Kabuki creator discusses career

David Mack is a busy man — traveling from one comic book convention to next, appearing at live painting events in Los Angeles and New York City. Though his schedule is hectic, he still manages to find the time to work on his numerous projects. Such as adapting his “Kabuki” series into a film and working on a new “Daredevil” story for Marvel Comics.

Mack is the creator of the “Kabuki” graphic novel series. The seventh volume, “The Alchemy” was chosen to be the 2011 NKU Book Connection at Northern Kentucky University.

In addition to NKU’s recognition for his graphic novel, Mack’s original works of “Kabuki: The Alchemy” are on display in the reading room on the second floor of Steely Library.

During his time as a student at NKU, Mack explored the many different classes offered; he studied Japanese, human anatomy and world religion. In 1993, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design.

“I knew when I started NKU I wanted to do comics and graphic novels,” Mack said. “They didn’t really have a major in that or classes for that. So I just tried to think of what classes I could take that would fit that the most.”

Along with creating the “Kabuki” series, Mack has written and drawn for the Marvel series “Daredevil,” which he first read in his youth.
After a few days of exchanging voicemails, time was finally found to speak with Mack. He mentioned he was sitting on actor Thomas Jane’s couch during our phone conversation.

Q: What drew you to comics?

A: All my life I had made all kinds of different things. I’d written and told stories and drew and painted. It wasn’t until I made my first attempt at a comic book that I realized that all those media could be integrated inside the medium of the comic book or graphic novel. For me, the comic book or graphic novel was a format that could really encompass anything, and it was just a really free and fertile format for me to work in.

Q: What was the inspiration behind creating Kabuki?

A: I was 19 or 20 when I was working on it. I felt like I needed some kind of veil that people wouldn’t look at as me, and then I could use these different characters to express things that I was working out or making sense of. I thought “I’ll have this character, but make everything about the story different from myself. I’ll make the main character a different gender and put her in a different part of the world.” I used what I was learning at NKU as a structure for that.

Q: What sorts of things were you working out through the books?

A: My mother died when I was in college. And then there is a certain amount of childhood stuff, the divorce of my parents when I was very young and their interaction with each other. I guess the book became not only a playground to experiment with things but therapy in some way.

Q: Do you think that some comics focus more on the art?

A: Some do, and there are other ones that are more story and dialogue-focused. That’s one of the things I love about comics, there is just room for anything and if there isn’t something already there, you can create a brand new style. One of the things I enjoy is taking some of the conventions that are icons of how comics are conventionally told and then toying with those a little bit.

Q: How was it to be working on a comic that you read as a kid?

A: Man, that was really surreal and amazing. Because I read “Daredevil” when I was about 9 or 10 years old, it was almost too much for me … I found another issue two or three years later and I was able to digest it a little bit more. It was a really interesting challenge because it was kind of like the adult version of me collaborating with the 12 year old version of me.

Q: How long do you see “Kabuki” going?

A: This newest volume, “The Alchemy,” there is a part of me that is like, ‘this is a really nice punctuation point and this will be a nice spot to leave it.’ I felt that way after the first volume too. I still have other stories that I have written out and outlined, future stories that would be really fun to do. I figure I got seven volumes of “Kabuki” out now, which is probably a good start, and that maybe I should work on some other … projects before I do more of them. I’m sure I’ll keep doing other “Kabuki” stuff.

Q: Do you have any advice for college artists or writers looking to get into comics?

A: My thinking is just do it. Whatever it is that you want to do and decide what you want to get out of it then work towards that direction. I think some people believe they have to do things a certain way because that is the way they see it and maybe that’s what they think a publisher expects from them. But I don’t find that to be true. I find that people are out there looking for something new and different. I would encourage people to follow their own direction.

Q: For NKU fans, what’s the next thing they can look forward to from you?

A: There is a series at Marvel I’m doing called “Dream Logic.” I’m working on a brand new Daredevil volume called “Daredevil: End of Days” that will be out next year. I’m cowriting it with Brain Bendis and doing some of the art. I’m working on some new children’s books, as well. There is an art book collection from Marvel of my work called “Reflections” out in hardcover. People can find me on Facebook or Twitter. There is a pretty extensive site called davidmackguide.com. It has pretty much all of my archived interviews and just about every book that I’ve every done.

Mack will be on campus Oct. 25 and 26 for “A Conversation with David Mack.” The event is part of the Book Connection program and is for freshmen and the public as well.