It's always a blast interviewing comic book creators. The chance to pick at their brains and get new information is both fun and challenging. With DC's "Second Wave" of "New 52" titles beginning in May, Howard Mackie is making his return as well. We've seen some images and have had a tiny bit of information about what his series, THE RAVAGERS will be about.
In trying to pry some questions out of Mr. Mackie, we're going to do things a little differently. Instead of us asking the questions, we managed to get Scott Lobdell to ask them. Here's what happened.
Scott Lobdell: Howard, let me be the first to say "Welcome Back!"
Howard Mackie: Thanks, Scott. Though, I didn’t even know I was gone. Did I have a good time? Did you get my postcard? You know… I made a mistake and drank the water. You know what they say about drinking the water THERE.
SL: I know you and Bob Harras know each other from your days at The Other Place -- but, from what I understand, that wasn't the Free Pass Into DC that some people think it is. Sort of like being the math teacher's son, he's almost more demanding on the people that he knows, no?
HM: Bob and I do have a passing acquaintance from days gone bye, and I think he owes $10, a cup of coffee, and a VHS copy of Red Dawn I loaned him in 1988. Having said that… is there a FREE pass anywhere? Because if there is I would like to be put down for 10 of them please.== TEASER ==
I was attracted to what DC was doing with the NEW 52, and the more I read… the more I knew I wanted to be part of it on some level. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to sit down and chat with Dan DiDio. I definitely did some complimenting, and that let to discussions about approach to storytelling, characterization, and how awesome a movie Red Dawn was—and the next thing I knew I was getting a phone call from the DC offices. I had left my watch fob behind in Dan’s office, and they wanted to know where to mail it. THEN… the next thing I knew I got a phone call from DC editorial. There was talk about this new book called THE RAVAGERS… a chance to help on a crossover between TEEN TITANS, SUPERBOY, and LEGION LOST… a chance to work with a couple of old buddies of mine… and the next thing you know… I was looking for a copy of Red Dawn on DVD, because I realized I no longer had a working VCR.
SL: When it was first announced that I was writing for DC I was a little surprised when people would write on the message boards "Who is this guy?! Has he ever even written comics before?!" I mean, aside from the fact that they could Google my name, I admit to being surprised that after nearly a decade away from The Other Place, there were people who didn't even recognize my name. What about the reactions to your return to mainstream comics has most surprised you?
HM: Look, the internet is the internet. Some people love me. Some people hate me. Some people have compromising photos of me with Betty White and a bottle of Tequila. You know…very much like real life. Though, I have been very surprised and pleased with the reactions to the announcement that I would be joining the DC team.
SL: It's funny, when we were writing most of our work, there was pretty much WIZARD Magazine and the Comics Buyers Guide (the Comic Journal would rarely deign to cover us!)... so you were either in Wizard's Top Ten or you were "nobody". Now, though, there are a ton of websites with huge amounts of people reading, then there are Twitter and Tumblr leaks and blogs picking up and dissecting everything about everything you are doing. Now, your book hasn't come out yet, but what can you tell me about the differences between then and now. You must have noticed, no?
HM: I do get concerned sometimes of paralysis by analysis. I think it is awesome that we can get such immediate feedback from fans, and that there is a wide range of voices giving critiques/reviews of the all the books that are out there. BUT… I think we risk of changing course too soon sometimes. There is a risk in reading too many reviews, listening to too many voices, and NOT listening to your own. Ooh… I got way more serious than I meant to get. Maybe, since you mentioned social media, I should have limited my answer to 140 characters. #Mackiecricitizesthecritics.
SL: I'll be honest, I mostly remember your career at The Other Place as one of a mulititude of editors who never hired me. And, of course, your phenom of a run revitalizing Ghost Rider. (You were so successful you even spawned a whole line in Spirit of Vengeance). I know you worked on the Spider-Man line but I never read Spider-man so I missed it. If you were writing your own wiki page and you wanted to steer new fans to some of your favorite pieces of work, where would you send them?
HM: THE RAVAGERS. Honestly, with every passing day… with every new twist, and new development, this is becoming my favorite piece of work. I am also very fortunate that I am working with an editorial team(Hi Pat! Hi Sean) that continuously pushes me outside my personal comfort zone of safety. They are encouraging me to take risks, and to challenge myself. Plus, the story springs off the TEEN TITANS/SUPERBOY/LEGION LOST crossover, and there is such a wealth of material that has been developed. I swear to you that creators are going to be exploring and exploiting things that were started in that crossover for years to come.
SL: The two books you are most famous for have been solo characters. I know you've done some team work, but -- correct me if I am wrong -- this will be the first time you're creating a team book from scratch, is that true? And how has the experience been different than working on a team book?
HM: I have written a few team books here and there, but the thing that most intrigues me about THE RAVAGERS is that they are not a team in any traditional fashion. I think of it as a GROUP book. A group of very powerful teens that have been through hell…have survived… and are trying to figure out what the next step or series of steps is going to be for them as whole, and as individuals. The whole “heroes”/”villains” thing means little to any of them. They have survived, and are trying to figure out how to survive one day at a time.
The group dynamics is a constantly evolving thing for kids who have lived for several years knowing that they could trust no one, love no one, and potentially have to KILL anyone.
SL: Ian Churchill. Have you ever worked with him before? Has their been a learning curve in terms of you and he finding a stride? I will tell you -- as Brett will too -- that Brett Booth and I went through a lot of growing pains on TEEN TITANS before we learned to trust each other. Not every creative team starts off speeding around the NASCAR track on all cylinders.
I have had the pleasure of working with Ian once a number of years ago, and it has been a blast to work with him again. I guess I am saying that I am not finding growing pains, as much as both of us trying to figuring out how to maximize the creative process. The thing I like about the creation of comic books is that in order for it to work well it has GOT to be a collaboration between the writer and the artist. Ian and communicate quite a bit about current and future story points. I love when he calls or drops me a line to tell me that something popped in his head while drawing a page, and then I get to run with it. THOSE are the moments that make you realize how much fun writing comic books is.
SL: I'm not going to ask you about the characters or the storyline -- those interviews are all over the internet. But I am curious if you put in dibs for any characters and they came back with a resounding "NO!"? A little known fact is that I wanted to guest-star the Metal Men in Superboy -- they would have been his supporting cast. But I got a big "No Way!" Any backstage stories you can tell us about RAVAGERS?
HM: Ha! The creation of The Ravagers team was very carefully, and thoroughly explored by me (some help from the writer of the Teen Titans) and editorial. I am not sure that I ever received a “resounding “NO!”, but there might have been one or two gentle, “Meh… maybe not that direction.”
I would LOVE to play with the Metal Men! Or the Atom! The Atomic Knights! And yet… I am not sure they would fit into The Ravagers book… and now that is all I can think about. That… and that I need to watch Red Dawn again!
SL: Like me, I think, this represents your first significant work for DC. How have you been enjoying the experience, and is there anything specific to the characters or the creative process that is different from your previous work?
HM: I have made no secret that I have become a huge fan of DC through the new 52. When I read those issue #1s I k new that I wanted to get involved in some way with the 52, but I never dreamed I would be afforded the opportunity to contribute to the Second Wave. It really has been a blast. I mentioned the editorial team earlier, and I think it warrants a second shout out to them. Pat and Sean are really good at working with me to push myself, and to take ideas that I present to them and say, “Great! Now playing off of THAT, what if you did THIS?” They get me to look down corridors that I had not thought to explore, and I am very happy with the results.
SL: And finally, you and I have gotten a chance to work together in a way that we never have before after knowing each other for years. So, be honest, how is knowing me from relatively afar as a fellow creator different from working together? Am I the overbearing ogre I've been portrayed as in the past? Tell me the truth -- I can take it!
HM: I wouldn’t say OVERbearing. Maybe just the right amount of bearing?
Yeah….it was odd to realize that we had never really worked together in the past. You and I have known each other for a long time, and been part of a few “writer’s conferences”, but never worked together directly. I have to admit—and don’t tell anyone—that it has been a fun experience me. You rapidly helped me regain my sea legs in the whole comic book writing creative process—that might have been because you were frequently driving a SPEED BOAT on choppy waters, and my choice was either get tossed out the boat or figure out how to hold on. It gave a glimpse into how your creative mind works, and that alone could make a grown man cry. Trust me… I have had to replace three keyboards along the way.
Okay, enough yammering. I’ve got pages to script and Red Dawn ain’t gonna watch itself!
THE RAVAGERS is on sale May 30, 2012.