LM: In Kabuki #5, you spoke through Akemi and talked a great deal about how receiving credit should not be the ends to which your art works. While "Kabuki" and your forthcoming autobiographical work ("Self Portraits," you called it?) are without a doubt very personal stories, and your connection to them is in some ways almost as important as the stories themselves, have you considered doing future stories released under the Creative Commons license? Some known creators, such as science-fiction author Cory Doctorow and musician Jonathan Coulton, have in fact received greater publicity and paying audiences through their online use of the license and their wide-ranging permission to their fans to create their own works based on what they create.
DM: No, but I'm doing quite a lot of work behind the scenes as well. I enjoy being a connector and catalyst as well as making my own work with or without my name on it. Have you read The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell?
LM: When we're first starting out in any creative field, whether in our youth or in a late-found love for a particular medium, it's hard to avoid working in the style of, or even with the ideas of, our favorite creators. As we become more confident, we inevitably find our own voice, and become more comfortable in our own skin and thus with our own ideas and characters. What's your personal view with regards to the singularly massive fan community online, that seems at times to create more (be it of exceedingly variable quality) in a month than the commercial field does in a year, in art, narrative, music, and even things undefinable in new media? How does it feel as well, as a creator of note, to know that some of them are creating fanworks for their own benefit, and on occasion minor popularity within their own fan communities, based on your work?
DM: I'm not really in touch with a massive fan community creating that much work based on others characters.
Although I very much enjoy the KABUKI FAN ART THREAD here.
As far as the first part about being in the shadow of our influences, I've kind of always thought you have to do hundreds of pages and works first just to work those influences through your system until you get to yourself and your way of doing things. So just do hundreds of pages just knowing that you are excercising things and it eventually gets you to yourself and peels away the parts of the external that are not you.
LM: The "Kabuki" story is already into its seventh volume and features hundreds of pages, and it's been many years since you've begun. There is, however, clearly a lot further that you want to take us within it - if nothing else, the promise of volumes based on each of the remaining Agents of the Noh implies years more worth of stories to come. Comics have had long epics before, but many of the stories either wind up being tales of combustion, or in one of the rare Western successes - Sim and Gerhard's "Cerebus" - the story was so different at the end from what it began as that much of their audience was no longer present. You're a pretty young guy to be as accomplished (to say nothing of talented!) as you are, but is this something that ever concerns you? Do you ever fear not getting a chance to finish Ukiko's saga - or fear perhaps even finding your interest wane? And do you see yourself, with regards to this one series, on a relatively set course, or do you think its evolution over time is uncontrollable?
DM: I don't worry about any of that. I enjoy making things. I always naturally intended for there to be evolution in the Kabuki story. For each volume to be about something different. And a different era in the characters life. And to tell it in a different way and invent different storytelling styles for each one. That was one of the main points of interest for me in doing it. A book ABOUT that natural evolution of character.
LM: Given your love of Eastern art and culture, and Manga's predominance in the comics industry in the last few years with no sign of abatement, and with a growing economical argument against the "issue" format, have you ever considered doing work not necessarily in the style of Manga or Manwha, but in that format? "Kabuki" might not be anything like any other Western comic on shelves today, but in format it's still a very Western product, with 20+ page single issues collected into large trade paperbacks later on. While printing concerns might negate the possibility of, say, releasing your painted work on smaller pages, I'm sure that a book you created to be released in that format - or even a release of a book that features more "traditional" art like "Agents: Scarab" - would do well amongst an audience that might not currently know about the title. A similar question could be asked about the webcomic format, as its audience grows and its content matures even as it becomes more financially feasible to work in that way (James Kochalka has said that one of his most successful works is the subscriber-only online release of his "American Elf" journal comic).
DM: I'm open to trying all different kinds of formats. Looking forward to more and more of that. The right format for a story project.
LM: You have an incredibly loyal fanbase - and justifiably so, as your work deserves that and more. However, as the comics industry becomes increasingly more fractured, in-roads like mainstream press coverage of the medium (which tends to cover an insular group of creators who focus on an atmosphere of desperation and ennui) and other, newer markets (who prefer to stick to their Manga / webcomics / Goth-themed books / old-school superheroics sans metafiction or deconstruction / et al), it does seem at times like the book isn't reaching everyone who'd enjoy it or appreciate it. While your fans certainly do everything they can to spread the word, why do you think a book as well-done and as all-encompassing as this isn't much bigger than it is?
DM: I do think there are a lot more people out there that would enjoy Kabuki than know about it. One of the main things I hear from Kabuki readers, is that they don't read comics, and Kabuki is a comic that brought them into comics or is the only one they read.
So apparently the bulk of my would be readers, are not comic readers already. Weird to do a comic book when my demographic is not comic book readers. So that has been a unique challenge from the beginning.
So far, readers have been able to find the book. And the book finds readers. But I agree that it is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the potential audience that would have an interest in the subject matter. Perhaps having it in bookstores will help. And people reading The Shy Creatures in bookstores and then finding Kabuki after that could help too. As would having a good Kabuki film that would bring readers to the book. I think there are many other avenues to bring readers to the book and I am open to any of your suggestions. Again, The Tipping Point book has some insight on this.