Welcome to my new interview series 10 EMAILS. There are lots interesting media types out there I would love to have a chat with and this is my opportunity to do that and post our unedited transcripts.
My first installment is a real treat! I chatted up Mike Allred, an incredibly sought after comic book artist and graphic designer. Allred has worked with everyone!!, and his creation MADMAN is bring bought to the big screen by Hollywood heavyweight Robert Rodriguez.
Allred is also know for his run on X-Force / X-Statix at Marvel and adapting the Book of Mormon into comic book form with The Golden Plates. So sit back, relax and enjoy!
I noticed when you agreed to do this interview, you replied via an I-Pad. You have been drawing comics for over 20 years, has the technology in creating comics changed for you?
Big time! Our first Mac when Laura started doing all the color separations was the biggest step, and we finally have the tech working for us instead of the other way round.
When you tackle different projects say drawing Madman & the Atomics vs. inking Catwoman, is different technology used?
Meaning, is their one title you will only use pencil and ink for the whole process and another you or Laura will computer color, etc. Or do you have one approach and like to stick to it?
I prefer to get as much organically on the art board as possible on every project.
Graphite, washes, tones, rendering.
Laura then adds her keen color sense to the mix and voila!
Members of the music industry are often scared that the internet is stealing their revenue with illegal downloads. Comic book scans are beginning to pop up on illegal download sites more and more, do you think this will have a large impact on the comic industry?
Marvel has already begun to offer a digital comic service for people like yourself with an I-Pad. For a flat fee, around $60 I believe, you will get all the titles Marvel offers for a year in a digital form. Is this a good thing? Or will you always need to be able to smell the dusty pages of an old comic book in your hand? Do you think this will this have a major effect on how creators develop their comics?
I prefer the feel and smell of paper. A tangible object. Hopefully there will always be enough folks like me who feel the same way.
Music is still done basically the same. And there are still hold outs to old school techniques and formats, even a resurgence of vinyl records. But digital has bridged the access gap for all artists who in the past needed a record company or publisher to bless them in order to enjoy success.
The indy movement has helped all artists and has even made corporations "honest" to a large degree.
I've seen musicians and illustrators embrace technology. It's a wash really.
Ultimately, good work is celebrated and supported. If revenue dries up? Things could get slim.
In the meantime, I'll remain optimistic
You mention: "The indy movement has helped all artists and has even made corporations "honest" to a large degree."
Does this statement have anything to do with or relate to your decision to produce a title at Marvel namely your work on X-Force and X-Statix, as well as moving Madman from Dark Horse to Image. Or were their other factors involved and simply they just made the right offers at the right time for you to transition to those publishers? Such as Erik Larson becoming Publisher at Image, or having the oppurtunity to work with Peter Milligan at Marvel?
You pretty much summed it up.
But there are multiple factors in why I've published where and when I have.
For instance, at Dark Horse my great friend, Bob Schreck left to form Oni Press, and then his replacement, my best pal, Jamie S. Rich left to join him at Oni. This got me interested in forming my own publishing entity, AAA POP. Jamie has been my editor on all my indy stuff ever since.
Diana Schutz is still at Dark Horse as well as other great friends and colleagues, including Mike Richardson, Mike Mignola, Gerard Way, and Eric Powell, who make it still a very very attractive place to be published. If Bob and Jamie never left, or if I was given Diana to edit my books earlier, Madman and Co. might possibly still be there. But I always feel the need to challenge myself and stretch, and self-publishing was something I had to give a go.
With very few exceptions, I've always enjoyed my publisher/creator relationships, and hope they've all enjoyed working with me.
But moving on, I have great respect, fondness, and admiration for Erik Larsen at Image who pointed out that I would have absolute control with them while having their entire excellent team working with me. Essentially self-publishing but without all the administrative headaches. So, I found a very groovy chemistry there for my Madman/ Atomics/Snap City stuff. And Image's success, being started by creators is a perfect example of keeping the big boys honest. As long as there are fair outlets for artists, the old sweat shop days and unfair profit sharing should hopefully be buried in the past.
When I work on a "big Two" book, like an "X" book with Marvel, I go in with eyes open and great enthusiasm.
But on every project my first thought is to who I'm working with, will I enjoy it, will others, and will it allow me to progress on some level.
I don't regret any project. In fact, I have enormous affection and gratitude for almost everything and everyone I've worked with. Everything has brought me to where I am and have been. "My Happy place!"
If I came into the biz years earlier before those who "fought the good fight" laid out a solid path for me to follow, my attitude might be different. I'm very aware how fortunate I've been, and don't want to ever take anything for granted.
It seems your happy place in the industry finds you surrounded by your family. Your wife Laura has been your colorist for some time and now your son Han is following in his family's footsteps. I'm sure growing up having a name like Han is cool for any child star wars fans, but honestly did any other members of your family or your peers question the name? Or is it a traditional Mormon name :)
Did Han always have an interest in art and the family trade or were you worried he might end up a dentist or firefighter?
Hah! Everyone questioned all our childrens names. But being named Michael along with half of my class growing up, always wanted my kids to have special names, which they love by the way.
The kids all have their own unique interests to, in addition to "the arts".
There is a huge trend right now in Hollywood of making comic book movies. With all that can be done with computer and special effects, an audience can really be transported to another world. The film industry has also come along way in terms of taking the source material seriously. I mean just compare Batman Forever and Batman & Robin to Batman Begins and the Dark Knight.
And sure some comic book films look great, but they seem to be lacking depth and emotion. OR you have something like Spider-Man 3 where you have Venom just thrown in, because market research shows the kids love the Venom!
What are your biggest fears if/when characters and universes you've created make the jump to the silver screen?
I don't allow myself the luxury of worry.
The main reason I've stuck with Robert Rodriguez so long is my confidence that he'll ensure my vision being on the screen. And no one I know of has more control of what they create.
I'm not sure how much you can talk about this topic so feel free to tell me you cant comment.
I did a little wikipedia reseach and it says there Mr. Rodriguez has owned the rights to the Madman film since 1998, and you have teased fans saying the lead role has been cast.
How far along is the film? You seem like a great pairing but also extremely busy and sought after creators. Is Madman the movie on the horizon, and without giving anything away, what can we expect?
We have a screenplay that I co-wrote with george Huang. Very very happy with it. It largely follows the over all plot of the first series with several latter elements accessed. It has a lot of heart, thrills, chills and slam bang-o-rama!
But we got thrown back with the writer's strike.
So our casting is in limbo, pretty much square one. Now mostly scheduling concerns with Dimension.
But, as Robert says, it'll happen. The patience I've learned through this process may now be my greatest virtue. I continue to make the most of every day and remain hopeful that when it happens it'll be the best movie possible.
But most of all I've learned how important the comic book medium is to me and value it with complete awe and passion.
I mean, I could be wrong, but I don't remember seeing Spy Kids underwear and swarms of toys. Was one of your fears always an over exposure of your characters once you made the jump to the big screen? Does the prospect of burger king toys and pajamas scare or excite you?
More toys the better. Always always loved toys, tie-INS, and the like.
I did artwork for the Spy Kids happy meal bag by the by. There was some cool spy gear for kids that came out with the second movie.
See, I didn't even know any of that haha
I'm sure working in the comic field deadlines are always a factor. From cover to cover roughly how long do you spend drawing an issue? And once you finish a comics how long does it take from being finished at your desk to being in a store?
On average it takes me a full month to do a book.
Some issues have taken three weeks. Some six.
On average I'd say three months from completion to the shop shelves.
So I have to ask, aside from the Madman movie, whats next? Any big mind blowing projects? Are their any characters you have not gotten to work with that you hope to in the future?
Axel Alonso keeps talking about Peter Milligan and I doing an X-Statix mini-series. But that'll be a ways off.
It's all about I, ZOMBIE and my Madman projects for the foreseeable future.
I know you are a big fan of music, what stuff have you been checking / rocking out to out lately?
I try to spend as much time with pals the Dandy Warhols for any possibility of hearing new stuff, their label mates, 1776, are amazing! Got an advance of their debut which I highly recommend. Big into Grizzly Bear, looking forward to a new Arcade Fire disk, and dig the new MGMT album big time!
Well Mike, its the tenth email, I want to thank you so much for your time and responses, I'm really glad you made the effort to chat with me. Thanks again and if you want to send a promo image of yourself or madman for use in the interview let me know. best wishes for the future.