Fans of David Mack's "Kabuki" series are familiar with the name Rick Mays, the current artist of "Kabuki Agents: Scarab," a Kabuki spin off title. For Mays it's a title that he truly loves to work on and a character that genuinely intrigues him. He still remembers the day that he got his chance to work with Mack on "Scarab.
"I met David Mack and Brian Bendis at the Mid-Ohio con, in '95," Mays told CBR News. "We immediately hit it off and were itching to do something together. I did a couple pieces for the Kabuki Color Special, later in the year. Later, David began talking about doing 'Masks of the Noh.' I was originally only supposed to do the Scarab segment of the first issue. But I enjoyed the character so much that I volunteered to work on the other issues, as well. Right around the end of Masks of the Noh, David told me that he'd been thinking of a 'Scarab' series, with me in mind for the art, and it quickly went from there."
Before this opportunity presented itself, Mays started his professional comic book career working on "Nomad" for Marvel Comics. Following that he worked at the now defunct Malibu Comics. Mays has always had a desire to create art, but his first expressions of art came from the world of music while attending a performing arts high school. A guitar major in the music department the faculty urged him to take a minor in art. Following high school he attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. What he learned at the Art Institute he began applying to comics. "My teachers were generally indifferent," said Mays. "So, eventually, I was cutting class all the time and going to the library. I'd go through magazines and sit and draw and try to find my own style. Maybe, I was kind of a dumb kid."
It wasn't until after this training that Mays found his real inspiration. "For the bulk of my real training, I have to credit my time in Gaijin Studios," said Mays. "I went there because Adam Hughes was (and is) my biggest American comic hero. I learned a lot from Adam. But I also learned a lot from Brian Stelfreeze. I didn't learn anything there that I don't find constantly useful, now. I wonder what kind of artist I'd be today, if I'd happened across that kind of training when I was younger."
From those simple beginnings, Mays managed to rack up a long list of projects. "I did a series of New Titans issues for DC comics. Also, various backup stories in Titans Annuals and Secret Files and some stuff for Milk Magazine, which is owned by DC," said Mays. "I had unwittingly somehow become rather closely associated with the Arsenal character. I did a bunch of pinups and cards, for Wildstorm. I had some work in a Japanese Dojin book (produced by Kenichi Sonoda, of Gunsmith Cats), only released in Japan. I did a number of pinups and stories for Penthouse comics. I did a Jackie Chan piece for Premiere Magazine. I did a Savage Dragon two part mini called Sex & Violence. I did a story with David (Mack), in a Vampirella special and, of course, Masks of the Noh. I guess, then came the Arsenal mini and Scarab."
Now that Mays is working on "Scarab" you'd think he'd take the time to focus on the one title. Not so. "I'm doing 'Gen13' issues 70 and 75, with Adam Warren. Adam and I, and Ryan Kinnaird, also have a proposal in for a Gen-13/Dirty Pair crossover," said Mays. "I'm doing 1 or 2 issues of 'Marvel Team-Up' with Spider-Man & Master of Kung-Fu, written by Brian Bendis. I think David (Mack) is tied into this, too. Also, David and I are finally assembling the Scarab Art Book and making plans for the upcoming Tigerlilly series."
As if this weren't more than enough, Rick has been in talks to return to DC Comics for a fairly high profile project. "[DC Editor] Eddie Berganza has been throwing the word Superman at me, for a long time now," said Mays. "But Nothing on that, as of yet. Eddie was wanting to get Devin Grayson and I together again, for a Superman/Arsenal thing. That's been getting thrown around, verbally, for a couple years, now. Eddie says he's waiting on Devin. But, who knows? Also, they've approached Adam Warren to do a Superman/Dirty Pair project. Adam's talking to them about writing such a project, with me drawing it. I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to be discussing it, now that I think about it!"
Still, the same titles and characters that interest the typical comic book artist aren't necessarily the ones that inspire Mays. "There are some characters that I might choose to pursue, but my interests lean more towards video games and more obscure Japanese stuff. I know, I'm bad. Besides, I have characters and stories of my own that I want to produce."
Mays has a keen interest in titles and characters that are a little left of center, and his art style is inspired by a variety of mediums. "I get most of my inspiration from movies, video games, the works of my own favorite comic artists, and lastly, people outside of comics who inspire me," said Mays. "Sometimes, I'll get really juiced by the way a certain scene was filmed or choreographed, or by a face or a curve, or the texture of skin. At any rate, for comics, I think I'm coming from kind of strange direction. Often, if I'm moved to feel something, then I want to express myself so as to move others, similarly, or at least, make it clear what I was feeling at the time.
"Toward the end of the series, the look of the Scarab books started to change, a little. That was the result of my fiance's influence on my life and having actually been to Japan."
The Japanese influence on Mays work is not hard to see. "There are small things that I came away with from a lot of people. Mah Winh Shing - that's probably a misspelling, but he's a HUGE influence, and whoever that guy is that does the character designs for Square ('Final Fantasy' 8 and 10, 'Parasite Eve'). I love that guy," said Mays. "(Also) Masakazu Katsura ('Video Girl AI' and 'DNA2'), Tatsuya Egawa ('Golden Boy' and 'Tokyo University Story'), Masanori Morita ('Rokudenashi Blues'), Adam Hughes, some works by Ryoichi Ikegami, specifically, 'Mai the Psychic Girl' and the first two volumes of 'Crying Freeman.'"
If there's a mantra that Mays lives and works by it's focus and determination. "I try to bring something special to any characters and titles that I work on. I always want to make the best of any opportunity to do well by a project."
Even though David Mack's Kabuki is enjoying a revival of sorts lately as fans of his Daredevil work seek out more of his creations, Scarab hasn't yet experienced that same swell of popularity. "There are some books that are doing pretty well," said Mays. "But there are so many that aren't. I wish that the industry was doing really well, like at the beginning of the '90s. I'm extremely happy about the way things are going for the non-spandex comic, though, in some cases, Spandex-clad femmes are a lot of fun to draw. I like crime fiction and action stories, personally. However, I don't want to see these types of titles replace superhero comics. I would really like it if there was enough interest and revenue, so that everyone could be satisfied. To me, there seems no reason that superhero comic fans, Vertigo-esque comic fans, crime fiction fans, and manga/anime fans shouldn't have the same ease in finding what they want."
It may sound like a cliché, but for artist Rick Mays, comics really are his life. "Nowadays," said Mays, "I don't get out much. There's no real discernable difference between Monday and Saturday, for me. I get up at about 1 or 2 pm. and start working. I go to bed at about 6:00 or 7:00 am. I eat. I go lift at the gym. But other than that, everyday's pretty much the same. I've been pretty much concentrating on work, because of my rather complex marriage plans (my fiance lives in Japan). So all I can really say is that a week for me is just another week of work, hoping to get more pages done than I did the previous week."
Mays spends a great deal of time with his art. In fact, if he wasn't drawing he's not sure what he'd be doing. "Maybe doing storyboards for film," says May. "Maybe pumping gas or doing oil changes. Who knows, because of where I live, maybe I'd be trying to act. Oh GOD!."
What keeps Mays going is one simple aspiration. "The chance that, perhaps, someone could draw the same excitement and inspiration (from my art) that I've derived from my favorite artists.,"
His advice to the next wave of Artists hoping to enter the world of professional comics is a strong work ethic. "Persistence pays," said Mays. "Try to base what you draw on your own interpretation of what you see. Not the way your favorite artist drew what you see. That's a difficult thing for some young, and some not so young, artists to get out of."