David Mack Interview

Fri, February 23rd, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Keith Giles, Staff Writer

[David Mack Interview]David Mack may not be a household name, but at the rate he's working chances are pretty good that a lot more people will know his name very soon. That is, if he doesn't drop dead from exhaustion first…

As you read this, Mr. Mack is working on finishing up his writing chores on the current Daredevil series, then he'll switch to the artist chair for a team-up with Brian Bendis on that title. After this he's agreed to write and paint an Echo mini series based on the character he created writing for Daredevil. While all this is going on he somehow finds time to work on his Scarab series over at Image Comics, lend his creative input to the film production based on his own Kabuki series, paint Swamp Thing covers for Vertigo, and prepare for an upcoming, ultra-secret title for Marvel with his friend Brian Bendis!

Wait, that's not all.

David checks his list of things to do, "Other irons in the fire are.. a Kabuki story from (villain) Kai's perspective with art by my friend Andy Lee..the (ongoing) Kabuki series,…plus, some other creator-owned projects at Image, and I've been asked to do a Wolverine project. I'll be able to launch into some of these after I finish painting DD #19," he says.

Later on he mentions the Scarab Art Book he's working on, the Kabuki Dreams Hardcover, as well as a hardcover collection of all the Kabuki covers with commentary.

Does this guy ever sleep?!

David admits that this schedule is pretty busy, but he wouldn't have it any other way. "Of every month, I work for at least three weeks straight, every waking moment. I spend three weeks of complete immersion in my craft with few outside distractions. I'm completely in my own world," he says. Of course, this kind of passion can take a lot out of a person. Fortunately, Mack knows when to take a break. "I usually spend about one week a month traveling. I take care of all my social outlets, re-charge myself, refocus my creative plans, and make myself clear for new inspirations. I really like to pack this time with a lot of physical excursions. Lately my friends and I have been doing a lot of rock climbing."

However, it's on these frequent "excursions" that David finds most of his inspiration. "I wrote the basic outline to the current DD story on trains in Europe in 1998. I do a lot of writing when traveling," Mack admits. "I (also) write a lot of my work in planes. There are no distractions high above the clouds and it is a great place to focus."

So, even on his time off he's constantly working? Seems that David Mack can't get comics out of his blood. "I've specifically chosen to work in comics because I can directly apply my real life experiences into my work and funnel my interests, thoughts and passions into my own personal projects," David says. In fact, it's his personal passion that has brought him so much success. His first major step into the Comic Book arena made some serious waves. "I started Kabuki as a book that would use different art styles and mediums to fit each different storyline," David says. Kabuki: Circle Of Blood started off humbly as a black and white "indie" that quickly grew in popularity, even among some of the industries most jaded critics--Other Comic Book Artists! Everyone from Jim Steranko and Alex Ross to Bill Sienkiewicz made a point to speak out about this startling new talent found in David Mack and in Kabuki. Even Spin Magazine took the time to call it a "Dazzling collage of visual media," and from then on the phone started ringing.

[Kabuki]Image Comics began publishing Kabuki soon after Circle of Blood was completed. However, with this change in publishers came not only a new step in the life of Kabuki the series, but in David's art style and storytelling techniques.

Although David Mack's initial work on Kabuki was all in glorious black and white, his art style was soon to blossom. "I felt like the Circle of Blood story needed to be in Black and White for thematic reasons. But I was a painter before I did the black and white Kabuki, so I really had to teach myself how to work in stark flat two color black and white. It was a new challenge. It was also a lot of discipline and restraint, " he says. "Doing the Kabuki Color Special and Dreams of the Dead in color, was a burst of freedom for me. I was also able to bring my new problem solving abilities and logic that I learned from the black and white work and apply it to the color books as well."

But, of course, painting each page does take more time to complete. David even admits that what he hates most about working in the comics realm is summed up in just one word: "Deadlines. The frustrating thing is that I have to do this on some kind of schedule where I have to solicit months in advance and finish projects at a certain date. So now the artwork seems to take me longer than before, (but) as more and more vistas and paths open up, I like to try as many of them as I can," David says. "But, as a writer, who is also an artist, all the art choices tend to depend on what the story is best supported by."

David Mack is a rare animal in the world of Comics. He is a distinctive and brilliant artist who is also an equally compelling writer. Only a handful of others can handle both the art and writing chores with such eloquence and beauty. Perhaps the reason for this is found in the approach that David Mack takes to his craft. "If you pick up an issue of Kabuki, I don't think that you can really delineate where the writing ends, and the art begins. They are the same thing. They are indistinguishable. That, for me, is when comics are being what they are supposed to me, a synthesis of type and image that cannot be dissected or categorized."

Because of his vision for a complete blending of art and story, David has had to make some decisions about who he works with. "In the realm of the more mainstream comics, I would not be interested in drawing anyone else's story, " David comments. "This current DD story I'm (going to be) doing with Bendis will mark the only and last time that I ever draw a story that someone else has written. I've realized that the only reason I draw comics is in order to tell my own stories. There is no reason for me to draw it if it is not my story. Bendis wrote his (upcoming) DD story with me in mind and gave me room to add my own texture to the story. It definitely works in this case. This was a project that we did especially because we have been such good friends for a long time and really wanted to collaborate on a project that was special to both of us, both for the collaboration and for the subject matter. It is a great hybrid of our skills. But I've realized that it is not something that I am interested in ever doing again." But, he does leave room for future collaborations, of course. "That being said, Alan Moore and Frank Miller were my favorite writers when I was a kid. It would still be fascinating to collaborate with them on a project in some way."

[Daredevil]Of course, with David Mack's current workload, it's very hard to imagine any Alan Moore or Frank Miller projects on the horizon. David is resolved to use this time wisely. "I'm in the infancy of my learning as an author and as an artist," he says. "I am constantly learning. I really am a beginner at this. I feel like I am in kindergarten as far as my skill. I've only set a foundation for what I need to do. I'm at the base of the mountain and I have a long, long way to go."

In his "spare time," Mack is content to work with other new artists. "I enjoy writing for other artists such as Joe Quesada, Rick Mays, Dave Johnson, Mike Oeming, and Andrew Robinson. In fact they may be stronger at illustrating certain things than I am, so I get to write a story for them that I would not write for myself. I also love to try to push them and challenge them to go beyond their comfort zone," he admits.

Right now, the most exciting thing to David Mack is working on his own creations such as the upcoming Echo Mini-Series. "The story has unlimited visual possibilities, and I often think of how fun it will be to paint. I will probably write and paint (Echo). I'd probably want to continue writing it whether it becomes more than a mini-series or just the occasional project. I have a lot of the Echo project outlined. It will really show the diversity and fertility of the character," he says.

In spite of all the endless hours of back-breaking work that David Mack pours into his painting and writing, you can tell that he wouldn't have it any other way. "My entire life is about creating things. Creating is the meaning of life for me," he muses. "I work for myself and do only exactly what I want to do. So I have no complaints," David declares. "I am doing what I love."

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