David Mack Channels Dr. Seuss in "The Shy Creatures"

Wed, October 17th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Alex Dueben, Staff Writer

"The Shy Creatures" by David Mack on sale now
People know David Mack as the writer and artist behind his creator-owned series "Kabuki" and for his writing on Marvel Comics' "Daredevil." Last month saw the release of "The Shy Creatures," a decidedly different project from the celebrated author. "The Shy Creatures" is a children's picture book written and drawn by Mack, who has adapted his illustrative style in this book to be less a multimedia collage and a bit more like Dr. Seuss. CBR News spoke with Mack to get details of this different side to the creator.

The story first appeared in "Kabuki: Alchemy" #1 as subtext. "It was this whimsical, kids view of the surface story," Mack told CBR News. "It was just an element of the story, but I realized that the story could work on its own. I also liked the idea of having the actual book existing as an artifact separate from the story."

Children's literature has been a recurring theme in "Kabuki," but this is the first time Mack actually completed one of the fictional works mentioned in the series. "I had completed the book and asked my agent to show it around to children's book publishers and one of them wanted it," Mack explained.

About the Seussian style, Mack said it was an intentional choice made when the book was an element in "Kabuki." "I wanted to work in brush and ink, which gives it a spontaneous look, to contrast with the book," said Mack.

Page from "The Shy Creatures"
Mack had completed all the work on "The Shy Creatures" prior to finding a publisher, but once he signed with Feiwel & Friends, his editor Liz Szabla helped streamline the publication. "We went through the book line by line," said Mack. "It doesn't seem like it, but the story in 'Kabuki' was really long, close to 60 pages, and the book is 48 pages, which is fairly long for a picture book, but they agreed to it."

It was a lot of effort to condense the book, but Mack enjoyed the process of working with an editor and learning about children's books. "It requires a very direct, distilled and concentrated language," he said. "Part of what I learned was how to tweak the language, how to think about the syntax and the space."

Mack said he's definitely interested in making more children's books, and admits it's possible they may see print in future issues of "Kabuki." "In the long term, I have sequels planned with the shy girl in this book, other adventures with other creatures. But before I do that I'm going to make another book in a completely different style.

Page from "The Shy Creatures"
"I was pretty choosy with how much children's literature was going to be included in the current ['Kabuki'] story arc. Originally, I had glimpses of many books included and then I shortened it to just the one."

As far as his relationship with Marvel, Mack said he's having a great time publishing "Kabuki" under the ICON imprint, working closely with Jeff Youngquist in Production and David Gabriel in Sales. But while he's publishing through Icon, it doesn't mean readers should expect a Kabuki-Marvel crosover any time soon. "I've been doing this for fifteen years and I've been asked, but I've never done a crossover," said Mack. "In a way there are cameo crossovers with 'Powers' where it doesn't mean a lot, but if you know the characters you get a kick out of it."

As for other projects, "Alchemy of Art: David Mack," a documentary that provides an intimate look at Mack's work, was released earlier this year. Mack was very pleased with the final result, saying, "They came and filmed me working. I saw some rough cuts and gave them advice. Most of my advice was less of me, more of the work."

Page from "The Shy Creatures"
"As for the future of "Kabuki," Mack revealed that issue #9 of the series will conclude the "Alchemy" storyline, which will be released in hardcover form next year. "All the collections are still in print at Image Comics," Mack confirmed. "We've talked about releasing an omnibus hardcover of the series. Or maybe two or three, because it's a lot."

One of Mack's signatures with "Kabuki" has been its unpredictability. Readers are never sure how the story he's crafted will end, and they're also rarely certain how long it will last. "I like unpredictable work where you're not sure where it's going," said Mack. "They say people are either right brain or left brain, but I like using both my intuitive and my academic sides. I think each one can benefit from the other. A lot of the time I'll be consciously thinking of something, but leaving the room for my unconscious to work its magic."

Mack's a regular feature at conventions around the nation, attending one almost every month of the year and enjoying the feedback he gets from his readers. "It's great to listen to people's interpretations of your work," Mack said. "How people see it differently that you thought about it, see the material in ways you never saw and that can suggest new ways to approach the work and think about it."

Page from "The Shy Creatures"
Getting back to "The Shy Creatures," Mack's been pleasantly surprised by how well the book has sold. "This has been my bestselling book at conventions," the author confirmed. "People who know my work pick it up. People who have never heard of me and my work pick it up. It crosses over more demographics than any of my other books. I sell out of it at the shows. All I know so far, because it just came out, are the initial orders. They're expecting a spike next month because of reorders and Halloween, which hadn't occurred to me. All I really know about the numbers is my own experience at my tables and this has sold ten times better than anything else."

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