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
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
It just WORKS. Hundreds
of "scholars" have tried to "explain" it. All I can
do is agreeKrazy 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
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
In the 90's, publishers
began to create alternate covers, and made a lot ofsometimes
unnecessaryrelaunches. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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