1. Mark, you’re a comic book guy, tell us your origin story.
Mark: Well, my mom met my dad, there was a spark, a few martinis and then…oh…waitaminnit…you want my “comics” origin? Okay…I’ve been reading and collecting comic books since about age five, drawing a lot, using the images in the books I read as reference. As I got older, I decided I really wanted to work in the field, following in the footsteps of the artists and writers who impressed and fascinated me with their storytelling. So I went to college, majored in design and illustration with a minor in English Lit, graduated and went to work in advertising. I dabbled in freelance illustration here and there and basically spent my twenties partying, playing drums in metal bands and NOT creating comics. Then I hit my thirties and got married. Once I settled down enough to concentrate on actually “breaking in” to comics, I put a portfolio of penciled and inked work together and drove to Chicago for a Wizard World show. I showed my portfolio to a few guys (including one of my favorite artists, Tim Vigil) and came home with an inking gig and a penciling gig that turned into my first writing gig. From there, the work and opportunities just kept coming, mostly from guys I’ve worked with on various projects.
2. What was the first time you had the “wow moment” with horror and what book, movie, etc started your love affair with the genre?
Mark: The first “WOW” moment I can remember was being taken to a drive-in by my babysitter at age five and seeing Hammer’s “Vampire Circus” on the big screen. That was (and is) a sweet combo of fangs, blood and cleavage that really took me by storm. From then on, it was monsters, monsters, monsters (and cleavage, cleavage, cleavage). As far as books…I credit Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Nightrunners” with showing me what splatterpunk horror can and should be. Honorable mention to Stephen King’s “Night Shift” collection as well as Jack Ketchum’s “Off Season”, as those books are probably a couple of the best things anyone with an imagination and tendency toward the shadows should read.
3. You’re often sporting Iron Maiden or other metal shirts, did the amazing array of old school metal album covers influence you?
Mark: Y’know, I’m a MAIDEN fanatic. Have been ever since I first picked up the vinyl version of “KILLERS” when I was fourteen. I bought that album because of Derek Riggs’ amazing painted cover art depicting Eddie with the blood-dripping hatchet. I got the record home and listened to it and my ass was permanently kicked. I had been a big KISS fan and listened to other rock stuff by Queen, Kansas, etc., but Maiden was my first intro to actual metal. From there, I went on to bands like Motley Crue, Hanoi Rocks, Faster Pussycat, etc. The cover art was always a big lure, but I’m pretty sure I was already into that kind of imagery prior to the metal interest, and the artwork just fell in line with everything else I was into.
4. I’m a HUGE metal fan. Who are some of your old favorites? What about new metal bands?
Mark: Old stuff…hmmm…I was a big “Hair-Metal” guy, digging stuff like Crue, Poison and Leppard. Then I started digging the less “produced” stuff, the garage sounding bands like Tesla and Paw. Then in the nineties, I kinda lost interest in metal. I don’t dig on the growly-ass, “dangerous” world of black metal, so I followed that garage band, raw sound into punk rock. I bought discs by Rancid, The Dropkick Murphys and the Bouncing Souls, and was converted. I still listen to Maiden constantly and occasionally pop in Circus of Power, Paw or The Cult, but right now (and for the past few years) it’s Rancid, Social Distortion or Wednesday 13. Can’t get enough Wednesday. That guy’s a freakin’ genius. (See also: Murderdolls and Gunfire 76)
5. Everyone we interview has to answer this one, Mark. What’s your favorite horror movie? Why?
Mark: Tobe Hooper’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Why? Because it’s Tobe Hooper’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. The short list after Chainsaw: #2: The Exorcist, #3: Romero’s Day of the Dead, #4: Carpenter’s The Thing, #5 Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. Somewhere, floating around in that mix is The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I love that flick.
6. Most horror/comic people are aware of your ’68 zombie comic published by Image Comics. How did this title come to be?
Mark: Quite by accident. I was working on Barbara’s Zombie Chronicles for Dead Dog Comics, following a story and plot direction established by that company and we were doing three-issue mini-series arcs. They wanted some one-shot stuff to bridge the releases of the mini-series runs and I got this flash of an idea. I asked myself: “If the dead rose in rural Pennsylvania in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, what was happening when the dead rose in the rest of the world? Obvious answer: VIETNAM. That meat grinder of a conflict left an entire region of Southeast Asia littered with mangled, un-buried dead. A zombie uprising there, at that particular time, would be instant Armageddon, and every human involved would have access to endless sophisticated firepower. Instant zombie war. I pitched it to Dead Dog and they green-lit it instantly. (I was actually standing outside on the street in Toronto Canada, drinking a beer with the publisher and verbally pitched the story to him, so alcohol may have come into play.) The publisher shot the script to Nat Jones, he read it, loved it, signed on to draw it, and then suggested his partner in crime Jay Fotos as colorist. We all produced the first one-shot, then Dead Dog stopped publishing comics. The book laid around for about two years, then Jay Fotos, who had contacts with Image, got it green lit over there. Book came out, sold out, found a cult audience who begged for more for years and here we are.
7. What do you have up your sleeve for future projects?
Mark: Well, ’68 is an ONGOING SERIES, told in four-issue story arcs. Between those arcs, we’ll be producing and releasing various one-shots, micro-series and maybe even a prose novel or two. There’s no end in sight for the series and we all feel that there is an endless trove of stories to be told within the parameters of the zombie takeover of the Age of Aquarius. You’ll be seeing ’68 stuff for the foreseeable future. Beyond that, I’m getting pummeled with requests to draw something again. I fight these requests, as I’m an extremely lazy man and the thought of drawing comics makes my entire anatomy hurt, but I’m starting to come around. I’m thinking of launching into another werewolf project. See, if I gotta draw, I’d just as soon draw werewolves, so that’s where this will probably go. I have a story in my head, some characters, lots of carnage and an indecent amount of profanity-laden gory action, so that’s more than likely gonna happen. Beyond all that, I published my first novel, BUMP, last year, and am working on a couple more long-form prose things.
8. I can really see some shades of Bernie Wrightson in your art. Who are some of your most influential comic artists?
Mark: There are four. There’ve always been four and there will probably always be four. They are: Bernie Wrightson, Barry-Windsor-Smith, Richard Corben and Tim Vigil. There are a lot of great comic artists out there, but for me, it always comes back to these guys. Absolute, all-time faves.
9. Who would win in a steel cage match between Mastodon and Nickleback? Also, the bands have been dosed on military-strength LSD.
Mark: Mastodon, hands down…unless they’re playing Nickleback music during the match. In that case, I fear the Mastodon boys would be numbed into inaction and fall easy prey to the flailing Nerf bats of their enemies.
10. Let our readers know where they can pick up your official works and feel free to plug away.
Mark: Anything and everything ’68 can always be obtained at our official website, www.68zombie.com. Most discriminating comic shops in the US and abroad stock our stuff, although it seems to sell out very quickly. You can hit us all up for sketches or just rap on Facebook, (email@example.com) or find me on Facebook individually. As for shameless plugs, gear up for the release of ’68: SCARS #1 on April 11, 2012. It’s the start of our second story arc and it introduces a whole new cast of characters in the ’68 pantheon. For those who may have missed out on the first story’s run, we recently published ’68: Better Run Through the Jungle, a huge trade-paperback collection that reprints everything, even the remastered one-shot from 2006. You can get it in comic shops or from Amazon.com.
Thanks again for taking the time, Mark. I’m a big fan and can’t thank you enough!
Mark: Hey, thank you Nate! I always appreciate the opportunity to plug ’68 and all the other stuff my cohorts and I are doing. Best of luck with the site and all endeavors!