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futurealstudio.com > Films > AIDC > Interviews > Mark Martin

Mark Martin Interview

 

[ Mark Martin ]

This interview with comic book writer and artist Mark Martin was conducted by Director Sebastien Dumesnil via email during the making of Adventures Into Digital Comics. This interview is a part of the first set of interviews, which means that Mark Martin received a part of the shotlist, and was asked to answer the questions as if they were actually shooting the interview together. Mark Martin was offered the possibility to interact this way with the members of the cast.

By sending the same questions to all interviewees, Dumesnil wanted to get the most necessary element of narrative filmmaking: conflict. Despite the repetitive aspect of the questions, we hope you will be surprised by the large panel of answers and opinions offered by the interviewees.

Can you tell us about your background?

I was raised in a middle-class Southern Baptist family. I come from a large, complicated family. I was always fascinated by comics and coloring books as a child. I loved cartoons and advertisements, but any other TV bored me. The first record I ever bought was Get Out Of My Life Woman, which was a rhythm and blues song by some guy I never heard of. I was TRYING to buy Get Off My Cloud, which I had heard on the radio, and wanted to hear again. I was extremely disappointed and frustrated when I got home and played Get Out Of My life Woman, but about a week later I found out the correct name of the song and artist, and got a copy of Get Off My Cloud. The first LP I ever bought was Candles In The Rain by Melanie, who I thought was just brilliant at the time. The first comic book I ever OWNED was Disney's Bambi. My uncle said Bambi?!? You don't want Bambi! Get this comic with soldiers and dinosaurs on the cover!" But I held firm. The first comic book I ever BOUGHT was Not Brand Ecch! But I had purchased a few Mads and Eerie/Creepys before that.

I swam in the creek. I had acne pretty bad. I smoked a lot of grass and I popped a lot of pills. I have always believed you should try to put more into life than you take out.

What do you find in comics that you wouldn't find in another type of visual exercise?

It just WORKS. Hundreds of "scholars" have tried to "explain" it. All I can do is agree—Krazy Kat the musical or Krazy Kat the animated cartoon simply would not work the way Krazy Kat the comic strip does.

1993 was the last profitable year for the American industry. The market has been shrinking ever since. What do you think are the causes of the industry's collapse in the 90's?

Short answer: video games.

t's obviously more complicated than that. It's the relentless onslaught of pushy media. That and the fact that nearly everything sucks even worse than it ever did.

For the past few years, we've seen the big companies trying to improve quality: better paper, big names from other industries, etc. Do you think that it had an impact on sales? What could be a key to solve the sales' problem?

I have no idea how the big companies and sales and the market, etc. are doing. I doubt if any of the schemes you mention helped sales in the long run. A key to higher sales could be some sort of divine awakening that would make Joe Sixpack turn off The Osbournes and pick up a good comic book.

In the 90's, publishers began to create alternate covers, and made a lot of—sometimes unnecessary—relaunches. What do you think of those "gimmicks"? Sales-oriented. Product-oriented. A load of crap.

To make more money and be able to reach different places such as bookstores, the publishers have created the trade paperback. As an example, many people have read Sandman when it was available on paperback, but not before. Do you feel that the comic book format had its days, and could be replaced by the paperback?

Possibly. I find myself ignoring some comics because it's just too much trouble to "keep up", and later buying the collection. I should point out that it would NOT be too much trouble to keep up if I could stand to visit a comic book store more often. But comic book stores are so full of depressing cookie-cutter garbage, it is usually a fruitless effort for me to go in one. Some good comics are being produced, but the stores where I live don't carry them, or only order as many copies as there are on somebody's "pull list" or whatever you call those things. I cannot blame the store owners for this situation. I'm sure they would line the shelves with good comics if they sold, but it's a sad fact that copies of Eightball would only gather dust around here, while copies of Spawn or Liberty Meadows probably fly out the door.

The early 90's saw the first digital lettering and coloring in American comic books. Do you think that it opened a new world of possibilities as far as storytelling is concerned?

I don't see digital lettering as anything more than a tool. It's a useful tool for traditional (for lack of a better word) comic stories, but I don't use it. It feels too impersonal for my stuff. I'd hate to see somebody like Dave Cooper, who does beautiful expressive hand-lettering, go digital.

Digital coloring has opened some doors, but it seems to be still in its infancy, or at least in its childhood. There's some brilliant stuff being done with it, but also a lot of ugly and awkward experimentation. I've certainly screwed up a few things with it.

Also around the same time came the internet. Did you guess at that time that the internet could become a distribution system for independent artists?

It seems so obvious, it's almost embarrassing to say I did not. But I was pretty cynical about the internet at first, and regarded it as a stupid yuppie waste of time.

Diversity seems to be a key problem for the industry. Do you think that current comic books are oriented mainly toward an audience in its 20's?

Probably. I'm really not qualified to have an opinion on the vast majority of comic books, because I don't read them.

The average price of a comic book in the US is around $3. Do you think, regarding the production and distribution system, that it is too expensive? What are the sales like nowadays in the US?

I don't think $3 is too much to pay for a good comic. It seems reasonable compared to other forms of entertainment.

When you go to comic book conventions, do you feel that people come to buy comics... or toys, busts, and whatever merchandising has to offer? What do you think of that merchandising?

I rarely go to conventions. I do think MEGA-merchandising is not only bad for comics, but bad for culture. But I may be unrealistically jaded about the crap I am bombarded with today. Disney merchandise from the 30s and 40s does not nauseate me, yet it was as pervasive as any merchandising that is done today, if not more so.

In the biggest comic conventions we can find print and digital artists. Some print artists seem to be ferociously anti-digital. Do you feel that there are now two clans of comic book creators?

I have no idea. I am not that plugged-in to any "community". If there are such clans, it seems kinda silly to me.

Many forgotten artists who can't find a job in the industry because they are told they are "outdated" make money thanks to commissions on their personal websites. Others create those digital comics but don't really make money out of them. Do you think that the internet could be the solution to the current state of the comic book industry?

No I do not.

Some digital comics use animation; others sound, etc. For you, what is a digital comic? What would be the aesthetic definition?

That sounds like a nomenclature issue. Scott McCloud could chew on that for a few weeks, but I'll just wait and see what the dictionary says.

Do you think that digital comics offer much more diversity than the paper market?

Not really.

Only big publishers would have the financial asset to afford the legal support needed in the piracy issue. How do you think that the big companies will make their way into the digital world? Do you think that independents will have to wait for those companies to make money in a safe way?

I don't know. I just don't have a head for business.

Do you think that readers are into comics for collecting and need to touch a comic book to enjoy it, or would a computer screen be enough for them? What about you?

I still want to "own" a good comic. I like to put it on the shelf. I enjoy reading a good comic in any format, but I prefer to own it on paper.

There are many issues that could prevent digital comics from growing, such as piracy. Also, and even novelists ran into that wall, it seems to be hard to get paid, even with systems such as PayPal. Subscription, advertisement, micro-payments: what do you think is the best option to be paid on the web for digital creations?

For me, the solution would be to create comics for some site that knows how to make the money and turn it over to me. I don't have much hope for PayPal, etc. Hopefully I am wrong about that.

There are different ways to compose a comic book story on the internet. Some artists like to consider the screen as a page, others still use a typical comic book format. We can also use the screen as a panel/link leading to another panel and so on. Finally, other artists use the internet as an unlimited space to compose a story. Do you think that digital comics offer more possibilities as far as composition is concerned?

You can do all those things on paper. It's just easier and cheaper to do it on the internet, so you see it there more frequently.

Do you think that scrolling is the main limitation of digital comics?

I do not understand scrolling phobia. I have no idea why it is such a problem for some people.

One can find digital comics on the web, but also short films produced especially for the internet. Do you watch such films sometimes? What do you think of them?

I enjoy them if they are good. A lot are.

We talked earlier about the unlimited space and animated digital comics. Do you think that we could apply some of those compositional ideas to live moving pictures, instead of just drawn panels?

I don't see why not, as a purely visual expression. However, if we're talking about any kind of a story, I'd like to stick with standard movie/TV dimensions. The only variation that I think I would enjoy would be a quantum leap, wherein the entire movie would surround you and envelop you, completely filling your peripheral vision, etc.

Bad artistic, and moreover marketing, decisions have been the main reasons of the industry's downfall. The digital technology seems like a good solution to create art without any form of concession. Do you think that the internet is an open door for new creative voices?

Any medium is an open door for new creative voices. Many are flocking to the internet now because it is new and requires very little if any capital to hop on board.

Now that comic books have become a niche market (whether they are on paper or digital), pretty much like painting, do you think that we're going to see a peak of creativity and quality as a reaction to the current situation?

I don't know. Again, I do not have a good feel for trends, cycles, etc. I just seek out interesting and unique comics and entertainment, and I try to create interesting and unique comics and entertainment.

 

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