Comic Pro Spotlight: Mark McKenna
by Bill Nichols
What was your first work in comics? What do you remember about that first assignment?
Sectaurs #4 I inked and was credited for 2 pages. I remember sweating over every line and taking far too long on the pages...
How long ago was that, if you don't mind saying?
Oh.. I actually sat with all my collected comps and went thru the totals, that was over a year ago and I had something like 450 credits and over 7000 pages of work. Since then, work has been lean, but I certainly added 2 Star Wars mini-series to the total as well as spot stuff for DC.
What are you best known for?
You know, I dont know... My longest runs were only 14 issues on Legion '89-'90, i worked on all 3 Punisher titles successively for a good 16 issues, Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol for about 14 issues and Exiles for just about a year and then after a short stint with the Batman office came back and continued on Exiles. So maybe Exiles?
What are some of your best moments in comics?
As far as books I've worked on or memories? I worked in the Marvel Bullpen back in 1985 and that was during the end of the fun years. I practically lived there for a year and a half. Meeting Stan Lee at a Marvel Holiday party at the bar when nobody else was around and introducing myself, telling him I inked Iron Man and the Punisher and him feigning disappointment in me for only doing 2 books a month, telling me I should be doing 5 books a month.
How about working next to John Romita Sr for 18 months and the man being probably the sweetest guy in the biz. Or how about Dick Giordano calling me into his office to tell me my letter in regards to inkers royalties was a partial deciding factor in DC increasing the royalties to inkers from .6% to 1%. Yes, all you inkers at DC...you're all welcome:)
Mark Gruenwald telling my roommate at the time and assistant art director Tom Morgan who was drawing Iron Man to make Tony Stark in my likeness. Pretty good memories, eh?
Your worst, something you have regrets about?
I always saw how this business treated its older talent and I never liked it. I had hoped that I wouldn't become an old curmudgeon with this business dictate my life, but unfortunately my best laid plans didn't bear fruit fast enough and I am becoming one of those guys I felt bad for. Sad because I have a fan base and the respect of my colleagues, who, unfortunately, don't hire me.
What are best examples of your work that sum of your work or your "style"?
My work with Mike McKone, not at the very beginning but on Magnus Robot Fighter, the Spartan mini- series and JLA: World Without Grown Ups and the Parallax one-shot. My work with Ron Lim on 2 issues of X Men 2099 and Spider Man: Friends and Enemies and my work with Jim Calafiore on the What If" Juggernaut and on his run on Aquaman. I tend to be a slightly angular inker and a very clean inker and I'm not sure I'm easily identifiable.
Certainly the 2 guys I'm associated with the most are McKone and Calafiore who are two good friends as well. Oddly enough they are now their own best inkers...
Why do you think you aren't working in comics? Or working as much as you once did?
I am working somewhat but I haven't worked for Marvel in over 5 yrs and DC in the past year. My street creds and visibility at comic cons make everybody believe I'm as prolific as I was 20 yrs ago. This is heart-breaking to me really because while I hear from guys like a Steve Lightle, Cary Nord or a Carlos Pacheco that they are a fan of mine and I'm flattered that they have that respect for me the reality is, I could go away tomorrow and many would be saying.. "What ever happened to THAT guy?". It's humbling and it hurts.
The biggest issue I can see is my page rate at least at Marvel. I've established a rate over 26 yrs and Marvel at least isn't paying the talent with the high rates unless they are the top 2 or 3% guys. Also the advent of the internet as far as not having to deal with snail mail or Fed Ex allows the pubs and overseas talent to connect very fast and seamlessly for the most part. Allowing the publishers to find talent in Turkey, Italy or South America plays a growing role. I can't help but think that there are big savings going overseas for talent, which while I respect that, there are a lot of pros hurting in our own pond.
High priced. I don't read monthly comics. All my knowledge comes from the 60's, 70's and 80's so when there's some new Spider-Man...I'm out of the loop.
Is there a project, character or title you would want to re-visit to continue or re-boot?
I was always a cosmic character guy, so for me it was the Silver Surfer or Adam Warlock, at DC I loved the Creeper, Deadman or the Spectre.
How are you keeping your hand in? The occasional project? Commissions? Convention appearances?
Well, I just finished a Star Wars mini-series last month, The Old Republic-The Lost Suns, but I have no mainstream comic work in the pipeline. I am doing a 100-page indy project that's just getting underway. I do do commissions and did more comic cons then I should have done and at one stretch 4 in 4 weeks. Seems like more and more shows are sprouting up. I think I will have a hard time continuing to do conventions in the near future if I don't have work to tout. I don't want to live off the past like so many old TV stars that were in a 60's sitcom, you hear me Larry Storch? LOL
Do you have new projects you'd like to pursue?
Just Banana Tail and Friends. That was the project I set up for myself when comics work started to change for me over 10 years ago, but it's a constant battle to help move it forward. I need to keep it going...
And my webcomic with Robin Ator: Arteest http://arteestcomics.com
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