MAX Q: Relivin’, Racin’ & Reverbs
Jonny Quest and Speed Racer meet Popular Science and Popular Mechanics.
My screenplay for Max Q is now being represented by Caliber Entertainment, and I couldn’t be more excited!
But what is Max Q?
Well, like they say in baseball, here’s the pitch:
The International Prototype Vehicle Association (IPVA) is the hottest sports league of the near future. Racers compete in every imaginable style of high-concept transportation (e.g., on-road, off-road, motocross, watercraft, submersibles, aircraft, sub-orbital planes and spacecraft, gliders) in every imaginable location (e.g., racetracks, city streets, jungles, deserts, oceans, subterranean rivers, around the moon and back). Hammer Family Racing is one of three remaining family-owned IPVA race teams, and, when their driver is poached by a corporate competitor before a major race, they hire amateur proto-racer Bryan “Risk” Daley. Joining Daley is a twelve-year-old engineering genius and chick-magnet who goes by the name Max Q.
Writing about something you’re passionate about is always good advice, and that’s what I’ve done with Max Q.
Yes, I love heroes and horrors, but I also have a passion for classic cars, something I haven’t talked about much in the past, which is probably why it seems to surprise people whenever it comes up.
Like a couple of years ago, when I was in the Twin Cities visiting one of my oldest buds, Christopher Jones. We went inside a convenience store for some sodas and snacks, and I spotted twin ’57 Chevy Bel Airs on display. They were classic two-tone teal and white, one a hardtop Sport Sedan, the other a convertible with its ragtop down, and roped off with signs warning against sitting in them. You could touch to your heart’s content, however, so I did, running my hand over their solid yet elegant contoured steel and seductive satiny paint.
It’s a cliché because it’s true: Detroit really knew how to build them back then.
Chris, meanwhile, was perplexed. We’ve known each other over thirty years and he’s seen me go gaga over comics, movies, and TV programs, but, with the exception of the Batmobile and Green Hornet’s Black Beauty, never a car.
“Hey, these aren’t just cars,” I explained. “They’re works of art.”
And they are, but classic cars are also a part of me because of my Dad, who loved them.
I really didn’t understand this until I was ten and Dad bought a down-on-its-luck 1930 Ford Model A, towed it all the way from Nebraska to our home in eastern Iowa, and spent the next few years refurbishing it. I’m a geek, not a motorhead, so I wasn’t
much any help in those renovations, but my indoctrination into antique autos began when Dad hauled the A into the back driveway and pointed to a skinny rain gutter running above a side window. “See those? Nineteen thirty was the first year Ford put gutters on the A.”
Facts like that stuck in my head, as do memories of J.C. Whitney catalogs stacked on the lamp stand next to the recliner in the living room, boxes of reconditioned auto parts in all shapes and sizes piled about the workbench in our garage, and traveling across town with Dad to some guy’s home paint shop to see the A looking spiffy as hell in green with cream yellow rims.
Dad also insisted on giving my brothers and I our first driving lessons in the A. “If you can drive this, you can drive anything.” Which isn’t true, but driving a contemporary manual transmission is a dream compared to shifting gears in the A…just not as much fun. Dad would also take a picture of us in front of the A after our first lesson, a touchstone to our family’s rite of passage.
After the A was finished, Dad refurbished a 1940 Ford Super Deluxe and a Cushman motor scooter. The Forty is still the sweetest car I’ve ever driven, and the Cushman was a blast to put-put around on, but, because the A was first in more ways than one, it remains my favorite.
So that, in a nutshell, is why I freak out whenever I see a classic car like the ’57 Bel Air, a passion that probably spills over into my fascination with prototype vehicles, which often appear in Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines. I’m sure my love for science, in this case technological innovations, and futurology, likewise fuels this fascination.
You see, I grew up during the Space Age. As a kid, I never knew a time when America didn’t send men beyond the thermosphere and then to the moon. The Sixties was a decade when Gulf gas stations gave away punch-out paper models of the Lunar Landing Module and Command Module (“Insert slot A into tab B”) as promotions and all three broadcast networks interrupted programming to show lift-offs, flight updates, and landings for the Mercury, Gemini, and early Apollo missions. Astronauts were my first real-life heroes, their rockets my earliest chariots of wonder. It was a time of possibilities limited only by imagination, technology, and daring, and as a nine year old I could only wonder with anticipation what was waiting for all but the fainthearted of mankind beyond the moon.
Hopefully, some day, we’ll find out, if another generation like my parents’ comes along.
All right, let’s jump ahead now to 2002 and an article I read in The Sporting News about St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz. As much as I enjoyed “The Greatest Show on Turf”, what caught my mind’s eye was the title, “Taking It To the Max Q”, and explanation of the term max q as “the NASA goal of having all systems performing at their highest levels simultaneously.” (FYI -The term is used by aerospace engineers to reference maximum dynamic pressure in a vehicle during atmospheric flight.) For some time, I don’t remember exactly how long, I had been kicking around ideas for a series about prototype vehicle racing (“proto-racing”). Max Q not only seemed like a great title for such a series, it could also serve as a great name for a main character, ala Jonny Quest, my favorite Young Adult cartoon adventure series.
I suppose I should confess, for the sake of completeness if nothing else, that I’m not a racing fan. I have nothing against it. It’s just not my bag. I don’t know why. That said, it’s not like I’m not ever around racing. My wife Lisa loves dirt track modified stock car racing and going to the Super Nationals at Boone Speedway every year. My Uncle Gene Jones and his wife Alice were involved with stock car racing when I was in my teens, and Alice even won a rollover trophy. My nephew Michael Jones drag races competitively in a 1994 Mustang.
So why did I create a racing-adventure series? All I can tell you is the idea of racing between Heaven and Earth in spaceplanes or hovercrafts through cavernous passages and over underground oceans while battling intrigue sounds like a gas!
Even so, I didn’t begin to codify these divergent inspirations until 2005, when Tom Mason, Malibu Graphics’ creative director when I was freelancing for them in the late Eighties and early Nineties, asked several creators he knew for pitches for a comics digest magazine he was considering publishing. I sent Tom a half dozen or so pitches, including Max Q, which he really seemed to like. I wrote a series synopsis, sent it to Tom, and he seemed to like it, too, but I never heard more about the digest after that.
Maybe this was a disguised blessing, since I spent the next few years improving and polishing Max Q, and, thanks to serendipity, stumbling over one more inspiration. In 2010, I took my daughter Katie to a classic car rally where her dance troupe was performing, and, while I waited for them to begin, I walked around drooling over the cars. As I did, I found myself unable to ignore the reverbs of a live band echoing from the far side of the rally. They were kicking out the coolest, catchiest, and gitchiest instrumental hot-rod surf tunes! The band was The Surf Zombies, and I was an immediate fan for-like-ever!
With a name like Surf Zombies, I shouldn’t have been too surprised that many of the band’s songs and their titles will warm the heart of die-hard Creature Feature drive-in refuges like myself, such as “Something Weird,” “Hammerhead,” “The Creeper,” “Seaside Heights,” “They Feed at Night,” “Rust Colored Leisure Suit,” “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight,” and “Torque Fest.” SZ’s music incarnates the retro-wonderful feel I aim to create in Max Q: an essence for older fans to identify with, younger fans to tap into like genetic memories, and everyone to revel in regardless.
Well, that’s my aim, anyway.
One song, however, called “Speedo,” typified Max Q so much that it became (in my head) the series’ theme song:
Pretty catchy, eh?
Oh, and THANKS to SZ’s founder and “Speedo” composer Brook Hoover (the gentleman in the foreground in the video) for the OK to post this link. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
And, as of right now, that’s where things stand with Max Q.
Perhaps someone will option the screenplay, even produce it. Hollywood being Hollywood, the odds are against it, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. If it happens, that would be superfantabulistic, but if it doesn’t I really would love to write some Max Q graphic novels in the future, and, hopefully, if the right artist ever comes along soon, I will do that.
For now, only time will tell what awaits Max Q.