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Welcome to the first page of Track 3 of ‘Free Mars.’  This week is a little surreal for a few reasons.  First, the page itself is kinda trippy.  I think you’ll agree.  Nic has done some amazing stylized versions of our girls; they almost look like children’s book versions of Vikki, Taryn, and Sam.

Second, I just realized that we’ve hit 30 pages and over 230,000 hits on the website.  Pretty big milestones for a humble webcomic.  I know I say this a lot, but I don’t think we’d have gotten this far without you ladies and gentlemen.

Lastly, C2E2 is just over the horizon and that means our print edition will arrive in a few weeks.  I still don’t know how we managed a Dan Abnett foreword.

There is a musical pairing this week, but we’ve hid it within the page itself.  It might be a little esoteric, but this scene should seem familiar to at least some of you.  Let’s do this, the first person that gives me the correct song, based on this week’s page, gets a free set of mini-prints sent to them.  You can post your guess here or email us .  I’ll check the time-stamps if there’s multiple correct answers.  Good luck,

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With a couple weeks off between Tracks 2 and 3, we decided to post a few extra pages of work.  First, we have a companion piece to our Vikki Grimm Interlude.  In this piece, we get to see Samantha enjoying some downtime; relaxing in her micro-hab with a good “book”.  I think the specs give her a new look, very academic, if a little hipsteresque.  She’s probably smarter than Vexx gives her credit for, in any case.

The text this week is not written by me, but by none other than Nicolas R. Giacondino, the noted Argentinean artist.  Nic asked me if he could write a short excerpt from a book by a famed Martian revolutionary and I thought it was an excellent idea.   We agreed that Sam, of the three, was most likely to be reading something like this.  It wasn’t lost on me that the subject matter becomes a little more poignant coming from an Argentinean.  We had to edit the text quite a bit to fit on this page, so we’re including Nic’s full excerpt in the FM-verse section.  It’ll be up this weekend and I encourage you to check it out.

I think Sam is listening to something suitably chill.  So I’m going with Cut Copy and ‘Take Me Over

Speaking of music, I put together an iTunes Playlist where I’m collecting some of the songs mentioned in these posts, as well as songs/artists that inspired The Sisters Grimm.

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Here endeth Track 2.  In a homage to the potboiler, we’ve got a bit of a cliffhanger.  Our heroine has had a bad week or so and it certainly hasn’t ended any better.  I love how Nic’s got little bits of burning debris falling around her.

Nic and I discussed the music pairing at some length this week.  We didn’t completely agree, so I’m posting both choices.  Nic is going with Pink Floyd’s ‘Goodbye, Cruel World.’  Obviously a classic and I admit that it does work well with this grim (no pun intended) panel. Though I personally find that entire album to be a bit of a naffing downer.  Full disclosure: I’m not a huge Pink Floyd fan.  Maybe I just never got over Syd Barrett’s departure from the band.

For my own part, I’m taking a different approach.  I see my pick this week as the end credits song for our second chapter.  So I wanted a little irony; something poppy and upbeat.  Plus this song has been stuck in my head for like a week (I blame the XM).  The Primitives’ Crash.

So Marsers, Track 2 is in the can, the print version of these first two chapters is en route to the printer, and C2E2 is right around the corner.  Stay tuned for more news (big news) coming soon.  In the mean time, between today and the start of Track 3 ‘Volcano Girls’, we’ll be posting our print cover and another ‘Interlude’ piece.

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Happy Friday, Marsers.  I write to you now from the ruins of Chicago; me and the other snowmeggedon survivors have banded together to find food and update our webcomics.  I don’t want to alarm anyone, but is that our Vikki Grimm flying through the air?  I can gauge the success of Nic’s action sequence here by the fact that, even though I wrote the script, I’m still cringing.  Poor girl even lost her boot.  Naff.

We’re gonna go a little industrial this week, I think.  Front 242′s Headhunter:

We are gearing up for c2E2.  Hope you can make it to the Expo.  We’ll be debuting our printed edition there, if everything goes according to schedule.  Might have a couple additional surprises, so stay tuned.  Then two weeks after the C to the E, is Adepticon.  Adepticon is primarily a miniature gaming convention, but this year’s Guest of Honour is none other than Dan Abnett himself.  He kinda spans the comic/miniature gaming worlds and has even written some Dr. Who radio dramas.  Triple threat.  He’s almost like the nerd J-Lo

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I know the whole “best page yet” mantra is probably getting a little old.  But I think I’m safe in declaring this our best page yet.  To think I was worried that the script for this page tried to pack too much into one week.  In fact, this is why I don’t generally feel that bad that we’re a weekly comic; you definitely get a lot each week.

Vikki Grimm takes the lead here in an attempt to find some cover from the battle that rages around them.  We find that Sam, like Vexx, has an interesting past (or at least she says she does).  Finally, we’re left with a nice cliff-hanger.  The page is so dynamic, almost frenetic, that I think Nic has outdone himself.

The music pairing this week is by a similarly amazing artist.  Rachid Taha is an Algerian singer/DJ whose song ‘Barra Barra’ (Out! Out!) was used in the film Blackhawk Down.  And though I’m copping out a little and choosing that song (it is naffing awesome), I totally recommend checking out more of his stuff, particularly the album Made in Medina. He also does a cool cover of The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’ (used in the Joe Strummer movie).  So fire up the Rhapsody or iTunes and check this guy out if you are currently unfamiliar.  Here’s ‘Barra Barra’:

Housekeeping-wise, I’m doing a links page this week, so look for the ‘Off-World Comms.’  I’m trying to collect links to FM reviews and mentions, but also list some of the other science-fiction webcomics we look at on a regular basis.  As well as some generally cool sci-fi and comic websites (and maybe some miniatures sites for painters/gamers).

The end of Track 2 grows near, which means we’ll be taking the first two chapters and some new bonus material, and putting together a print compilation for C2E2.  We’ve also been thinking about the cover.  We sort of decided we’d like to see our printed comic covers become tributes to some of our favorite album covers.  We think we’ve narrowed down this first cover, but we’re considering future options.  Which leads me to this week’s two-part question for you Earthers:  First, would you be interested in a printed version of the webcomic that included exclusive material?  Second, what iconic album cover would look cool ‘Free Mars’-ified?

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In retrospect, Vikki’s reaction last week seems relatively subdued.  The scene outside the crashed ‘lifter seems, at least, somewhat problematic for our heroines.

To think that Nic was worried about designing all the vehicles: tanks, VTOLs, and MLF converted mining haulers all make an appearance.  I think he gave everything a unique look, design-wise, but you can see a common “evolutionary” thread.  The vehicles all have their own character, but they all look Martian.

Again, as usual, the page warrants a few close looks.  The detail here reaches a new level.  It’s tantamount to a Free Mars ‘Where’s Waldo?’

Nic’s music pairing this week is Prodigy.  ”Anything from Fat of the Land,” said the Argentinian artist.  I concur that the technophonic pulse works for the frenetic chaos of the battle.  For my own part, I have to go with one of my favorite bands.  ’Know Your Enemy’ by Green Day.

Our Volcano City Merch Table is open, by the way.  It wouldn’t be a rock show without a merch table.  So if you feel like acquiring some new art (and soon a printed version of the comic with bonus pages)

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PAGE TWENTY FIVE.  Interior commercial freightlifter.  Jovis.  15:37 MST.  Jovis happens to be the fifth day of the Martian week, corresponding with Earth’s Thursday, going with the Darian nomenclature.

We’ve come to the end of Nic’s ‘Red Period.’  I still think this last sequence and its lack of color showed just how detailed Nic’s art really is.

On the writing side, I hope we were successful in demonstrating that there’s more to our girls than might meet the eye….

Music-wise this week, I’m choosing one more “eerie” song to go with the final red page.  Lush, ‘Light From A Dead Star.’  Lush is a band that I almost forgot about, but have been revisiting lately.  I love Meriel Barham’s voice and could almost hear Vexx’s backing vocals sounding similar.

A couple house-keeping notes.  First, we have finally got all the prints together.  We have one larger poster and two smaller mini-prints and one postcard.  I’m compiling all the info and setting up a ‘Volcano City Mercantile’ page this weekend.  So look for it next week.  We’re also doing some website/server maintenance, so if you find us “down” you’ll know why.

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I like to think of the last few weeks as Nic’s ‘Red Period.’  This lighting effect still blows my mind.  Nic continues to give the scene a tremendous level of detail, even though the color is washed out.  I think this shows just how good Nic is- but I’m also a little biased.

I think we can all agree that Vexx is a serious badass.  The final panel is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the comic so far.  This panel stands in a stark (and cool) contrast to the splash on PAGE FOUR.

To honor our bladed bass player, I think we should go with No Doubt’s ‘Just A Girl.’  Honestly, it’s also for my sister in the Bay who will think the choice is hella good.

I sort of went on a bit last week, so I’ll cut things short this week.  First, I presented a challenge to name the Combine trooper’s flesh-melting weapon last week.  I think I like Brian’s suggestion, especially the Ares company name.  I’m gonna modify it a little though: the Ares Industries Mark III Pulsed Plasma Rifle.  Or, ready for this, the APP Rifle.  Because when the shite hits the fan, at least there’s an APP for that.  Brian- shoot me your address (no pun intended) and I will mail you out a freshly made print.

Finally, we are proud (and lucky) to have gotten a great review from a fantastic blogger and true sci-fi connoisseur, Total Fan Girl.  I love her blog and I recommend you follow her on FaceBook.  I say this, not because she gave our little comic a nice review, but because she loves the Clone Wars as much as I do.

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The last page of 2010.  And a bit of a sudden end for a number of unfortunate passengers.  We get to see exactly what a MK. 6 Combine Pulse Rifle does and it isn’t pretty.  I’m still really digging the red lighting effect; it is perfect for the chaotic tension of the trooper’s attack.

Now, again, Nic and I have a difference of opinion on this week’s music pairing.  Nic likes Metallica’s cover of the Misfits song ‘Die, Die My Darling.’  It makes sense, and I do like the Metallica version.  However, my choice this week is maybe a little obvious:  Broken Bells, ‘Vaporize.’  The laid-back tone of the song provides a nice counterpoint to the violence and chaos of the page.  I also think the Broken Bells had one of my favorite albums of 2010.

A few things.  First, if you are a fan of the comic and don’t mind a little tame nudity, you need to hit the deviantArt link up there on the right and check out Nic’s last piece of 2010.  It is a slightly risque version of our drummer, Samantha Darkness.  Sam has an “exotic” day job in Volcano City and Nic wanted to do an illustration of her at work.  So, again, if you’re interested you should check out Nic’s dA page.  The piece will eventually end up in our B-Sides section.  Twitterers already got it.

Second, we wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  Nic and I agree that we received three amazing gifts this year.  The first two are named Benicio and Charlotte- Nic’s amazing son and my daughter.  The second gift was the opportunity to put this project together.  We were really lucky to have found each other and I couldn’t ask for a more talented and, frankly, telepathic creative partner.  ‘Free Mars’ and the Martian punk band Sisters Grimm were based on a ten year old screenplay, but it wasn’t until I saw Nic’s work that I realized the potential to tell the story in this medium.

Nic and I also want to thank our “fifth Beatle”, Chris Borer.  Besides being a multiple Slayer Sword winner (I’m sure some of you know what that is), Chris is also a fantastic editor.  He gets to read everything first and his often vehement criticism has been invaluable to the process.

And finally, at the risk of sounding overly naffing sentimental, today’s my birthday.  And the best gift I’ve gotten (besides baby Charlie) are all the emails and posts from you guys.  You, ladies and gentlemen, are awesome!  So thanks for reading.  See you in 2011, gremmies.

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“When Earthers ask why we don’t celebrate Christmas on Mars, I usually tell them it’s because Mars doesn’t have three wise men.  We probably don’t have any saviors and we definitely don’t have any virgins.”  -Vikki Grimm

PAGE TWENTYTWO.  Interior commercial freightlifter.  Things continue to go a little south for the passengers of TK-421, including our heroines.  Trapped between a MLF ambush and a slightly maniacal CSC colonel.  Lynch, a veteran of the Ice Wars, is definitely a total bastard.  Moving troops covertly, under the cover of a civilian transport, seems questionable.  Though I suspect the CSC kleptocracy wouldn’t give a document-dump if this tactic were Wikileaked.

Vexx strikes me as someone who doesn’t like to wait in a queue and would probably send back food in a restaurant.

Nic proposed the red “lighting” effect and I agreed that it was appropriate for this scene.  The script called for “warning/emergency lights”, in the vein of ‘A L I E N S’ or ‘Event Horizon’.  It’s tough to do a strobe effect (every other panel is black?), but the red-wash definitely gets across the change in lighting and reflects a real move to a more ominous atmosphere.

The music pairing this week is the result of a minor coincidence*.  When I got the pencils, I was listening to this particular song and it sort of made sense thematically.  So, at the risk of sounding like a car commercial, I’ve gotta go with Kasabian and ‘L.S.F’.  You’ll find that I tend to return to my Britpop roots every few weeks…

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