Comic Watch’s own Nicholas Osborn recently got the opportunity to catch up with writer Christopher Cantwell (Halt and Catch Fire, She Could Fly) about his upcoming Dark Horse Comics series The Mask: I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask. Check out the full interview to see how the state of America in 2019 influenced this wild story and more below…
Comic Watch: Let’s dive right into it, The Mask: I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask follows a politically charged direction, but not in the way most would expect. So, what can you tell us about how this approach fits into what you hoped to accomplish when taking on the project?
Christopher Cantwell: Setting the story in 2019 America I believe allows us to contrast Big Head’s arrival in the world of thirty years ago to the world of now. Things are a lot different in the culture than when Big Head first appeared. It seems like the populace is ready to tear itself apart, and public brash, brazen, and dare I say it—criminal, or even evil—behavior is not punished very much anymore. It’s at best ignored (because the news cycle moves so fast now) and at worst embraced and loved. Big Head used to have to stay in the shadows. Now he blends right in. Heck, he can even run for office, and probably win.
CW: The popularity of the blockbuster film has led many to believe the franchise is just comedy, but what can you tell us about the importance of taking this new series back to the graphic roots of the original comics?
CC: The original books are very subversive, gritty, and kind of punk. That’s not what we got in the 1994 film… I’m not saying that’s bad, I’m just saying it’s totally different. I liked the movie fine but when I read the books they became ingrained into my mind. The style, the black humor, the unflinching violence, the darkness… it really had a lasting impact on me. And as I said, we’re living in a time when those stories to me feel very resonant. I wanted to write a Mask book that felt like the old books, but then took it all to an even deeper and darker level.
CW: It feels like this series isn’t pulling any punches in how it mirrors real-world circumstances, can you give any insight into how that apparent motive guided the storytelling process?
CC: I channeled a lot of anger and frustration into this book. Everything seems so absurd and abusive and invasive now, even the things that say they’re trying to help you, or make your life better. It’s not true—they’re stealing your data, destroying your privacy, and dividing all of us into these tribal factions. Add into that global stress on resources and climate change, and you get quite a melting pot of chaos. The media traffics in hyperbole, but there is also an awful lot of hard evidence pointing to humanity being on the very brink of catastrophe. This story is set on that cliff’s edge. Maybe it’s even set after the fall, during the terminal velocity descent.
CW: Would you say that The Mask: I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask is a good jumping on point for readers looking to get into the comics for the first time?
CC: Yes. But people should really go back and read The Mask, The Mask Returns, and Strikes Back, just because they’re classics, and the art is just so fantastic.
CW: What are some of the most influential inspirations that went into this project from a writing perspective?
CC: Well, first and foremost it’s what Mike Richardson, John Arcudi, and Doug Mahnke did with the original character. After that, I think Patric and I pulled a lot from hard contemporary noir, that kind of lawless, embittered, amoral setting that throws a lot of sharp elbows. Then you look at things like Robert Redford’s The Candidate in terms of the story. I love “nobody wins” stories and we are squarely in that genre. I probably just also drew heavily on the philosophical concept of nihilism. This is funny nihilism.
CW: Can you give any insight into the creative collaboration with such a talented team of artists including Patric Reynolds, Lee Loughridge and Nate Piekos?
CC: It’s been amazing. Patric puts so much detail in his work, and his use of shadows is incredible. He’s made his own Big Head that at once is a perfect evolution of the original Mahnke drawings, but also his own. Patric’s Big Head looks more severe. It’s almost as if his face can contort to more extremes the more the world worsens. Lee’s colors are gorgeous. Every panel is a painting with Lee. His cover for Issue 3 is probably my favorite cover for any book Ive ever done. And Nate is nailing the original Big Head “scary voice” balloons, but also making them his own. It’s just an excellent team from soup to nuts.
CW: While The Mask: I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask is currently a four-issue miniseries, would you be interested in revisiting the character in the future?
CC: Yes! Yes! 100%! Patric and I have ideas for a prequel and a sequel. So everyone should buy the issue three times so Dark Horse lets us do them.
CW: Lastly, without giving up any spoilers, what can you tell us about what’s next for “Big Head” that fans should be excited about?
CC: We’ve never seen Big Head emerge as a confident public figure. He’s never been embraced by the world. But that’s about to change. What happens when you accept an invincible murderous and mischievous psychopath into the inner circles of human society?
The best-selling comic series that inspired the blockbuster film returns with gruesome hilarity from the showrunner of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and Hellboy’s Patric Reynolds.
Years ago, a weird mask of unknown origin and limitless power was buried in the cement of an apartment building’s basement floor. Edge City and its residents have all but forgotten the mysterious green-faced killer known only as ”Big Head.” But now, decades later, the bizarre Tex Avery-style killings are happening all over again and are on a collision course with a bizarre political campaign where a homicidal maniac wants to ”Make America Green Again”!
One thing is for sure, this is going to be a crazy ride! Be sure to get your copy of The Mask: I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask #1 when it hits shelves on October 16th! And as always, stay tuned to Comic Watch for all your comic news and reviews.
I Pledge Allegiance to the Mask: An Interview with Christopher Cantwell
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