CLICK 2 SEE PAGES OF DAVID MACK'S DAREDEVIL #51, #52, #53, #54, #55

Interview section:

Man Without Fear 2003: Echo, DD, Kabuki, Pulse 2003: Echo, DD, Kabuki, Mack and an Indian's comment on Echo, The Cincinnati Enquirer: Mack, family and Tran, Newsarama: Alchemy, Sequential Tart: Echo, DD, Kabuki, Marvel, Simply JD: Kabuki, Xmen, Xray Magazine: workrhythm, restaurants, CAC, Silverbulletcomicbooks jan-2006: Kabuki, Marvel.

Interview With David Mack
From www.manwithoutfear.com
(June 2003)

The Kabuki creator speaks about working on Daredevil, particularly writing 'Parts of a Hole', his artwork on 'Wake Up', and his Echo storyline which debuts with issue #51. Many thanks to David Mack for this opportunity! Be sure to view the preview art provided by Mr. Mack at the end of the interview.

Kuljit Mithra: Back when it was announced that you would be writing Daredevil, I bought all of your Kabuki TPBs. I had heard of your work, but had never read anything of yours. Have you found that you have more Kabuki readers now because of your 'mainstream' work?

David Mack: Yes. I spent years cultivating an audience with my Kabuki books. I was very happy with that core readership. After I started writing Daredevil, I realized that it had opened me up to an entirely new demographic. Suddenly Marvel readers were aware of my existence and started buying all of my Kabuki collections. It made me happy that Daredevil readers enjoyed my DD story enough to try my Kabuki series, which to many of them, was an entirely new experience.

Mithra: After reading your work on Kabuki and your DD work, I get the impression that you were strongly influenced by comics of the 80's. Is it safe to say that Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz's work motivated you to write Daredevil? I'm talking more of the Love and War graphic novel, rather than the series. It was a Kingpin character study more than anything else and I believe this what you wanted to explore too.

Mack: That is the Daredevil that I grew up with. My introduction to Daredevil was in 1982 when I was nine years old. The only Daredevil that I read is the Miller run of Daredevil. And the Miller collaborations with Sienkiewicz. I adored those stories as a kid. So when I was offered the writing chores on DD, it was very much about me writing a character that I read when I was a kid. The Kingpin character study that I did in Parts of a Hole is based on the Kingpin from those Miller stories because that is the only Kingpin I know.

Aside from that, I'd say my comic book work is most heavily influenced by real life experience than any thing else. And I brought personal experiences from my childhood into the Kingpin's childhood.

A lot of Fisk's early childhood memories are my own. The pet mouse, and the mouse wheel running at night (I used to breed mice when I was a kid. Hundreds of them of all colors shapes and sizes. Rats too. I won an award in the high school Science Fair for my research and documentation on Mice genetics), the fighting parents, shaving the head because of the lice infestation, his father's heavy footsteps on the stairs as he came home from work at night, the crayon family portraits on the refrigerator, the stepping into his father's shoes as his father crashed asleep on the couch, learning the names of the presidents on the money, learning the importance the family placed on that money because of the pressure from bills, the electricity being turned off, the youthful entrepreneurialism, the fighting, the immersion in study of history and books, the revelation of visual aids as the key to public speaking, the ambition to make things happen. All of those details and psychology of the youthful Wilson Fisk are from my own direct first hand experience.

In effect, the Parts of a Hole story is just as much a Kingpin story as it is a Daredevil story. And it turned out to be sort of a Kingpin origin story as well, as it deals with more of Fisk's childhood that has ever been told before.

Mithra: How did the writing gig occur for you at Marvel? Was it a difficult choice to keep Kabuki in the background while you pursued this work?

Mack: I was offered the job writing Daredevil based on my writing in Kabuki. Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti had been very kind to me in their support of Kabuki. They were always introducing Kabuki to new readers and were very encouraging to me.

In 1998, I got a call out of the blue from Joe. He said that he would be doing an imprint at Marvel and said he would like me to write and draw a book in his imprint. He asked me to pick a Marvel Character to have for my own book at Marvel. It sort of blew my mind. This is like a dream come true for the child in me. To have someone call and offer me to take my pick of a Marvel Character to just write and draw them the way I wanted to.

However, I had just moved Kabuki to Image Comics and had just begun a brand new bi-monthly Kabuki series. I told Joe that I would love to be a part of his books at Marvel, but that I needed to finish my Kabuki series first, and I could not responsibly commit to writing and drawing both Kabuki and my own book at Marvel at the same time.

He said maybe in the meantime I could paint some covers, and I said I'd be happy to. Then I got a call from Joe a couple weeks later and he asked me if I could write Daredevil. I said I'd love to.

Doing just the writing meant that I didn't have to put Kabuki on hold at all. I did a lot of notes for it while I was in Europe in June of '98. I was on a signing tour for Kabuki. So I wrote notes for it on trains in Holland, Belgium, France, and Germany. Then I wrote my six issue Daredevil story all at once in the six weeks between finishing Kabuki #7 and right before I started Kabuki #8 of the Kabuki Metamorphosis story. So it made Kabuki #8 and #9 a few weeks later than they would have been, but it really didn't interrupt my flow on Kabuki. Kabuki is a long term commitment to me. It is something that I will continue building on for a long time.

Mithra: Daredevil and Kabuki are interesting characters in the sense that both are who they are because of one of their parents. Do you believe both are trying to prove something to themselves and their parent figure?

Mack: I feel like I am who I am largely because of the influence of my parents. Much of my relationship with my father is put into my Daredevil story. My brother and I even called my father the Kingpin when we were little. I even named the Kingpin after my father. My father is Wilson Grant Mack. The Kingpin is Wilson Grant Fisk. They already shared the same first name, and I gave the Kingpin my father's middle name.

Kabuki is in a large part a story that I used to deal with the death of my mother.

Mithra: Is this what you wanted to explore in Parts of a Hole with Echo and the Kingpin (their motivation)? Metaphorically speaking, is this 'hole' the loss of a parent? What are the 'parts'? Dealing with the loss?

Mack: I started with the idea of the motivation for each of these three characters. I realized that what motivated them as adults was a traumatic experience they had in childhood. An experience that they were not in control of. And then they spend the rest of their adult lives reliving that experience but now confronting it in a way in which they are in control. Each of them have what would be considered physical flaws or oddities. These physical flaws are metaphors for their emotional and psychological scars.

So I wanted to start with the childhood situations that started that cycle. Then I wanted to push each of them all the way to confronting and resolving that cycle. To take that path as far as it goes.

Each of the characters has a hole in their life. Matt's father is killed so he spends the rest of his life fighting like his father did. But also he spends his life as a lawyer like his father wanted him to become.

His mother is missing from his life. So he spends his entire adult life going from woman to woman trying to find a person who understands him and completes him. Each of those women fulfill one missing part of his life. Elektra is his youth, Black Widow relates to his crime fighting persona, and so on. But none of them could relate to him on more than a couple levels and none of them can completely understand his natural disassociation from the world that comes from his blindness. The other hole in his life.

Echo is a character who can understand that because of her own physical handicap. Because of her own holes in conventional perception. And ultimately each of the characters learns to take what makes them flawed or different, and use that difference as their asset instead of their detriment. That is one of the more inspirational themes of the story.

Mithra: What was your basis for Maya (Echo)? Did she come out of some inkling of a character you wanted to do for some time?

Mack: Joe asked me to create a new character for this story. That was one of the things he wanted from the story. He said Daredevil really didn't have much of a rogues gallery. Most of his villains are borrowed from Spider-Man. He said that he liked the antagonists in my Kabuki stories and he wanted me to create a villain that was uniquely a Daredevil related character.

So I started with the Kingpin part of the story and began with Echo's father. What kind of guy is brave enough or crazy enough to be Fisk's teenage friend. What is this guy like. Naturally Fisk will eventually turn on his friend but the rub is he is stuck with the promise to take care of this kid. That sounded just ridiculous enough to work. Fisk and a little girl. And it touches on a kind of hero's journey mythos for the child. How does this kid see things. How does she see the world. How does she cope with what she is missing. How does she react when she learns what happened.

Mithra: Were you concerned at all that you were going to introduce a new romantic interest for Matt so soon after Karen had been killed?

Mack: I wrote this story before I ever saw Kevin Smith's story. Before it came out. I was told that Karen would die, but that was the motivation for Fisk. We open up Parts of a Hole and Matt is grieving. Fisk knows that so he sends in Maya to unknowingly screw with Matt's emotions. Fisk is capitalizing on Karen's death. He can see what Matt can't. That Matt is endlessly replacing the role of a woman in his life with a string of new woman.

Mithra: I'm not sure how you wrote your issues of DD, but I'm guessing you let Joe Quesada know how you wanted panels to be set up etc... am I correct? Because some of your 'writing' is in the art too. Was it any problem at all trying to convey what you wanted on the page while working with someone else? Kabuki seems like a one-step process where the writing and art blends together at one time and you know what you want and where.

Mack: It was no problem at all. Whenever I write for another artist, I give them layouts. Just so they know what I'm talking about. Sometimes the description in the script can be very unconventional. My layouts just let the artist know what I am seeing and serve as a jumping off point for their own take on it.

As an artist, Joe has amazing strengths, and I wrote specifically for those strengths and for Joe's art style.

Joe took the best parts of my layouts and storytelling styles, and married that with his own graphic sensibilities and a sort of new hybrid art style materialized. I loved it. It is still my favorite Quesada work ever!

That is the beauty of comics. To make the writing and the art indistinguishable from one another. The perfect synthesis of type and image to the point that the type is the image and the art is the story they are one thing.

Mithra: The reason I ask about collaborating with others is that I'm wondering how you feel about doing art from someone else's scripting. I think I've read that 'Wake Up' was one of the few projects you've ever done from someone else's plot (Brian Bendis). Do you feel confined? Should the page always be open to a different interpretation?

Mack: I loved Wake Up with Bendis. I'm generally not interested in doing artwork for someone else's story unless it is a writer that I really want to collaborate with. The reason is that I'm doing artwork for the reason of telling my own story. I start with the story and doing the art is the means for me to tell that story. The art is just another tool of the storytelling, like words, grammar, and pacing.

The fact is, that when I first created Kabuki, I only meant to write it. Back in 1993, the plan was for me to write Kabuki and for Brian Bendis to draw it. I still have those early Kabuki drawings that he did for it! This still cracks us both up.

But being that Brian and I had been friends for over ten years, this Daredevil project was finally something we could collaborate on when we were both evolved enough in our own creative skills and it was a project worthy of our collaboration and worthy of our friendship. We had worked on several things together in the early 90's. But they were mostly little projects for us to learn on and pay our rent with. Wake Up was basically an excuse for us to work together on a project that had themes that were personal for both of us. It was an experiment for us. And at times it pushed me out of my own comfort zone in drawing a script that I didn't write. But it was a great script and looking back, we are both very happy with the end result. And we've even decided that we will do another collaboration together again someday.

Mithra: Back to 'Parts of a Hole'... your arc was severely delayed and literally took years to come out. I know you had finished the writing a long time beforehand. Did it ever become frustrating to you to see the flow of your arc getting chopped up like that because of all these delays? Was it ever explained to you as to why the comic had these problems coming out?

Mack: I haven't spoken about this before. It was frustrating. There was so much excitement and exhileration about the story at first. It was my very first work for Marvel, and I put a lot of thought and effort into the story as a whole. It was a very high profile book and it received a lot of positive feedback and enjoyed a lot of critical appreciation. But as the books started coming out late, that became the first thing that was mentioned in later reviews. "fantastic. But why is it so late?". People would ask me about it all the time, and I didn't have an answer for them. After I wrote it, it was out of my hands and I did not feel it was my place to speak for anyone else about it. Which is how I still feel about it. It is not my place to speak about the reasons for it or to try to find blame for it. It was frustrating for the immediate exhileration the story was met with to be turned into "Why is it late?". But I was also grateful for Joe for bringing me to the project and I saw no point in giving him a hard time about it by complaining.

I do understand that the flow of the story was interrupted. People had trouble remembering what had happened the issue before. Which I guess contributed to it doing so well as a collected trade paperback. The story reads great in one sitting.

Mithra: How did you feel when the Daredevil/Spider-Man series came out and spoiled your ending for Parts of a Hole?

Mack: That was the worst part. When Joe read my story he loved the ending. Kevin Smith loved the ending. He said he couldn't believe that no one had thought of it before. Once Kevin jibed me when we were on a panel at Wizard Con Chicago that it was the ending he wished he had thought of. The ending was one of the secret weapons of the story. It needed to be a big surprise. I was very disappointed when the spoiler happened. I didn't learn of it until it was in the store. I couldn't believe anyone could let it happen. But I saw no point in complaining about it after the fact.

Mithra:In your Kabuki Reflections books, you go over how you did some covers of DD. Were they all based on sketches by Joe Quesada? What types of media did you use? From what I can see, there's watercolour of course, but is there photo cut-outs and tissue paper in some too?

Mack: Reflections #3 and #4 go into that. For those not familiar with it, Reflections are a series of books that show the process of a lot of my art, the sketches, life drawings, paintings, how I did them and that sort of thing. There are four of them so far. They are published by Image under KABUKI: Reflections 1-4.

For DD #9 I did the cover myself. I drew it and painted it. It was technically the very first piece of work I ever did for Marvel. For the other five covers of Parts of a Hole, I sent Joe layouts for each cover. Then Joe penciled them. Jimmy dropped in the inks. And then I painted on top of them.

For Wake Up, Joe faxed me a sketch of DD. I incorporated his sketch of DD into the drawings of the rest of the cover that I drew and then painted. Check out the Reflections books for a detailed account of each step of the cover process.

Mithra: How long did it take you to do all the paintings, drawings etc. for the Wake Up arc?

Mack: I tried to do a page a day. I did as much as I could for a page in one day and then I moved on to the next page. After I had all the pages done, I'd go back and spend a few more days tweaking each of the pages now that I could see how they related to each other.

Mithra: How much research did you do on autism for the arc?

Mack: Everything was in the script. It was all there. I don't know exactly what research Brian did, but he didn't over work the script with needless information. It was all in the actions and dialogue. All I had to do was just not screw it up. I just had to make you feel it.

We did get a lot of touching mail about personal stories from parents who remarked at the authenticity and saw their own children in Timmy's likeness and actions.

Mithra: I know you use photo reference for your work, and throughout 'Wake Up', some characters look like actors, singers etc. that people know. I've heard that Bendis suggested doing this. What was the reasoning for putting 'famous faces' in there? Did you think it may have been distracting to the story to do this?

Mack: My next door neighbor modeled for Timmy, the kid in the story. He was perfect for it. He looked just like an angel. He's very proud that he's in a Daredevil book. I used myself for Ben, Matt, and Daredevil. I went to the second hand store and bought a trench coat just like Ben's. Then I put glasses on and just sort of hunch and wrinkle up to capture Ben's posture and body language for the photo. Then I age him in the drawing. The script said to make the teacher look like Lauryn Hill. I thought it was good casting. I like her and was listening to the Fugees at the time. Most people don't seem to notice it. Parker looks a little like Leo. That's only because at the time I drew that story, Leo was the one mentioned to play the role. Not many people realize that Wake Up was Bendis' first ever work for Marvel. It was published after Ultimate Spider-Man started, but he wrote it prior to that.

Mithra: You are continuing to do covers for Alias... what can you discuss about the Echo story? What other projects are coming up?

Mack: I'll continue to do covers for Alias as long as the series lasts. They are a lot of fun.

The Echo project turned into my new DD project. I will be writing and painting a five issue Echo story in the regular Daredevil series. It is the return of Echo. It is offered in the current Previews catalogue and it begins shipping in September.

It started as an Echo limited series. A couple years ago when we were at a convention in Spain, Joe Quesada told me that I should write an Echo story that further fleshed out the character. He said that though I created her for our DD story, she's now a permanent part of the Marvel Universe, and eventually she's going to end up in future Marvel stories. So he said I should really set the tone of the character by writing her own story in her own series. And we had a lot of readers from our story asking for the return of Echo.

Last year I wrote a six issue Echo story. Joe and I had a couple of story meetings mid-year (at the 2002 San Diego Con, and later at the Marvel offices in New York) and he suggested that we condense the story from six issues to five and actually put it into the regular DD series as it sort of serves as a sequel to our DD story in that Echo is resolving her situation with Daredevil and the Kingpin in the course of the story. And the added bonus was that five issue story being in the DD series will give Bendis and Maleev plenty of time to get ahead on their next Daredevil storylines, as they return to DD when my story is over.

After that, I will be writing and painting a brand new Kabuki series from Image.

Right now the Echo DD story and the New Kabuki story are my focus. But I have several things in the works after that. I'll continue to work on the Kabuki stories for a very long time. I'm also focused on the Kabuki film. And I've recently been offered to work on another film project and offered to write a very high profile Marvel series. I can't speak about any of that yet.

I have a new gallery exhibit of my artwork in October. It will be held in the art gallery of the University that I graduated from and will extensively feature original pages from Kabuki, Daredevil, Echo, and many non-comic related works and paintings.

The gallery show is timed to correspond to the Pop Culture Con in Cincinnati (Mike Turner, Frank Cho, Andy Lee, and I will be signing at that con's debut on October 3-5). The opening night reception of the gallery will be 7-10pm on Friday October 3 (after the first day of the con). It will be held at the main gallery of the Art Building at Northern Kentucky University (a ten minute drive from the show in downtown Cincinnati). The University will even have free shuttles to take people to the gallery show.

It is a one man show and my work will be up thoughout October but I hope people can make it on the opening night, as there will also be a signing held, a free poster for the gallery show, and books available. On Friday October 22 I will be having a lecture/discussion at the University. Last year NKU had Neil Gaiman do this at the University, and If you attended that you know how fun and interactive this can be.

The last two years the NKU Literature dept hosted something like this. I did it the first year, and Neil Gaiman did it the second year. This October the art dept is sponsoring my show and working hand in hand with other departments of the University including the Literature dept, and book stores in the area. Both events are free to the public, and everyone is welcomed to attend!


Interview With David Mack
From THE PULSE
(July 2003)

David Mack is working on an upcoming Daredevil arc featuring the return of the mysterious Echo. He gave us details about his plans for this series, Kabuki news, and more.

THE PULSE: How long did it take you to complete your Echo five part adventure for Daredevil?

MACK: Well it started as an Echo limited series. A couple years ago when we were at a convention in Spain, Joe Quesada told me that I should write an Echo story that further fleshed out the character. He said that though I created her for our DD story, she's now a permanent part of the Marvel Universe, and eventually she's going to end up in future Marvel stories. So he said I should really set the tone of the character by writing her own story in her own series. And we had a lot of readers from our story asking for the return of Echo.

Last year I wrote a six issue Echo story. Joe and I had a couple of story meetings mid-year (at the 2002 San Diego Con, and later at the Marvel offices in New York) and he suggested that we condense the story from six issues to five and actually put it into the regular DD series as it sort of serves as a sequel to our DD story in that Echo is resolving her situation with Daredevil and the Kingpin in the course of the story. And the added bonus was that five issue story being in the DD series will give Bendis and Maleev plenty of time to get ahead on their next Daredevil storylines, as they return to DD when my story is over.

THE PULSE: What were some of the biggest challenges to creating this story?

MACK: The thesis for this Echo story was to show her in her own light. It is the return of Echo but we don't want to repeat what we did with her in the first Echo story. It covers new ground. And there is a surprise meeting with another Marvel character in the course of the story.

THE PULSE: In her first appearance she was a love interest of Daredevil. What is her role in this new five-parter?

MACK: Her role in this story is to find her own role in this world. Outside of the context of the Kingpin and Daredevil. To come to terms with that situation and go beyond it.

THE PULSE: You told us before this story focuses on Echo's vision quest. What is a vision quest?

MACK: Much of this story deals with Echo's Native American heritage. It also deals with her growing up deaf, learning to decipher and communicate with the world, and deals with her relationship to her Native American father. A vision quest in Native American tradition is the setting aside of a time and place to listen to the spirits of nature and learn what your place in the world is. Usually the context is to find your role in the tribe and what talents you bring to it by getting in touch with a knowledge greater than your own.

THE PULSE: Why is it important for Echo to have a vision quest?

MACK: Many of the vision quests are the source of stories and legends in Native American culture. And much of this story deals with the role of the storyteller or Shaman in Native American culture and the role of the storyteller in popular culture. In researching many of these Native American stories I saw themes that teach lessons about power and responsibility and noticed a relation between those stories and legends about manitous and animal-spirits that correlate with our own modern day heroes in comic book storytelling. I saw that we have different names for these vision quests in our own traditional comic books and I saw a great opportunity to explore the relationships of these two storytelling media in the context of this Echo story between what she is searching for as a character, and what she finds in the traditions of her own rich heritage, and with the role of the medium itself.

THE PULSE: How did you research and learn about vision quests?

MACK: In much the same way that I researched the idea of growing up deaf. I try to learn as much as I can from personal experience and from first hand personal interaction with people, and I also enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies, and researching from loads of books.

I learn from personal experiences with sweat lodge meetings with modern day Native American shaman and storytellers, and from my own childhood experience. I have a Native American uncle who was always telling stories when I was younger. And he used to have me draw pictures of the cultural and shamanic legends and iconography that he described to me. Oddly enough his actual name is Double Dee. Which I guess makes perfect sense that I integrate that experience with him into the DD title.

THE PULSE: How do you combine elements of the real world into your art and stories?

MACK: I always start with things that I am already interested in, already passionate about, and already experience currently or have experienced as a child. Putting that into my published work gives me an excuse to devote more time into exploring it and learning about it.

THE PULSE: What do you like the best about being able to take something you've just learned about and translate it to the sequential art page?

MACK: My purpose behind doing this kind of work, the reason I chose doing it, is because I love to integrate art and action together. I love to entwine my physical life with the life of the story. I love to make them indistinguishable. I feel like each informs and enriches the other.

THE PULSE: Why should people who haven't been reading the series check out this five part adventure?

MACK: If you read my first DD story that I wrote with Joe Quesada drawing and you liked that Echo story, but you maybe haven't been reading Daredevil since, you will want to see this Echo story.

If you liked my art on the DD story that I did with Bendis, but have not been reading DD since, you should read this story. I am doing all of the art. It is painted and mixed media and I try to push the medium with each project that I paint. I've written a DD story (with Quesada on art), and I've painted a DD story (with Bendis writing), but this will be the first Marvel book that I have written and painted simultaneously.

If you like my work on Kabuki (the writing or painting) you will enjoy this story. It is not at all what you might think of as a standard comic or a standard Marvel Comic.

If you are interested in the point of view of someone growing up with a disability and learning to use it as their asset instead of their flaw, or if you are interested in Native American culture, or if you are interested in the nature of storytelling and storytellers and their role in culture, you should check out this story. And if any of this sounds interesting, I urge you to ask your local retailer to preorder it from this month's previews catalogue. Marvel doesn't over print or do re-orders, so you have to order it from your comic store ahead of time.

THE PULSE: What do you like about not just doing the covers but now doing another Daredevil adventure from your point of view?

MACK: I like it because there is plenty of room for me to go nuts and take advantage of the virtuosity of the medium. I really get to flex many different artistic muscles and storytelling experiments. I get to build on a character that I created for the Marvel Universe, and I get to build on a variety of Marvel characters that I read as a kid. This story adds some more texture to their history. To their mystique. It all fits into historical continuity but it adds some new information to that continuity that provides some interesting perspectives for the characters. You can look back, and it all fits together and it adds a new angle to consider.

THE PULSE: Speaking of cover-work how do you come up with the images you use to represent each issue of Alias?

MACK: Often Brian Bendis will give me an idea of what he wants explored in the cover of Alias. Sometimes he has very specific ideas about what he wants to be conveyed in the cover. Other times he will give me the script ahead of time and I will do my interpretation of the story.

THE PULSE: What do you find the most challenging about creating covers for that series?

MACK: Before the series started, Brian told me he wanted these covers to not look like any other comic book covers. He said he didn't want it to look like a comic book cover. He said the point was to make each and every cover very experimental, and to do something that stood out from all the other books on the shelf.

THE PULSE: What are you doing with the upcoming book Edge? What is The Edge 10th anniversary Edition?

MACK: The Edge describes itself as: "Stories by, and about, the world's greatest cutting-edge artists". The Tenth anniversary Edition of the Edge is offered for August and includes stories by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Marshal Arisman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Barron Storey, and Jim Steranko. It also features a brand new story written and drawn by me. It is a sort of autobiographical story that is called "Self Portrait".

THE PULSE: When does your new Kabuki story start?

MACK: It is planned to come right after my run on DD. I don't know the exact month it will be offered. Image said that the first issue of the new Kabuki series will have the cover of the Previews catalogue. So I'm waiting to find out from Image exactly what month is open for Kabuki on the cover.

THE PULSE: What is the first arc about?

MACK: The new Kabuki series continues right where the Kabuki: Metamorphosis story leaves off. Besides that, I don't want to say more because it is full of surprises!

THE PULSE: Have you any plans to do another limited series based on another of the Noh Agents? If so which one is next and who else is working on it with you?

MACK: I will do a story on each of the Noh Agents. I've always planned it that way, and the Scarab series was enough of a success that it proved that I can do a series on each of the other Kabuki Noh characters. The first one is planned to be Tigerlily. It will be drawn by Rick Mays who drew the Scarab series.

THE PULSE: How, if at all, has the way you viewed the world of Kabuki changed since you began working on the series?

MACK: The world has gotten bigger. It has turned into a book that I can fit any personal story into. It has become sort of a biography of this character. And in a way a sort of journal for myself. Each of the particular volumes is a different era in the character's life. I like that each of the volumes fits together in chronology and continuity and builds on the other, but each Kabuki volume is also a stand alone story that has its own story tone and a different art style and art medium for each volume. This way a new reader can start with any of the volumes and then go back and read the others in any order. Metamorphosis is my favorite of the Kabuki volumes.

THE PULSE: What news do you have of the possible film version of Kabuki? Is that still progressing?

MACK: Still progressing. Kabuki is at Fox. Besides writing the treatment, I'm credited as Visual Designer, Creative Consultant, and Co-Producer. I'm not allowed to say anything except for what capacity that I am working on the project. But I've been able to collaborate with very talented people on it.

THE PULSE: What other items - toys, posters, statues - are you working on?

MACK: Moore Creations continues to do busts of each of the Kabuki characters. Siamese is the next one to ship. And you can still order Kabuki masks and Kabuki action figures from them.

Kabuki HeroClix will be coming out in November. They are starting with Kabuki and four other Kabuki characters in the HeroClix game figurines. Hero Clix is the biggest miniature figuring roleplaying game out now. And the Kabuki characters are compatible with their Marvel and DC game characters. Alex Maleev is doing the box art for the Kabuki Hero Clix and it looks great. I love seeing Alex draw Kabuki!

And when the new Kabuki series comes out, Diamond Select will be making all the new Kabuki action figures starting with Scarab and then Siamese and the rest. At that time they will also be offering the replica of the Kabuki Sickle.

THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?

MACK: Right now the Echo DD story and the New Kabuki story are my focus. But I have several things in the works after that. I'll continue to work on the Kabuki stories for a very long time. I'm also focused on the Kabuki film. And I've recently been offered to work on another film project and offered to write a very high profile Marvel series. I can't speak about any of that yet. But I'll make sure to give you the scoop when I can mention it!

I have a new gallery exhibit of my artwork in October. It will be held in the art gallery of the University that I graduated from and will extensively feature original pages from Kabuki, Daredevil, Echo, and many non-comic related works and paintings.

The gallery show is timed to correspond to the Pop Culture Con in Cincinnati (Mike Turner, Frank Cho, Andy Lee, and I will be signing at that con's debut on October 3-5). The opening night reception of the gallery will be 7-10pm on Friday October 3 (after the first day of the con). It will be held at the main gallery of the Art Building at Northern Kentucky University (a ten minute drive from the show in downtown Cincinnati). The University will even have free shuttles to take people to the gallery show.

It is a one man show and my work will be up thoughout October but I hope people can make it on the opening night, as there will also be a signing held, a free poster for the gallery show, and books available. On Friday October 22 I will be having a lecture/discussion at the University. Last year NKU had Neil Gaiman do this at the University, and If you attended that you know how fun and interactive this can be.

The last two years the NKU Literature dept hosted something like this. I did it the first year, and Neil Gaiman did it the second year. This October the art dept is sponsoring my show and working hand in hand with other departments of the University including the Literature dept, and book stores in the area. Both events are free to the public, and everyone is welcomed to attend!


David Mack loves to do sketches for people at conventions. Or at least that’s must how it must seem to the people at the Canadian National Comic Book Expo here in Toronto. Whenever I spot the writer/artist of books like Kabuki, Daredevil, and soon Ultimate X-Men, Mack always seems to be either chatting or drawing for one of his many fans.

He’s telling a girl who’s just approached his table that a goal of his was to come to really know comics while he was in University. “I’d say to myself, what can I take and apply directly to comics?” Mack says to the girl.

Mack was serious about his studies into comics, having done his Kabuki series while still in school. “I’d pull in a lot of different info into that book,” Mack says. “Languages, art classes, whatever. I’d bring it all in.”

“Basically I did my own book my own way. You just have to figure out what you want out of your own work and go for it. Don’t pander to someone else’s expectations and just have fun in your work,” Mack says.

Once the girls leaves with a fresh sketch in hand, Mack and I get down to business. We talk about his upcoming arc on Daredevil called ‘Parts of a Hole’ featuring a character he created in the series right after Kevin Smith finished up his famous run. Echo is a deaf female character, and in many ways, the ultimate foil for a character like Daredevil.

“I really want to try and chronicle her life,” Mack says. “She doesn’t know the dimension of sound at all. In school, because she’s deaf, she’s classified as ‘something else’ and I just think there’s a lot to explore there.”

“I want to ask strange questions through her. Such as how does rain sound differently than snow? Why doesn’t a rainbow make a sound? Why some visual thinks make a sound and others don’t,” Mack says.

I point out that unlike Daredevil, who could see for a good part of his childhood, Echo has no frame of reference to draw upon for hearing. “And that’s what’s interesting,” Mack says. “She has to learn a lot of her communication from things like facial expressions, a lot of which she got from her father. She can read lips, use sign language, and she’s basically absorbing it all as vocabulary.”

“It’s gotten to the point where she sees all physical movement as language. She can look at a painting and absorb the style. After all, the visual is most of her world.”

“I see Echo in a storytelling sense of going back to her roots. She’s a metaphor for culture in general. When I work on this arc, I try to perceive her world like she does. Sometimes that means I work in a non-linear way, but life happens that way, too.”

“Part of the story will be the adult-child relationships she’s had. First with her father, then Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. She’ll be reacting to those situations she was placed in. The story will see her moving back in control of her life, and at times, overcompensating,” Mack says.

Mack steps away from me for a minute to great another fan as they press in for a chance to speak to the artist. It’s getting close to closing time for the convention, and this is the best time Mack has had to spare to talk to me. A brief attempt earlier was obviously futile as Mack had a line to rival his table-mate, Brian Michael Bendis.

Just then the lights shut down, and a collective groan is heard from the audience. Three days of creators, guests, and booths simply don’t seem enough to tide them over until next year. Mack just grins at me in a way that lets me know that he’s not going anywhere, and I’ll get to finish asking my questions.

We move on to Ultimate X-Men. At Wizard World Chicago, Brian Bendis let it be known that Mack would be taking over writing chores on the title after he leaves. First Mack will co-write with Bendis for an arc, and then he’ll take over full time with issue #50 of the series. Dave Finch, the artist for the series, is pleased to have Mack on board, though agrees that it’s a bit of shame that Bendis isn’t staying on longer.

“It should be very cool, though,” Finch says. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Mack admits that taking over the X-Men wasn’t something that he’d even really considered before. Thanks to Bendis’ relentess enthusiasm that Mack could pull it off, he reluctantly agreed to take on the book. After much discussion, Mack admits that he’s really starting to look forward to the series, and that he has a lot of ideas in mind for great stories.

“I’m approaching it the same way I did Daredevil, which I’d never done before either,” Mack says. “I’ll keep things within continuity. I just had to ask myself if I can keep within the rich history of these characters and still manage to something personal.”

“And I think I can.”

“I think the Ultimate line is great,” Mack says. “We can touch the past of the main Marvel books without making it a charicature of those books. They’re very character-motivated rather than plot motivated. I’m looking forward to asking questions about what do they want out of life?”

In a recent issue of Ultimate X-Men, a missle exploded onto the page and took Wolverine for a bit of a ride. Mack says he was really impressed with the layouts and guidelines for that sequence. “Finch just took what worked in that sequence and added to it. Joe Quesada {Marvel EIC} and I had a collaborative style like that when we worked on Daredevil.”

Wolverine is one of the many characters that Mack is interested in exploring. “Of course, you have Wolverine and Japanese characters that you can explore. People will expect something like that because of Kabuki.”

“I really like Storm, though. She hasn’t been explored as much as some of the others. I’m also really looking forward to Nightcrawler and Colossus as both of them are so open-ended.”

Mack admits that while the ideas are slowing turning in his mind, that his focus is almost entirely on Echo and his new Kabuki series. “Still, it’s fun talking with Brian about it. I’m looking forward to seeing everything finished and how it will fall into place. After all, it’s important to have fun in your work.”


Re: Echo: A Native man's comments

Posted By: MACK!
Date: SUN, 10/19/03, 2:11 a.m.

In Response To: Echo: A Native man's comments (Smokinghawk)

Dear Smokinghawk,

It is a delight to hear from you. Thank you for reading my stories and for your kind words and encouraging feedback. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you appreciate the work, and that you said the art looks the way you “feel”. That is about the best response I could ask for from someone with your personal knowledge and experience.

I’m glad that you appreciate my efforts.
I appreciate the questions that you asked and I am happy to answer them. I don’t at all mind you asking these things. I’d like you to know that I have carefully considered the points you mentioned ahead of time and would be happy to share with you the reasoning behind my approach.

I’d be happy to hear what you think about my responses. I don’t want to sound like a “know-it-all” either and I will be happy to defer to your knowledge. But I want you to know that thought and consideration went into these choices for various reasons, and I will be happy to hear your advice about if my reasoning is valid or flawed. I’ll list your questions one by one below:

-1)“What is Echo's tribal heritage again? I had thought it was Cherokee. “

Before I go on, I want to make sure you read the Echo Part 3 issue. It is in Daredevil # 52 in which her father describes her heritage. I will list that portion of the script here in case you missed that issue:

DD #53: PAGE 14

1 FATHER CAPTIONS- In 1832, Jackson, the guy on the twenty dollar money, signed an autograph to remove the native tribes.

2 CAPTION-It was then that my Grandfather's tribe and many other tribes, the
Chickasaws, Choctaws, Cherokee, Muskogee... They were called the Creek Indians, but
that is only because they lived by the Creek and people called them that.

3 CAPTION-They are really the Muskogee Nation. So them and many more nations.
They were all rounded up and made to walk all the way to what the government called
"Indian Territory". Later they called this territory Oklahoma. That's a Choctaw word
that means "red man's land".

4 CAPTIONS- There was no choice in the moving. All the tribes were forced to leave their homeland. Those people walked the entire distance, from sunup to sun down, herded along by soldiers on horseback.

5 CAPTION- Not everyone was strong enough to make the trip. In fact most of our people died on the way. And the rest were not allowed to give them a proper burial.

6 CAPTION- That is why it is called the trail of tears.

PAGE 15

1 FATHER Balloon-The children were taken from their parents and forced to go to boarding schools. They were not allowed to speak their native tongues. They were not allowed to tell their own stories. So my grandfather had to remember all of the stories.

2 Balloon-My grandfather lost all of his family from his own tribe. But he married someone from another tribe that he met in the new territory and they had my mother.
He told all of his stories to my mother.

3 Balloon- But soon my mother lost all of her family. So she married someone from another tribe and they had me. And they told all of their stories to me.

4 Balloon- And then I came all the way here to the city and I met someone not in any of those tribes.

5 Balloon- And now I have you. And I tell all of my stories to you.

6 Balloon- All of that traveling and joining parents and grandparents has made you.

7 Balloon- You are the future of all of their stories.

8 Balloon- It's good that you don't hear in words or think only in words.

9 Balloon- This way you don't hear only lies. You see by actions what the truth is. And
you tell your own truth by actions.

---Instead of making Echo of one specific tribe, I wanted to show that she was a product of many nations. And many joinings and in her burns the spirit of many stories beyond one ethnic classification. I wanted to keep her heritage inclusive rather than exclusive. I wanted her to be appreciative of all the heritages and stories that she is made up of and I wanted her to think of herself as a character that goes beyond boundaries and borders (this is clarified in the fifth issue of the story). Metaphorically, I thought people could relate to her this way and appreciate their own diverse backgrounds joining together in the past to make them what they are today.
I wanted her to look at the stories as a unifying mythology rather than a divisive one. I think this will be more clear at the end of the story where the point is that her role in life is one that can transcend divisions.

2)-“ One criticism I have of so much Indian affecionado commentary by non-Indians is that it uses Sioux cosmology/ceremony as the ubiquitous reference-point. EVERYBODY who uses Indian traditionalism seems to use some version of Lakota background, no matter what the ostensible tribe.”

-Hopefully it is obvious that “The Chief” (firefighter or editor, now retired) is Sioux. That is why everything that he says is in Sioux based cosmology, and he is helping Echo in the best way he knows how, which entails his use of the Sioux language and customs. And she is appreciative of his customs as well.

3)- “"shaman" (ouch! That word makes me cringe a little; it's a Siberian term often eschewed by Indian traditional people since it's also a favorite with the "New Age" crowd)”

-I understand what you mean. It is a term bandied about and abused.
Are you familiar with the Ojibwa artist Norval Morisseau? I’m a big fan of his art work. His work deals with depicting stories in a way that he believes has a healing power through the story and the art. And he refers to himself with the term shaman. I’m attempting to use the role of the storyteller in this story in the same way, so I used the same term he uses for himself. And there are other Native storytellers that refer to themselves in this way so I tried to draw the parallel by using the same term.

These are just my reasoning behind using the terms and customs that you mentioned. I hope they are valid to you in this context. I am, of course, always open to hearing advice from someone who knows better than I do.

I am happy to hear that you are an artist. I would love to hear about your approach to your work. Or perhaps a link to a website of your work if there is one?
I have an uncle who is Cherokee and when I was little he would tell me his stories and have me draw some of his cultural images to go with his descriptions. It made an impression on me, and this story is a chance for me to explore the role of artists and storytellers in Native culture but also in current conventional popular culture. The idea is that stories and art can unify beyond language, cultures, and handicaps. Even the deaf can learn to see the sign language of the divine. Which is of course just a literary metaphor for all of us.

Thanks so much for support and the kind words!

Warmest regards,
David Mack

: Being a Native artist myself (Ojibway and Sioux) who can
: speak my language, knows my songs and history, and
: even grew up both on and off tribal territories, I'd
: like to make a few comments about Mack's work on
: Daredevil, and especially the Echo character.

: In a word, ASTONISHING. (in the good way!) The artwork is
: simply breathtaking (I've taken copies of the comic
: off the spinner racks at the local Borders Books and
: laid them, open, in the racks of the current art
: periodicals to catch passers-by). The tender contrasts
: of fragile feathered textures and confident pencil
: strokes, laid against the winter-hide-tale painted
: backgrounds makes every page simply a stunning
: encapsulation of what I "feel" like, myself
: (all that's missing is the contemporary urban reality
: as well; one criticism might be that like so much
: "Indian art" these days, the images
: consistently hearken back to eagles, wolves, feathers,
: beads and "shamans").

: A couple of comments about things I find either
: distracting, or worth asking a question about: What is
: Echo's tribal heritage again? I had thought it was
: Cherokee. One criticism I have of so much Indian
: affecionado commentary by non-Indians is that it uses
: Sioux cosmology/ceremony as the ubiquitous
: reference-point. EVERYBODY who uses Indian
: traditionalism seems to use some version of Lakota
: background, no matter what the ostensible tribe. Echo
: goes back to "the rez" and meets a
: "shaman" (ouch! That word makes me cringe a
: little; it's a Siberian term often eschewed by Indian
: traditional people since it's also a favorite with the
: "New Age" crowd), whose form is taken right
: from a Curtis photo of Plains elders. He immediately
: ushers Echo into a tipi and begins to explain our
: inipi rites, and then conducts her vision quest (a
: Hanblecyia)--all thoroughly Sioux. Why not have Echo
: return to the Cherokee more authentically?

: Despite that minor comment, I have no intention of
: responding as a "know-it-all" out to
: "set Mack straight;" on the contrary, I'd
: like to praise him for being so classy and so genuine
: in his storytelling. He makes a real effort to get it
: right, and comes as close as I've ever seen from a
: non-Indian storyteller. I can forgive the cliche use
: of yet-more-Sioux-stuff to sell a claimed Cherokee
: character, because Mack treats his characters and
: readers with such respect. Despite the tribal
: affiliation "flub," at least Mack's
: researched the rites and common "teachable
: emblems" of those rites.

: I can even forgive the incessant triangles on every
: page...heh heh!

: Seriously, David, I'd be interested in knowing what your
: genuine request is for purchase of an original piece
: from this story--and whether they are even for sale.


Portrait of comic book artist
Northern Kentucky native David Mack brings unusual breadth of knowledge to his illustrated stories

By Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

He looks like Tom Cruise - a pumped-up Tom Cruise. His affable demeanor belie the stringency of his work regimen. He wanders the world but maintains a residence and studio in his childhood home of Bromley. He's a hero of the comic book elite, creator of the character Kabuki, a masked operative for a clandestine government agency, and artist of Daredevil, one of the top 10 best-selling books in the nation.


David Mack and his partner, Ahn Tran, sometimes the subject of his artwork (for his book Kabuki Dreams and others), hang out in their Bromley home and studio, the same house where Mack grew up.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
David Mack, 31, is a fine artist whose inspiration is limitless. In addition to comic books, he creates album covers (Paul McCartney and Tori Amos are in line), toys, packaging, advertising campaigns and action figures - often at the same time.

Two hundred examples of the last 10 years of his work make up David Mack's Passport to All Worlds on view through Oct. 31 at Northern Kentucky University's Fine Arts Center. It has had the most diverse audience of any show held in the gallery.

At 8 p.m. Wednesday in Greaves Hall, Mack will lecture on his work, including the latest installment in the 40-year Daredevil series, which hit streets Oct. 15. He has been working on Daredevil for the past four years, adding his imprimatur by embedding his own childhood experiences into the character's past.

"I don't think of myself as a cartoonist," he says. "I never felt an internal need to stick to one thing or another. I don't make cartoons. I make books. I use words, and paint and draw and collage, and tell stories in one form or another."

At an all-day seminar at NKU, he perches on the edge of a tall wooden stool, microphone in hand, flashing his pearly whites. He seems so L.A.

But he's not. He's cool and smart and down-to-earth. He is energetic and enthusiastic. He's a human sponge sucking up as much as he can from the world around him, and he's found that comics allow him to pack all his interests and philosophies into a single format.

"I start with the story," he says. "I don't make a distinction between the story and the art. I see them as the same thing. I think comics is the medium that unites them."

Mack lazes before the crowd - calm, confident, charismatic.

Bought family home

"In his senior year of high school, he did a comic book as an independent study," says Kevin Booher, Mack's former professor. "He made $23,000 and bought his mother's house in Bromley (his mother had died) so his brother (Steve) could graduate from the same school. As a young guy he knew what he wanted."

IF YOU GO
What: Passport to All Worlds
When: Through Oct. 31
Where: Fine Arts Center, third floor, Northern Kentucky University
Information: (859) 572-5148
Lecture: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Greaves Hall, NKU. Cocktail reception will precede the lecture, 6:30-8 p.m. Free.
Books available: Comic Book World, 7130 Turfway Road, Florence; 4016 Harrison Ave., Cheviot.
While studying graphic design at NKU, he created Kabuki, drawing much of it while listening to class lectures. He considers the comic autobiographical.

"It was a way for me to tell personal stories and an outlet for my interests and philosophies," he says. "I was learning so much about Japan - about Kabuki and the ghost plays. I was fascinated."

Kabuki theater, performed by men wearing elaborate masks when impersonating women or supernatural beings, followed a formula where a ghost would appear to a traveler to tell the story of its suffering. Mack took this idea and created a female assassin, a scarred woman who wears a mask.

"Kabuki takes place now or in the future in Japan," he explains. "It's about the interdependence of government and criminal realms. Kabuki is an agent in a police agency known as Noh ... ."

The book, Mack says, is his own mask. "It's about the death of my mother and finding my own niche."

There are more than a million copies in print in the United States. Kabuki has been translated into seven languages and is sold in 39 countries.

Passion for learning

Mack graduated from NKU in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in fine arts. "I took learning very seriously," he says. "I had a passion for it. Sometimes, teachers limit your dreams to what fits into a box. I didn't just want to swallow things, but chew on them a little bit."

MACK FACTS
Born: Oct. 7, 1972, in Cincinnati
Occupation: Author-artist
Education: Ludlow High School, 1990; Northern Kentucky University, bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design, 1995
Major awards: Four Eisner Awards (Oscar of the industry) for Best Painter; four International Eagle Awards; Harvey and Kirby Awards for Best New Talent.
Favorite childhood memory: All of it.
My mother always told me to: Be constructive.
What makes me laugh: My friends
Last good book I read: Tesla: Master of Lightning, by Margaret Cheney and Robert Uth
Favorite indoor activity: Painting and drawing friends.
Favorite outdoor activity: Rock climbing.
How I earned my first dollar: I sold drawings in the third grade.
When I was a child, I thought I'd grow up to be: Zorro.
In high school, people thought I was: Zorro. Just kidding. Tom Cruise. Just kidding. Energetic.
Heroes: My parents and my friends.
Three words that best describe me: I love everything.
If I've learned one thing in life: That your life is what you choose it to be. What you make it.
Prize possession (not people): Robots
To me, courage is: Fun.

The best advice I ever got: What you say is what you get.
The best decision I ever made: Doing what comes naturally.
I knew I had made it big when: I stood up to the school bully.
My friends like me because: I bring them my reality.
Secret ambition: Make more films. And dance.
Greatest extravagance: Compulsively buying books. And art
He crammed in courses to improve his writing and art. "While I studied figure drawing by day to learn how light and shadow create volume in the human body, at night I was in anatomy and physiology dissecting people, and memorizing each and every bone and muscle,'' he says. "This inside-out approach enriched my figure drawing skills for comic books where it is necessary to know how to draw the figure from every angle and in any motion."

Mack took entrepreneurship just as seriously. When he was 12 he began raising custom mice that he sold for $3. "You could have a black one or a white one or one with long or short hair," he says. "My brother and I never had a problem occupying ourselves. Our mother used to make our clothes and then we started making them ourselves. I was creating my reality back then, and now."

The Mack brothers grew up under modest circumstances in the same home Mack and his girlfriend, Ahn Tran, live in now. Tran provides editing and design assistance in addition to modeling for Kabuki.

The boys were inseparable and until their mid-20s lived together in the same home. Their mother, Ida, a first-grade teacher in Covington, encouraged her sons in their creative pursuits. Their father, Wilson, is a musician who became a minister. The couple separated when David was 9 and Steve was 7.

"Early on, David saw learning as a joy," says Barbara Martin, Mack's English teacher at Ludlow High School. "He watched his mother prepare lesson plans and got to know his teachers well. He was always comfortable talking about his writing and showing his drawings."

His father wanted him to be a musician. "He always had two or three organs in the house," Mack remembers. "When he brought me home from the hospital he played Bach and Beethoven constantly. He hung a picture of Beethoven over my bed. I called him Beet-Hoven."

It was Mack's father who bought him his first Daredevil when he was 9. Mack later incorporated his father into the Daredevil comics by adding his middle name to the character Kingpin.

"My dad used to dress like a '70s mobster," he says. "We used to call him the kingpin. ... When I wrote the character's origin story I gave him my father's middle name and included personal details: his pet mouse, growing up poor, living with no heat or electricity and shaving his head as a kid because of lice infestation."

Daredevil is the story of a man whose prizefighter father was murdered when he wouldn't throw a fight. The blind son promises his father he will never fight, and goes on to become a lawyer. But the murder has had a profound effect and he becomes a masked vigilante at night.

Ben Affleck starred when the comic book made it to the big screen this spring.

Mack says working on Daredevil gave him the rare opportunity to add something to the mythology that so inspired him as a boy. "I was able to continue with the Daredevil story where I left off as a kid. It was like the adult version of me working in collaboration with the 12-year-old version of me."

'It's very intensive'

"You spend so much time in isolation," says Mack of the creative process. "I spend time anguishing over what to cut out, what to keep in. The fact that I'm drawing it is a side effect of what I'm doing. When I do comics, I use whatever imaging technique I want to express even an emotion. It's very intensive."

One look at the work and there's no question it's intensive. "Like Melville he has a creative work schedule," says Booher. "He sleeps for three hours, then works for 12 hours. It's one REM (Rapid Eye Movement) dream cycle."

Mack discovered that he achieved the level of focus and energy he needed for his work only once a day. So, he experimented with his sleep/wake cycle by sleeping and waking twice a day.

"I understood that in order to have good rest, you need to complete the REM cycle," he explains. "REM cycles tend to be 2 1/2 to three hours long. Most people sleep two or three REM cycles in a row, because they are exhausted from being up all day. So, I began sleeping one REM cycle at a time, waking up refreshed and completely focused, then working 12 hours and sleeping another three-hour REM cycle."

His other work quirk is that he doesn't use a computer. He hand-paints his characters, which is unusual in the field. When an idea strikes him, he writes it down and files it where it waits until he's ready to fold it into a story.

"There's a format, an infrastructure that makes it accessible to readers," he says. "I love the nature of sequence. When I think about something - Kabuki has children or how she will die - I put it in a file. I might not use it for five years, but I will use it.

"The characters create their own realities. External change follows internal change and they choose their own happiness. I think thoughts are real things. When you write a thought down it becomes part of the material world."

Tran is very much a part of Mack's world. They collaborate on covers for Marvel's Alias comic. They met when she was a chemical engineer.

"We met in '97 at the Warehouse dance club," he says. "She has her own line of stuffed creatures, "Tranimals," and is a freelance writer and illustrator. ... For me, she takes care of Kabuki's international publishing and licensing, translations and online sales."

"All of this has enabled David to live his dream," says Paul Mullins owner of Comic Book World in Florence, where Mack bought comics as a boy. "He insisted he was going to work in comics. He never doubted it. He's a Renaissance man as far as the art goes. You can see every imaginable style between the covers of his books."

"My art is all about integrating things and putting them together," Mack says. "Happiness is being in the moment and I find myself most in the moment during art or action. I try to sustain that state by creating a life indistinguishable from my art."

E-mail mbauer@enquirer.com

DAVID MACK: MAKING KABUKI MAGIC

A little over ten years after he first began work on the story, David Mack's Kabuki returns in January with the six-issue The Alchemy miniseries. We caught up with Mack to talk about the new project, Kabuki's background, and the entire Kabuki process.

Newsarama: The Alchemy picks up after Metamorphosis, but yet as the solicit says, starts a new era in Kabuki's life. For those who may have known her a little, or even a lot, can you explain where she is, as a person after all that she's been through?

David Mack: I'll try to do this carefully, because I don't want to spoil anything for those that have not yet read Metamorphosis or some of the other Kabuki collections.

Kabuki: Circle of Blood, the first Kabuki story, begins with the character called Kabuki being an operative for a government agency in Japan called the Noh. This agency polices the interdependence between the worlds of organized crime and politics and business in Japan. They are also a part of the media and each of the Noh is a sort of pop culture Icon with a mask and clothing that is a variation on a form of Japanese traditional theatre. Kabuki has some personal issues stemming from the scars on her face, and she can only relate to the world through the security of her mask. The mystery of her scars unfolds as her personal issues with the death of her mother send her in a path of action that conflicts with the powers that she serves.

It is a mix of Japanese historical mythology, political intrigue, corporate espionage, and familial duty wrapped up in the retelling of the Japanese Ghost story. It is also a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, in that each of the characters in Kabuki corresponds to iconographic characters in that book and to pieces on the chessboard. Both stories are about the pawn's journey to queen, or a child's journey to an adult or evolved consciousness. Just as that book was a social commentary in the guise of a children's book, Kabuki has its own themes that operate on several levels. Some are only apparent in repeat readings.

NRAMA: But after the events of Metamorphosis, a lot of the problems or challenges that you had but in front of her early in the story were either gone or not as large as an issue anymore, right?

DM: Right. After Metamorphosis, many of Kabuki's issues are resolved. She's transcended the cycle that she was in and tied up the loose ends to her former government affiliation. But after doing that, after solving your external conflicts and reaching a certain state of self awareness, and closing the door on your old identity, what do you do next? That is what this story is about.

NRAMA: And that's why you're taking the approach of setting it apart from what has come before, and not tying it directly to Metamorphosis and making it a strict, continuity-driven following chapter?

DM: That's right. The nature of this story is that it is the beginning of a brand new start for Kabuki as a character. This story is directly built on the continuity of the previous books, and it picks up directly where Metamorphosis left off, and if you've read those stories you are going to really appreciate this new stage. But because of the nature of the story, Kabuki starting a brand new adventure, you do not have to have already read the previous books to follow this story. So I wanted to make that clear to readers who have always wanted to try Kabuki, but did not know where to start. You can read the trades first and then read this story, or you can just start right here.

I've made sure that all six Kabuki volumes are in print and available in paperback and hardcover collections. So I hope readers will use this as an opportunity to read the early Kabuki collections that have come before in preparation for this new series. But if they do not, they will still be able to begin with this story.

NRAMA: Brian Bendis says that he's seeing a lot of people come to Powers thanks to his Marvel work. Is it the same with you and Kabuki?

DM: Yes. I was very happy with the Kabuki readership that I had cultivated over the years. I figured everyone was familiar with it, and the book gained readers steadily over the years. Then when I wrote my first Daredevil story in Daredevil #9-15, it was like a whole new demographic of people suddenly knew I existed over night. There was a huge jump in the sales of all the Kabuki trades, as readers of my DD story began checking out my Kabuki work.

This continued with my Daredevil run with Bendis in DD #16-19, and has steadily continued up to now with a bigger spike in Kabuki trade sales from readers of my new Echo story. The sales of the Kabuki trades sell more and more every year. Kabuki: Circle of Blood sells more now than it did when it came out ten years ago. Same for all the other collections. The Kabuki books have a Sandman type life as paperbacks and hardcovers in that new readers continue to buy them year after year. And after a new reader buys one Kabuki collection, they go back and buy all of the rest of them.

I'd like to remind readers that all the Kabuki stories are collected in paperback and hardcover. If you have a chance, it will be rewarding to read them before Kabuki: The Alchemy ships in January. Metamorphosis is my favorite as it is probably the best presentation of my work in comic books. Each of the Kabuki books fits in continuity and builds on the previous story, but each book is also it's owned self contained story, with it's own unique art style and storytelling tone that contrasts to the others. So you can start with any of them.

NRAMA: What order do they run in again?

DM: It runs like this: Vol 1- Circle of Blood (272 pp), Vol 2- Dreams (128 pp), Vol 3- Masks of the Noh (128 pp), Vol 4- Skin Deep (128 pp), Vol 5- Metamorphosis (288 pp), Vol 6- Scarab (288 pp).

NRAMA: With what you said though about seeing crossover traffic from your Marvel work, I'd imagine some readers are finding that Kabuki isn't the same style of storytelling that you'd use in a Marvel book. What are the main differences, in your eyes?

DM: With Kabuki I do have more time for each issue to really experiment and make a conscious effort to improve and expand the medium with each issue. When writing, drawing, painting and lettering a book, I like to have a full two months for each issue. Which is why I do Kabuki on a bi-monthly schedule. The Daredevil books have a very strict monthly schedule, and the last couple issues of my DD-Echo arc I was doing the books in less than one month for each issue.

But time constraints aside, I don't look at a mainstream book as a stylistic limitation. I start with the story first, and I choose the art style, mediums or storytelling pace that I think best communicates and supports the story. Looking back on my three Daredevil story arcs, I think that "Parts of a Hole," "Wake Up," and "Echo," each had their own unique and contrasting, themes, art style, storytelling pace, rhythm, and individual graphic language.

That said, working on a character like Daredevil is a collaborative effort. And you are playing to the strengths and quirks of that collaboration. Even if you are writing and drawing the story yourself, you are collaborating with the rich history of the character and the character's core traits, and what previous creators have brought to the character. That is the charm of working on Daredevil. You have to be true to that rich history, and also bring something to your story that only you can bring to it. That is the challenge.

NRAMA: And with Kabuki, the collaboration with the "history" of the character is what - you talking to yourself, right?

DM: Right - with Kabuki, there is no real external guide. I'm in a sense writing my own diary through the metaphors of this character and this world that I have created, and it tends, for that reason, to be much more experimental and avant guard. On Kabuki, I know that I am only answering to myself, so I have no reason to not push the limits and create my own new language through this work.

NRAMA: Speaking of the history of Kabuki though, you've said that you're making sure The Alchemy is relatively unencumbered by Kabuki's past. But how are you giving a nod to long-time readers? What are some of the seeds that you've planted that are going to bear fruit here?

DM: The Akemi character from Skin Deep and Metamorphosis plays a huge role in this story. This will be the first time you see her outside of the institution. This continues to be a catalyst for Kabuki in this story. Many of Akemi's mysteries are explored. You will see many more dimensions to her character. And many of her references to Kabuki in those earlier books will come to a surprising fruition in this story. This story also builds on the children's book references from Metamorphosis. And this story will give you a renewed appreciation and perspective on the first Kabuki story, Circle of Blood.

For readers that have read all of the Kabuki volumes so far, after you read this new series, you will want to go back and read the previous stories again and you will see them in a new way that is going to make you appreciate them in a brand new dimension as well as the ways that they are already charming to you. They will still hold that charm, but you will have a brand new perspective to appreciate them from. It will be like looking at pictures of yourself as a child. You always appreciated the pictures for what they were, but now that you are grown up, you can see how those moments shaped your present life

NRAMA: You've never been one to carelessly name something, so to what does "The Alchemy" refer to in this instance?

DM: Well hopefully not only will readers see Kabuki create her new life and new identity, but they will take something useful from the story to aid in the creation of their own life. "The Alchemy" title works on several levels. This story is essentially an instruction manual on creating a new life, creating the life of your own personal dreams and interests, that should be practical and applicable to anyone who reads it. It is a recipe and blueprint for creating your own reality, your own career, and your own fresh start. It is a spell for creating your own magic. Taking the baggage of your life and turning it into something positive and useful. Turning your garbage into gold.

NRAMA: All of that said then, tease the story a little - this is Kabuki undergoing a change from one stage in her life to another, but change never happens without external energy - heat, friction, some other force. Is there a conflict within this series?

DM: Of course the main immediate pressure is that Kabuki has just faked her death in order to leave her former government affiliation behind. A lot of shit has hit the fan, and she needs to disappear and probably leave the country. And then she will have to start a new life and make a living while laying low from her previous comrades. And of course, she has a big scar on her face that says Kabuki, so that is can make hiding difficult. She does, however, have the external aid of Akemi.

Akemi has always been a catalyst for Kabuki. Akemi makes things happen. Not only has she been a friend, but in a way, she has been Kabuki's teacher or mentor. She teaches by example and through her writing and 2d to 3d art. Akemi is the metaphor for turning art and ideas into reality. From two dimensions to three dimensions just like her origami notes. She is the living example of transformation. In Metamorphosis, Akemi symbolizes the philosophy of the writer and artist, just as "MC Square" symbolizes the perspective of science and physics, and Buddha the psy-chic symbolizes the religious and spiritual. Each of them explain the meaning of life, but they do it from their own perspective and in their own language. Akemi, of course, stands for the Japanese pronunciation of Alchemy, the science and art of transformation.

NRAMA: Let's go back to your description of The Alchemy as being a way to change your life. How much of this is coming from personal experience?

DM: All of it! Kabuki is, of course, my personal outlet. It is designed as an autobiographical story in which I can tell personal truths through metaphor. Kabuki was my answer to my decision to do comic books. All my life I had made things. Stories, sculptures, paintings, drawings. And I had great passion for learning and doing. I love everything, and wasn't really interested in specializing. At a certain point in high school teachers like you to fit your interests and passions into a box that you can at least major in, but I wasn't comfortable with the idea of only doing one thing to the exclusion of others.

When I was sixteen I was applying for a university scholarship for art. I teacher suggested that I put together a portfolio showing ten different media that I worked in. I had photography, sculpture, oil painting, watercolor, charcoal, etc. For the tenth piece I decided that I really wanted to do something that dealt with the nature of time and sequence. I loved film, and I loved books, and the personal nature of books, and I also loved to read comic books. So I decided that for the tenth example of my work that I would make a comic. And I did. I wrote and illustrated and lettered a 55 page book for my scholarship submission. And in the process of doing that, I realized that the medium of comic books are a format that I could integrate all other mediums into. And I realized that comics were the medium I could work in, because they had no limitations, and they included and encompassed aspects of every other medium.

My work on Kabuki began in January of 1993 when I was twenty years old. I would begin publishing Kabuki in 1994. Having decided the medium I would work with, and having worked in the business for a couple years to learn the craft, I decided that I wanted to create a comic book in which I could incorporate all of my personal philosophies, my passion for learning, and integrate my everyday personal experiences. I loved autobiographical comics, but I was not yet comfortable with that idea. I wanted to tell personal truths but at a distance. Through the unselfconscious comfort of a veil. But I did not want to fall into the trap of making the main character an idealized version of myself. So I decided that I would make all of the surface details very opposite, and that way the universal truths could shine through, and I could tell the story through metaphor. This way, instead of reading the story and seeing me, readers could find their own personal relation to the story and see themselves.

NRAMA: That's right - you've said before that to tell the story autobiographically, yet still be somewhat "anonymous," you changed genders and locations…

DM: Right - I made the main character the opposite gender. I set the story in a different part of the world, with a different language, different history, and different culture. I was in university at the time, and I was taking the Japanese language, and learning Japanese history and mythology in my classes and in my own travels. So I used that as a framework for the story. The structure of the story is the traditional structure and metaphors of the traditional Japanese Ghost Story that is the subject of many of the Japanese Kabuki plays.

Much of the first Kabuki story is me as a 21-22 year old dealing with the death of my mother, just as Kabuki is coming to terms with the relationship and death of her mother in the story.

I knew the structure that the story would follow. So I had a skeletal outline of some of the major points very early on. And through the process of working on it, the rest came alive for me. When I was working on Kabuki: Circle of Blood, I knew the main structure of most of the other books up through Metamorphosis. But the real life of the story occurred in the process. And when I was doing Kabuki: Metamorphosis, most of the high points for The Alchemy occurred to me and I made notes for it then and also outlined my ideas for the next few Kabuki stories.

One of the main themes of The Alchemy is this: You've rid yourself of past affiliations, you've wiped your slate clean, and you get to start your life any way that you want. What do you do? What career do you choose? How do you make a living? Where do you go? What do you do with your life? And how do you do it with a big scar on your face that says Kabuki? These are all questions that any of us can relate to. From someone getting out of college or high school, to someone breaking from a job or life that is unfulfilling and choosing to begin a more fulfilling life.

This story is a map for that kind of decision making.

NRAMA: With starting her new life then, where does The Alchemy fit in on the grand arc that Kabuki is on?

DM : The Alchemy is a pivotal chapter, just like Metamorphosis is. And there are several more Kabuki stories that get to build on what happens in this chapter.

NRAMA: So are you strictly focusing on Kabuki now, or will you return to tell more of the stories of the other Noh agents?

DM: I will continue to alternate between a Kabuki story that I write and paint to a Noh character story that I write and back again. After The Alchemy, I'll be doing a Tigerlily story with Rick Mays. In fact The Alchemy has some scenes that will overlap in the Tigerlily story in the same way that Metamorphosis overlapped into Scarab. They are the same scenes but from the contrasting perspectives of each of the characters. And you won't realize what scenes they are until you read both stories. Then you will see that they overlapped. But each one is still very much its own story, related, but not dependant, to the other.

NRAMA: Winding things up - one last topic. Some of the extras in The Alchemy #1 are sketches of Kabuki by Brian Bendis. He was originally supposed to be the artist for the story, right?

DM: Right. This was when I met him in 1993. We were doing several work for hire jobs together, and we wanted to do a really personal project together as well. Luckily, that finally happened when we did the "Wake Up" story in Daredevil. It was good to finally do an in depth collaboration that is worthy of our friendship.

NRAMA: But what didn't work out with Kabuki? What, he drew her with big, googly eyes, a skinny little neck, and bald?

DM: Ha! No it was actually very good! And he really had a great approach to it and understood what I was going for. As great as Brian's Kabuki art is, I needed to find a type of story telling that made the art and writing indistinguishable from one another. Much of the story was dependant on creating a brand new form of graphic language that transcended usual conventions. The idea was to introduce the reader issue by issue with the grammar of this language until Kabuki began to operate completely inside the readers mind in a different way than other books. They would no longer have to think about the language of the book, but it would be so subliminal that it automatically bypassed usual doors and organically downloaded itself right into the reader's subconscious.

As great as Brian's art was, there came a point where I realized that I just needed to do both the story and art in order to make this work to my own personal satisfaction.

NRAMA: Brian can be kind of weird about his earlier stuff showing up again. What kind of bribery did it take for him to okay you publishing them?

DM: Yeah I worked on all of those early Bendis projects that we've decided never to mention! I've inked over a hundred published pages of Brian's pencils in those early days when we were starving! We had a theory that you need to do like three hundred pages of work, just to get things out of your system, and to polish the mechanics of the craft, before you start to get your work to a point that you will want to keep it in print. So we made a strict decision of where we start to keep our work in print. For me it starts with Kabuki. For him Fire.

I was doing an interview for Wizard, and they asked about some of my prized possessions as far as artwork go. I have a great collection of original Kabuki art done by A-list artists. Alex Ross, Kent Williams, Jon Muth, Joe Quesada, Paul Pope, Scott Morse, P. Craig Russell… I was thinking of all these Kabuki pieces that I have from these artists, and it donned on me, that I have several pages of Kabuki pencils by Brian Bendis from 1993! So I mentioned that too. And I realized I haven't looked at them for ten years and I pulled them out, and they still looked pretty good. So I mentioned the idea to Brian to publish some for the first time. He forgot what they looked like, so he asked to see them first. They were better than he remembered so he gave me the thumbs up. So I'm publishing them in Kabuki: The Alchemy #1. Don't miss it because this will be your only chance to see them!

A New Kind of Alchemy

David Mack

by Mia MacHatton

David Mack is a dangerous combination of writing and artistic talents in the comic book industry. He can write everything from action to psychological drama, and his artwork is simply breathtaking. He also remains one of the nicest people in comics even at his busiest times. His artwork has graced the covers of Alias and the new series Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown, and he was one of the artists that contributed to the 2004 Tori Amos RAINN Calendar. David has just ended his current run on Daredevil — an exploration of the history and transformation of his character Echo. In this coming year, David will be taking up writing duties on Ultimate X-Men, and in particular, this January he will return to his landmark character Kabuki in a new series Kabuki — The Alchemy.

David was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer all my questions about the new Kabuki series and his other comic work. He had even agreed to my cornering him at Mid-Ohio-Con for this interview, but he got laryngitis and lost his voice. Thank goodness for email.


Sequential Tart: The new Kabuki series, Kabuki — The Alchemy, comes out this January. For those who are unfamiliar with Kabuki, what should they know before picking up an issue?

David Mack: They don't have to know anything. You just have to approach it with an open mind. Kabuki — The Alchemy is a brand new era in Kabuki's life. It is a great place for new readers to start because it is a brand new start for Kabuki that is very much it's own story, not dependant on previous stories. You don't need to read the past to understand the primary thrust of the new story. But if you do, you will love the contrast and the oblique and subtle hints at her past. And you will see the fruition of many of the seeds planted in previous issues! Seeds that you didn't know were seeds, but now you will see them blossom into something spectacular and mind-blowing.

This era in Kabuki's life is its own story and it is not going to recap anything from the previous stories. I've made sure that all six Kabuki volumes are in print and available in paperback and hardcover collections. So I hope readers will use this as an opportunity to read the early Kabuki collections that have come before in preparation for this new series. But if they do not, they will still be able to begin with this story.

For readers that have read all of the Kabuki volumes so far, after you read this new series, you will want to go back and read the previous stories again and you will see them in a new way that is going to make you appreciate them in a brand new dimension as well as the ways that they are already charming to you. They will still hold that charm, but you will have a brand new perspective to appreciate them from. It will be like looking at pictures of yourself as a child. You always appreciated the pictures for what they were, but now that you are grown up, you can see how those moments shaped your present life.

The new series is specifically designed to be Kabuki's new life. And it is essentially an instruction manual on creating a new life, creating the life of your own personal dreams and interests; that should be practical and applicable to anyone who reads it. It is a recipe and blueprint for creating your own reality, your own career, and your own fresh start. It is a spell for creating your own magic. Taking the baggage of your life and turning it into something positive and useful. Turning your garbage into gold.

ST: This marks the 10th anniversary of your groundbreaking work, Kabuki. Over the course of ten years, what do you see has changed with yourself and how you approach the character? How has your relationship with Kabuki developed over time?

DM: In that time, and through the intensive work I've put into the books, I've done a lot of personal growth in the process. The act of making the books, the act of creating this world, and writing these lives, has really served, for me, as a practice and guide for me creating my own life, and my own reality. As the character has evolved into her self, I have done my own share of self-actualization. Much of the story is inspired from my own life, and in turn, many things that I write into the book then become conjured into reality in my own life. At a certain point I can't really draw the line that distinguishes when I am putting my ideas into the work, or when the process of the work is then creating my own reality around me. I think it is the act of the work itself that is responsible for this. I tend to integrate art and action to the point that they become inseparable. For me, writing and making art is like praying. It is a way to separate the chatter of the self and get in touch with your true nature. And the larger nature that you are a part of. The more I've worked on Kabuki, the more I have grown to understand this.

ST: There is a trend towards strong female protagonists in pop culture; such protagonists are both heroic and vulnerable at the same time. How does Kabuki contribute to this tradition? What does she give back to it?

DM: I've noticed that the bulk of popular culture tends to lag about five to ten years behind what is happening in comic books. When you build a story in comics that cultivates a large and dedicated readership, you then see the ripple effects of your story influencing and shaping the rest of the culture of the next few years. This reminds me of a quote that Andy Warhol said in 1971. When asked where he gets his ideas and what shapes the look of his art, he answers, "Comic Books. Comic books make things happen the way they really are today." And I realized that this is true. Things happen in comics or pulp media first, and then the industrial, technological, social, political, and cultural worlds follow this blueprint some years later. It is an unmistakable trickle down effect. This really hit me when I began to see so much of Kabuki's influence in television, films, video games, and music videos.

ST: Both Kabuki and your Daredevil character Echo were prodigies of movement, excelling in gymnastics, martial arts, dance, music, and art. What is your fascination with the idea of prodigy?

DM: Both Kabuki and Echo were very personal stories for me. Both of them were metaphors in which I was discussing much of my own childhood, and my own relation to parents and learning to make sense of the world as a child. Learning to overcome things that people perceive as a disability and using the things that set you apart, your unique perspective of the world, as your asset instead of your handicap.

ST: In the first issue of the upcoming series Kabuki — The Alchemy, you are including sketches of Kabuki by the original artist — Brian Michael Bendis. Why did you end up doing Kabuki instead of him?

DM: As great as Brian's Kabuki art is, I needed to find a type of story telling that made the art and writing indistinguishable from one another. Much of the story was dependant on creating a brand new form of graphic language that transcended usual conventions. The idea was to educate the reader issue by issue with the grammar of this language until Kabuki began to operate completely inside the readers mind in a different way than other books. They would no longer have to think about the language of the book, but it would be so subliminal that it automatically bypassed usual doors and organically downloaded itself right into the readers subconscious. As great as Brian's art was, there came a point where I realized that I just needed to do both the story and art in order to make this work to my own personal satisfaction.

ST: In rereading Metamorphosis, I realized that Akemi must play a huge role in Kabuki — The Alchemy. If you can tell us, what role will Akemi play?

DM: A huge one! Just like you said. Akemi has always been a catalyst for Kabuki. Akemi makes things happen. Not only has she been a friend, but in a way she has also been Kabuki's teacher or mentor. She teaches by example and through her writing and 2-D to 3-D art. Akemi is the metaphor for turning art and ideas into reality. From two dimensions to three dimensions, just like her origami notes. She is the living example of transformation. In Metamorphosis, Akemi symbolizes the philosophy of the writer and artist, just as MC Square symbolizes the perspective of science and physics, and Buddha the psy-chick symbolizes the religious and spiritual. Each of them explains the meaning of life, but they do it from their own perspective and in their own language. Akemi, of course, stands for the Japanese pronunciation of "alchemy", the science and art of transformation.

ST: As for Kabuki, we've seen her analyzed and taken apart in both Skin Deep and Metamorphosis. In finding her new identity, what direction will Kabuki's life take?

DM: That is the great question that this series answers! You've rid yourself of past affiliations, you've wiped your slate clean, and you get to start your life any way that you want. What do you do? What career do you choose? How do you make a living? Where do you go? What do you do with your life? And how do you do it with a big scar on your face that says Kabuki? That is what this book is about. These are all questions that any of us can relate to. From someone getting out of college or high school, to someone breaking from a job or life that is unfulfilling and choosing to begin a more fulfilling life. This story is a map for that kind of decision-making.

ST: What else can we look forward to in Kabuki — The Alchemy?

DM: An infinity loop ending that adds a twist and makes you re-appreciate everything that has come before. New characters. Previous Kabuki characters (sometimes in new forms). References to the children's books that Kabuki read as a kid. Stories within a story. Romance. Surprises.

ST: The Scarab series blurred the line between good and evil by demonstrating that Kabuki is not the only sympathetic character with a tragic past (I was screaming "No! She deserves a happy ending too!" at the end when I read it). Will you ever explore the other agents' histories and roles in the drama, such as Tigerlily or Siamese?

DM: Yes. I will explore all of them. I will continue to alternate between a Kabuki story that I write and paint to a Noh character story that I write and back again. After Kabuki — The Alchemy, I will be doing a Tigerlily story with Rick Mays. In fact, Kabuki — The Alchemy has some scenes that will overlap in the Tigerlily story in the same way that Metamorphosis overlapped into Scarab. They are the same scenes but from the contrasting perspectives of each of the characters. And you won't realize what scenes they are until you read both stories. Then you will see that they overlapped. But each one is still very much its own story, related, but not dependant, to the other.

ST: You've had the opportunity to write for more mainstream comics, such as Daredevil and your upcoming run on Ultimate X-Men. What are the differences in how you approach a shared universe versus one of your own creation?

DM: The difference is that I created Kabuki. And I have written every past issue of Kabuki. So nothing I do with Kabuki can be wrong or out of character. It is all a personal evolution. Whereas, with Daredevil, I am collaborating with the rich history of the character, and I need to be respectful of what the creators before me have brought to the character. And yet, I still need to bring something to the character that only I can. Otherwise, why do it? Those are the two big challenges to consider when writing a character you did not create. It is a very collaborative effort, in that you are collaborating with the history and personality of the character.

ST: Your recent run on Daredevil explored not only Echo's history, but also her journey to understand herself. What do you think of the reactions to this storyline?

DM: My favorite reactions to it were from Native Americans who really appreciated the level of respect and background knowledge that I attempted to bring to the story. It was very important to me that the structure of the story follows the structure of famous traditional Native American stories and vision quests. I've had readers come to me at conventions and show me their Native American government-issue identity cards, and let me know that they were sensitive and appreciative of the spirit and effort that I tried to put into the story. And there was a very special post on my Kabuki message board and on the Bendis board from a fellow named Smoking Hawk who discussed it with me. After all the research and personal experience that I tried to bring to the story, this was the best kind of reaction I could have hoped for.

And especially touching was the reaction from deaf readers who really appreciate and relate to the details in the story about a girl growing up deaf and attempting to make sense of her world and how she learns to decipher, communicate, and interact with it. Several people have explained to me that this story embodied their own feelings, and challenges, and personal triumphs involved with growing up deaf.

And it is always great to hear the reactions from people that picked this story up as their first comic experience. People who don't read comics, or had preconceptions about them and then picked this story up and posted on my message board, or told me at signings, that this story brought them into comics, and showed them that comics can be more than what they had thought.

ST: Echo is one of the few Native American characters in comics that isn't completely stereotypical. Have you come across any difficulties in portraying her as a character?

DM: She really has her own personality as a child based on her environment, and her family situation, and her reactions to it. Those were my favorite parts of the story. While much of the story deals with actual Native American mythology and storytelling, she is very much her own person and an integration of her own experiences.

ST: Not much has been said about your upcoming run on Ultimate X-Men. What can we expect to see when you take the reins from Bendis?

DM: Lots of action and character driven conflict. It is me and David Finch playing with and breaking Marvels coolest toys. It is a very different tone than my writing approach with Kabuki.

ST: So what toys do you plan on breaking? Any hints you can give us?

DM: Bendis won't let me give anything away. But we are featuring all of the X-men. I like Storm a lot. Also the others, some new characters in Ultimate X-men, and a trip to Japan. Lots of rough and tumble action with Dave Finch drawing everything beautifully! And big, big, X-men surprises. Our Ultimate take on some of the classic X-men characters and milestone events.

ST: Are you still collaborating with Andy Lee? If so, could you explain the details of the collaboration?

DM: If anyone is unfamiliar with Andy Lee, check him out at findandy.com. He and I and Rick Mays and Bendis all did the two-issue Master of Kung Fu story together in Ultimate Marvel Team Up. Andy is an amazing artist and one of my oldest friends. I've known him since way before Kabuki! He does Chinese style brush drawings, and we are collaborating on a Kabuki related story that deals with Kai. We've traveled together many times to Japan and China and Honk Kong, and in some of our travels we formulated a great concept for this project. But it is a surprise!

ST: In the last interview you did with us, you mentioned, "the tone of the story demands the choice of art style or art medium". What tones do certain mediums or styles evoke from you? How do you translate those feelings into what you are trying to evoke from the audience?

DM: It is just instinct and trial and error. I work on the page until it does what I need it to. I don't have any fixed method. I have a thousand methods and no method at all.

ST: Given that you have both strong writing and artistic talents, how do you approach working with other writers and artists?

DM: With joy and excitement! I tend to write all of my own stuff. But it was great to work with Bendis on the Daredevil Wake Up story because we had such a personal story to tell together, and we have been friends for so long that it was good to finally do a collaboration together that was worthy of our friendship. As far as artists, I write specifically for their style and their strengths and their interests.

ST: If you had the opportunity to tell a story in any medium (music, film, dance, spoken word, art, anything) without restriction, what would it be and why?

DM: Well, right now it is Kabuki. I love all other media, but comics encompass and integrate all other media. That's why I chose them to work in right now. And Kabuki is a place for me to integrate all my interests, ideas and philosophies and real life experience. It is my format to integrate art and action.

But when the time is right, I will enjoy working in film and music and other media as well. I've done some of this with my work on the Kabuki film, and Rick Mays and I just wrote and designed a video game for John Woo's company and Electronic Arts. And I've done a lot of artistic collaborations with other musicians. But right now, I can do anything I need to in Kabuki, and I have several more Kabuki stories to tell.

ST: When working, especially when doing art of creating the story, what inspires you? Do you listen to music, or have a particular space for yourself?

DM: My friends and my girlfriend inspire me. I love working with friends around. And I work closely with my girlfriend Anh Tran. They bring plenty of music and mayhem, and I like to work in the eye of the chaos.

ST: What trends in sequential art are you currently seeing that really push the envelope and take both the art form and the audience to the next level? Are there things going on right now that are exciting to you? What comics or graphic novels do you want others to know about? Which other creators are you watching?

DM: My favorite comic of this year is Blankets by Craig Thompson. I met him at San Diego and was pleased to learn that he enjoys Kabuki. I bought the book, and Anh and I read it together on the plane ride home. It is from Top Shelf and is a great read. It reminded me a lot of my own childhood with my brother.

And I love what Bendis is doing with his work. I think it is hilarious how he has infiltrated the mainstream and is still doing his thing with his personal stories and his crime stories.

I love Mike Oeming's art. I love him so much that he, Bendis and I have our own imprint at Image called M.O.B. (MackOemingBendis).

I like Scott Morse. There is a very talented Italian artist Gabriele Del'Otto that I met in France and introduced to Bendis and Marvel. You will see his work on Bendis' Secret War from Marvel. I think what Andy Lee does is great. I love Ivan Brunetti. And I love a lot of the European artists. I love buying books in Spain, France and Germany.

ST: Anything else that I might have forgotten? Anything on your mind?

DM: I'd like to remind readers that all the Kabuki stories are collected in paperback and hardcover. If you have a chance, it will be rewarding to read them before Kabuki — The Alchemy ships in January. Metamorphosis is my favorite as it is probably the best presentation of my work in comic books. Each of the Kabuki books fits in continuity and builds on the previous story, but each book is also its owned self-contained story, with its own unique art style and storytelling tone that contrasts to the others. So you can start with any of them. Here is a list of the Kabuki books:

  • Vol 1 — Circle of Blood (272 p)
  • Vol 2 — Dreams (128 p)
  • Vol 3 — Masks of the Noh (128 p)
  • Vol 4 — Skin Deep (128 p)
  • Vol 5 — Metamorphosis (288 p)
  • Vol 6 — Scarab (288 p)

Those who read Kabuki or want to try it are welcome to give me feedback on it or my Daredevil work at my Kabuki message board at wfcomics.com or at my site at davidmack.net. These sites have news and info and offer prints, original art, trades and back issues, and links to all of the other Kabuki fan sites.

LINKS TO VISIT!!!

David Mack's homepage
David Mack – Metamorphosis (Sequential Tart Interview)
David Mack message boards
Andy Lee's homepage
Andy Lee – Making Music (Sequential Tart Interview)
The Artists of the Tori Amos RAINN Calendar – Beautiful Charity (Sequential Tart Interview)


10 (and a half) Questions with…
David Mack
By J.D. Lombardi
Januari 2004

SimplyJD Online: I'd read in an interview with you (reference:wwwcomicbookresources.com, The Comic Wire, 8/9/03) where you stated that Kabuk is "not interested in repeating this cycle of violence. She's outside of it now. Now she has a brand-new opportunity to create a new life." Does this mean that Ukiko's career as Kabuki is over? She was the first woman named "Kabuki" that we were introduced to in the series, but there currently is another Kabuki working for The Noh.

David Mack: Yes. For those that have read the end of Metamorphosis you know that Kabuki has done everything in her power to close the door on her relationship with the Noh. Its not like they wanted her to work for them any more. She did kill the entire Noh TV board of directors, and the Noh have been trying to kill her since that time. She has done her best to bring that chapter of her life to a close. And like you said, the Noh have a replacement Kabuki. Kageko is the name she had when Kabuki met her in the institution. And at the end of Metamorphosis, Kabuki meets Kageko in Kageko's new role as the Noh's replacement Kabuki. So is there a person in the original Kabuki costume, acting for the Noh as Kabuki on TV and as a government operative? Yes. Will the original Kabuki, ever wear that costume again? No. The end of Metamorphosis was like high school graduation. No need to wear your high school uniform anymore. Time for university. Time to pick a major and go into the world of your choosing.
      But what would that be? That is the great question that this series answers! You've rid yourself of past affiliations, you've wiped your slate clean, and you get to start your life any way that you want. What do you do? What career do you choose? How do you make a living? Where do you go? What do you do with your life? And how do you do it with a big scar on your face that says Kabuki? That is what this book is about. These are all questions that any of us can relate to. From someone getting out of college or high school, to someone breaking from a job or life that is unfulfilling and choosing to begin a more fulfilling life. This story is a map for that kind of decision making.
      Hopefully not only will readers see Kabuki create her new life and new identity, but they will take something useful from the story to aid in the creation of their own life. The Alchemy title works on several levels. This story is essentially an instruction manual on creating a NEW life, creating the life of YOUR OWN PERSONAL DREAMS AND INTERESTS, that should be practical and applicable to anyone who reads it. It is a recipe and blueprint for creating your own reality, your own career, and your own fresh start. It is a spell for creating your own magic. Taking the baggage of your life and turning it into something positive and useful. Turning your garbage into gold.

SJDO: Since this series picks up directly were the 9-issue Metamorphosis series ends, will we be seeing what has happened to the other characters in this series? Since you'd like this series to be able to stand up on it's own without referencing all the past series, does this mean we'll have to wait to see what has happened with the rest of The Noh agents or even (guy on the motorcycle)?

David Mack: There will be several previous characters reoccurring in this new story, Akemi for one. I'll leave the other ones as a surprise! There are some brand new characters…some of Akemi's friends or associates. And a character that has been referenced but never seen will make a couple appearances as well.
      The Akemi character from Skin Deep and Metamorphosis plays a huge role in this story. This will be the first time you see her outside of the institution. She continues to be a catalyst for Kabuki in this story. Many of Akemi's mysteries are explored. You will see many more dimensions to her character. And many of her references to Kabuki in those earlier books will come to a surprising fruition in this story. This story also builds on the children's book references from Metamorphosis. And this story will give you a renewed appreciation and perspective on the first Kabuki story, Circle of Blood.
      For readers that have read all of the Kabuki volumes so far, after you read this new series, you will want to go back and read the previous stories again and you will see them in a new way that is going to make you appreciate them in a brand new dimension as well as the ways that they are already charming to you. They will still hold that charm, but you will have a brand new perspective to appreciate them from. It will be like looking at pictures of yourself as a child. You always appreciated the pictures for what they were, but now that you are grown up, you can see how those moments shaped your present life.

SJDO: You've solicited The Alchemy as a bi-monthly title. Is this to help you in scheduling? Is the entire mini-series completed?

David Mack: When I am writing and painting and lettering and doing all the production on a book like I do with Kabuki, I like to have two months for each issue. I've been building the story for this one since Metamorphosis ended, so I have a lot more of the story fleshed out than I usually do before I start publishing it in the periodical bi-monthly chapters.
      The Daredevil books have a very strict monthly schedule, and the last couple issues of my DD-Echo arc I was doing the books in less than one month for each issue. For Kabuki, I like to have a full two months for each issue. Which is why I do Kabuki on a bi-monthly schedule.

SJDO: Is there any frame of time that we can expect another Kabuki-related project after The Alchemy has finished? Possibly another Kabuki Agents series?

David Mack: Yes. I will do a series on each of the other Noh operatives. I will continue to alternate between a Kabuki centered story that I write and paint to a Noh character story that I write and back again. After The Alchemy, I will be doing a Tiger Lily story with Rick Mays. In fact The Alchemy has some scenes that will overlap in the Tiger Lily story in the same way that Metamorphosis overlapped into Scarab. They are the same scenes but from the contrasting perspectives of each of the characters. And you won't realize what scenes they are until you read both stories. Then you will see that they overlapped. But each one is still very much its own story, related, but not dependant, to the other.

SJDO: Mind if I inquire about how long you've been involved in the M.O.B (Mack, Oeming, Bendis)? IS this some sort of elite comic book organization? If it is, what, if any ties to it does Andy Lee have?

David Mack: M.O.B., Mack, Oeming, Bendis, is our personal imprint at Image comics. Andy Lee is sort of the silent and invisible "L" in that. He's the fourth Beastie Boy. In January 2002, I was in France, signing at the Festival of Angouleme, and discussing a future story project with Jose Villarubia. He advised me that the project was so personal to me that if I put it out at Image that I should have an imprint to distinguish it as a very personal work. When I returned home, I discussed this with Brian and Mike Oeming, and we decided to do an imprint together. We are all close friends, and can do business and art together because our friendship comes before business and we all respect each other and trust each other completely.
      I met Brian Bendis in 1993 and we have been closest friends since that time. Bendis and I met Mike Oeming in 1994. And I met Andy Lee way back in 1992 when I was nineteen. I met him pre-Kabuki, when he was a Freshman at Washington University in St Louis. The four of us are very close friends. And every convention that we have together, we have the official M.O.B. meeting in the hot tub and swimming pool at the convention hotels.
      We were all close friends at such a young age in our careers that each of use has been very influential on the other in our most formative years of developing our art and writing. Besides my parents, these are the guys that have been the most artistically influential to me. For a while, Andy Lee lived at my home studio, and we shared out art studio together while I developed Kabuki, and he developed his Chinese Caligraphy Ink Brush style. Andy Lee and I have traveled together many times to Japan, China, and Hong Kong (where he was born) and studied our art together during our travels.

SJDO: Do you have anymore Marvel work coming up that you can disclose? Possibly any DC work? (crossing my fan-boy fingers)

David Mack: Well, you've probably heard that Bendis and I will be writing Ultimate X-men together. But right now my main focus is Kabuki, and besides that, I'm not taking on any more work so I can give my all to Kabuki.
      DC, or specifically Bob Shreck, the Batman Editor, has very kindly told me that I have an open door policy to write or draw a Batman story when I have the time and inclination. I have given it considerable thought, and I'd like to do a Batman story for Bob Shreck sometime. But as Joe Quesada supported Kabuki very early on, and offered me to write Daredevil for Marvel even before it was publicly known that he was going to be at Marvel, I feel a personal loyalty and gratitude to Joe, and I won't do anything he would consider as direct competition as long as he is at Marvel.
      And Shelly Bond from Vertigo has given me an open door to do any creator owned project at Vertigo. Myself or in collaboration with Rick Mays.
      Rick Mays and I did just finish working on, writing and designing, a video game for John Woo and Electronic Arts. I'm a very close friend with Rick as well. Bendis and I met him back in February of 1995. It was fun when Bendis, Rick, Andy, and I all collaborated on two issues of Ultimate Marvel Team Up for the Master of Kung Fu story.

SJDO: You've had a lot of heavy fight scenes in your Kabuki series. Your Kabuki titles feature many attractive women, some in some rather small costumes. At the same time the artwork itself, as well as the tale you're weaving is very deep/thought provoking. What type of audience or fan-base are you trying to cultivate? Do you find the title to be more "woman-friendly" than much of what is on the market?

David Mack: Most of my mail is from women. At conventions, I see about a 50/50 split between male and female readers. Some of my creator friends tease me about how all the female readers at the convention are at the Kabuki table. But I don't think in terms of specific conventional demographics. I think my work is accessible to any reader that approaches it with an open mind. If I had to find one common trait among the readership that Kabuki has cultivated, I would say that the Kabuki readers tend to be very intelligent, and they want a book that does not talk down to them, and a book that is not afraid to break new ground and work on many levels.
      In the books you will notice that there is a duality of the characters. In the first book, Circle of Blood introduces the masked television persona, and costumes of the characters. And there are some fight scenes in the early stories. But after that the books explore the reality of the characters beyond that mass marketed selling of their Icon persona from Noh TV. The stories move in a very purposeful shift from external action to internal action. You'll notice that Kabuki has not been in costume since the first story. All through the rest of the books, she is in casual t-shirt and jeans, and there aren't any conventional fight scenes. If there is some kind of external conflict it is done in a very matter of fact way, and it only follows the internal workings of the character. The masks and costumes that are introduced at the beginning are done so in irony, and to show the contrast with the reality of the character that is the bulk of the exploration of the stories.
      That is something that I don't think necessarily leans more to a male or female perspective, but is the book is just written from a human perspective, and a personal perspective that all readers can relate to.
      Kabuki was my answer to my decision to do comic books. So perhaps I should start by explaining why I chose to do comics. All my life I had made things. Stories, sculptures, paintings, drawings. And I had great passion for learning and doing. I love everything, and wasn't really interested in specializing. At a certain point in high school teachers like to fit your interests and passions into a box that you can at least major in, but I wasn't comfortable with the idea of only doing one thing to the exclusion of others. When I was sixteen I was applying for a university scholarship for art. A teacher suggested that I put together a portfolio showing ten different media that I worked in. I had photography, sculpture, oil painting, watercolor, charcoal, etc. For the tenth piece I decided that I really wanted to do something that dealt with the nature of time and sequence. I loved film, and I loved books, and the personal nature of books, and I also loved to read comic books. So I decided that for the tenth example of my work that I would make a comic. And I did. I wrote and illustrated and lettered a fifty-five-page book for my scholarship submission. And in the process of doing that, I realized that the medium of comic books is a format that I could integrate all other mediums into. And I realized that comics were the medium I could work in, because they had no limitations, and they included and encompassed aspects of every other medium.
      My work on Kabuki began in January of 1993 when I was twenty years old. I would begin publishing Kabuki in 1994. Having decided the medium I would work with, and having worked in the business for a couple years to learn the craft, I decided that I wanted to create a comic book in which I could incorporate all of my personal philosophies, my passion for learning, and integrate my everyday personal experiences. I loved autobiographical comics, but I was not yet comfortable with that idea. I wanted to tell personal truths but at a distance, through the unselfconscious comfort of a veil. But I did not want to fall into the trap of making the main character an idealized version of myself. So I decided that I would make all of the surface details very opposite, and that way the universal truths could shine through, and I could tell the story through metaphor. This way, instead of reading the story and seeing me, readers could find their own personal relation to the story and see themselves.
      So I made the main character the opposite gender. I set the story in a different part of the world, with a different language, different history, and different culture. I was in university at the time, and I was taking the Japanese language, and learning Japanese history and mythology in my classes and in my own travels. So I used that as a framework for the story. The structure of the story is the traditional structure and metaphors of the traditional Japanese Ghost Story that is the subject of many of the Japanese Kabuki plays.
      Much of the first Kabuki story is me as a 21-22 year old dealing with the death of my mother, just as Kabuki is coming to terms with the relationship and death of her mother in the story.
      I knew the structure that the story would follow. So I had a skeletal outline of some of the major points very early on. And through the process of working on it, the rest came alive for me. When I was working on Kabuki: Circle of Blood, I knew the main structure of most of the other books up through Metamorphosis. But the real life of the story occurred in the process. And when I was doing Kabuki: Metamorphosis, most of the high points for Kabuki: The Alchemy occurred to me and I made notes for it then and also outlined my ideas for the next few Kabuki stories.

SJDO: When I last heard about a Kabuki film, the "word on the street" was that it was going to be an animated feature. If there is any truth to this, will it be more like the current superhero animated shows on Cartoon Network? OR will it go a more serious route ala the "Animatrix" or anime features?

David Mack: No. It is a live action feature film.

SJDO: Will we ever see a return of the more simple inked pencils approach you used in Circle of Blood?

David Mack: Anything is possible. For each story I do, the style and nature of the art is dictated by the nature of the story. I begin as a writer first and use the art as just another tool of the writing. I choose what art style, art media, storytelling pace, and rhythm is going best communicate the tone and atmosphere and language of the story.

      Kabuki: Masks of the Noh (volume 3 of the Kabuki collections) is the first time I collaborated with other artists. The idea behind this story is that the Noh is searching for Kabuki. And though Kabuki is the central character to this story, and holds the story together, she is mostly absent, and it is the fleshing out of these secondary characters that becomes the humanity of the story. So in introducing each of these characters, I write them each with a different tone and voice.
      But I also wanted each one to have their own distinctive visual personality that contrasts from the other, so that idea was that each of the characters would be drawn by a different artist. That way, each time they appear in the story, the reader immediately sees their own unique perspective. It was a bold experiment and a logistical nightmare, but in retrospect, it worked out very nicely. Each time Kabuki appears, she is drawn by me. Rick Mays draws Scarab and Tiger Lily every time they appear, Dave Johnson and Mike Oeming drew Ice, Andrew Robinson drew Snapdragon, and so on.
      Then for the next two Kabuki volumes, Skin Deep (vol. 4) and Metamorphosis (vol. 5), I drew everything as Kabuki was the central character. Then in Scarab (vol. 6) Rick Mays reprised his role as artist of Scarab to keep with continuity of that character's visual personality. It is a story that chronicles her life from childhood to adult like Circle of Blood does with Kabuki.
      Eventually I will do a series for each of the Noh characters. And for their stories, I intend to write them and work with an artist. And for all of the Kabuki stories I will be doing all of the artwork myself. And these will continue to alternate. I draw Kabuki: The Alchemy, then the next series will be a biography of Tiger Lily with Rick Mays doing the art. That will give me plenty of time to gear up for the next Kabuki story that I paint myself, and so on.

SJDO: Where the heck is Dove? The character has been M.I.A for quite some time in your series. Any chance of a return for him?

David Mack: Yes.

SJDO: Thanks David for your time. Any famous last words?

David Mack: I'd like to remind readers that all the Kabuki stories are collected in paperback and hardcover. If you have a chance, it will be rewarding to read them before Kabuki: The Alchemy ships in January. Metamorphosis is my favorite as it is probably the best presentation of my work in comic books. Each of the Kabuki books fits in continuity and builds on the previous story, but each book is also it's owned self contained story, with it's own unique art style and storytelling tone that contrasts to the others. So you can start with any of them. Here is a list of the Kabuki books:
Vol. 1- Circle of Blood (272 p)
Vol. 2- Dreams (128 p)
Vol. 3- Masks of the Noh (128 p)
Vol. 4- Skin Deep (128 p)
Vol. 5- Metamorphosis (288 p)
Vol. 6- Scarab (288 p)
      Those who read Kabuki or want to try it are welcome to give me feedback on it or my Daredevil work at my Kabuki message board at wfcomics.com or at my site at davidmack.net. These sites have news and info and offer prints, original art, trades and back issues, and links to all of the other Kabuki fan sites.

Home DVD Info-rama! Contact Us!!


Interview with David Mack

It originally ran in Xray Magazine, a monthly magazine published in the Cincinnati area. It concerns some things not usually covered in his comics interviews - the places he frequents around town.

David Mack is a writer, painter, sculptor, and toy designer. But his main focus is comic books, where he is one of the rare artists in any medium who enjoys as much popular success as critical acclaim in his field. He is the creator, writer, and artist of Kabuki, a comic book he has been producing for over ten years now. The new series is Kabuki: The Alchemy, which is coming out this Spring.

I sat down with Mack to ask him what some of his favorite places are in the greater Cincinnati area.

Describe for me what your typical day is like.

When I'm working on a Daredevil book like I just did, the past two or three weeks I was finishing something so a quickening process happens. I start sleeping in two or three hour shifts and working for twelve hours straight: painting, collaging, lettering, writing, or making stuff.

With no rhyme or reason as to daylight, nighttime?

Right. That's all a suprise to me. That's just my collaboration with reality.

Kinko's

So you spend these 12-hour days drawing. How long does production on the book take?

By production you mean...?

How much time do you spend down at Kinko's?

I spend a lot of my time making stuff here. I'll go to Kinko's and I'll reduce it to comic book size because I do it at twice the size. I make little mock-up comic books so I can see how it looks and then it gives me a new idea of how I might change things around. Or sometimes I'll paint things large and do some collage and reductions of it. It gives me a new perspective. I take all the pages and spread them out and ask the people at Kinko's what they think.

We're talking several hours at least?

Sometimes, yeah.

Generally in the middle of the night.

Yeah, usually at night.

How often do you go down there?

No regular schedule. Sometimes three or four days in a row, sometimes it might be once a month. Usually I don't go there until I've got a certain amount of work done. Then I go with the comic and lock it up.

What do you send to Marvel and Image [his publishers]? Do you send digital files or original art?

We used to send original art and now we send digital files.

So you just send them a disc?

Yeah, now we send them a disc.

Comic Book World

We should talk about Comic Book World.

Comic Book World is a store that has three locations: Cincinnati, Florence of Turfway Road, and they also have a store in Louisville, which is their newest one. It was opened in June of 1991 and I was the guest creator signing on the day of their opening.

Wow.

But I've only signed there a couple times. Mostly I sign at the Turfway Florence one, which is the store that is my regular comic book store. A store that I went to since I was a kid. I was probably 10 or 11 when I started going there. Paul Mullins runs it and he makes sure to have a complete stock of Kabuki, my own comic, and all my other Daredevil comic book work for Marvel. You can go there and just say "David Mack work," and he'll show you all of it.

In fact they have a separate display for you, a bookstore endcap as we say in the retail world.

I like how you put that. "A bookstore endcap." It's a very clean store with a lot of helpful people in it. A really good store to go to.

You have a good relationship with Paul?

Great relationship with him. I showed him my artwork when I was 15 or 16, when I started doing comic book stuff. He was always very encouraging, and he's always been encouraging as I've sort of climbed the ranks. Paul has always supported my books. Call 'em up, tell 'em David Mack said hello. And they'll give you a special... expression. [laughs]

Base Art Gallery and Essex Studios Group

Excellent. Why don't you tell me a little about Base Art Gallery and Essex Art Studios?

Anh and I were going to St. Theresa's Textile Trove, and it was closed that day. As we walked back to the car, we passed something called the Base Gallery. It had really interesting art. We looked inside the window and saw really beautiful paintings. A guy turned on the lights and ushered us in. His name was Tom Weast and he did the paintings that were on display. He was very nice and told us about the gallery. He was displaying many other peoples's artwork, and there were five pieces that I recognized.

Really?

I recognized the artist's work cause I'd seen this artist drawing at Union Terminal. It's a guy who dresses as a clown and people used to call him the Construction Clown cause he wore a construction hat and had a big toolbox and clown suit and always used to hang around construction sites. In Union Terminal I saw him open up his toolbox, which was full of drawing materials, and draw pictures. I talked to him and asked him if I could buy some of his artwork, but he seemed kind of shy. That was ten years ago and when I saw these images at the Base Gallery I recognized them so I brought them up to Tom. Tom told me about him so I ended up buying three of this guy's pieces.

What is the artist's name?

This man whose paintings I bought is named Raymond Thunder Sky.

How about Essex?

Essex Studios had a Halloween party and they invited myself and my girlfriend. I met the artist [Thunder Sky] and many other amazing artists. Antonio Adams is another one. I really enjoyed the whole vibe of people making art there. They had a staff meeting and they asked me to join in and be a part of it. Anh wants to be part of it so it looks like we'll be involved in a purely philanthropic basis. All the artists there seemed have a great time and to be actualizing themselves through there art, opening up and learning things about themselves and I got to view the world through their art.

It was a way for them to meet people which in a way is the same for me with my art.

What would you consider outsider art?

Outsider art is art generally from people who haven't had formal art training. They often work in a vaccuum from other art circles or society in general. It might be because of geographical location. They might live in a certain area where they don't travel to more metropolitan places and see other kinds of art. Or some of the artists might have disabilities or some may just not get out of the house much. But they have a certain style all their own and they just constantly develop their own work without interacting or being influenced by other art. So it's art they developed completely on their own and in their own way.

That can be pretty exciting?

Yeah, because it's unique and specific to that individual. It's usually not someone who was inspired by TV or inspired by other kinds of artists. Their own unique vision comes out of their personal art-making and what motivates them and what their interests are.

Riverside Korean

We talked last time about some restaurants in the area that you frequent. Why don't you tell me a little about Riverside Korean?

It's on Madison Ave right next to the Army store, up the street from the Covington library. I love Korean food. We eat in the restaurant which has fantastic atmosphere and great service. We also get it to-go a lot too.

How does Korean cuisine differ from other Asian cuisine?

It's very different. It's completely its own, and one of the things that I love about it is that no matter which entree you order, they give you all these different side dishes with Korean vegetables. You might have Kim Chee, which is a cabage that's fermented with different spices, roots similar to potatoes, different kinds of greens, sesame and different spices on it, bean sprouts. All these different things made different ways. My favorite is the hot clay pot Bi Bim Bop and the Boo Goh Gi.

CAC

I wanted to ask you about the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) because they just opened with a whole new design.

It was designed by architect Zaha Hadid, and I was there on opening night.

So what did you think of it?

I love it. I loved everything in it and I had a great time. We spent a lot of time there. My favorite part was when I played a miniature piano-organ. And there were many pillows in the form of leaves. I jumped on them and did flips and threw the pillows at other people jumping on them. It was incredible, there was a lot of interaction.

It was like an adult playpen?

That's the way I looked at it.

You didn't damage any of the art, did you?

I did not damage the art but it spoke to me and I communicated with it.

It said, "Jump on me."

It did. It called me and I answered.

Were there any specific artists that caught your eye?

Yeah, lots of it was very memorable. I don't remember all of the names but I took many photographs, often of myself with the things. There were many mannequins with different clothes and we stood with them like we were mannequins and took photos.

Did you swap out your clothes with the clothes the mannequins were wearing and really mix it up?

No, I didn't have underwear on, so I limited it to just taking photos of the clothes I was wearing.

Tastefully so.

Yeah, there were other people in there. They smiled at us taking pictures with the mannequins but they might not have taken as kindly to clothes-swapping.

It sounds like the CAC had a lot of media.

They had photos, films, very interactive meat suits. It was really helpful for me. It was such a great time.

You drew some inspiration from your visit?

I was inspired, yeah.

Did you come home and go right to work?

I went home and made a meat suit. [They laugh.] Of Bul Goh Gi beef and ate while I worked.

You ate your suit while you wore it.

I ate my suit with no underwear on while I did my work.

Did each bite provide another morsel of inspiration?

It was incredible, yeah. The great thing was that once you put a meat suit on and eat it, you don't actually gain weight.

Really?

Yeah. Because you weigh the same whether it's inside your stomach or hanging on your body. It's a great way to trick yourself.

Oh, excellent. I wonder how many calories are in a meat suit. Does it go above the FDA's recommended daily allowance of protein?

Yeah, it's for over-achievers. [They laugh.]

Closson's

Are there any other places you wanted to mention?

Yeah, I should mention Closson's. I went to the gallery opening of their objective / non-objective show. It was very delightful. Phyllis Weston, who was managing Closson's, was very kind to me and gave me a personal tour.

What does the name of the show mean?

Objective means that there's an image that represents something, and non-objective means that it's not representing any physical thing that exists in the material world. And so both those kinds of works were there. Phyllis expressed interest in showing my art there in the future and she had a great idea for it which I won't disclose until she's ready to advertise the show.

How about a hint for our Xray readers?

[Mack laughs.] When I hear something, to promote it I'll give you guys first dibs. This way you get a tease and then you get a follow-up tease. A double whammy.


David Mack Speaks on Kabuki
By Mike Storniolo

David Mack is considered by some to be a creative dynamo in the comics industry, unleashing ground breaking work on books such as Daredevil and his creator owned book, Kabuki. With over twelve years spent professionally in the comic industry and more graphic novels than you can count, Mack has grown a large fan base and garnered acclaim from all parts of the world. Mack’s innovative take on bringing together storytelling, drawing, painting and other artistic techniques in the comics medium and constantly exploring new areas. In 2004, along with Brian Michael Bendis, he formed the creator owned Icon imprint at Marvel comics, bringing over his long running Kabuki title for its latest series, The Alchemy.

MIKE STORNIOLO: Who are some of your inspirations from comics, literature, fine art, movies?

DAVID MACK: When I was a kid, it was really Frank Miller that made me see so much potential in the role of the storyteller in comics. I read my first Daredevil comic when I was 9 and I was overwhelmed. By 12 years old, I really got a sense of all the things Miller was using to tell the story and it made me want to do the same thing. From Miller, I learned about Will Eisner. And also Steranko really made an impact on me as a kid. By 20 years old, I had become great friends with Brian Michael Bendis, Andy Lee and Mike Oeming. We were all working on our art and stories and really helped to inspire and learn from each other in our early formative years.

But way before that, it was my mother’s art work that inspired me as a kid. She was a first grade teacher, and was very encouraging of my work from my earliest memories. She always had paper and pens and supplies for me to write and draw and construct things with. So I have always been writing and drawing and making things as long as I can remember being alive. There is a story about this in #4 issue of Kabuki: The Alchemy. A completely factual autobiographical story about how I began my work as a kid, from the teachings of my mother.

As far as literature, the Bible was my earliest experience, as well as some classics. And that made a big impact on me as a child. So there are some biblical and Shakespearean themes that run through my work. I didn’t have a TV until I was an adult. Nor did I have much exposure to films as a kid. So my learning from film came a bit later. And when it did, I dove into it, and got my own video camera to make my own movies with friends.

MS: Tell us a little about the upcoming Art of David Mack hardcover.
DM: This book is scheduled for 2006 from Marvel’s ICON imprint that Kabuki is published through. The Art of David Mack (Vol. 1 The Complete Kabuki covers); it is an oversized hardcover. The art book will include every single Kabuki cover ever published (over 100), oversized and free from any cover type or logos, as well as my covers from Daredevil and Alias, my covers from Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown, and additional cover paintings. It will include sketches of the covers and some step-by-step photos of the art process, as well as commentary by me and Brian Michael Bendis.

It will have 12 years of Kabuki covers, I’ve done about 20 Daredevil covers, and thirty something Alias covers, and the book will have lots of extras and sketches and discussion of my approaches and step by step to the work. I plan for it to be the first volume in a sequence of art books of mine. For more information on the Art of David Mack book go to davidmackguide.com.

MS: So for those not reading it, but that might be interested, what’s the low-down on Kabuki: The Alchemy? And for that matter, maybe, the entire Kabuki saga?

DM: The current Kabuki series from Marvel Comics, Kabuki: The Alchemy, is a brand new era in Kabuki's life. It is a great place for new readers to start because it is a brand new start for Kabuki that is very much its own story, not dependant on previous stories. You don't need to read the past to understand the primary thrust of the new story. But if you do, you will love the contrast and the oblique and subtle hints at her past. And you will see the fruition of many of the seeds planted in previous issues! Seeds that you didn't know were seeds, but now you will see them blossom into something spectacular and mind-blowing.

This era in Kabuki’s life is its own story and it is not going to recap anything from the previous stories. I've made sure that all six Kabuki volumes are in print and available in paperback and hardcover collections. So, I hope readers will use this as an opportunity to read the early Kabuki collections that have come before in preparation for this new series. But if they do not, they will still be able to begin with this story.

The new series is specifically designed to be Kabuki’s new life. And it is essentially an instruction manual on creating a NEW life, creating the life of YOUR OWN PERSONAL DREAMS AND INTERESTS that should be practical and applicable to anyone who reads it. It is a recipe and blueprint for creating your own reality, your own career, and your own fresh start. It is a spell for creating your own magic. Taking the baggage of your life and turning it into something positive and useful; turning your garbage into gold.

For readers who aren't familiar with Kabuki, here is a rundown of the series and the concept:

The first Kabuki story begins with the character called Kabuki being an operative for a government agency in Japan called the Noh. This agency polices the interdependence between the worlds of organized crime and politics and business in Japan. They are also a part of the media and each of the Noh is a sort of pop culture icon with a mask and clothing that is a variation on a form of Japanese traditional theatre. Kabuki has some personal issues stemming from the scars on her face, and she can only relate to the world through the security of her mask. The mystery of her scars unfolds as her personal issues with the death of her mother send her in a path of action that conflicts with the powers that she serves.

It is a mix of Japanese historical mythology, political intrigue, corporate espionage, and familial duty wrapped up in the retelling of the Japanese Ghost story. It is also a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. In that each of the characters in Kabuki corresponds to iconographic characters in that book and to pieces on the chessboard. Both stories are about the pawn’s journey to queen, or a child’s journey to an adult or evolved consciousness. Just as that book was a social commentary in the guise of a children’s book, Kabuki has its own themes that operate on several levels.

The story evolves as the character does in each of the succeeding volumes. Kabuki: Metamorphosis is described as this: “In an institution for renegade government agents, a horribly scarred woman faces a psychological showdown with her interrogating analyst, meets the other “defective” inmates, discovers the nature of identity, quantum physics, time, and the meaning of life. But can she escape her captors before her former comrades track her down to silence her?”

Metamorphosis is the volume that The Alchemy continues from and the paperback collection has just seen a new printing and from Image Comics. It is 288 pages on improved paper. If you like The Alchemy, I highly recommend that you get Metamorphosis. It is probably the best collected example of my work in comics.

MS: Any further Kabuki work planned once The Alchemy wraps up?

DM: I’ll continue to write Kabuki, but I like to do other projects in between each Kabuki volume. There will be a series for each of the Noh characters that gives their own story and origin like Kabuki has in the first volume.

MS: How about more Marvel work lined up?

DM: I plan to quite a bit of writing for Marvel after this Kabuki series comes to a close. I can’t discuss details at the moment, but it is something I’m very much looking forward to. I love writing for other artists. Writing Daredevil with Joe Quesada on art was an incredibly exciting adventure. And I’m looking forward to that kind of collaboration on a Marvel character again.

MS: What was the process of creating a story as massive as Kabuki like? The concept, the fine-tuning, the development of it?

DM: Kabuki was my answer to my decision to do comic books. So perhaps I should start by explaining why I chose to do comics. All my life I had made things; stories, sculptures, paintings, drawings. And I had great passion for learning and doing. I love everything, and wasn’t really interested in specializing. At a certain point in high school teachers like you to fit your interests and passions into a box that you can at least major in, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of only doing one thing to the exclusion of others. When I was sixteen I was applying for a university scholarship for art. I teacher suggested that I put together a portfolio showing ten different media that I worked in. I had photography, sculpture, oil painting, watercolor, charcoal, etc. For the tenth piece I decided that I really wanted to do something that dealt with the nature of time and sequence. I loved film, and I loved books, and the personal nature of books, and I also loved to read comic books. So I decided that for the tenth example of my work that I would make a comic. And I did. I wrote and illustrated and lettered a 55 page book for my scholarship submission. And in the process of doing that, I realized that the medium of comic books are a format that I could integrate all other mediums into. And I realized that comics were the medium I could work in, because they had no limitations, and they included and encompassed aspects of every other medium.

My work on Kabuki Began in January of 1993 when I was twenty years old; I would begin publishing Kabuki in 1994. Having decided in high school at 16 years old that I would work in the medium of comics and graphic novels, and having worked professionally for a couple years to learn the craft since the age of 18, I decided that I wanted to create a comic book in which I could incorporate all of my personal philosophies, my passion for learning, and integrate my everyday personal experiences. I loved autobiographical comics, but I was not yet comfortable with that idea. I wanted to tell personal truths but at a distance, through the unselfconscious comfort of a veil. But I did not want to fall into the trap of making the main character an idealized version of myself. So I decided that I would make all of the surface details very opposite, and that way the universal truths could shine through, and I could tell the story through metaphor. This way, instead of reading the story and seeing me, readers could find their own personal relation to the story and see themselves.

So I made the main character the opposite gender. I set the story in a different part of the world, with a different language, different history, and different culture. I was in university at the time, and I was taking the Japanese language, and learning Japanese history and mythology in my classes and in my own travels. So I used that as a framework for the story. The structure of the story is the traditional structure and metaphors of the traditional Japanese Ghost Story that is the subject of many of the Japanese Kabuki plays.

Much of the first Kabuki story is me as a 21-22 year old dealing with the death of my mother, just as Kabuki is coming to terms with the relationship and death of her mother in the story.

I knew the structure that the story would follow. So I had a skeletal outline of some of the major points very early on. And through the process of working on it, the rest came alive for me. When I was working on Kabuki: Circle of Blood, I knew the main structure of most of the other books up through Metamorphosis. But the real life of the story occurred in the process. And when I was doing Kabuki: Metamorphosis, most of the high points for Kabuki: The Alchemy occurred to me and I made notes for it then and also outlined my ideas for the next few Kabuki stories.

MS: Any work that you’d love to get a chance to do in your career?

DM: I intend to publish some children’s books, write some novels, write and direct film, and make a documentary. I’ll write books in collaboration with other artists. And I have several other creator owned ideas simmering. I love to write, and I love to draw and paint and tell stories visually, so I am really enjoying comics. I also intend to do children’s books, work in film, and to write novels without images, and also continue doing large paintings outside of the books. I love the “act” of making things; the process of it. I see the work as a verb and not a noun; an action and not a subject. So my goals have been to continue in that action. And with each and every project, I like to grow and evolve and break new ground and learn things that I have not tried before. I feel like I’m in my embryonic stage of my career, and I’m enjoying the growth of it. The more I do, the wider the possibilities seem to be. And I like that.

The more goals that I accomplish, the more goals seem to spring up in front of me, and I’m loving working in that space of continual growth and evolution. As far as Kabuki is concerned, I have many more Kabuki stories written to follow the current Alchemy storyline. And I have some other creator owned projects. One is an autobiographical comic that I’ve been working on tentatively titled “Self Portrait”.

MS: Any creators that you’d like to collaborate with?

DM: I would love to work with Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman. Artist I’d like to see draw stories I write: Alex Maleev, Mike Oeming, Andy Lee, Frank Quitely, Paul Pope, and Josh Middleton. Brian Bendis and I intend to collaborate again.

MS: It’s over a year into it Marvel’s ICON imprint already, how has that situation been working out for you so far?

<DM: It has exceeded all of our expectations. Everyone involved in the transition has been great to work with. And Bendis, Oeming and I are very grateful to our readers. Both the new ones and those that have been with us from the beginning.

MS: With the recent revelation of Echo being the one behind the Ronin mask in New Avengers, let’s talk about that real quick. How did that come to be? Any input on your part?

DM: Brian was nice enough to call ahead of time and let me know he wanted to do it. He certainly didn’t have to tell me. But it was nice that he did. And I have complete trust in his abilities. No input from me on any of it.

MS: One of the first things people will notice when they read your work is the vast diversity of styles that you implore throughout the various books; penciling, painting, textures? How did you incorporate all of these arts into comics?

DM: Each of the stories has a different atmosphere to it, so I want the art to reflect that. When doing a book, I consider myself a writer first. Story is the king. So it makes sense to me to use whatever visual look will best support and communicate that particular story. The same with storytelling rhythm and pace and format, and other graphic narrative forms and formats. I will choose a different medium or range of mediums or pace or rhythm as just another tool of the writing. The same way I choose different words or sentence structures for the dialogue. As a writer of a graphic novel or graphic medium, the many possible nuances of the artwork and visuals are another range of tools with which to convey the story.

MS: Was your art self-taught or did you attend art-school?

DM: I didn’t attend a specialized art school. I did attend a university for 5 years. I received a BFA in Graphic Design and a minor in English. So I used that as an opportunity to drink deeply of everything the university offered. And I was able to apply that into my work and ultimately enrich my stories and art by the diversity of knowledge and resources that the university made available to me. Still, ultimately, you are self taught. You only get out of any school what you put into it. And the same is true of your work. Nothing makes you a good storyteller more than actually telling stories. You just do it. The more you do it, the more skill you cultivate. You don’t become a better storyteller just by thinking about it or dreaming about it or reading about it or talking about it, or by going to school for it. All of that may be helpful, but you also have to really do it. You have to start it, and you have to finish it, and then you have to get it to your readers. And you have to make that a regular and rhythmic part of your life. Not a sporadic thing, but a constant way of life.

MS: You’ve written and drawn more than your fair share of comics over the years, is their any one job, writing or drawing, that you prefer over the other?

DM: The entire point of doing graphic novels for me, is that they are a complete integration of the writing and the art. The point of them for me is that the writing and the art of a book are indistinguishable from one another. If done right, they become the same thing. It would be very difficult for me to separate where one ends and the other begins. I love comics because I love the act of integration. I’m most happy when I am able to integrate art and action in my life.

MS: Comics have changed tremendously since the older days, and continue to change with every new day. How do you see comics changing over the next few years?

DM: I see more and more different kinds of comics becoming available, and a growing readership for all of those different kinds of books which I find very encouraging.


MS: And closing things out is there anything else you want to mention?

DM: For additionally information about my work there is a great fan site called davidmackguide.com. It is a vastly extensive site. It has all of my work on it, and you can preview the Kabuki books on it as well as find news and advance info that is updated EVERY WEEKDAY. You can also check out my own site which is davidmack.com.