In a weekend full of industry superstars at Comic Con Honolulu 2019, our own Cody White had a sit-down with 2018 Comic Watch Artist of the Year, the incredible and prolific David Mack! Learn all about the past and the future of Mack’s work, including the Kabuki TV series, breaking news about a Cover TV series, his relationship with Brian Michael Bendis and so much more in the full interview!
Comic Watch’s Cody White: So David, you’ve been here since Wednesday, right?
David Mack: Monday, and today it’s Sunday.
CW: And how has Hawaii been treating you?
DM: It’s been great. I love being in Hawaii. I try to get back here every chance I get. I try to come here once a year. I love being here. And I’ll be here until Wednesday and then I’ll fly to LA Wednesday. And [Brian Michael] Bendis is coming to LA next week, too. We’ve got some meetings—some TV interest in [Jinxworld publication] Cover, so there’ll be meetings for that next week in LA.
CW: Well, that’s some breaking news! That’s the first I’ve heard of it. Absolutely outstanding!
[Editor’s Note: After that bombshell, the lovely Deb Mackie, wife of writer and editor Howard Mackie, came to David’s booth to purchase some limited edition Neil Gaiman/David Mack prints. She was a pleasure all weekend and I wanted to give her a mention here]
DM: So I’m here at the Honolulu Comic Con. I was here two years ago. I did a signing at Other Realms on Wednesday which is an awesome comic shop. I signed there three years ago as well. I signed on the Big Island. Been to Maui a couple of times but that was for Bendis’ wedding vow renewals, for his tenth and his twentieth anniversary they renewed their vows on Maui. So I love being in Hawaii.
CW: So this has been a hell of a trip around the sun for David Mack. The Kabuki television series has been greenlit at Sony, right?
DM: Well, we’re developing it at Sony, yeah. I can’t talk too much about all that stuff yet but it’s been meetings all year. I’ve been doing tons of work behind the scenes for Kabuki TV stuff.
CW: So you’ve got that, you’ve got the brand new news that somebody is interesting in doing a Cover television series, you’ve got the art exhibit up in Philadelphia, right?
DM: Yeah, there’s a Marvel exhibit. I think for a year and a half it was in Seattle at the MoPop [Museum of Pop Culture] and now it’s at the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia and I was there for the opening in March. Joe Quesada was there, C.B. Cebulski, it was really cool to catch up with those guys. But it’s an incredible museum. If anyone is ever near Philadelphia and can see it, it has a Marvel exhibit from the earliest Marvel days including some of the original art from some of the earliest books and it’s very lovingly curated by Professor Ben Saunders who put just so much care into it. But it also has a lot of the movie and TV stuff in the museum, as well. So you get to see from the inception of Marvel, behind the scenes, on up to the current stuff. Some of my work is there. Some of the Jessica Jones art and also, for the film [Captain America:] Winter Soldier, I worked on the art for the main titles for that and some of the work from that is in the exhibit.
CW: So you are truly a multimedia artist. We had the opportunity to watch your Dashboard Confessional video that you directed.
DM: Thanks for coming to the panel! I hope the panel was interesting.
CW: How do you make that transition? You start with comics and then in the course of twenty-five years you’ve blown up into almost every medium you can possibly imagine. How does that transition come about and where do you see the next step being?
DM: A lot of the growing and evolving I’ve done, like in comics, I’ve done in public and in books as they’re coming out but there’s also a lot of work and growth behind the scenes that not everybody sees. You mentioned the Kabuki TV show. This year is the 25th anniversary of Kabuki and a lot of my work has been behind the scenes developing that to screen for the last twenty-five years. For a while, it was going to be at HBO as a TV series in the ‘90s and then the producer for that left HBO, went to Fox, and asked if they could bring it to Fox. Then Fox got the option for it to be a live-action film four or five times in a row and the whole time they were paying me to write it and work on it in several different ways, so I got to work with a variety of fascinating film makers. I got to work with Academy Award winning [sic Nominee] director Jonathan Sayles and he did like eight drafts for the script so I did a lot of treatment work for it. Then for a while it was Quentin Tarantino’s producer, Lawrence Bender, wanted to film Kabuki. So I was in Lawrence Bender’s office and he was like “I just filmed Kill Bill 1 & 2 in Japan; I know how to film in Japan” and he had this very interesting idea. He said – very out of the box idea, very clever producer—we said we film Kabuki in Japan, all Japanese cast, in Japanese, Japanese crew. We release it only in Japan and we let it circulate a couple of years as a Japanese film, and then two or three years later, we do an American remake of the Japanese film. It appealed to me in an interesting way because you get to see it as its own creator as a film from another country, not through the lens of our Western way of looking at films, but you also, then, with a bigger budget, get to fix everything that needs some finessing, that maybe wasn’t quite perfect the first time. So I thought, what an interesting, you know, and there was a certain Japanese director and everything that he wanted. Just the schedules and stuff didn’t align. And then it was Neil Gaiman’s director of development, Cat Mihos, her and Neil then had the option for Kabuki for a while, so I was working with them. And then for the last four years it’s been at Sony. So I do a lot of work behind the scenes that nobody knows about and then there’s a lot of other projects. A lot of TV stuff, other stuff that I do that some stuff does come to fruition but other things instead, but sometimes you do a lot of work that never ends up being seen… yet. You know, whatever. Even when I was first starting with Kabuki I was doing a variety of… I did that first Kabuki volume in college. It was my Senior Thesis in Literature for college but I had done a variety of other kinds of work at the time even. I was designing toys for a toy company in Hong Kong and there was a lot of other nonsense I was doing to make ends meet. I was working as an oil painter. But when I did that first Kabuki volume, I wanted that first story to be a black and white story, so I tried to train myself to do it in black and white with the idea that when it comes time for the story to shift and I bring in the color, I kind of had that secret weapon to bring in. At a certain point, when people are used to the black and white, and you surprise them with this mixed media and color stuff after it.
CW: Very cool. Your friendship with Brian Michael Bendis is obviously a long tenured friendship and has recently culminated in the release of Cover from Jinxworld, which you can read about HERE. I did all the reviews for that. It was a mind-blowing series.
DM: It was really interesting. I looked forward to reading. I felt like you were really sensitive to a lot of stuff in the book and certain things connected to you and it came through in the writing.
CW: With that book being a critical success—I’m going to call it a critical success, I don’t care what anybody else has to say…
DM: It might have been one of the best reviewed books of the year from what I saw online.
CW: Absolutely. So with that, what’s next in the world of comics for David Mack?
DM: So I had signed on for six issues for that series, Cover, but immediately we got the word from DC that they wanted us to just continue doing it. But at the moment I was just like well, we’ll do it in and six and we’ll do it in arcs if we have to. So the short answer is you’ll see something from Brian and I together next year and it’s on the schedule for it to be the next arc of Cover but Brian and I are also talking about doing another project and we might do that other project before the next Cover arc. We haven’t totally decided yet. Like which one materializes more solidly first and we feel the urge to do, that’s the one we’ll do first. But we’ll do more things together. Some of them will be Cover and some will be brand new creator projects.
CW: When you work with other writers, you almost exclusively work with Brian Michael Bendis. Is there anybody in the industry. Is there anybody else in the industry that you would like to work on a project with?
DM: Well that’s an interesting point. Yeah, the majority of my work for comics, story-wise, I write myself so it’s kind of an anomaly when I’m working with another writer and it’s been Brian. That said, I do a lot of stuff with Neil Gaiman now, all the Neil Gaiman American Gods covers, some Sandman and Sandman-related work at DC. We do all these prints together. I even did a little animation thing for his Blank Corporation at the end of his Good Omens TV series. There’s a few other things but I would like to do a proper story with Neil. Do, like, a children’s book together or something like that.
CW: Please do that.
DM: It would be fun to do an actual full story together. That would be a delight.
CW: With the opportunity to chat with you all weekend, I’ve been thinking about—and I just want to throw it out there so it’s in the ether, it’s in the air—a work by you and Tom Taylor together would be, I think, absolutely remarkable, with his mastery of voice and your mastery of design. I think that could be a really fascinating thing. I want you to think about it!
DM: I appreciate you saying that. You’re not the only person who has said that. I met Tom Taylor in Australia in 2012. We did a week in Sydney and then a week on the west coast in Perth. I think he and I were maybe two of the only comics people and it was a whole lot of actors and stuff. Game of Thrones actors and from TV shows and films. Eric Roberts was with us, Tricia Helfer, Alfie Allen from Game of Thrones. Vern Troyer was with us, rest his soul. It was a whole group of this really interesting, eclectic people. Some of them are still my friends now because we spent two weeks together up in tents touring Australia and Tom Taylor, off the top of my head, was the only other comic guy that I can think of that was there and everybody else were all these actors. He was just a super friendly, affable guy, and a very fun guy to be around. And even when we were there, some people said that. Come up to us in front of us and said “oh I really like your stuff and I really like your stuff. I always imagined it’d be cool for you to work together.” So it’s really cool for me to hear how he’s been embraced in terms of his work since then.
CW: Well, I know that you’re a very busy man and the Con is wrapping so we should probably wrap things up as well. Do you have any final thoughts you want to put out there?
DM: It’s been a super amazing year. You know, I’m grateful for all the attention Comic Watch has given our work and it’s cool to see you here at this show, and the show has been amazing. I did this really fun… I really enjoyed the panel and I got to show the Captain America: Winter Soldier film titles and the Jessica Jones film titles but also I got to show some of the music videos I’ve been directing. Dashboard Confessional and talked about the origins of it. Some of the music videos I’ve been doing with Amanda Palmer. There’s another one I didn’t show. It was a video I did with Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman and we did it for PEN America, so I also worked with PEN America to raise money for things. Neil did the vocals of a Leonard Cohen song called “Democracy” and Amanda Palmer did the music and then I did the art for the music video and it came together in a really interesting way. So yeah, if anybody wanted to see some of my music videos… [Editor’s note: I’ll save you the trouble and you can find them right here embedded at the end of this article!] You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, on Twitter. And I’m heading to North Africa next. I’m heading to North Africa again. I’ll be in Tunisia. I’ll be at an arts festival in Tazarka in Tunisia if anybody listening [or reading] this is in North Africa or Tunisia you can find me in Tazarka at their comics arts fest and then I’ll be at Dragoncon. If I get back to the states in time, at the end of August, I’m going to fly right to Atlanta, go right to Dragoncon after the festival in Tazarka. It’ll be a State Department trip and if I get back in time, Dragoncon. And of course I’ll be at New York Comic Con. I was in the former Soviet areas in June, State Department stuff, and I think I mentioned that before that some of that stuff is the stuff that inspired me for the Cover series I’m doing with Brian.
CW: Make sure you get out to your LCS and look for the many works of David Mack, including the Cover vol1 TPB, on sale now!
Renaissance Man: An Interview with David Mack
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