George R.R. Martin Talks About How Comic Books Influenced His Work
George RR Martin made an appearance at San Diego Comic-Con 2014 but not for the reason most fans would think. While “Game of Thrones” has rocketed Martin to a level of fame rare for authors, his body of work stretches over four decades. Two of those have recently been turned into graphic novels with Avatar Comics.
“In The House Of The Worm” was illustrated by Ivan Rodriguez and adapted by Jon Joseph Miller. The story is set far, far future and our sun is finally going out. A small remnant of humanity is left and they’ve retreated into an underground bunkers, living a hedonistic lifestyle of leisure while tunnels below them are lost in darkness. Martin describes it as “A baroque horror almost.”
“Skin Trade” is a horror framework housing a hard-boiled noir story. A female private detective werewolf living and working in a decaying Mid-Western town.
But while Martin was on hand to talk about these adaptations, the real story was in his anecdotes about growing up on comic books.
Image Credit: Avatar Press
#1 - He was the first comic book fan.
“I am actually the first comic book fan, I think. In 1964 the first Comic-Con in New York City in Greenwich Village. Thirty people showed up and we met in one room on a Saturday. I was the first one to show up. My badge said #1…so I’m the first comic fan.”
#2 - His childhood in small town New Jersey made him crave a wider world.
“You write what you read and I grew up reading sci-fi/fantasy. I was born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey. It’s a blue collar industrial city across from New York Bay. But Bayonne was very much self-contained city despite being close to New York City. We didn’t have much money, we lived in federal housing projects down on 1st Street and I went to public grade school on 5th Street. And that was my world. My world was five blocks long because we never anywhere. We didn’t even have a car. And I think it was hunger for me from a very early age to experience more than those five blocks.”
#3 - He was not a fan of reading at first.
“I learned to read in school of course and in my era you learned to read with ‘readers.’ They were full of the adventures of ‘Dick and Jane.’ Dick and Jane and their little sister Sally and their dog Spot. This was the dullest family in the history of Earth. And I couldn’t see the charm of reading about Dick and Jane. Oh boy they were boring.”
#4 - Science fiction got finally got Martin interested in books.
“For me, the prose writer who had the most profound effect on me was Robert A. HeinIein read comic books voraciously but I didn’t read BOOK books. […] But then someone gave me a Robert A. Heinlein book ‘Have Space Suit, Will Travel’ and suddenly I was going to the moon and to Pluto…with no Dick and Jane. Instead I was with PeeWee and the Mother Thing and fighting Wormfaces and boy I was hooked.”
#5 - His allowance would stretch really far.
“I had an allowance of a dollar a week, which would at the time buy me 10 comic books. And now I wanted to buy these science-fiction books and they cost $.35 so I had to sacrifice three and a half comic books but it was worthwhile. I would buy paperback books off the spinner rack. For years ‘The Puppetmasters’ was one of the scariest alien invasion books ever written became my favorite book.”