Comics Features

INTERVIEW: Matthew Clarke – Creator of Renegade Pilot

Renegade Pilot is a new comic series featuring a kick-ass, take no names protagonist set in space, featuring the talents of Matthew Clarke. We wanted to learn more about the new space adventure series, so we got in contact with Matthew who discusses his Kickstarter campaign and his plans for future issues.

AP2HYC: For people that don’t know what Renegade Pilot is, how would you sum up the comic?

Clarke: It’s basically a sci-fi action tale of redemption that takes place during a time of war that spans across our solar system. The story takes place 7 years after the lone pilot Maxwell Machinay was branded a renegade over a mistake he made that cost him his comrades. Little does he know of the mysteries that lie ahead after a routine mission takes an unexpected turn…

AP2HYC: What was your inspiration behind writing Renegade Pilot?

Clarke: That’s a tough one to pin down as it was originally two different projects that I came up with in 2009 that I merged into one. But I guess at its heart there are influences from some of my favourite comics such as Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd and the WW2 Commando Comics series. I was very inspired by the illustration work of Cam Kennedy and Dave Gibbons so I wanted to create a comic that allowed me to experiment with that style while incorporating narrative and action elements that made those comics so much fun to read.

AP2HYC: Has writing comics always been a passion of yours?

Clarke: Yes it certainly has, in fact one of my earliest memories was when I was about 4 or 5 years old and I woke up one morning, grabbed all the paper and card I could started making my very first book. Following on through school life these ideas and characters would keep coming to me and I very quickly fell into this cycle where I’d have an idea for a character or a vehicle or something and I’d start designing how they looked and the moment I’d have the finished piece in front of me I’d just find myself writing what the back story was, where it had come from, where it was going, what it could do and then from that back story, suddenly I’d have names and ideas for other characters and places that these things existed in.

So after high school I worked hard to earn my degree in graphic design, then trawled through all my project ideas for one that I considered to be the easiest to produce with the resources that I had. I knew I had to really commit myself to make sure it could be achieved so what I did was, I booked for an exhibitor table at a small convention in Birmingham called ICE, which instantly put me in a productive frame of mind because now I had only a few months to completely write and produce my first issue based on all my collective notes. It worked though as thankfully 3 months later I was standing at ICE with my very first comic.

AP2HYC: If you could compare Renegade Pilot to any other comic or film series, what would it be?
Clarke: I guess I’d have to compare it to some of its influences such as Rogue Trooper and Star Wars because there is an order versus chaos style of opposing armies and in between that rock and hard place you have the Renegade Pilot. Another comparison I would like to draw on would be the anti-hero vibe of Mad Max and how his injuries from the first movie were carried on into the sequel. It really emphasized to me the human condition of the character, whereas with most comics, when the heroes get hurt, usually by the next issue or so, they’re back on their feet in a pristine costume as if nothing had happened, I didn’t want to do that with Renegade Pilot, I want my characters to take time to heal, and I want their costumes and ships to maintain the battle scars that will arise along the way.

AP2HYC: Maxwell Machinay is an ass-kicking protagonist, if you could liken him to any other character, who would it be?

Clarke: That’s an interesting one as back when I was developing the character I was inspired by the cliché kind of 1980’s action hero that has some kind of military background, seems almost indestructible and is too cool to look back when he walks away from explosions. However at the same time I didn’t want an indestructible action hero, I wanted to create a character that can make mistakes and can get hurt, I wanted to keep him human.

But I guess you could liken his resourcefulness, engineering skills, gadgets and his flawed sense of self-reliance to characters like Batman and his more human and anti-hero qualities to Max Rockatansky from the Mad Max movies.

AP2HYC: Renegade Pilot deals with issues such as pollution and overpopulation of Earth, which are issues relevant in this day and age. Was it always your intention to tackle such matters?

Clarke: Yes, during the development it quickly became an interesting set of issues that I wanted to touch on and include into the back story of the comic. At the time there were news reports about cuts to NASA funding and stories on the effects of greenhouse gases and rising energy demands.

As a sci-fi fan I found it somewhat ironic, every space story promotes this grand dream that space travel will one day be as easy as getting into your car, and yet at this rate, it seemed like the only way future space exploration was going to be achievable was if we had really messed our planet up. Because the “too little, too late” effect seemed to be the only way we got things done.

So I decided it would be an interesting idea to take this concept to the extreme and create an alternate Earth where mankind really had plundered all the resources and was polluted and overpopulated because of it. Which would lead to the demand for colonising and mining the solar system and explores how a minor political dispute between Earth and the organisation supplying the planet with resources would push a power-corrupted corporation into a conflict, leading to the war that Renegade Pilot takes place in.

AP2HYC: What can fans of the comics expect in future issues?

Clarke: Well alongside the ass-kicking action there will be plenty of new and interesting characters coming into the mix along the way, some friendly, others carrying a personal vendetta. We’ll also get insights into Max’s history, hints at what the mysterious Advisor Skull is up to and an eventual reveal into what exactly happened at Flight 109 that branded Max a renegade.

AP2HYC: Would you say that Kickstarter is a good platform to create and spread your work?

Clarke: I’d say that it’s a good platform to promote your work on because running a Kickstarter campaign really makes you aware of how much or how little exposure you are giving your art to the world. Before I came to Kickstarter, the only exposure I had was the occasional online mention, or tweet alongside my DevinatArt page. Because at the time all I was doing was the comic convention circuit, which is also great for exposure but it’s a more captive and local audience than what you’d need with an online campaign.

So I recommend really preparing yourself with some kind of promotional strategy to get those page visits, both online and offline.

AP2HYC: In your Kickstarter video, you mention that you want to create an online store. How many issues of Renegade Pilot would you like to create?

Clarke: Initially I’m hoping to solely produce at least 10 issues of Renegade Pilot, however I know that the story itself expands way beyond that so I can’t say for sure how many issues it will completely run for, that’s down to the demand from the fans and supporters to keep them rolling along. But I can say that this is just the first story in a much larger continuity that I’ve been working on so there is potential for future titles and crossovers once I reach a stage where these other stories can start to unfold alongside it.

AP2HYC: Thank you for your time. Good luck with your Kickstarter campaign and future issues!

It’s easy to see the passion behind this project. Starting out with a new comic series isn’t easy, but thanks to Kickstarter Matthew has the opportunity to turn Renegade Pilot into a series of comic books. Be sure to check out our review of #1 of Renegade Pilot.
Have you contributed to Renegade Pilot yet? As always we’d like to hear from you in the comments and on  Twitter!

About the author

Josh Sammons