Comic Book Historians

Mark Chiarello: Art Director Behind the Curtain Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

October 15, 2019 Comic Book Historians Season 1 Episode 51
Comic Book Historians
Mark Chiarello: Art Director Behind the Curtain Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Comic Book Historians
Mark Chiarello: Art Director Behind the Curtain Part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Oct 15, 2019 Season 1 Episode 51
Comic Book Historians

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Mark Chiarello, former painter, art director and editor in the comics business. As a painter, he has worked on such projects as the Batman story Batman/Houdini: The Devil's Workshop and Clive Barker's Hellraiser.  As an editor for DC Comics, he co-created the Batman: Black & White mini-series (for which he received Eisner Awards in 1997 and again in 2003) and fan favorite series like Solo and Wednesday Comics.  In this episode we discuss the second half of his career discussing his work with creators like Darwyn Cooke, Tim Sale, on projects like Solo and Wednesday Comics and some details around his leaving DC Comics in 2019.   Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at

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Show Notes Transcript

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview Mark Chiarello, former painter, art director and editor in the comics business. As a painter, he has worked on such projects as the Batman story Batman/Houdini: The Devil's Workshop and Clive Barker's Hellraiser.  As an editor for DC Comics, he co-created the Batman: Black & White mini-series (for which he received Eisner Awards in 1997 and again in 2003) and fan favorite series like Solo and Wednesday Comics.  In this episode we discuss the second half of his career discussing his work with creators like Darwyn Cooke, Tim Sale, on projects like Solo and Wednesday Comics and some details around his leaving DC Comics in 2019.   Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at

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Alex Grand: Awesome. We’ve talked about Darwyn a little bit, and we’re going to talk about him more, but that 2014 the Variant cover month, where he did all of those, that was fantastic. I mean, those characters and DC of the period where I feel in love with it better than anything I can think of. Was that something you had anything to do with?

Mark Chiarello: Yeah. I asked Darwyn to do those. That was my idea because, I had been away from DC for about six months now, but for the last like five years I ran DC’s Variant cover program and at first it was themes, like selfie months and Mad Magazine, Alfred E. Newman meets the DC Superheroes months, and I was sort of running out of ideas. And I thought, “Well, why don’t we do artist month, where one artist does all 25 variant covers.” And Darwyn was the first guy I asked because I just loved his work, and I agree with you, those images are so iconic. So graphically creative and, again, he drew 25 covers I think maybe in a month and a half.

Jim Thompson: And so many of those will be in my brain forever. I mean, the same way that some of those 52 ones were. They’re just so well conceived and they’re just so solid that they don’t go away. Boy, there’s so many of those in that particular cover run. I mean, those are just fantastic.

Mark Chiarello: Yeah, totally agree. Without getting off into Darwyn too much, Darwyn is a really complex guys, a lot like Toth. He had his flaws as a human being, but he could be the sweetest guy you’ve ever met, but he could be the biggest asshole you ever met, too. But, look, we all have our demons, but man I love that guy. I miss him. I think he’s… and you’re probably getting a sense I’m really prone to grand statements like, “Oh, so and so’s the best comic book artist.”, I really feel, honestly, that Darwyn was the best writer/artist of all comics history.

Mark Chiarello: Some people say, “Oh, he was kind of retro.” He wasn’t retro at all, he was epic. He understood iconic imagery and iconic storytelling and he got to the core of these characters. Look, like I said, when I was a kid I loved Marvel. Spider-man’s still my favorite character, maybe a tie with Batman these days, but I was a Marvel nut, and I came over to work for DC and I kind of didn’t understand many of DC’s characters. Like The Flash, he runs fast. Big deal, who cares? Oh, Green Arrow, oh yeah, he shoots an arrow. Big fucking deal. Who cares? But man, working with Darwyn on New Frontier, he showed me, he made me see the power of those characters and why so many fans loved Green Lantern.

Mark Chiarello: Man, as a Marvel fan, give me The Hulk, give me Captain America, give me The Fantastic Four. I just didn’t understand Green Lantern, but man, I totally Green Lantern now because of Darwyn because he understood it.

Jim Thompson: In a single panel, he could make you like Wonder Woman if you had never appreciated that character in your whole life, and he would draw her on that table and suddenly it’s like, “Oh, yeah. She’s badass. I suddenly get Wonder Woman.” Or the panel where Robin is jumping up and down while Batman’s talking to Superman and it’s like, “That’s Dick Grayson.” He had such an incredible instinct about it. It’s just amazing.

Mark Chiarello: Well, he had respect for these characters. Youre absolutely right, he had respect for these characters. He didn’t want to shit on these characters and make Green Lantern an alcoholic.

Jim Thompson: Oh, yeah.

Mark Chiarello: Let’s retrofit the back history of these characters. He always went to the core of the creation of the characters.

Jim Thompson: Right, Flash running to Vegas because of Captain Cold and that’s brilliant.

Mark Chiarello: Yeah. Oh, and he based that Captain Cold on Grant Morrison, by the way. If you look closely it’s Grant Morrison.

Jim Thompson: No, really? Oh, that’s awesome!

Alex Grand: That is cool.

Mark Chiarello: Yeah, but I loved working with him. Man, I really loved working with that guy. I had called him not that long ago, I guess a year and a half ago, two years ago, whatever it was. I had come up with an idea, one of my kooky ideas for a project and he loved it, years ago. He loved it. He really wanted to do it. He thought it was a brilliant idea, great idea. We were going to do it, then we had this really big fight. We had this really big falling out, again, because Darwyn is Darwyn and I’m perfect. So I’m sure it wasn’t my fault.

Alex Grand: There you go.

Mark Chiarello: But he really wanted to do it and then we had that big fight. So I forgot it for like three years, four years, whatever it was, and then about a year and a half ago we made up. We became friends again and everything was cool, and about a year and a half ago I called him and I said, “Hey, time to do that Batman book we talked about.” And I apologize, I’m getting a little emotional about it, but he said, “I can’t.” And I was kind of like, “What do you mean you can’t? Come on. It’s a great idea.” And I didn’t show it to him on the phone, but I got a little pissed off and like, “Well, why the fuck not? Come on man.” And he’s like, “I just can’t do it. I really want to do it. I can’t do it.” And then the next three days later he called me back and he told me why he couldn’t do it

Alex Grand: Because of medical reasons?


Mark Chiarello: I apologize, I’m getting a little emotional here, but because he knew what was going to happen to him.

Alex Grand: Yeah.

Jim Thompson: Wow. Wow, all right. That’s hard.

Mark Chiarello: Boy, I just brought down the room.

Alex Grand: No, that’s okay. I mean, I like the back story. I think Jim does too.

Jim Thompson: I think everybody knows that loss, and you knew it personally, but comics knew it because he was. For a whole generation, he’s that guy that maybe older people had with Kirby or with Steranko at some point or with different people. Cooke was that guy. He was that level, and you don’t get those very often.

Mark Chiarello: Very rarely. Very rarely. You’ll see artists and writers who were as talented as him, but there was something special. Like look, Adam Hughes, I always say he’s the best draftsman I’ve ever worked with. The guy can draw anything, but you’re right, there’s something that was a throwback to Jack Kirby with Darwyn.

Jim Thompson: Well, on those Hughes covers that he did for Wonder Woman, especially, you look like you were having such a good time with him on those.

Mark Chiarello: They were fun, yeah. They were fun. I was at a convention, I was at Shelton Drum’s great convention in Charlotte, Heroescon some years ago, and I always wanted to work with Adam Hughes because I loved his stuff and, “Oh, there’s Adam over there. I’m going to go talk to him.” And I was like, “Excuse me. We don’t know each other,” but he knew who I was and I said, “I’d love for you to draw some covers for me at DC.” And he kind of like, “That could be fun. I’d like to do that.” He said, “Well, what characters you thinking of?” And I said, “Well, how about Wonder Woman?” And man, you could see, he couldn’t contain his glee that I asked him to do Wonder Woman because that’s what he wanted to ask to do, right? But I’m not dumb. That’s what people want to see. People wanted to see Adam Hughes do beautiful women, beautiful strong heroic women. Nobody does that like Adam.

Jim Thompson: And Wonder Woman had the most incredible, between Bolton to Jones to him, I mean, there was a run of years and years where Wonder Woman covers just had one brilliant cover artist after another doing really long runs on it that was amazing. And his stand up to anybodies, for sure.

Mark Chiarello: You know, you had mentioned the Bolland covers were great and [inaudible 01:10:58] is a great Wonder Woman cover artist, and Nicola Scott. They all pale next to Adam Hughes when it comes to drawing Wonder Woman.

Alex Grand: When I interviewed Steranko, when he was talking about modern artists, he singled out Adam Hughes as someone that he always keeps his eye on. That he really finds his artwork interesting. So it sounds like there’s something special there for sure.

Mark Chiarello: There really is, and when I was working on Wonder Woman I would always send Jim Steranko, who’s a pal, I’d send him tear sheets of Adam’s Wonder Woman stuff. Like, “Check this dude out!” Jim’s a real scholar when it comes to the history of illustration, and he said, “Man, Mark, this guy’s as good as anybody.” And think about that. Who are the great, great, great, great draftsman in comics history? Frank Frazetta, Brian Bolland. Adam’s as good as any of them.

Alex Grand: In the real of illustration especially, right?

Mark Chiarello: Yeah.

Jim: You know, since we’re on this subject, one other thing, when we were talking to Tim Sale and with Chaykin, they both pretty much pronounced Dave Johnson as the best cover artist currently working and has been for a long time. What do you think of that?

Mark: Dave, man, Dave sensibilities and mine are really very similar. We both like really graphic images. Dave’s such a hardcore designer. He could draw incredibly well. I wish I could draw like Dave Johnson can draw, but he just gets imagery. He gets picture making. They’re like posters, you know?

Alex: Yes, that’s right.

Jim: Yeah, that’s right. They are. They work so well on covers. Because I think covers, a lot of times, have become sort of just a … They don’t tell a story. They don’t really bring you in necessarily. His covers always bring you in, whatever he’s doing.

Mark: Yeah, I went on … Again, when I was running the Variant covers, I told Dave all the time, because he’s a pal, he’s a real pro. He’s always on time. But I knew I was going to get back a piece and just go, “Holy, shit, look what this guy did.”

Mark: But I would love the idea … I did that with Frank Cho. And I did with that Josh Middleton. It was astounding.

Alex: Oh, yeah.

Mark: Ryan Sook, Ryan Sook is just crazy. The guy’s just so talented. It was a pleasure to do that job.

Jim: The last thing on covers, with … and this actually relates to you, is that run that you did with Tim Sale of Detective Comics in 2003 to 2004, which I think along with Johnson’s Detective covers were just as good as Batman covers could possibly be, but those are brilliant that Tim did with you. And I’d like to know what the collaboration process was between the two of you.

Mark: I think Timmy was really at the top of his game when he was doing those. He was so … Look comic artists want to draw the great classic characters, the great villains, right? You don’t want to do like …

Mark: Tim would call me, “Okay, so who’s this month?” And I’d say, “Oh, it’s the Joker,” and he’d be cool. He’d be really jazzed by it. It wasn’t oh yeah, Batman’s fighting Banana Man this month, because then you’re like, “Oh, shit, I have to figure out … I don’t want to draw that.”

Mark: But that run had so many great villains in it, that Timmy just keyed off on that stuff, and he was nice enough to let me color them, and they really fun. It was a really fun … It was kind of a triangle. It was the editor to the artist to the colorist. He did quite a few, as I recall.

Jim: Yeah, I think during that run, and you did almost all of them with him. I think you did 17 in total and maybe more.

Mark: Yeah, I really distinctly remember some of them being really fun. Timmy’s such a great … I shouldn’t call him Timmy. It makes him sound like he’s six years old. Tim’s such a great visualist. His stuff is so idiosyncratic. It’s a little like Paul Pope, we’re sort of like, “This guy shouldn’t be drawing comics.”

Mark: It’s not Johnny Somebody. It’s not John Romita, it’s not Main Street Comics. It’s their own vision. Fortunately, Modern Comics allow artists to do that, but I just loved Tim’s view of the world. Again, it’s very influenced by movies, film galore, and poster artists from 30s.

Mark: Often, I would call these guys and, especially Tim and Adam Hughes and Dave Johnson, and I would never really talk about the job. I would never say, “Oh, well what do you think you’ll do on this cover?” I would talk about … We would talk about Norman Rockwell or geez, did you see that show on Netflix? It was really well shot.

Mark: Or talk about famous American illustrators, and then we’d get off the phone and you just had a great conversation, and you were happy to be an artist, a working artist, so they’re just trying to do their best work I think.

Mark: I wasn’t tricking them. I certainly wasn’t tricking them into doing their best work. I just liked talking with these guys about stuff I’m interested in and stuff they’re interested in.

Jim: And then you would get the best work?

Mark: Yeah.

Jim: That’s great. I want to get this Solo super quickly, because you’re giving me all these … bringing up hope and different things, it makes me want to talk about it. I just want to quickly ask you about the Guide tocoloring and lettering comics with Todd Kline. What was the origin of that project?

Mark: The publisher, did a series of books with DC, the DC Guide to Creative, the DC Guide to Penciling, the DC Guide to Writing, the DC Guide to Inking, and they were going to … They had heavy hitters doing them.

Mark: Denny O’Neill wrote the one on writing and Klaus Janson did the one on penciling and inking, and they asked me to do the one on coloring. And I was like, “Oh, man that’s going to be a lot of …” I said to myself, “That’s going to be a lot of work. I really don’t want to do that, but I don’t want anybody else to do it.” So accepted it. I think for years it was pretty highly regarded as like the bible of how to color comic books.

Alex: Right.

Jim: Has coloring changed to a degree, that does it still apply?

Mark: The technical side of coloring has changed, because Photoshop comes out with a new version every year and a half, whatever it is. But the first half of that book is about the aesthetics of color, and all that stuff doesn’t change. It’s how to have good taste. How not to be all over the place with what you’re putting on the page.

Mark: When comics first got into computer coloring, it was really gimmicky right off the bat. You had a lot of lens players everywhere. You had people using way too much color, and different colors, and well I have a million colors available to me, I’m going to us all one million of them. That ain’t what it’s about.

Mark: You see some great colorists like Laura Martin and all these … the historic Trish Mulville], all these great, great colorists, they’re not using all those colors. They’re just using the computer like an art tool. It’s just like a set of oil paints or set of watercolors or good markers. It’s the talent you bring to the table, not the tools that you have at your disposal.

Jim: So going now to New Frontier, because chronologically that’s where we are, 2004, I would have focused on what your contribution was to the book, as an editor. Like did you work whit him in terms of the whole package, the cover? It’s so well designed from the first page to the last page, as is Solo.

Alex: These are not just comics that have a cover that’s not related to the next page and the next. It’s a whole. And that’s so clear in New Frontier, so I want to hear not just what Darwin does, but what did you do to that project?

Mark: Look, I’d love to take credit for the look of New Frontier. I’m a designer as well as an art director and an artist, and if you look at Solo, that’s completely me from the logo to the way it’s designed, everything about that. And Wednesday Comics is completely me. I did the whole thing from a design standpoint, Batman black and white.

Mark: But Darwin, he did everything on that book. I would talk to him literally every day about where the story was going and art, sent pages in, but that’s Darwin’s aesthetic. I’d love to steal some credit, but Darwin just … He did the whole thing from the covers to the inside design to obviously the art to write it. That was all Darwin.

Mark: It goes by to Archie. Archie just had to facilitate these guys, make it easy for them to do their job. Make it easy for them to sit down and write or draw. That’s what I get with Darwin. I just let him-

Jim: So when those pages and the concepts were coming in, was everybody in the DC offices just in awe of it? Because it’s just an amazing piece of work?

Mark: Yeah, I mean Darwin’s a little … His stuff is a little polarizing, because so many people revere it, but you had a few people who thought, well that’s just cartoony, or he’s just doing Bruce Timm. He was influenced by Timm, also influenced by Kirby and Toth, but Darwyne is Darwyne.

Mark: I never liked when people said, “Gee, that’s just too simple. That’s just cartoony.” That’s such a stupid thing to say, especially.. Like when people love to tote stuff, a lot of people will say, “Oh, it’s too simple.” You try to do simple. Hey, it’s easy to draw a shoulder and draw 40 lines for that shoulder, try to do the one right one for that shoulder.

Alex: Right, there you go.

Mark: That’s what’s difficult.

Jim: That’s great to know. And just as even more about Darwin that that’s so much just a coming completely from his head. Let’s move to Solo. Solo, which was done between 2004 and 2006, which you said was one of your babies in terms of design, and everything, was it conceived by you to be a limited series of 12 or did you just see … wanted to see how far it would run?

Mark: I wanted to see how far it would go. Sales were good on it, but they weren’t great on it, but it was more of like a real hardcore fan darling, you know?

Alex: Oh, yeah.

Mark: Some people look back on it with great fondness that … I was just being selfish. I just wanted to work with these artists, and I wanted to see … I remember though when Archie worked, when Archie Goodwin worked for DC, I remember going in his office, “I have this idea. Look, I love super heroes, but I’m getting a little tired of them. Nobody does western comics anymore. Nobody does romance comics anymore. Could we do a book that’s just all … like all romance comics or prison break stories?”

Mark: He’s like, “Well the problem with that is if you do one issue that’s all westerns, then the next issue is prison stories, you get no momentum, because it’s a completely different flavor.” I’m like, “Yeah, you’re probably right.”

Mark: And I thought about it, and thought about it, and was like, “Well, maybe if the focus is the artist, then you’re going to walk into a comic shop and see, “Oh, Tim Sale, I like his stuff,” so you’re going to pick it up, and you’d be tricked into reading all the different genres that I asked the guys to do, the guys and gals to do.

Mark: I was just looking at the collection of the Solo stuff the other day, and man, there was some cool stuff in there. I was really lucky. There was some really cool stuff in there.

Jim: Well before we get to the ones that did get made, I want to just ask about the ones that didn’t, in terms of were there artists that you planned on having or that you talked to about it, and it didn’t happen because you ran out of time, or because they couldn’t do it? I know Kaluta said something on their Facebook group about how he so wanted to do that, and then it didn’t happen.

Mark: Yeah, I remember mentioning it to Kaluta. I don’t know that it had ever … I ever actually asked him officially, but I love Mike’s stuff, so I would have been cool. Walt Simonson was going to do one. He wanted to interconnect all the stories.

Mark: And I was like, “Cool, go ahead, great.” I know he was having deadline problems on some other project he was trying to wrap up, so Solo got canceled before he got a chance to do much more than maybe a couple character designs.

Mark: His idea was he wanted each story to be different characters and different times through history. And the connective tissue was a coin that each character had the same coin throughout history. He eventually did it, once Solo was canceled, he did it as a graphic novel called the Judas Coin.

Jim: That was going to be a Solo project?

Mark: That is the initial at Solo, yeah, that he never got around to doing. I forget why he couldn’t do the Solo, but he had to step off, and then like maybe two years later, he pitched it as a graphic novel. I’m glad he did, because it’s a really beautiful piece.

Alex: Yeah, I like that. I’ve read that.

Jim: It seemed like some of the people, who went and eventually did Wednesday Comics would have been … Kelly Baker is the most obvious one to me, but there were people like that that just cried out that they should have been on … gotten to do a Solo issue.

Mark: Yeah, I’ve got to use a lot of those people. You’re right, I used a lot of those people on Wednesday Comics, but Jim Lee started drawing an issue of Solo. I think he did three pages, and he is officially the busiest guy on the planet, so he never proceeded with it.

Mark: I really like Howard Porter’s work, and he showed me his sketch books one time, and they were just like … His comic stuff is great, but his sketch books are just like from another world. I said, “Oh, man, you should do this stuff.” And then it was canceled. And Sienciewicz was going to do one, and George Pratt was going to do one, but the book was canceled.

Jim: Ah, those both would have been great. Well, let’s talk about the ones that actually did get published. Did you start with Tim Sale just because he finished first or was there a strategy to how you were going to do these in order?

Mark: Well, obviously, when you kick off a project you want to get a real popular creator on it. Timmy was very popular at that time. He was just coming off, I guess, the stuff he did with Loeb for us, I have to stop saying us, for DC Comics, Dark Victory.

Mark: So I knew he had a real following, and he’s really an artist’s artist. He really … I got my cake and eat it too, I got to hire an artist I really loved and respected their work, but also somebody who was really popular.

Jim: Right. And you actually colored one of those stories on that first issue, right? Did you do Prom Night?

Mark: Did I do Prom Night? Which one’s Prom Night? I forget which one that is. I know I colored the Film Noire one, the Azzarello one, the almost black and white one.

Jim: Oh, did you do that one?

Mark: Yeah. Which I think is Tim’s best work to date. I think that’s just astounding. I know I colored the last story, which is about his mom and dad, which was monochromatic, like green and tan.

Alex: Yeah, that’s a nice one.

Mark: Yeah.

Jim: Isn’t that where he’s going off to the prom? Maybe that’s … because that’s the one I love is that he’s in the driveway. He’s leaving. He’s walking away and his mom … There’s a picture of his mom and dad looking but-

Mark: You know you’re right. I think you’re right, yeah. I know it’s about … They mention … They talk about a French obnoxious song a lot in that story, so that’s-

Jim: Yeah, that’s what it is. It’s Prom Night. It’s my favorite page from that issue is that one, as good as the Noire one is. It’s just that one’s personal to me. I just love it.

Mark: Real nice. That, actually, I shouldn’t say this, but I actually wrote one of them also. I shouldn’t say that though.

Jim: wow.

Alex: Because it’s not on the official credit you mean?

Mark: Yeah, Chip had, like a year earlier, Chip had done … He was dating a girl, and they went on vacation to the beach, and he drew this three-page story of him and her walking on the beach. It was really beautifully drawn and painted, but it had no dialog at all.

Mark: He sent me scans of the pages, because I love his art and wanted to share it, and I said, “Ah, this is a gorgeous.” And just as a joke, I put dialog in there, like … I made it where they’re having a fight on the beach, and he’s all pissed off because he’s got to go back and draw Spiderman Red, White and Blue or whatever that book was with the deadlines and all that stuff.

Mark: It was just a gag. And then when a year or two later, when he did Solo, I said … No, he said, “Let’s print that artwork. I’ll draw a few more pages to it. I’ll fill it out a little, but I want you to dialog it for real.” So I wrote the dialog that’s in that story.

Mark: Which had nothing to do with the images, really. I just made up this story about a guy who had to kill his girlfriend for them.

Jim: Wow.

Mark: I shouldn’t have said that, because Tim’s going to be real mad at me that I said that.

Jim: So the second issue, you went with somebody that, I think at the time, wouldn’t have necessarily been instinctively another big seller, which was Richard Corben, primarily known for his earlier magazine work. What was your decision to go with him next, and also what did you think of that issue?

Mark: It was an absolutely fascist mercenary decision. I’m a really big Richard Corben fan from back in the days when there was such a thing as Underground Comics, and he would draw these incredibly bizarre, gorgeous comic books. I had asked him to draw a Batman black and white, eight-pager.

Mark: I think it was in the first issue. I think it was. And we became kind of friendly, and I asked him to do this Solo, and one of the great, great artists. I really loved what he ended up doing for that book.

Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: He wrote all those stories.


Mark: I wrote maybe … He said he wrote about 90% of them. I think there was … Oh, no, Jonna City wrote the Spectre story I think.

Jim: Ah, let’s talk about that for a second, because it’s interesting to me, one, Dave Stewart colored it and it’s … I mean it shows. It’s great, but also wasn’t Corben, at this point, in a real religious phase of his life?

Mark: I don’t know if that’s true. I honestly don’t know. He’s a real interesting guy, but I don’t know that there was … I’m not sure. I’m honestly not sure.

Jim: I had read that, which was interesting, because the Spectre is a tricky character in that context, but I thought his visual of the Specter was really original. I had not seen the all encompassing use of white, the way that it was used in that story, I thought was really fun.

Mark: Yeah Big time really cool.

Jim: The third issue was Paul Pope, one of the best … I think that’s one of the best issues of the whole series for me. I love that. If you don’t fully appreciate Jack Kirby, Paul Pope surely does, because that OMAC recreation is just so much fun.

Mark: Yeah, another guy who just really has a real respect for the history of comics and brings his incredibly unique take to that world. I think I may have colored a couple of those stories, as I recall.

Alex: Oh, cool.

Jim: And the next was Chaykin. What’s your take on Howard?

Mark: I love Howard. Howard’s the greatest. I really liked that last story where he talked about how, as a kid, he was too scared to read horror comic books. I loved the autobiographical nature of that story.

Jim: That’s an aspect I really like about this series, when any of them actually bring that in, and we’ll get to Darwin Cook’s beautiful story in terms of that next, where he does that with World’s Window, which I assume is somewhat autobiographical.

Mark: That book is yeah. Like one of the later issues was Sergio Aragones, and on one of the pages, like maybe page two, he’s talking on the phone to his editor, and he’s making all excuses about why he’s late drawing his issue of Solo, and the editor was me.

Mark: So he actually said, “Oh, yes, Mark, I’ve already drawn half the story [inaudible 00:19:21],” when I got the pages in, and I’m like, “Holy, shit, Sergio’s [inaudible 00:19:25] talking about me, like specifically talking about me and mentioning Mark, mentioning me in the comic book.

Alex: That’s cool.

Jim: Yeah, that’s also one of my favorite issues, because it’s so autobiographical. It’s like half autobiography and half take me back to plop, and it’s just so much fun. I think that issue really works well. The only thing I’d say about the Chaykin one was it’s not just that last story, but the one before that is so EC focus too, because it reads just like one of the Preachies that Wally Wood did.

Mark: Yeah.

Jim: So it seems like it was … So that leads me to a question, who decided the order of the stories in that? Was that you or did the artists say here they are and here’s how I want them to be told?

Mark: It was mostly me figuring that out. Some artists would say gee I’d really like it to go in this order, and if I agreed, I certainly would say yeah that sounds cool, but I did it. I had to do something editorial there, editorially on it.

Mark: But I would say hey I think this is a good flow, because you have a western, next to a super hero, next to a romance. I would always plot it out like … I would always do a book map with little thumbnails on each page, so I would … I’d no the flow of how the book went, so you don’t have two really long stories next to each other or two westerns next to each other.

Jim: But it was nice that there were a lot of westerns in this series all together. The next one, issue six, with Jordi Bernet, has that stalking horse story, again, with Dave Stewart, and it’s … One of the things, when I was going through it, re-looking at this was boy those Stewart colored ones just jump out at you like you recognize oh, I bet that’s one of his too, because you just … It’s just there’s something that just pops out of the page with his colors.

Mark: Yeah, and Dave’s one of the few guys I’m real jealous of, because he’s a better colorist than I am, and that’s probably why I stopped doing coloring, because he’s just so good.

Jim: No.

Mark: He’s the nicest guy. He’s really laid back and stuff, but he’s man, what a talent. and yeah, Like Mignola, and yeah those Solo stories …

Jim: And then, let’s see, Michael Allred, that issue, it just seemed like he was so happy to be playing in super hero land, and I don’t think it’s … because he’s the first one that that’s all he did in this was … It seemed like it was every story was now I’m going to do Kirby Fourth World.

Jim: And now I’m going to do Teen Titans, and I’m going to do a pinup of Metal Man. He embraced that aspect of it like no one had before him in terms of this series.

Mark: The one made up was okay it’s short stories, you can do whatever genre you want. You can write whatever you want relatively. The only rule is you have to do at least one super hero story, one DC super hero story.

Mark: So you get all these artists who wanted to do different genres, science fiction, and they begrudgingly would do the super hero, but Allred would just want super heroes. Like you said, he did all those characters and did all those super heroes he wanted to do.

Alex: Yeah, it seemed he really liked the silver age of super heroes. It seemed like that’s a big influence on him.

Mark: Yeah, we really shared that, because we were both big 60s fan of the 60s and 70s stuff, and …

Alex: Right.

Mark: I don’t know you two met Mike and Laura Allred?

Jim: No.

Mark: They were truly the nicest, nicest people you’ll ever meet. They’re real decent human beings. They’re just optimistic about life and how lucky they feel they are to be working in the business and drawing their heroes. Man, I can’t say enough about those two people.

Jim: Oh, that’s great. And she’s super talented too. She’s a great colorist.

Mark: Man, yeah.

Jim: What a team, so then Teddy Christianson, and I love this issue an awful lot too, I think the art in this is just fantastic, and it’s got a real theme to it. It’s a beautiful cover. It’s the interiors are great. That love story in that is just really nice. We’re you pleased with that issue?

Mark: Yeah, I’m really glad to hear you say that you liked it because Teddy was such a polarizing artist that he like … We did an issue with Damian Scott and people came into my office and said, “Wow, this … He’s such a modern artist,” and it really took balls to use him on this project.

Mark: “I really love this stuff,” They said. Then the other 50% of the people came in and said, “This isn’t comic. This is crap. What are you publishing?” I would kick them out of my office, because they were wrong, but that’s talented Solo was to use artists who are really liked.

Mark: And knowing that Teddy Christianson’s just an incredible, incredible artist, but some people might not like it, but you can’t … We can’t all be mainstream, you know?

Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim: No, it was quiet, and it had an art with a capital A feel to it, that I think there’s a whole segment of comic fans, who probably didn’t respond to that. And it’s kind of amazing that he worked at DC, and that some of these guys worked at DC, when they don’t have styles that are traditionally friendly.

Mark: Yeah, and the difficult thing with Solo was one artist pulling all the weight for a single issue, so if you don’t like Tim Sale, you’re not going to buy that issue. But with Batman black and white, I was able to, the very first issue, I asked Jim Lee to do the cover, because he was incredibly popular and a great, great artist.

Mark: But if you look in that issue, there’s a Jose Munone story in there, that most kids had never heard of at that time, because he was a European artist that I really worshiped, so yes I kind of tricked people into buying the book and getting something that was good for them without them knowing it.

Alex: Ah, that’s awesome.

Jim: So there was the Scott Hampton one, and that’s an old friend of yours, that he did, and were you pleased with that issue? He messed up his styles. That’s the one where like you could see a route with most of the artists, like even though they differed the approach to it, but his are so different from story to story in that issue.

Mark: Yeah, he’s such a multi-talented artist. He’s got such a variety of his stuff. He can draw any way he wants, which is such a rarity. Some of those stories in there … my absolutely favorite in the entire series, he did a story about a real EC comics pastiche in there. And there’s a story about a little boy who meets Batman, but it’s really not Batman. It’s a guy.

Jim: Yeah, I love that one.

Mark: Oh, god, it just brings tears to my eyes. I think it’s just beautiful.

Jim: And then we do the Damian Scott one, which I fully appreciate being polarizing, and again, that’s fascinating, because where you have the one story where Brian Stelfreze inks it, and it changes it completely.

Jim: It seems so much more accessible on some level. I like that. And then I turned to the last story, and that double-page spread on the bat is like the coolest thing in the world, so I think it’s a totally …

Jim: It’s a strong issue that ought to be considered. I bet it was probably the most polarizing issue that … well maybe the last one, which we can get to.

Mark: Yeah, it really was. People loved it, and people hated it. And that’s fine. That’s cool.

Jim: And then everybody loved Aragones, right? That issue had the-

Mark: Yeah. Yeah, that was a no-brainer. I just … man-

Jim: Did that sell better?

Mark: Not necessarily, it sold about medium. Obviously, the Tim Sales, and the guys who were real popular at the time, those sold really well.

Jim: Yeah, I would think Sale and Cook would be the ones that we’re probably just easy ones.

Mark: Yeah. The series sold fairly well. It wasn’t a big success, but it was a big, creative success. That’s okay.

Jim: And then Brendan McCarthy is the … probably the most challenging one, like that’s like wow, DC readers probably were not ready for that. Their brains probably exploded.

Mark: Yeah, I don’t know that I was ready for that either. I respect that he’s such a mad genius, and I wanted to publish a genius, but it’s not real accessible, but man there’s some creative stuff there.

Jim: And that’s one where it has a … It goes from page to page. It’s not just like four stories. It has a unity of insanity running throughout the entire thing.

Mark: Yeah, you feel like you took … just took acid and read a comic book.

Jim: Yup, that’s pretty much what it was. It’s like if you didn’t know, just thinking about it, you could look at that issue and say, “Oh, well that killed Solo.” That’s the end of that.

Jim: Anyway, I want to thank you for that series, because it’s such a great treat for people who really love comic art especially, because you’ve got it in a way that you don’t often get it, so-

Mark: Well thank you –

Jim: Thanks for indulging us and talking about that in the detail that … any other thoughts about Solo?

Mark: No, there is that weird wave of nostalgia like, “Oh, that’s why comics were good,” you know by some people. I’m real proud to have been a part of that. I appreciate that you liked it, and that people do remember it really well.

Mark: It was an experiment that was a little … maybe a little induldge-ment on my part, but hey, as long as it sold okay, and people liked it, then that’s good enough for me.

Jim: And the package and everything, when you say that that’s all you, it is one of the most memorable runs in terms of how it’s designed in the visuals of cover to cover and back to back. It’s such a well conceived book, not even talking about the content, but just the thematics of it, visual thematics of it.

Mark: Okay, thank you.

Jim: So Alex, you want to … I’m worn out for a few minutes, talk about Wednesday Comics.

Alex: So Wednesday Comics, that was 2009, and I loved it. I read all 12 of them, and I just love how it’s arranged, like a Sunday comics from the newspapers back when they were early adventure strips, so how did the Wednesday Comics come to be?

Mark: Like many people, I am a fad of the old Sunday comics, the old comic strips in the newspaper. They used to be so big. They were physically so large. And then over the years they got smaller and smaller essentially.

Mark: But as a fan of comics, and comic strips, I really missed those days of … You know I’d go back and collect stuff that was around in the 30s and 40s and I’d love to introduce the Krazy Kat, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, it was obviously before my time, before our time, but it was a different world.

Mark: We forget, because we never knew that this was as popular as movies and television, and then right up through all the adventure strips, like we mentioned Terry and the Pirates, any Star Trek movie, any Star Wars movie and James Bond movie. It was just great. I was very good friends with editor, Joe Cavalieri at DC, and Joey is a real knowledgable guy, he kept saying we should do something with the strip, and I had the same exact idea, so I put it together, and it was really fun. It was a weird experiment. I wondered how it … how people looked at us on it, I liked that. I really liked working with it, and working with the people on it. I worked with some really great names again, but I sort of do wonder how people look back on it.

Alex: Well, I love it. I looked back on it the other day. Was it hard to pitch to DC at the time? Were they like well this sounds a little too avant garde, or was it a full green light from day one?

Mark: Not a full green light. I was just mentioning the other day in an interview about how Paul Levitz was the boss at DC would always give me a hard time. I’d come in with all excited about hey I want to do this new project, and he’d look at me like, “No, we can’t do that. That’s not going to sell. Research has shown that black and white comics don’t sell.” Whatever.

Mark: He’s an incredible intelligent guy, and he probably had reasons, had hard core data to prove to back up what he was saying, but he always would say no to me and I would always get upset and walk out of his office, storm out of his office, and then go pitch it again another two months later. And I think I eventually wore him down on a lot of this stuff.

Alex: I see.

Mark: But yeah, I mean, even after the point where I did a big … I pasted together comic books in the size and shape of Wednesday Comics to show him exactly what it would look like, and I think he could tell from my passion that yeah, okay, let’s go ahead and do this.

Alex: Right that you’d treat it right, yeah.

Mark: he’d say get out of my office.

Alex: Then how did you select the artists and writers?

Mark: Again, just as a fan. I always think the best thing to do as a editor is to come up with projects that you want, that you would want to read, that you would want to put on your book shelf, so working with …

Mark: Sure, of course, I wanted to work with Paul Pope and Neil Gaiman and Eduardo Risso again, a few of them, I asked a few of them who weren’t able to, like I wanted Tim Sale to do that Batman one on the cover, but when he wasn’t supposed to do that. I think he was doing something at Marvel. But I was just as happy to get Eduardo Risso to do it and Azzarello.

Alex: Right. So Jim and I are going to talk about some of the individual ones. So Metamorpho, story by Neil Gaiman, art by Mike Allred, it’s an interesting team of those two talents, I thought. And it’s about Metamorpho, a company, Simon Stagg, to an expedition in Antarctica, so how was it receiving those pages from them, and did you give them ideas on layouts before getting the pages from them, or was that just kind of they created it and sent it to you? How was that? How was that process?

Mark: The artists always worked with the writers, and they designed their pages. They came up with how they would approach the visuals. I never asked any of them to do them a certain way, a specific way. That was all them, and some people drew them, because again, they were really oversized pages.

Mark: Some people drew them with separate panels, and then they Photoshopped all the panels together, because the physical size of an art, a piece of art paper to draw it on would have been enormous, but sure enough, Allred drew them full size, and he showed me the original. They were like posters. They were incredibly big.

Alex: Wow.

Mark: Yeah, so huge too if you see those originals. They’re enormous.

Alex: Right.

Mark: But that was all, again, Archie Goodwin, hire the best, and let them do what they do. Don’t tell Joe Kubert how to draw Sergeant Rock page, he knows what he’s doing.

Alex: Right, and then Demon Catwoman, the story by Walt Simonson, art by Brian Stelfreze, and Catwoman is trying to steal and artifact from Jason Blood, and it was a Morgan Le Faye plot or a ploy, and then they actually sparked their own little romance between Catwoman and Jason Blood. So none of that’s supposed to be canon, right? These are just basically fun, imaginary tales for this format, right?

Mark: I honestly think all this stuff I did, editorially, Batman black and white, Solo, Wednesday Comics, I think none of that is considered canon really, because it was just fun stuff, you know?

Alex: Right, like artistic statements right?

Mark: Yeah.

Jim: And we’re talking DC, does canon even … Is that even in a vocabulary any longer?

Mark: I will not answer that question. I don’t think anybody did anything that contradicted the basic canon, sort of canon of the characters, Superman was Superman, he didn’t … He wasn’t smoking a cigarette on page two, you know?


Alex: Right, sure. So then the Hawkman, I love that, because there’s an Alex Raymond vibe with Hawkman, obviously. And the action and the illustration, it just had such a warrior approach to it, but the story and art was by Kyle Baker, and Katar Hol fights off airplane hijackers.

Alex: There’s an alien invasion. He ends up on Dinosaur Island. Aquaman kind of helps him out at the end. He loses his wings, but what a fun story, because you have the orchestration of the birds and planes and the hijackers and alien invasions and monster islands or dinosaur islands, what was it like seeing those pages? Were some of those pages just more than you expected getting?

Mark: Oh my god, Kyle’s such a mad … another one of these huge mad geniuses, that pages would come in and I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Oh, I want to do this whole … I want to do the whole story like as 3D graphics, you know? I want it to look real dimensional.”

Mark: I’m like, “But Kyle, can’t you just draw it with a pen? You know? Like you’re old style.” No, I’ve got this great idea. Kyle’s this weird mixture of … He’s sort of a cross between Jack Davis and Will Eisner, you know?

Alex: Right, that’s interesting.

Mark: There’s a real fun nature to his stuff, and man, he goes down as one of the geniuses. He’s like Robert Crumb. He’s just he thinks a different way than normal human beings.

Alex: Yeah, that’s an interesting comparison, so then Sergeant Rocks, story by Adam Kubert, and art by Joe Kubert, which is awesome, because I was a big fan of the Green Beret strip. I read every single on I think, and Sergeant Rock is captured by Nazis and tortured, and he escapes the torture.

Alex: This was obviously towards the end of Joe Kubert’s life, but were you a Joe Kubert fan with his earlier stuff, and how did it feel getting these pages and overseeing pages from him?

Mark: It’s Joe Kubert, yeah, I just … Holy cow, you talk about Kirby and Toth, and Joe Kubert’s right there, any comic’s artist just worth is salt is just the biggest Joe Kubert fan. I met Joe. I got to know him, because we worked together a little bit on that, and a few other projects, but …

Mark: And he ran that school out in New Jersey out in Dover. I’d go visit him to do some business, and stuff, and I’d be like … Look, you’re going to think I’m a moron, but I’d be literally like, “Holy, shit, you’re Joe Kubert. Oh, my god, Joe Kubert, Joe Kubert.”

Mark: And he’d look at me like, “Mark, take it easy. What’s wrong with you?” I just couldn’t help it. It’s Joe Kubert. So yeah, so working with him and Andy on that was really … I was a little nervous, because what if he draws something you don’t like, you’re going to tell Joe Kubert to redraw something? It never happened, but … yeah.

Alex: Yeah, all those pages are great. He was great until the very end, right? He could do … He still kept that skill through all those decades, so Superman, story by John Arcudi, art by Lee Bermejo, it’s kind of an interesting story in that an alien kind of …

Alex: They give him doubts about his connection with earth, but those panels, Superman, even in his argument with Batman, and the story, it just had such a heroic portrayal of Kal-El. What did you feel of the sequence of those pages or quality of that illustration when that was coming your way?

Mark: I’m such a big fan of Lee’s work, Lee Bermejo, I think Arcudi is one of the great writers in comics. I wish he would do more mainstream stuff to play with those characters. Every time he does it’s really great, but and Lee Bermejo, dude, I hate the guy, because he’s this great-looking guy.

Mark: He’s this great artist. He’s really smart. He’s really talented. It’s like the guy’s got everything going for him in life. He’s a good pal, but got I love his work. I like to see him as successful as he is.

Alex: Yeah, that’s awesome, so Batman, story by Brian Azzarello, art by Eduardo Risso, and there’s a murdered man’s estate, and a femme fatale, and it was interesting, because although he catches the dead man’s wife as the person who ended up killing him or being responsible for his death, Batman kisses her at the end right before she dies.

Alex: So you could tell he likes the bad girl, that seems to be an interesting theme with Batman. What did you think with that? How did that hold up as a Batman story?

Mark: I thought it was great. I thought it was a nice plus however to … you’ve got your flagship character on the front cover. Azzarello’s always a great writer, always a great writer, I’m such ] such a big fan of, I haven’t looked at those issues in quite a while. I should re-look.

Mark: I think I remember getting that page in. I may be mis-remembering. I apologize if I am, but it seems to me that when I saw it, he’s kissing her and she dies, but she’s going to say something like she’s going to … I forget, she’s going to spill the beans about something and he keeps kissing her and not allowing her to say what she was going to say? Am I mis-remembering? Like he doesn’t actually kill her.

Alex: Well when I read it it looked like she realized it was Bruce Wayne.

Mark: Right.

Alex: And then she said, Bruce, question mark, and then he kisses here, and there’s like blood on their faces a little too.

Mark: Yeah. Like I think he likes, the way I read it, like he holds the kiss a little too long and she days, so she can’t say out loud what she’s thinking.

Alex: Oh, that’s funny, because the cops were right there too.

Mark: Exactly, yeah, that’s right.

Alex: All right, Jim, you talk about yours.

Jim: Okay, I’ve just got a couple I want to talk about. The ones that I tend to love the most are the ones that it doesn’t look like a comic book that’s just drawn big, but instead looks like it’s doing something like the old sheet [inaudible 00:41:38], like it looks like a newspaper sheet.

Jim: I thought that Sook just nailed it with his Hal Foster instead of Jack Kirby, Kamandi, that’s one of my favorite out of everything that was done on the Wednesday Comics.

Mark: Oh, yeah, how beautifully illustrated was that?

Jim: I think it almost changed the notion of command … It’s awfully hard to do that when Kirby creates it, but I think that Ryan Sook made such an impression on that character with that that it actually carries over, that’s how people … Some people now have that in their head as Kamandi, which is really something.

Mark: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah, it’s just great. That was a standout. The other standout for me was I think that Pope’s Strange Adventures is some of his best work ever, and he’s got a lot of best work, but that’s just … talk about trippy, that’s like a whole different experience from I thought anything else.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely agree. You know I always thought those pages, those pages reminded me of like San Francisco concert poster art.

Jim: Yeah, totally.

Mark: I always wish somebody would have printed those on real nice paper as posters. I bet that would have been real cool.

Jim: Yeah, just the strongest stuff I’m crazy about. Those are the two that I, out of besides some of the things that Alex mentioned, those are the two that really stand out for me, that I could just look at over and over, and seem like something you would see on a comic strip newspaper page rather than anything else. I really like the Dave Bullock, Deadman, I think he just … a couple of those, where he uses the entire page, is just really, really crazy and fun. It looks like he’s just having such a good time doing this, and- That’s what I like on that one.

Mark: Yeah, no, I agree with you. It’s got a real power to his stuff. I really wish that he was doing more comics these days. I thought he was a real force. He was a real force around that time.

Jim: I agree. I loved his work.

Mark: Yeah, he was real good friends with Darwin. They had worked together at one of these animation things. You saw a little bit of Darwin in there. You saw a little bit of Jack Kirby, but Bullock’s stuff is all Bullock. Man, I wish he would come back and do some comics.

Jim: And the other one I would say that I liked because it was really using the concept of that page, was the Flash comics. I tended not to like the main super hero stories as much as some of the fringe stuff, but the … and that was just my taste, but the Flash one, because it broke it up in that Iris West, and just the logo of Iris West and doing those two things on the same page, I followed that with a lot of joy.

Jim: And then halfway through, when they take away Iris, and they put in Gorilla Grodd and suddenly it looks like a Tarzan strip that was exciting to me.

Mark: I thought that was … Who was that? That was Karl and … Karl Kerschl?

Jim: Yeah.

Mark: I forget … my memory-

Jim: Brenda Fletcher, or Brendan Fletcher.

Mark: Brendan Fletcher, yeah. I thought that was honestly … I thought they played with the possibility of this format more than any other of those stories in Wednesday Comics.

Jim: Yeah, that’s why I’m including that with as good as Sook and Pope was, I thought they were the ones that really got the concept.

Mark: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah, such fun stuff.

Mark: Ah, cool.

Jim: Did you want to do a second series and just … it just wasn’t going to come together?

Mark: It was a lot to put together, because as an editor, I was one of the rare editors who actually … I did all my own production, putting the pages together, and getting it ready for the printer. I had to do all that stuff myself and that’s a lot of work, so I was sort of like wow when I was done, man I was really done.

Mark: But then like two, three years went by, and you tend to forget the pain you’ve been put through, or you put yourself through. You know when I pitched it again, and to Didio, and to Dan Didio, he said, “Yeah, we’d like to do that again, but we want to do it as digital comics, direct to digital.”

Mark: And I was like, “That doesn’t really make sense to me, because the charm of Wednesday Comics is that you held this big piece of paper in your hand, and really the size was the cool thing.” But if it’s digital, you could blow it up. You could blow any picture up big or small, so it’s…

Jim: That doesn’t make any sense at all. That would be an interesting project to do in a Scott McCloud, here’s all the possibilities of doing it digital, but it’s not … It violates the entire premise of what this was.

Mark: I felt so. I thought so, so I kind of backed off, backed off of it.

Jim: Oh.

Mark: I started talking with a few people, like Harlan Ellison, I asked Harlan to … He’s a great science fiction writer. I asked Harlan to write a story for me. And he said, “Man, I have the greatest idea, Walt Simonson was going to draw that. So I started aligning them up, but then it just kind of fell apart.

Jim: Oh, boy. Well, I just wanted to … I’m going to have one last thing to talk about, which was the … before Watchman Series, starting with before Watchman Series, and I just wanted to ask you first, what was your feeling about it, I mean about Watchman and Alan Moore’s wishes? Did you have any trouble getting your head around that, doing that project?

Mark: I’ll tread lightly here, but I disagreed with a lot of … as I respect it,  disagree with a lot of … He worked on other creator’s characters, that the companies owned, why can’t we work on the characters you created?

Mark: There was a lot of backlash. It was kind of a funky time. It was people were again very split right down the middle. Azzarello and all these guys were not going to just put anybody on this thing. I was so proud of what Darwin did on Minute Men.

Jim: Did you have input into the approach of those ones that you edited?

Mark: They would tell me what they were thinking of doing, and I’d say, oh, that sounds good or … Like I remember the Amanda Connor one, Silk Spectre the bad guy was supposed to be Frank Sinatra. Like it literally reads Frank Sinatra was supposed to be the bad guy. He was going to look like Sinatra and legal said, “Don’t even think about it.”

Mark: So I think it would have been a slightly better project if it could have been actually Frank Sinatra being a bad guy.

Jim: I want to bring us to the end of DC, and I don’t know, Mark, what you want to say or how you want to say it in relation to that, except that this year, your time with DC ended, and to the incredible irritation to many, many of us. What do you want to say about it?

Mark: Well I honestly was saying that I … Yeah, it was kind of heartwarming to see the response that … from everybody on Facebook, and so many artists and writers and creators and fans and stuff, that it made me feel like I didn’t just waste 26 years of my life working for a company.

Mark: But yeah, without getting into too much, corporate America stepped in. AT&T bought Warner Brothers, and Warner Brothers owned DC Comics, you know maybe they don’t care that much about the creativity of this stuff.

Mark: They had to cut money, and I made a big paycheck, and they thought of me as a dollar amount. It’s just okay whatever. You know, look, business is business, and I think that’s something people forget, comic books are a business, and DC is there to make money.

Mark: Marvel is there to make money, and hopefully you can make some art along the way. Look, I don’t begrudge AT&T for their business decisions. In response I just need to move on anyway. I wanted to get back to doing my own artwork after all these years. I’ve started doing that.

Mark: I’ve got some really cool projects for early next year, that I’m working on now. I’m actually having a good time drawing for the first time in a long time.

Alex: That’s nice.

Jim: It sounded like your job was a real time drain, and exhaustion, such that you didn’t get to be the artist that you obviously are.

Mark: Yeah, but I had, all those years, I had that insecurity about my own art, that I sort of hid behind the job. Look, at the end of the day, it was a great job. Man, I did some fun stuff on that job. It was DC. I loved DC Comics.

Mark: I worked with some great people, Karen Berger and Mike Carlin and all these great, great people in the office. I get to work with Jim Lee every day. That’s pretty cool. I’m not too crazy about one or two other people, but there’s no need to get into that.

Mark: It was a great, great job. I think it’s okay … It’s a good thing to be part of a collective to make … I like to think maybe I made comics a little better from being a behind the scenes guy, but you’re right, I did put my own artwork on the back burner, and maybe it’s time to do some art again.

Jim: Right, there you go, and I think a lot of people are excited about that too, about that aspect of it.

Mark: Yeah, cool.

Jim: So besides comics, this is more of a side thing that we’re mentioning at the end of the interview is you worked on cards for a long time. In the 1990s you did a series of cards on the history of the Negro Leagues for baseball. And then that was collected in a book for Abrams Publishing in 2007.

Jim: You’ve done some Star Wars trading cards, Temple of Doom cards, and you’re able to exercise your illustration muscle on these. Can you tell us a little bit about the card career and your involvement in that?

Mark: Someone, I’m a big baseball nut. It’s really a passion of mine. I did those Negro League cards for Eclipse way back when. I think it was like 1989 I think, and then they collected them as a book. This is Charlie Kochman at Abrams collected them.

Mark: The trading ones are fun, because being a comic book artist, an interior artist, is really difficult. You have to draw six panels on a page. It’s a lot of work, as I’m finding out right now in my new freelance career, but you do a single image, you do a cover, when you do a trading card. You spend a day on it. You’re in. You’re out. You come up with a cool image. And you don’t have to draw Spiderman swimming across a city. You know?

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mark: So yeah, I always loved doing cards. They were really, really fun. On the baseball topic, I just finished my second baseball book. It’s about the 100 greatest baseball players of all time.

Alex: Oh, wow.

Mark: … illustrated. Yeah, and I’ve been working on it for the last five years in my free time, but I’m doing it at the Kick Starting program for the beginning of next season, the 2020 season.

Alex: How nice.

Mark: I hope you keep an eye out for it.

Alex: Absolutely.

Jim: Yeah, we’ll make sure it’s mentioned on the Facebook Group page too. That’s exciting.

Alex: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mark: Yeah.

Alex: Thank you so much, Mark Chiarello, for joining Jim and I today on the Comic Book Historian podcast. It was really exciting for us to talk about your involvement in comic’s history, the various key figures in comic history that you worked with, as well as yourself. We really appreciate you joining us today and taking time out of your schedule to do this. Thank you so much.

Jim: Yeah, thanks Mark. I apologize for talking so much myself, but it was just great talking to you about all of this.

Mark: No, really nice for having me you guys did a great job. You made it really pretty easy for me to talk about myself, which is hard.

Jim: Oh, good.

Alex: One last thing, Carmine Infantino, he was an editorial art director, then he was publisher, do you feel like your art position and art directorial position was … Are there any analogies going on there between your involvement with DC and his?

Mark: Maybe in a minor way. I think Carmine was right out of the show Madmen. It was the 60s. And he was a cigar-smoking guy, who would tell people what to do. He was incredibly creative. It was a different world. I liked to think I was …

Mark: Again, I like to hope people maybe think of me in the same sentence as Archie Goodwin, although I know that’s incredibly egotistical to say. If I learn something from Archie then man, I’m happy with that.


Alex: Yeah, maybe that’s right, the Archie Goodwin of the 2000s, I can go with that for sure.

Mark: haha oh, thanks.

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