TOM & JERRY Exclusive: Interview With Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Oscar Martin

Thanks to our friends over at Titan comics we recently had a chance to break the language barrier and speak with Solo and Tom & Jerry artist and writer Oscar Martin about his work. Check it out!

Spanish cartoonist Oscar Martin has lent his art and writing to many big name intellectual properties such as Angry Birds, The Lion King, and Woody the Woodpecker. His most famous contribution is arguably the work he put in towards Tom & Jerry starting all the way back in 1986, which ultimately went on to earn him a Lifetime Achievement Award from Warner Bros. in 2002.

Jumping ahead to just last month, Titan Comics has just released Martin's own work with Solo: The Survivors of Chaos, a comic that Martin has been working on for over two decades. Now, thanks to the publisher, the story is able to be brought to an English-speaking audience for the very first time. The tale tells of a future filled with mutated animals and the brutal rules of survival in an apocalyptic setting.

Titan Comics set us up with the opportunity to speak with Martin about Solo, and he also opened up about his most famous work to date - Tom & Jerry. As both of these are titles that follow animal characters, we discuss the symmetry in his work and why he choses to use animals as a template to express himself. We've also included images from Solo after each answer so enjoy Martin's art as you read his comments!

Joe: Do you prefer to pull double duty on the stories you work on, contributing both writing and art to the story so that it contains only your vision or do you also enjoy teaming up with other creatives?

Oscar Martin: At the moment I prefer to work as a screenwriter and cartoonist. In my opinion it is the best way to maintain consistency. It is a universe that is growing and in my case I have a very clear idea what I want to do until I give control to other professionals regarding the script. I want to mention that there are already several Spin offs of Solo where I write the script but I work with different artists.

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Joe: Your name makes people think of your award-winning Tom & Jerry work, but Solo is far from a children's story. What was it that inspired such a drastic difference in your work?

Oscar Martin: It's simple, when you work with a license there are lines that you can't cross. It is very fun to draw comics of WB or Disney characters, but you must be consistent with the product you are drawing ... It was just a way to get away from that and the workload represented by Tom & Jerry and take the gag to the extreme, do things that cannot be done with licenses.

The first version of the drawing Solo in 1997 in black and white was much more cartoon, wild and bully. Now, thinking about the international public is much more moderate, without leaving the transgressive side, now it is much more epic and less thug.

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Joe: Do you prefer to work on material for a younger audience like Tom & Jerry or do you feel like you have more room to be creative when you're writing a story with less reader restrictions?

Oscar Martin: With Tom & Jerry I have always done what I wanted (I was also the screenwriter). I knew well where the limits were and I followed the animation model of the 40s. Later, around 2014 I wanted to impose scripts written by other authors (horrible and boring scripts) I immediately left the comic of Tom & Jerry dedicating myself only to drawing covers.

Later, in 2016, after 30 years, due to the bad criteria that were followed in Burbank regarding these comic characters, I finally left the WB comic. I have not finally abandoned these characters because I regularly draw style guides for merchandising for WB.

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Joe: If you could contribute your writing and art style to any other existing intellectual property, which would you pick?

Oscar Martin: In the middle of the last century there was an editorial in Spain that became the art of the culture of my country. It was called Bruguera. In this editorial I publish hundreds of characters, some of them exceptional. Characters created by great cartoonists and scriptwriters who made children like me want to be comic cartoonists; maybe that's why, in Spain there are a huge number of comic professionals who draw for everyone.

Recovering some of those characters and creating a new universe for them is something that would make me especially excited. Apart from that I have already worked all my life for characters of others, at this moment I just want to work for my own ideas.

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Joe: Even though the two may be nothing alike - both Tom & Jerry and Solo share a common theme in animals. While one features the beloved cat and mouse pair, the other has a plot centered around mutated animals. Are animals a big inspiration for your work or is it a coincidence that this common theme shows up in more than one of your titles?

Oscar Martin: I am a person who loves animals. Nor do I think there is so much difference between humans and animals apart from the comfort in which humans live and the laws that require us to maintain coexistence. Drawing animals has become a metaphor for the human condition itself.

Regarding the graphic part, the anthropomorphic characters I think allow me a greater exaggeration of movement (slapstick) and acting without falling into the ridiculous or seeming unbelievable.

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What do you think about Oscar Martin's comments? Are you a bigger fan of his work aimed towards a younger audience like Tom & Jerry, or something more adult and brutal such as Solo? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and be sure to check out the official synopsis for Solo: The Survivors of Chaos.

In the future, the Earth, ravaged by nuclear wars, gave birth to an array of new mutated species, which grew and repopulated the land. But this new world is far from peaceful, and life in it is often short and brutal. To make life easier for his poor family, Solo, a young rat, decides to strike out on his own. But he soon finds that in this hostile world only the strongest and the most ruthless survive ...

Solo: The Survivors of Chaos is now available from Titan Comics for $29.99.

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