Home Interviews SimplyJD.com: 10 (and a Half) Questions with David Mack
10 (and a half) Questions with...
By J.D. Lombardi
SimplyJD Online: I'd read in an interview with you where you stated that Kabuki 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
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
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
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 movie, 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.
Photo courtesy of J.D. Lombardi, taken at Wizard World East 2002.
Reprinted with the kind permission of J.D. Lombardi
Special thanks to CBR's MarZom for the influence to a couple of the
above interview questions!