No list of influential comic book creators in the last couple decades would be complete without David Mack. The creative and prolific artist and writer has left his indelible signature mark on such stories as his highly-acclaimed run on Marvel‘s Daredevil, where he added to the Man Without Fear’s rich mythology; his beautiful covers for Alias, with an influence that is undeniably clear in the trailers for the comic’s upcoming Netflix adaptation Marvel’s Jessica Jones; and, of course, his creator-owned property Kabuki, which is being reprinted in beautiful library editions over at Dark Horse Comics.
Mr. Mack was kind enough to speak with me recently about the Kabuki Library Editions, working with writer Chuck Palahniuk in creating covers for the comic book miniseries Fight Club 2, and what other work to expect from him down the pike.
FreakSugar: How did you become involved in doing covers for Fight Club 2?
David Mack: I had known Chuck Palahniuk for several years, and I had offered to be of help with the project in any way. And I was working with Dark Horse editor Scott Allie on preparing the Kabuki Library Editions, and I let him know I’d be happy to be a part of the project in any way.
FS: How do you approach the composition of each of your covers for Fight Club 2?
DM: I try to think of something that is eye catching and at the same time crystallizes something psychological that pertains to the story, characters, and the issue in particular.
FS: Did you have the complete script for the miniseries ahead of time? If so, does that influence how you approach the covers?
DM: Yes, I had the complete script from Chuck ahead of time. It made a big difference to have the entire story arc ahead of time, to know where all of the characters were going. I was able to read the story in its entirety and make notes on the script of image ideas for each issue.
FS: Is it necessary for you to like the characters you draw in some way? Fight Club 2 has a slew of broken, borderline unlikable folks.
DM: I do have empathy for the characters. I think it is always interesting to have characters with very strong points of view. For writing characters or drawing them, if you have characters with incredibly strong and personal points of view, you don’t have to personally subscribe to their points of view to write or draw them, but you can have empathy for the origins of their psychology, and that psychology can make for unique visuals. And in writing a character, putting two characters with unique and strong points of view in the same scene brings incredible energy that makes the scenes move in a character motivated way.
FS: How long does it take for you to finish a single cover?
DM: There is a certain amount of prep for the covers in terms of working out ideas and imagery and trying to develop those and select the right image or choose the correct idea for that issue in terms of story content. That said, there were a couple times that I had to turn in the first couple covers in one day for solicitation for the publisher. But there was quite a bit of research and development and toying with different approaches before that.
FS: Were a fan of the original novel and movie?
DM: Yes. I saw the film at the theater two nights in a row when it opened in 1999. And then I bought the Fight Club book and all of the Chuck Palahniuk books I could find.
FS: I read that Chuck Palahniuk mentioned that he said he’d love you to adapt one of his novels. Which one of his novels would you most like to get your hands on?
DM: The one Chuck suggested on a panel was Invisible Monsters. Live on a Fight Club 2 panel in Seattle at EMCC he said he’d like to see me adapt that one. Which was an honor and a surprise. Chuck has so many amazing books that would be a joy to adapt. Invisible Monsters was the second Chuck book I read after Fight Club. Rant could be a challenge as well. And it would be great to work on a brand new work with Chuck.
FS: Speaking of your relationship with Dark Horse, the company just released the Kabuki Library Edition Vol. 1. You’ve been working on Kabuki was a couple decades now. What hand did you have in putting together the volume?
DM: I personally designed all the Kabuki Library Editions. There will be four of them. Each one has at least 400 pages. I’m really happy with these as the best presentation of these stories. The oversize format, the larger and wider scale, it makes it a completely new and improved reading experience.
FS: How much is Kabuki a snapshot of how you approached your craft when you first started the story compared to how you approach your art and storytelling now?
DM: Each of the Kabuki volumes marks a kind of evolution in my work in comics, as well as a different era for the character. Each volume explores different storytelling approaches and different approaches in medium and subject matter. In a way, these books are a kind of diary for my evolution as a writer and artist, as they are an evolution with the characters.
FS: Your first work I was exposed to was your stint on Daredevil. How much was your time with the character informed by your work on Kabuki and vice versa?
DM: My work on Kabuki is what got me the offer to write Daredevil. But unlike Kabuki, where I had created all the characters, Daredevil was the first time that I was writing a character that I didn’t create. So the challenge was to be respectful to the rich mythology that the creators before me had brought to the character… but to also add something unique in the writing of the Daredevil characters as well.
But writing a variety of different characters in Kabuki made me sensitive to writing characters with strong points of view, and being considerate about their conscious motivations and their unconscious motivations. This was something I was thoughtful about in the Daredevil characters of Wilson Fisk, Matt, and Echo, particularly in that first Daredevil story I did with the origins of Wilson Fisk and Echo.
FS: I know you have your hands busy at the moment, but have you considered doing more Kabuki tales anytime soon?
DM: I wrote a brand new Kabuki story in the #1 issue of Dark Horse Presents last year. It felt great to be continuing with the character, and I had worked out so much more of the story in the process of it. It would be a joy to do more. But I also have other personal stories and characters I want to explore.
FS: Are you currently doing covers for any other titles you’re enjoying?
DM: I recently made covers for Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, and Abe Sapien, and BPRD. I also created new covers for the new collected Alias volumes, and for Clive Barker’s newest book, The Scarlet Gospels.
FS: Do you have projects coming down the pike you can discuss?
DM: Marvel announced recently that I created work for the opening titles of the new Jessica Jones TV series on Netflix. Working on something else for TV that I may be able to talk about soon. I created the marquee art and character designs for a theatrical production from Japan that is opening in October. I’m working on a new print with Neil Gaiman right now. Brian Michael Bendis and I will be doing a brand new creator-owned series together. And we are in the process of developing one with Bill Sienkiewicz as well.
Kabuki Library Edition Vol. 1 is now on sale. Vol. 2 will be available in December, with Vol. 3 hitting next July. Mr. Mack’s art can also be seen on covers of issues of Fight Club 2, now in stores.