Monday, July 7, 2008

Cream City Conversations with Mark Miller

Happy Monday!

Okay... so maybe your Mondays aren't of the happy variety. But I've got a new 'conversation' to share which always makes me happy (any day of the week).

Mark Miller participated in the first wave of e-interviews, and he's back for more. I'm not gonna ramble on much this time. I'll leave all the fancy blurb business to a true wordsmith...

1) For the uninitiated, your name and location?

Mark L. Miller originally from Lima, OH, now residing in Chicago, IL.

2) What have you been up to lately? What projects have you been attached to in the first 6 months of 2008?

I've been up to my ears with AICN Comics lately, which leaves me little time to do much else.

AICN Comics is the comic book section of Harry Knowles' Ain't It Cool entertainment website that focuses mainly on movie news, rumors, and reviews, but the small corner of the site that myself and a few others (affectionately referred to as The AICN Comics @$$Holes) have carved out for ourselves is dedicated to comic book reviews, news, previews, interviews, and other things that end in ews.

I edit, image, and code the column and contribute reviews of both independent and mainstream comics for our biweekly column that drops on Mondays and Wednesdays (News on Mon, Reviews on Wed).

Other than that, I've been working on my own stuff whenever I get a chance or inspiration hits. I'm currently trying to develop a more mainstream comic book universe and a few projects that I'd like to develop into more personal "prose & picture" pieces or full on novellas. Nothing concrete yet, but I am looking for an artist to share some of my ideas with and help develop them (*hint*hint*).

3) When and where can people pick up and/or see these works?

AICN Comics is a mouseclick away at Ain't It . It's mostly a mainstream comics crowd, but I try to sneak in independent comics every week to enlighten the masses. So many people are afraid to buy outside the mainstream. But there's some amazing stuff out there. That's why I try to include reviews of independents, manga, and webcomics in every column. Who knows, I may convert some of those strictly DC/Marvel folks.

*Note: It's a dream we all share... I'm sure. -AR

4) What projects and events are on the horizon? Do you have release dates in-mind at present? If so, indulge us.

I'm currently starting a new job, which hopefully will allow me more time to write. Although my background is in art, I've always thought of myself more as a writer than anything else. No dates yet. But I'm hoping to develop some stuff that would be fit to print by next year.

In the meantime, I am working on a new submission for MUSCLES & FRIGHTS. My last endeavor was more of an exercise in what I could get away with. I learned a lot of what I could and couldn't do given the limited resources I had.

It was a blast to work within those restrictions, though, because it makes you become more creative. I was using the copy machine from my day job, carbon paper, stone age paint computer programs, photography, and good old fashioned sketching for my submission to MUSCLES & FIGHTS III. TALES OF JACKASSERY was fun and I was really pleased with how it turned out.

*Note: Your "exercise" ended up being a favorite among many. I can hardly wait to see what you come up with next. I'm especially happy to know you're seriously looking at putting together some of those ideas with an artist. And, yes, the hint is noted. -AR

5) Have you been working in any new mediums or experimenting with your known style and tools, at all?

Although it's not completely new to me, for my MUSCLES & FRIGHTS submission, I'm working on scratchboard for the first time in quite a while. I used to love working with scratchboard because it was more like sculpting a picture than actually drawing it. It's been fun rediscovering how to do it.

*Note: Reads very cool, indeed. -AR

6) If you've been trying new things, share a bit of your thoughts on that process.

Omaha Perez, the guy who wrote and drew HOLMES which was recently collected by AIT: Planet Lar did a dream sequence with scratchboard (I think the covers to his HOLMES miniseries were done this way too). I remembered how much fun it was and also how much hard work it took to fully understand the medium.

After reading that book, I always had that bee in the back of my brainpan that I wanted to work with scratchboard again. When I thought up the story for MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, it was a dark one and it totally lent itself to that type of medium.

7) Do you keep a sketchbook? If so, what do you get out of this process? Do you think it's a good thing, in general, for an artist to do?

I keep several sketchbooks. One in my bag which rarely leaves my side. One by my bed. One by the desk. One by the couch. You never know when the inspiration hits. I don't know if it's a good idea for everyone, but it is for me because if I don't write this shit down ASAP, I'm going to lose it. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to remember a winner of an idea that's been lost to the ether, alcohol, a hectic day, whatever...

*Note: That's devotion... and good to know. -AR

8) Do you ever use these sketchbook drawings for your printed works? If so, please explain how the sketchbook art informs your finished work.

My sketchbooks are filled with art and text. Sometimes it's a phrase I hear on the bus or subway. Sometimes, I doodle while on the phone and I don't even know what it is. Some of my favorite drawings and paintings came from a period of my life when I worked at a telemarketing job.

I always had a pad of paper as I went through my phone script. It always made me nervous to ask people for money and I really didn't believe in or support the job I was doing, so to ease the nervousness I would doodle.

Sometimes the coolest things would appear on the page as I was trying to squeeze a $10.00 pledge from some poor schmoe who just graduated and couldn't find a job out of college to save his life. Sometimes I didn't even know I was doing it until the call ended and I really had a chance to look at the picture.

It's almost like subliminal art, coming from some kind of Zen like place where if you consciously try to go there, you can't do it. If you believe in that sort of thing, that is...

*Note: Wow! That reads like the habit of a musician or film maker (the sketchbook bit). I'm working on tapping into my own "subliminal art" these days. It feels odd... but I like it. -AR

9) With convention season in full swing, where can the comic book reading public expect to see you and purchase your merchandise [personally]?

Well, I've got a cool ten-pager in MUSCLES & FIGHTS III. TALES OF JACKASSERY. The Overreactor vs The Projector. Just two guys with psychological quirks beating the snot out of one another. Stopping. Then doing it all over again. I think you know the guys who published that one, don't you, Amado?

*Note: Why, yes I do. Unless I'm mistaken, they're two nutty guys from the two coldest cities in the US. -AR

10) The big convention this year has got to be Fallcon 2008. If you plan to be there, will you have anything special for that particular show?

I won't be there but the next time I sip some Templeton Rye Whiskey, I shall toast the con, wherever I am. After my prayer for world peace, that is.

*Note: See, this isn't a site just about weird art stuff... it's about saving the planet too. -AR

11) Now we're caught up on what you're doing and where we can see this year. What are you reading and watching these days? Is there any particular book or film you'd like to make sure people are looking for?

I'm freaking addicted to GHOST HUNTERS. And I don't know why. It's extremely dumb. There's rarely anything supernatural going on. Mainly I just kind of play a drinking game with it and do a shot every time someone says "What the hell was that?" which is an exclamation shouted at least ten times an episode. But I never miss an episode.

*Note: When I was living in a place with cable, I was also addicted to that show. It's one of the few TV programs I actually miss watching. -AR

I'm addicted to LOST, DEXTER, and FAMILY GUY too. I missed FREAKS & GEEKS the first time around, but a buddy of mine let me borrow his dvd collection and I can't get enough of it.

As far as movies, I'm a whore for anything from blockbuster to made-in-your-basement-with-duct-tape flicks. I'm a big fan of horror films (yet what passes for horror these days is very sad). I haven't seen it yet, but I want to see Stuart Gordon's new flick called STUCK, which I think is about a white trash girl who hits a bum with her car and accidentally drags him home under her car.

Apparently, it's a true story and this chick kept on telling the guy stuck under her car that she was getting an ambulance, then procrastinated for days before actually doing anything about it. It's one of those stories that speaks volumes of how apathetic we've all become. Or at least that's what I've read about it.

*Note: How very sad is that? Jeez! -AR

Comics-wise: My gig at AICN Comics kind of requires me to read a little bit of everything. From BATMAN to RASL, I'm reading it. I did really like this book called REX from a guy named Danijel Zezelj. It's an intense revenge story with amazingly gritty art. I also just finished a collection of WONDERMARK webcomics from Dark Horse called BEARDS OF OUR FOREFATHERS. There's some hilarious stuff in that one.

*Note: REX?! Yes! I picked that up when it was released (a few weeks ago). I think it's absolutely brilliant. His command of black & white is something special. I've been wanting to contact the Canadian publisher responsible for getting it on shelves. I keep forgetting... thanks for reminding me, Mark. -AR

12) Anything already in the works for 2009?

Hopefully, I can finish my MUSCLES & FRIGHTS submission by the deadline. Here I am going on about it and with my luck, I won't finish it in time or it won't be picked to be in the anthology. How embarrassing...

Hopefully when the dust settles at my new day job, I'll be able to plan out the rest of my year. Until then, I got nothin'.

*Note: You write/illustrate it, Mark... it'll be published. -AR

13) Do have any other thoughts you'd like to share?

NO! They're mine. And I know how much you want them. But too bad. They're all mine.

OK, I'll share one. I really love the way Cream City and the rest of the MUSCLES & FIGHTS contributors work to help give voice to the independent scene. To me, there's nothing more fun than to sit down and read a comic book that is filled with new ideas; ideas that make you think differently or even ideas that make you turn off your brain and just enjoy the act of tuning out and reading a comic for a moment.

During the day, I work with a lot of kids and it saddens me to see so many of them have never read a comic book. On the last Free Comic Book Day, my LCS gave me a bunch of comics to give to the kids. They loved them. It really made me happy to see these kids discovering comics.

Sadly, or maybe not so sadly, I can attribute a large part of what I know today from reading comics. They've made me open minded, creative, and somewhat literate. It's really cool that Cream City helps give comic book readers/creators/lovers like me a voice and a chance to express themselves in this way.

*Note: Well, that's what community is all about. Right, Mark? It doesn't work, if we don't ban together and get the job done. It really is a pleasure to share these 'voices' with other people. Thanks to the International Cartoonist Conspiracy and every other group and individual making the effort. -AR

Thanks, Mark!

Well, folks. That's another 'conversation' down. There are still more coming your way. I hope you're finding them entertaining and informative.