Interviews

David Mack - Super Sized!


By Koncise
April 29, 2005 - 13:12

You may have read my interviews with Reggie Hudlin (and if not, WHY lol), but the funny thing is, the first ever interview I got hooked up, was this one.

I had the pleasure of meeting fan favourite, superstar painter/writer David Mack at last years Wizard World Chicago. It took a while, but as promised, he blessed me with an interview.

INTERVIEWDavid Mack

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Koncise: OK, David, what I want to do right now, is the first dissection of a living person…….hope you don’t mind :)

David Mack: Dig in.

K: What did you like to read as a kid (books & comics)?

DM: I read anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t have a TV as a child, so I was a voracious reader. I loved spending time in libraries as a child and read everything I could.

K: I loved my library as a kid. They used to do these story sessions and they had this really great Pirate series that must have been at least 50 books. Reading is going to be one of the biggest things I’ll miss when my sight completely goes.

Do you remember what you wanted to do as an adult?

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DM: At one point I wanted to be a stuntman. But I didn’t get a lot of positive reinforcement from parents when I jumped out of our moving car, or jumped from roof to roof or off the roof onto a mattress. That didn’t seem to thrill the parents the same way it did me. But in comparison to my physical adventures, which most adults seemed to frown on, I did get a lot of positive reaction when I wrote or drew or painted something.

K: lol

So what was it that got you interested and convinced you to try your hand at creating comic book stories?

DM: All my life I had made things. Stories, sculptures, paintings, drawings. And I had great passion for learning and doing. I love everything, and wasn’t really interested in specializing. At a certain point in high school teachers like you to fit your interests and passions into a box that you can at least major in, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of only doing one thing to the exclusion of others. When I was sixteen I was applying for a university scholarship for art. One teacher suggested that I put together a portfolio showing ten different media that I worked in. I had photography, sculpture, oil painting, watercolor, charcoal, etc. For the tenth piece I decided that I really wanted to do something that dealt with the nature of time and sequence. I loved film, and I loved books, and the personal nature of books, and I also loved to read comic books. So I decided that for the tenth example of my work that I would make a comic. And I did. I wrote and illustrated and lettered a 55 page book for my scholarship submission. And in the process of doing that, I realized that the medium of comic books are a format that I could integrate all other mediums into. And I realized that comics were the medium I could work in, because they had no limitations, and they included and encompassed aspects of every other medium.

K: Damn, that’s big man. Is there any chance of this story getting released in some shape or form?

DM: Those early stories are things that I learned from, but nothing anyone should see. I do have a lot of pre-Kabuki work, but I made a decision not keep any of that in print. It is good for the age I was at that time, but not at the level that I consider printable at this stage in my life.

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K: So you sculpture, do you do the models templates (I don’t know if that’s the right term) for your statues?

DM: I do the designs for the Kabuki busts and statues that Clayburn Moore sculpts. I show these in the four issues of KABUKI: Reflections. My other life size sculptures are shown in Reflections too. There is a new large Kabuki statue that has just finished sculpting. It should be in stores in October. You can see the step be step process of it at

http://davidmackguide.com/productionnotes/kabuki/statues/

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That and other works are also featured the new Reflections book that is offered for August from Marvel.

K: What came first for you, the pencil or the paint brush?

DM: The crayon. Modelling clay. Blocks of wood. Other elements of sculpture. My mom was a first grade teacher, so I had all kinds of paints and brushes and markers, and clay and tape and scissors, and any other media to play with since I was three. In fact, there is quite a detailed description of the evolution of my early artistic endeavors as a child in the new issue of the current Kabuki series. Anyone interested in this will get a kick out of issue #4 of KABUKI: The Alchemy.

K: That must have been crazy having your Mum as a teacher and giving you all that access to art materials.

Nice plug by the way lol

Are you going to put more life evolution stories in the back of forthcoming issues?

DM: It is in comic book form in the current Kabuki issue. It is a bit of a preview of an entire book on the subject that I will be doing for my next art project after this Kabuki story. Sort of an autobiographical comic.

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K: When cats think of comic book painters, probably the first name that comes to mind is Alex Ross.

Did you find this daunting? I mean the fact that, even though your styles are completely different, that you would constantly be put into a comparison of his work. Or is it this what keeps you at your best?

DM: I can assure you that my cats don’t care about that stuff. As long as they have food and can sit on my lap when I paint they are fine.

If that is true or not, I don’t find it daunting in the slightest. I don’t think in those terms at all. Alex Ross is a fine man. I’ve been pals with him for almost ten years. We used to talk all night on the phone while we painted. I rarely get the impression that people are comparing us, nor do I think about that. I certainly don’t think of him, or anyone else, as some kind of competition. What motivates me is purely internal.

K: That’s cool and the best way. I’ve found that self motivation is the one that lasts the longest.

So how many cats do you have :)

DM: Two at the moment.

K: That’s nice, I’ve got five of the little terrors and a panther, but I keep him in Wakanda :)

Do you use models (human or those wooden/plastic figurines, maybe set in scenes) when you paint. Or is it all freestyle?

DM: I don’t have any fixed method. I sort of make the process up as I go. If I need a model for some images, I generally take photos of friends and loved ones if I need a specific kind of reference.

K: What do you do to get into your creative zone for a story? Is it different when you’re working on your own property to working on something from a company?

DM: To get into the zone, you just do it. You put all your effort into it and work on it, and after some time, you realize that you are in the zone. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes you put more effort into it before you realize that you are inside it. But you just do it and the zone shows up. So creatively, you are always giving every project your best.

The main difference I can think of between working on my own characters (characters that I own and have created) and working on characters that were around before I was, like my work on Daredevil, is that with something like Daredevil, there is a rich history to the character that I did not create. So the challenge then becomes a more collaborative one. I’m collaborating with the character’s history. The challenge is to stay true to that character and history, and what previous creators have given to the character, but also, to bring something to the character that only I can. If I can’t do both of those, there is no point to me doing it.

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Daredevil was the first time I wrote a character that I had not created myself. So I had to consider that challenge and collaborative approach before working on it. And ultimately it was very enjoyable to do that. I read Frank Miller’s Daredevil as a kid. So it was also like the twenty-something version of me was collaborating with the ten year old version of me that read it as a kid. I was able to connect with the world of Daredevil that I loved as a kid, and still do a very personally motivated story.

K: Do you think its easier to write a character if you have love for them, or previously read them?
Or do you think you can hate a character, but still do something special?

DM: I think you can find something about a character that is special to you and do good work. But I’m fortunate in that I’ve been in the position to work with characters that I already love.

K: So do you get through a lot of paper when you work, or does your abstract (that really doesn’t seem like the right word) approach mean its easy to take something in a different direction if it looks wrong?

DM: I don’t think I ever entirely start a page over. I do several rough layouts in figuring out the composition. The story telling and composition are the more time consuming parts of the process, in that I explore several options and fine tune the layouts in terms of panels and rhythm and how the entire issue fits together before I do any kind of rendering. The drawing is the fun part, the more spontaneous and less academic part.

K: Interesting.

You told me this at Chi Town, but could you explain the whole font process? Sometimes you have it going in circles and other crazy patterns and it has been pretty small in the past.

DM: I don’t make a distinction between the writing and the art in comics. For me, comics are comics when these things are indistinguishable. The images tell the story, and the words are part of the image. The words and image are a part of the same composition. So I also draw no distinction between the art and lettering. Each are a visual element in service to the story and can create a rhythm and flow.

K: Is there a difference to this approach when you’re only handling the writing or just the art?

DM: Huge difference. Naturally, I write for the artist who will be doing the art. I write a different story and in a different way, depending on who the artist is. I write to the artist’s strengths and interests. The way I write for Joe Quesada is totally different from how I would write for my art. And I also write for Rick Mays in a totally different way from Joe. Same with all the artists I’ve written for, including Mike Oeming and Dave Johnson. Each artist has certain graphic sensibilities that I want to take advantage of and play up to.

K: When you say write differently, do you mean more descriptive, or something else?

DM: I mean in terms of storytelling, rhythm, visual style, and even content. I write in scenes that the artist would like to draw. Or scenes I would like to see the artist draw because of their specific look and strengths. The choice of environment, characters, and pretty much everything about the story is taken into consideration based on who the artist for the story is.

K: Thanks for breaking that down for us, man.

I hope you don’t mind me saying, but your Girlfriend is very talented and it’s great to here that her Tranimals are blasting off in Tower Records. Do you think that being around another creative individual helps you?

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DM: Definitely. I tend to surround myself with creative people. All the people I seem to have a close relationship with are very creative and talented in their own way. In fact, I learn from them quite a bit. I’ve been close friends with Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Oeming and Andy Lee for over thirteen years, and we all knew each other and learned from each other in our very early formative years in our work in comics. Same with Rick Mays. There are things I’ve learned from each of them that have enriched my work very early on.

I’m fortunate in that all of my close friends have a strongly unique approach in their work that differs from my own. So I’m able to learn from that unique perspective and apply it into my work in my own way. Andy Lee used to live at my house for a while when he was starting out with his approach in Chinese Calligraphy. Each of our work shared a lot of similarities in approach, but in a much different way. And we each borrowed conceptually from the other to enrich our own work. The same is true of Anh Tran. In fact we did several Alias covers together.

K: I’ve read your Daredevil work and the first Kabuki TPB. But for those that haven’t read any of your work, could you give us a rundown of what you’ve done so far in the industry?

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DM: In the last ten years, I’ve completed six volumes of Kabuki that are available in hardcover and softcover.

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Vol 1- Circle of Blood (272 p)
Vol 2- Dreams (128 p)
Vol 3- Masks of the Noh (128 p)
Vol 4- Skin Deep (128 p)
Vol 5- Metamorphosis (288 p)
Vol 6- Scarab (288 p)

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The current Kabuki series KABUKI: The Alchemy, from our Icon imprint at Marvel Comics will be the seventh Kabuki volume. These books are the best examples of my work in comics. Particulary volume 5 of Kabuki called Metamorphosis. That is probably the best example of my work in comics in a single collected volume.

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I’ve also done three Daredevil volumes which are available in Paperback. Daredevil: Parts of a Hole (With Quesada drawing my first Daredevil story),

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Daredevil: Wake Up with Brian Bendis on script. I’d say this is our best collaboration so far. And was his first work for Marvel comics. This DD script is what got him the offer for Ultimate Spiderman.

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And I wrote and painted an Echo story that ended up being released in the Daredevil series called Daredevil: Echo.

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I did every single cover to Bendis’ Alias series, about 25 Daredevil covers, and many other covers. For an extensive list go to www.davidmackguide.com. That’s not my site (mine is www.davidmack.net), but a fan site which has a detailed account of all of my work in comics, archived interviews, and way more. It is run by its creator David Thornton who updates the site with news EVERY weekday.

K: That fan site is mad comprehensive, that cat put mad effort into it and it definitely shows.

You’ve done a lot of cover work. How is that for you? As a cover is like a snapshot into the essence of a story.

DM: In a way it is. It is the face of the story. I really enjoy doing cover work. There is an Art of David Mack book scheduled for October of this year that will include the complete Kabuki covers. The entire last eleven years of Kabuki covers, as well as my other covers. It will be an insightful collection in that it will also have sketches and commentary by Bendis and I, and show the evolution and contrast of the cover work.

K: Cats may know you best for your Kabuki work. What was it that inspired you to create this character and the futuristic, historical hybrid Japan she inhabits?

DM: My work on Kabuki Began in January of 1993 when I was twenty years old. I would begin publishing Kabuki in 1994. Having decided the medium I would work with, and having worked in the business for a couple years to learn the craft, I decided that I wanted to create a comic book in which I could incorporate all of my personal philosophies, my passion for learning, and integrate my everyday personal experiences. I loved autobiographical comics, but I was not yet comfortable with that idea. I wanted to tell personal truths but at a distance. Through the unselfconscious comfort of a veil. But I did not want to fall into the trap of making the main character an idealized version of myself. So I decided that I would make all of the surface details very opposite, and that way the universal truths could shine through, and I could tell the story through metaphor. This way, instead of reading the story and seeing me, readers could find their own personal relation to the story and see themselves.

So I made the main character the opposite gender. I set the story in a different part of the world, with a different language, different history, and different culture.

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I was in university at the time, and I was taking the
Japanese language, and learning Japanese history and mythology in my classes and in my own travels. So I used that as a framework for the story. The structure of the story is the traditional structure and metaphors of the traditional Japanese Ghost Story that is the subject of many of the Japanese Kabuki plays.

Much of the first Kabuki story is me as a 21-22 year old dealing with the death of my mother, just as Kabuki is coming to terms with the relationship and death of her mother in the story.

K: That’s really interesting. I noticed, while reading Circles Of Blood, that there were a lot of themes and moments that were introspective for me.

Do you get a lot of fans talking to you about this at conventions?

DM: Readers seem to have a very personal connection to the stories in Kabuki. In that they say it makes them think about their own life and their own choices and ways of looking at life and their own role in life.

K: Yeah, it just seems to suck you in and spiritually deconstruct you.

Could you also let the cats that don’t know, what Kabuki means?

DM: The work Kabuki is one of the three main theaters in Japan. The characters Ka, Bu, & Ki would translate into something very close to “Song”, “Dance”, & “Drama”.

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Much of my Kabuki story is structured on the ghost plays of Japan which were common themes to be enacted in Kabuki theatre.

K: Thanks a lot man, now I’m gonna have to hunt through my local library for a book about all this lol

There are a lot of female assassins out there, Elektra, Shi just to name a few. What is it that sets Kabuki apart from all of them?

DM: I’ve heard Kabuki explained as a deconstruction of the assassin archetype in the way that Watchmen dealt with super heroes.
That may be as good a way as any to say it if you want to use the word assassin. The book begins with the character being an operative for a government agency that deals with the interdependence of organized crime and politics in Japan. So it begins with the framework of a crime story and an espionage story, but quickly departs from any of the conventional trappings or previous approaches to that kind of story.

K: Previously you have just created mini series’ for Kabuki, but with the move to Icon, Kabuki is now an on-going series. What made you make this transition and for you, what are the differences from creating a mini and an on-going series?

DM: I just write Kabuki divided into story arcs. Each arc gets collected in its own volume. And each volume fits into continuity and builds on the previous volumes. But each story-art/volume is also designed to stand on its own as its own self contained story. Like each volume is a different era in the character’s life. And the entire story is her biography from child hood on up.

K: So in essence, Kabuki has always been an on-going series?

DM: In that I’ve always planned on doing Kabuki stories for quite some time.

K: So how many stories do you have in the bank so far?

DM: I have several Kabuki stories mapped out ahead of time. I can write much faster than I can paint. So I have no trouble writing out far into the character’s future. I’ve even written the story in which Kabuki dies and her biography ends.

K: Skeen. So was this always a finite character for you, or did the story where she dies, just come to you one day?

DM: It was always a finite character, in that these stories began to take the shape of chapters in a biography. But the story where she dies occurred to me while in the process of another early Kabuki story.

K: Definitely sounds organic.

Are you going to have an over arcing thread, or do you prefer to have stories that stand on their own?

DM: They all stand on their own. But they all build on each other and fit into continuity. And seeds that are planted in early volumes come to fruition in later volumes. When you read all the volumes you do see an over arcing thread and evolution. There is a kind of MC Escher type of continuity in the stories, in that each volume connects to the other in ways that you will enjoy discovering upon repeat readings. There are layers of texture in the books that are very rewarding to reading the series all over again.

K: Is this a conscious thing, or do you sometimes re-read an old volume and think “I haven’t really answered or explored that. Let me put it in this new volume”?

DM: Often it is very conscious and planned ahead of time with detail. And often, things just seem to come together that way a bit more intuitively.

K: I know fans enjoyed the Agents stories. Are you planning anymore of those and do you know what characters you’ll be focusing on?

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DM: Yes, I will do stories on each of the Noh Agents. Tiger Lilly or Siamese will probably come next.

K: Do you have a timeframe for these, or is it just soonish?

DM: After The Alchemy story is over, I plan to do the next Noh Agent story.

K: Gravy man :)

Rick Mays was the artist that drew Scarabs, how did this come about. And how do you decide which artist draws these stories?

DM: Brian Bendis and I met Rick at a convention in 1995. I saw his work and told him that it had the right look for a crime story set in Japan that I was planning to do with the Scarab character in the future. So we kept in touch.
When I did Masks of the Noh (volume 3 of Kabuki), the book focuses on the rest of the Noh that are only secondary characters in the first Kabuki volume. So I wanted to have a different artist for each character, to generate an immediate and unique visual personality for each character.
Rick drew the Scarab scenes in it. And then reprised his role as the Scarab artist in the complete Scarab volume.

K: Let me ask you about the costumes of the characters. With so many female characters in comics, we see them running around with virtually nothing on. What stopped you from going down this route?

DM: It was never an issue for me. I wasn’t doing that kind of book.

K: Are there any plans for Kabuki that you can let everyone into?…….throw us a bone man lol

DM: Lots of big surprises in this current series. You could say that issue #4 of The Alchemy introduces a crossover reference into Bendis and Oeming’s Powers.

Akemi plays a big role in this series. And some old characters will return. Also there is a bit of a surprise at the end of the story in the way all of the early elements of the series come together at the end.

K: Sounds good to me, man :)

Is there any chance of a Kabuki film at some point?

DM: The Kabuki film is at Fox. I’ve been developing it at Fox for the last few years. Due to my confidentiality agreement with Fox, I’m only able to discuss in what capacity that I have worked on it. Besides writing the treatment, my credits include: Visual Designer, Creative Consultant, and Co-Producer.

K: WOW, I didn’t even know that a film was already in the works. This is definitely something to look forward to!!!

Who would you, off the top of your head like to play each of the characters?

DM: I can’t really mention that at this time. I have to let Fox announce that kind of thing. But I’m sure you can guess what a good line up would be for each of the characters. In the process of the film adventure, I’ve got to hear some name actors read my lines in auditions. And from time to time, I was asked to sign and personalize some Kabuki volumes to give to some famous actors. I’m sure there are several names of talented Asian actors and actresses that quickly come to your mind, so it would not be difficult for you to make a top ten list of who these would be.

K: That most be some experience man.

Just remember though, you need to put out a DVD dubbed (if there are any scenes in Japanese) version :)

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What was the thing that inspired you to create Echo, a brand new character for the Daredevil mythos?

DM: Joe Quesada asked me to create a new character in Daredevil when I began writing DD with him. I noticed how so many of DD’s female leads seemed to connect with one part of Matt’s psyche. But he was still so separate from them due to his unique way of perceiving the world. It occurred to me to create a character that also had a unique way of piecing together the world. Something that Matt could identify with, but that was opposite or complimentary to the way that he perceived his information.

K: Did you have any fears that some may just brush her off as a Kabuki clone?

DM: No.

K: When JoeQ told you that he thought you should tell another Echo story, before he opened her up to other writers, what went through your mind? Did you feel pressure to tell a huge story?

DM: The point was to flesh her out on her own terms.

Joe asked me to do a book about Echo. And a story that related to her childhood. It was an opportunity to connect the dots between some of her history that Joe and I touched on in our Daredevil story. It deals prominently with her Native American history and her role as a story teller. Also, with her father and his connection to the Kingpin. It fills in her past and origin before our story and it rounds out her psychology and direction after our story.

K: Initially, the Vision Quest (the second Echo story), was supposed to be a mini series.
Do you think that it coming out as part of the on-going series, hurt its reception, as the tone was different to Brian’s (Bendis) last story?

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DM: It was originally planned to be an Echo series. So it was an Echo story. That is what I wrote and painted.

If you approached it as a story about Echo, you got what you came for. To put it into Daredevil was a publishing decision. Probably not the kind of story people were expecting in Daredevil after Bendis’ great Kingpin cliffhanger. Especially since the Echo story was not designed as a Daredevil story.

If you approached the Echo story expecting to see Daredevil fighting Bullseye, I can imagine that you were disappointed or confused. Because you’d be judging it as something that it was not. I’m glad the book is finding its audience as a trade paperback by people who don’t normally read Daredevil. You’d be amazed at how much positive feedback I get for the Echo story from people who have been introduced or re-introduced to comics and my work through that story.

K: I can imagine, cause I really did love those stories. They seemed to put me in a reflective frame of mind and I always got immersed in the depth.

Now that Echo’s open to the Marvel Universe (not saying she’s lose or anything lol), is there anything you’d like to see her do (become an Avenger, date an X-Man lol) or not do?

DM: I do know about a project that she is involved with. But I’m not allowed to comment on it.

K: That’s real mean, man lol

It was revealed a while ago that you are writing at least one arc of Ultimate X-Men. I know you can’t tell us the story, but are you treading completely new ground, or have you been inspired by the past Marvel Proper X stories?

DM: Much of it was my take on the Ultimate Universe version of the Frank Miller Wolverine story, in which Wolverine goes to Japan. It was a hardcore, extremely fast paced, take no prisoners, action story set in Japan. The kind where I get to play with Marvel’s toys and break them.
The kind of all out, over the top action story, I’ve
been itching to do and contrasts so much from more of my current psychological approach in Kabuki and Echo. It was closer to the earlier Kabuki work in pace and fury.

K: I didn’t even know Frank Miller had written Wolverine to be honest (In my defence, I haven’t been reading comics that long).

Do you know if this is still going to drop or when?

DM: Miller did the art for that Wolverine story.
I’ll leave it to Marvel to say when and how my work on Wolverine takes shape.
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K: Freudian :)

Is there anything else that you are working on right now, that you can talk about, creator or company owned?

DM: Kabuki is my focus for the near future. The next project that I draw after that is an autobiographical story. You can see a little preview of it in the new KABUKI: The Alchemy #4.
And I will be writing some other projects in the meantime.
I have a Reflections Book 5 planned for August. And an ART OF DAVID MACK book planned for October. It will be an oversize hardcover collection of all lf my cover work from the last ten years. It will collect every single Kabuki cover ever made, the COMPLETE Kabuki covers, as well as sketches, and step by step process of the making of some of the covers. And it will also include commentary and interviews with me and Brian Michael Bendis.
This will be a huge book. Full of information about my art approach. And my collaboration with Brian and his early influence on Kabuki.
It will show the evolution in my work of the last ten years and so much contrast in my approach and media to the many different covers I’ve done. And lots of sketchbook work as well.

K: That sounds great and the perfect Christmas present for a few of my peoples :)

Well, thank you for your time man, I really appreciate it. And hopefully we can do this again?

DM: Yes the perfect Christmas present! I’m looking forward to the feedback from our interview.

***image21***K: Me too man, me too and hopefully this crossover will bring readership into double figures. Otherwise I’ll have to do a chrome version lol


Well, I’d like to thank Matt Adler and Sarah White for proof reading duties again. David Thornton for having the boom site and let’s give it up to David Mack one more time :)

You can also find character Bio’s for Daredevil & Jessica Jones. As well as Wall Papers and monthly solits over at http://marvel.com/

If you’d like to talk to Mack, why don’t you drop by his message boards at http://joequesada.com/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi (Joe Quesada.com) or http://606studios.com/bendisboard/ (Jinx World.com).

and if you get a chance, definitely holla at him at a Convention, cause he’s a safe cat.


FEEDBACK: If you have anything you’d like to say about this (constructive analysis warmly welcomed), why don’t you stop by the Discussion Thread: http://www.comicbookbin.com/forums/index.php?act=ST&f=28&t=618&s=7e976709a849a6482159ecf52e93955b at our Forums :)


Koncise an out :)


Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25

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