Second of three parts…
Writer, artist and genuinely nice guy David Mack talked with us about his Kabuki Library Edition Vol. 3 — out now — as well as his work on Fight Club 2 and everything else that he’s got going on these days, including Jessica Jones and work with Amanda Palmer and Vincent D’Onofrio. We checked in on David a year ago, so if you missed those, click here and here. For PART 1 of this latest interview, click here.
By G.D. KENNEDY
Trying to pin down exactly what David Mack is doing at any one time is difficult, because there never is doing just any one thing. He’s a writer, a comic illustrator, and a cover artist, but he’s also apparently an animator, a collaborator with an array of people from Vincent D’Onofrio to Amanda Palmer to Chuck Palahniuk (more on that in Part 3), displaying pieces in major metropolitan arts museums and, of course, globe trekking as an ambassador on behalf of the State Department, visiting refugee camps and promoting his own unique style of inspirational creativity. That David has the time to talk is nothing short of a miracle.
The third Library Edition of his Kabuki series just came out from Dark Horse (click here), and it is a stunning work, tied around David’s The Alchemy story, which, if I let my own biases creep in, is my personal favorite of the Kabuki series, a visually beautiful and thematically invigorating piece which is a motivational force in its own right. We talked to David at length about the newest Library Edition here, and in this segment we touch on the myriad other projects he has in the hopper.
G.D. Kennedy: One of the truly novel aspects of The Alchemy is that you include yourself as a character. Why incorporate yourself so directly into a story that already has a protagonist who is largely a metaphorical stand-in for you?
David Mack: There was a person that Kabuki met on a plane ride in which they had a plane ride conversation. Up in the air in the conversations of plane rides, often where I write, there can be an odd overlapping of worlds and conversations and points of view.
I’ve experienced it quite a bit in life. It happened organically and namelessly in that chapter and scene and it underscored some themes of that scene and conversation… and laid the groundwork for a kind of Mobius strip structure for the story at the end.
G.D.: Having spent so much time with Kabuki recently, has this spurred any thoughts o where Kabuki has to go from here or if there is anywhere further for her to go?
David: I have notes and outlines for future stories that I had imagined. I could continue with these characters very easily and joyfully. Like I did with the new story in the launch of Dark Horse Presents #1 (included in Kabuki Library Edition Vol. 3).
But these are four Kabuki Library Editions. Each with 400 to 416 pages. Over 1,600 pages. That’s a large body of work for this character and world. As much as I love doing it, I feel I should also work on some of my other creator-owned stories as well. Probably getting those out before doing another Kabuki. … But yeah, It will be really fun to do another Kabuki. And every time I look at my notes and outlines and stories, the characters just move on their own and charmingly suggest the next chapters.
G.D.: The third volume of the Library Edition is principally The Alchemy, but there also is a lot of new material. Could you tell our readers a bit about some of the new works that you included in the Library Edition? Why were these works selected for inclusion in the Library Edition?
David: There are quite a lot of extras in this book.
One is the brand-new story that I did of Kabuki for the first issue of Dark Horse Presents. It really got me thinking about where the characters were and pulling out my outlines and being very playful with characters and the next movements that I had imagined for them. It felt right to include this story in this book as well.
Also included is the story I did for the multi-Eisner Award-winning Nemo: Dream Another Dream. I did the story that I really enjoyed and it added a new dimension to include it in this book.
Also included is the story I did with Tori Amos for her Comic Book Tattoo tome.
There is the Idea Lab story, and some pages on the Tenshu theatrical production, in which I was asked to do the marquee art and costume designs for the live theatrical version of the Tenshu play from Japan, which won several Broadway World Awards.
As well as a lot of other commentary, notes, original scripts, the afterword I wrote for Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (which chronicles my adaptation of PKD’s Electric Ant that I worked on with PKD’s daughters, (Richard) Linklater’s Waking Life, and Scanner Darkly producer Tommy Pallotta, while working on Kabuki: The Alchemy).
G.D.: One of the works is a piece called Prometheus: Untold, which you did at the request of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (a museum I grew up going to and absolutely love). How did you come to do a story for the PMA? How do you see this as relating to the Kabuki-related works in the Library Edition?
David: The museum had an exhibit on Prometheus, which included paintings by Michelangelo, Titian, sculpture by Rodan, all interpreting the myth. The museum included contemporary comics artists into the exhibit.
Locust Moon (who published the Nemo: Dream Another Dream homage to Winsor McKay) orchestrated the Prometheus book that the Philadelphia Museum of Art included into the museum exhibit with Michelangelo and Rodan. And they had us speaking at the museum at the opening of it. Bill Sienkiewicz, Yuko Shimizu and I did a talk at the museum for the exhibit. The art is now part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Being that it is a brand-new sequential story of my work, and its themes of inspiration, creating, mythology seemed to make it a great fit for this book and the new content in it.
G.D.: You are ubiquitous and have obviously been doing a lot of work beyond Kabuki, like the credits for Jessica Jones and a host of other projects. Maybe most recently, you did a music video with (Jack and) Amanda Palmer. How did you come to be involved with this music video?
David: Amanda [Palmer] sent me an email. Something like “Weird idea for a song and video. Want to do it?” With my work schedule, there was only about two weeks to do it before it was going to be released. So I bought a new camera and tripod and learned how to create stop-motion animation in the process of doing it. It was a wonderful experience. I really loved creating the animation for this.
Like you said, I had worked on the opening titles for Jessica Jones with Imaginary Forces (just nominated for an Emmy — Dan). And I made the art for the Winter Soldier film titles with Sarofsky Design. And art for Robert Rodriguez’s Matador TV show titles with Sarofsky Design.
But this was the first time I completely directed and had final cut on creating the art from beginning to the end of editing. I had a decent budget for it, and I brought Temple of Art editor Olga Nunes on to help with edits and animation tweaks.
Amanda and I discussed the video and we made it happen. We had done some things before. I contributed [David] Bowie art for her Bowie Album, which was featured huge on her TED performance. I had contributed art to another album of hers and painted on her for her book cover photo shoot, and we did the Occupy Comics story together.
For this, I texted Olga Nunes of the Temple of Art documentary film to help with editing the animation. She had animated some drawings I did for the Temple of Art film, so I knew she could advise me and help on figuring out how to edit this if need be. And I was really happy with how it came together.
I will definitely continue with more animation and stop-motion film work. It was an incredibly freeing experience. It was very natural for me. I suggest those reading this to give it a view if you have not seen it. Amanda already asked me to be thinking of ideas for the next video we do together.
And with the credits I worked on for Jessica Jones and the Captain America: Winter Soldier titles… I’m working on the opening titles for the Temple of Art film, and have been asked to create titles for another film too, as the director of that opening titles sequence.
G.D. Any other projects that you’re working on these days?
David: The Kabuki Library Edition Vol. 4, I just sent to the publisher. It also comes out this year. 416 pages with a lot of new paintings and drawings and extras.
I’m deep into working on bringing Kabuki to the screen in a way that is awesome.
I created some art for the new Powers TV show and did a cameo role in an episode. I finished some new Powers TV covers I did of the characters when the actors modeled for me on set. AMC just released the painting I did for the new Preacher TV series. Brian Michael Bendis and I are working on a new creator-owned series together.
With the Jessica Jones TV show winning the Peabody Award and greenlit for a Season 2, we are doing a new comic series of it as well. The entire original creative team.
On the music front, I’ll be directing and animating a new music video collaboration with Amanda Palmer. I did the new cover to Alice Underground. And the album cover to Vincent D’Onofrio’s new album Slim Bone Head Volt. When we met on the Daredevil set, I had brought Bill Sienkiewicz with me and Vincent publicly said our art of Wilson Fisk really informed his character, which he told Bill on the set. Vincent texted me when he was prepping for Daredevil Season 2, asking me to send him some Fisk art and notes that could help his character building.
I saw his live performance in NYC with Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll and he asked to me to do his new album art with his music collaborator Dana Lyn.
On the theater front, a new Bowie theatrical production is in the works that I did the marquee art for (from Shadowbox who did Tenshu). And they are working on a live theatrical performance interpretation based on Kabuki that I’ll do some theater art and design for. I’m working on a new print collaboration with Neil Gaiman to be released from Neverwhere.
NEXT: We break the rules of Fight Club 2 and talk about it with Mack and Chuck Palahniuk. Click here.