(Aftershock Comics)

MIKE MARTS is convinced that we are living in a prime time for comics — a Renaissance, if you will, in an industry buoyed anew by independent and creator-owned books. And that’s precisely why he’s putting his money where his amassed confidence is, helping to launch a comic-book publisher last year and debuting the company’s first titles last month.

AfterShock Comics is aiming to provide “a new wave of creativity” in what Marts, its editor-in-chief, said is fertile terrain for an independent comic-book line hoping to capitalize on the growing popularity of creator-owned content. With that in mind, the L.A.-based AfterShock is also publishing work by top industry talent.

“To us, there seems no better time to start a new company,” Marts told The Post’s Comic Riffs. “More and more, we’re discovering that the comic book-reading audience is gravitating more towards specific creators and less to specific characters or properties.

“The creator-owned comics initiative has never been stronger, and our feeling is that we have only experienced the tip of the proverbial iceberg.”

(Aftershock Comics)

Marts proudly called AfterShock’s current stable of cartoonists the “who’s-who of the top comic book creators of today.” That roster includes Brian Azzarello, Garth Ennis, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Paul Jenkins.

“We have a fantastic lineup that includes fan-favorite mainstream creators balanced out with award-winning indie-style talent — and people that straddle both areas: Phil Hester, John Layman, Mirko Colak, Marguerite Bennett, Sam Kieth, Frank Barbiere,” Marts continued. “Add to that popular television and film writers — such as ‘Supernatural’ executive producer Adam Glass — and you can see how fortunate we are to be starting off our company this way.”

Marts says that AfterShock will provide one “superhero-ish” title (SuperZero), and emphasizes that the publisher’s titles will be a mix of sci-fi, war drama, dark humor, time travel, period pieces and crime, as well as several blends of horror.

Already, AfterShock’s range includes the December debuts of InSeXts, a Victorian-era horror title (written by Bennett with art from Ariela Kristantina); the humorous Replica from Jenkins; and SuperZero from Conner and Palmiotti.

Elsewhere, Ennis will provide a “touching and honest look at war” with Dreaming Eagles, said Marts, who added that Azzarello’s American Monster (which debuts Jan. 27) will “blow people away.”

Joining Marts on this AfterShock adventure is publisher Joe Pruett, who was creative director at Caliber Comics in the ’90s. Together, Marts and Pruett have a half-century of experience in comics. As a result, Marts says, they have dealt with “every type of comic under the rainbow.”

Pruett said that his years working on independent comics combined with Marts’s experience at the “Big 2” make AfterShock well-positioned to draw big-name talent for new and unique titles.

“Individually, we bring the best of both worlds … ,” Pruett told Comic Riffs. “We also both believe that the best stories are creator-driven and … collectively [bring] that mentality to AfterShock Comics. We like to say that we’re an independent comic-book company with the knowledge and experience of a mainstream publisher.”

AfterShock will not be available digitally during the initial phase of its debut launch. Pruett said that the new company is well-aware of not only a growing preference for digital comics among a younger generation of readers, but also of the reality that many comics-culture fans don’t live near comic shops, so digital comics help bridge that gap.

Pruett says AfterShock is aiming for a digital presence “in the very near future.”
“There are a generation of readers today who have grown up with or will grow up with digital distribution, so, yes, that is a very important aspect of any publisher in today’s marketplace, be it AfterShock or anyone else,” Pruett said of readers who prefer their comics on various smart devices or computers. “As much as we’d like there to be a comic book store on every street corner, the reality is that there isn’t, so we have to consider our fans who can’t make it to that local shop, or who just prefer digital to print.”

But will AfterShock be able to grow its own signature characters, alongside the established industry giants? Pruett, as befits the requisite enthusiasm for a start-up, is optimistic.

“I, for one, would love to see costumed fans dressed up as the character Dru from SuperZero or Trevor from Replica,” Pruett said. “I think as we continue to grow, and our series develop their own unique audience, that we’ll start seeing cosplayers at conventions dressed as their favorite AfterShock character.

“That’s when we know we’ve made it.”

(Aftershock Comics)