as non-Western nations, his legion of fans will follow his example.”
Martin said he’d wanted to write a superhero story since he was a “kid running around in a cape,” but it took the success of an earlier e-book he’d written, “Edward and the Island,” for him to decide to re-approach the genre.
“A superhero story is really ideal fodder for the cliffhanger pacing of a serial and making the story a series rather than a stand-alone book gives me the freedom to explore more characters and dark corners,” he said. “Cutting it into 60-page increments makes it much more approachable.”
Each e-book issue retails for 99 cents. The print edition of the first six chapters retails for $14. The start of the second season of issues kicked off this week, with “Homefront,” featuring a cover by Hugo Award-winning artist Brad Foster. The second print anthology is scheduled for an October release.
Each serial release has a cover from a different artist, reflecting a different style.
“I really wanted stylized covers that reflected the tone of each issue, so I tapped comic book illustrators, cartoonists, graphic designers, pop artists, and modernists,” Martin said. “I wanted the look of Wonderboy to be as disjointed and obscured as he is from the viewpoint of all the different characters I use to tell his story.”
Martin, who uses the pen name “Charles Martin and Will Weinke,” has several other projects in the works, including a horror novel, a politically aware superhero comic and a comic book project/art exhibition.
Martin’s Literati Press has additional projects on its publishing slate, including issue three of “Welcome to Ralton” by Don Rosencrans and Cole Johnson; Mer Whinery’s “Little Dixie Horror Show” short story anthology; an illustrated short story by Marty Peercy and Jonathan Hubble coinciding with a new album by Head Cabinets; and an anthology of Eric Gorman’s “eggs.”
“The scope of it all is pretty terrifying, but I’m really excited to see where it’s all headed,” Martin said.
- By Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman