Home Interviews Dynamic Forces (unpublished)
Dynamic Forces: The new Kabuki series is debuting from Marvel in July under an imprint formed for you and Brian Michael Bendis called Icon.
David Mack: Yes. Here is the news. And some clarifications. Kabuki and Powers are indeed going to begin publishing at Marvel. Powers #1 by Brian Bendis and Mike Oeming, and Kabuki #1 written and painted by me, will both debut in July through the Marvel Previews catalogue.
DF: And yet both Powers and Kabuki remain completely creator owned?
DM: Our books and all related rights remain completely and utterly ours. So Kabuki and Powers will continue with the exact same format that you are used to. No ads interupting the story, a hearty and personal letters collumn, the paperstock and production values of our choosing. There will be no change in content.
Our books are not part of the Marvel Universe, but will be published under a brand new Marvel imprint called ICON. This is a unique opportunity that offers Kabuki and Powers the best of both worlds. For the readers who have enjoyed our Marvel work, we believe that you will
find that our creator owned books such as Kabuki and Powers are everything that you would hope they are. For the readers who have been with us for years, our books will continue in the content and format that you have loved and supported in the past. The only difference is that they may be easier to find now.
DF: But all your previous Kabuki paperback and hardcover collections continue to be available thru Image Comics...
DM: Absolutley. Bendis, Oeming and I (often collectively called MOB, for Mack, Oeming, Bendis) are making this move together as friends, as we have long made decisions together like this when we first moved to Image Comics which has been our creative home for almost eight years. This is no slight to Image Comics who continue to publish fully creator owned books. We love Image Comics and all three of us continue to be a big part of Image Comics. The entire Kabuki library of the six previous Kabuki collections in paperback and hardcover are still only available from Image comics. I will continue to keep them in stock, and you can re-order them any time. The same with the Powers library. In fact, I hope a lot of new Kabuki readers will pick up all six volumes of Kabuki and Powers to read what came before, in anticipation of the new series in July.
DF: This is being promoted as a new start for Kabuki; can you offer some details on that aspect of the series?
DM: The new KABUKI series, 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. Those previous stories are Kabuki's past. There won't be any flashbacks to it. No catch up.
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.
DF: How did Kabuki begin? How much of the Kabuki canon had you envisioned from the beginning, and how much of it developed as the story went along?
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 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.
DF: For some of the Kabuki-related books, you worked with Rick Mays and other artists, didn't you? What made you decide to come back to doing full art for this project? And for that matter, how do you decide which books you write and which you write & illustrate?
DM: 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 Tigerlily 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 Tigerlily 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.
DF: For readers who aren't familiar with Kabuki, could you offer a rundown on the series and the concept?
DM: 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 it’s own themes that operate on several levels. Some are only apparent in repeat readings.
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?”
DF: Is all the earlier Kabuki material available in trade paperback now, or are there still some stories uncollected?
DM: All the Kabuki stories are collected in paperback and hardcover.
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)
DF: Speaking of the trades--am I correct in that you reworked and expanded some of the material when it was collected in trade paperback?
DM: On the earlier books, I added some extra pages in the trades and I went back and reworked some of the pages. I also include sketch pages, art process pages, pin ups, a detailed afterword and an introduction. The introductions are by: Steranko, Brian Michael Bendis, Terry Moore, Alex Ross, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Paul Pope.
DF: This is a fully painted series, right? How much of a time commitment does that demand from you? How long has the book been in production, and how far along are you in the series currently?
DM: It is fully painted. 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.
DF: Erik Larsen has said that he prefers to focus most of his efforts on his creation, Savage Dragon. You've alternated, in a way, doing some Kabuki material, then taking a break and doing other stuff, including Daredevil; do you prefer working this way rather than dealing with the same character month in and month out? Is it a creative decision, a financial one, or both?
DM: I definitely put most of my effort on Kabuki and prefer to. It is my complete outlet where I can do anything I need to do. I created it from the beginning and enjoy building on it as it grows over the years.
I have done three Daredevil arcs and the covers to the entire run of Alias. But I had already done seven years of straight Kabuki at a pretty break neck bimonthly pace before I worked on DD. After doing Kabuki straight for seven years, it was a fun switch to work in a collaborative effort with creators that I respect on a character that I read when I was a kid.
It was a creative decision. I make a comfortable living from doing just Kabuki. This is because the Kabuki collections continue to sell more and more each 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.
So I felt like it was the right time for me to stretch my creative muscles in a different way. And this did pay off in Kabuki readership as well, because readers of my DD stories began buying all of the Kabuki collections in large amounts and have stuck with the books as new Kabuki readers. Each Kabuki collection has went through several printings and continues to stay in print.
And I continued to have published Kabuki for most of the time that I worked on DD. The first DD story I wrote, I did it between issue #7 and #8 of Kabuki Metamorphosis. Then I painted the Wake Up story with Bendis while I was publishing Kabuki Scarab. Then I did the Alias covers and the Echo story after Scarab. That was all a lot of fun and a great shift in creative muscles, but now it is a joy to be back to my own creative focus with KABUKI- The Alchemy.
DF: By promoting this as a "jumping on point" for new readers, it implies to some the impression that Kabuki will be appearing more regularly from here on. Is that the case?
DM: Yes. Each issue of this story is scheduled to come out every two months. This first story arc The Alchemy will be at least eight issues. But it may end up being ten or twelve issues. And after that I will continue with the next Kabuki story arc.
DF: You've maintained pretty tight control over Kabuki thus far; have you considered inviting other creators, like Brian Bendis, to play with your toys--that is, letting others write and draw stories set in the Kabuki-verse?
DM: It has not occurred to me before. It would sort of be like asking someone else to write my autobiography. It would sort of defeat the purpose. That said, there could be room for some kind of collaboration or spot for that if the format is right for it. If it fit the nature of the overall story. I love collaborating with Brian Bendis, so I won’t say never. But as a basic rule, I intend to write all of it.
DF: There was a rumor recently that a Kabuki-Daredevil crossover project might happen at some point in the future... pipe dream or real possibility?
DM: I don’t see that happening. This is sort of the same thing for me. I’ve had many great offers for crossovers with Kabuki with many top characters. But that’s not really the way I approach my Kabuki work. I have a pretty specific personally driven story with this character. If I think something will work, who knows, but I won’t do a crossover just to do one. It would have to make a lot of sense to me. My basic policy is not to.
DF: Where do you go after The Alchemy is done?
DM: As far as Kabuki is concerned, I have many more Kabuki stories written to follow The Alchemy. I also have a series of oversized artbooks scheduled. The first of which is planned to be a collection of each and every Kabuki cover every made, complete with sketches and designs and commentary by me and Brian Bendis. And I have some other creator owned projects. One is an autobiographical comic that I’ve been working on tentatively titled Self Portrait. You can see an eight-page chapter from it in the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Tales from The Edge. 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 2004 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
· The interview was posted by David Mack to the JoeQuesada.com message board on January 14, 2005
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