In the last installment of Comic Confidential, I got a bit doom and gloomy about being an indie comic creator. I wanted to shift focus a bit and actually shine the light on one of the success stories. Mark Poulton is proof that with perseverance, dedication, hard work and talent, you can actually graduate from being an indie comic creator and into an up and coming superstar in the industry. Mark has been in the business for years, first as a writer of a series of creator owned series, then getting a job at Arcana Studios as the Vice President of Operations, while still doing freelance writing work for Image and DC. Mark was actually the first person to give me one of my first big breaks in this crazy world of comics. When I pitched him the idea for the graphic novel Flee, he took a chance on an unknown writer and signed me to my first publishing contract. He’s been really patient with me over the years since I’ve basically took two years to finish the series. In a time in my life where I’m having a new child and planning my future in this business, having a chance to talk with someone like him is a real eye opening experience that has taught me immensely.
We had the chance to talk about a number of topics. Sit back and enjoy.
Raphael Moran– Is it fair to say, you’re probably one of the busiest men in the comic industry. How do you juggle working at Arcana, doing creator owned stuff, writing gigs and especially….being a DAD?
Mark Poulton- You forgot to mention I have a day job too! I’m definitely a busy man, but it’s worth it. I love making comics.
As far as juggling everything, you just have to use your time wisely and set some priorities. Obviously, spending time with my wife and son comes first, but about a year ago, I decided I needed to concentrate more on my writing and cut back on my Arcana responsibilities. Helping others create their comics is rewarding, but deep down; I knew I’d rather be writing. It’s a move I don’t regret and it’s definitely paid off.
Still, I have a heavy workload with a day job, family responsibilities, and 2 monthly series. Not to mention, several creator-owned books I have in the works. I somehow manage though. It’s funny, before my son was born; I thought I had to get a lot of writing done, because I thought there wouldn’t be time to write once he was born. But it’s been just the opposite. I think I’ve been more productive since I’ve become a Dad. You just have to use your free time wisely. Plus, being a Dad, I’m more motivated than ever. I want my son, Chase, to be proud of me when he’s old enough to realize what I do.
Raphael Moran- I really know how you feel. I’ve been working like a mad person because I thought I wouldn’t have the time since my daughter is coming soon. Knowing you can juggle all this and still churn out the great stories is an inspiration. I hope I can do the same.
Mark Poulton- Thanks and congratulations! Being a father is the most rewarding thing ever.
Raphael Moran- Everyone tells me that. I can’t wait for it. Anyway, back to comics! So what was the first comic you ever read and how old were you?
Mark Poulton- G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #34. I was 12 years old at the time. I was a huge G.I. Joe fan. I had the action figures and watched the cartoon daily. When I finally found out they had their own comic book I had to get it. I ended up getting a subscription and discovering other comics through the ads inside each issue.
Mark Poulton- Koni Waves was a character I created with Steve Sistilli and Dexter Weeks back in 2001. For those unfamiliar with her, Koni is a private detective who specializes in the supernatural of Hawaii. Its Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Magnum PI. We’ve had three volumes released over the years through Arcana.
I’m currently finishing up work on a spin-off, Koni Konfidential, which is a more kid friendly version of Koni, set during her high school years. It’s been long in the making so I’m excited to have it almost at the finish line.
Raphael Moran- You probably get this question all the time. How exactly did you and Rob Liefeld hook up as a team? For some reason there’s always a lot of controversy whenever Rob is attached to anything. How do you feel about the backlash he usually gets? How is the work method with him? Does he bounce ideas off you and you just script it…or is it an evolving process that you do together?
Mark Poulton- Years ago, Rob would talk with his fans over on the message boards at Millar World. Eventually, Rob would get his own forum and he always encouraged everyone to share their work. Around that time, I was coming out with Koni Waves and Rob was always supportive.
At first, he gave me a license to use Avengelyne in a team-up of Koni Waves. From there, I worked on the Bloodstrike short story for Image United #2. Then I worked with him on the Brigade relaunch a couple of years ago. All during that time, Rob always expressed an interest in doing a new Avengelyne series with me as the writer. Finally, after years of talk and a change in artists, Owen and I were given the green light to do Avengelyne as an ongoing series at Image.
As far as the controversy, I don’t get it. I’ve always been a big fan. Rob’s been my favorite artist since I’ve been collecting comics. In fact, his Extreme comics were the books that inspired me to want to make my own.
Working with him has been great. He’s easily given me my biggest breaks in my career. It’s been unreal seeing how our working relationship has developed. I mean to go from being a fan to working for him, and then with him is pretty amazing. The fact that he’ll send one of his scripts my way, to get my thoughts on it is something teenage me would have never thought imaginable.
Our work method varies on project. For Avengelyne, Rob had a specific story he wanted to tell in the first story arc. He relayed that story to me and I wrote it out and added my own elements to it that would plant the seeds for things I had planned later down the line. After the first story arc though, Rob handed things over to me. He still approves the storylines, but you’d be amazed how hands off he’s been.
On Hawkman, Rob plots out the book page by page, panel by panel. Once he’s done plotting, I’ll get started scripting the dialogue and send back to him for a critique. He’ll make some suggestions and I’ll do a rewrite based on his notes. I’ll then send back to him where he’ll do a final pass and add or change where he thinks is needed.
Raphael Moran- For people who haven’t read a Hawkman book before, why should they now? What can we expect in the upcoming issues? Is the new creative team a good jumping on point for new readers? Any super guest stars to expect?
Mark Poulton- This will be a great time to jump on Hawkman. We’re getting Carter Hall out of the city and out exploring the origin of the Nth Metal. I see the character as kind of Jason Bourne meets Indiana Jones. He’s a scholar and adventurer, but his past is shrouded in mystery.
There’s definitely a guest star in the first story arc, but you’ll have to pick up the book to see who it is.
Raphael Moran– Oh come on Mark, give us a little bit more than that.
Mark Poulton– However, there are lots of great, new characters. Having read the plots to the first 4 issues, this really reminds me of when I was a fan reading comics and Rob had just taken over writing New Mutants. He was introducing tons of new characters and was just firing on all cylinders. I get the same feel to these stories with exciting new villains, and over the top action.
Raphael Moran- Now that you’ve dipped yourself into the DC pool, what other mainstream superheroes do you want to write next?
Mark Poulton- Over at DC, I’d love a chance to write a Booster Gold or Guy Gardner story. The Justice League International was always one of my all-time favorites. At Marvel, I would definitely pick Spider-Man. Outside the big two, but still mainstream as far as I’m concerned are G.I. Joe and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They are at the top of my list as well.
Raphael Moran- You currently have a Kickstarter for your upcoming project “A Cat named Haiku.” Tell everyone what this about and why they should pledge. Do you feel that Kickstarter is changing the industry as a whole?
Mark Poulton- Kickstarter is definitely a game changer. 2012 really seems to be the year of the creator and doing it yourself and I think Kickstarter has been a big reason for this. It’s helping creators get their projects made without going bankrupt. On successfully funded projects, it allows creators to work on something more personal to them than having to do a project solely for the paycheck.
My campaign is for the sequel to my children’s book. It’s called A Cat Named Haiku 2: The Dust Bunny. A Cat Named Haiku was originally released in 2010 and told the day in the life of a mischievous little as he learned a lesson in love told completely in haiku. The response to the book was great. It was a nominee in the 2011 Eagle Awards for Best Single Issue Story and was selected by TeachersandFamilies.com as part of their TogetherRead Program. Since its release, so many teachers have come up to me at conventions and said they use the book in their classroom when teaching haiku.
Artist, Dexter Weeks, and I wanted to do a sequel and heard about all of the success stories with Kickstarter and decided to give it a go. In the sequel, Haiku learns a lesson about making friends when he encounters the Dust Bunny that lives under his owner’s bed. Funding will go towards the production of the book. We are halfway through our campaign and already have been successfully funded. However, we are hoping if we make enough money we can do a hardcover release of the book or possibly even fund a third volume.
Some of the rewards we are offering are pdfs of the book, original artwork, art commissions, and our highest reward is having a custom comic book created for you by me and Dex. Please feel free to check it out and any support or backing you can give the project would be greatly appreciated.
Raphael Moran- Any tips for anyone that wants to be a comic creator?
Mark Poulton- Make comics! I sometimes get the sense that aspiring creators are waiting for this perfect storm scenario to break in to the industry. They’ll either have their heart set on one publisher to work with or just wait around for someone to give them a job.
You can’t wait around for people to give you your big break. You need to make it for yourself. I’m a big believer in hard work paying off. And self publishing your own comic is a great way to get your foot in the door and build up a body of work. You’ll be amazed at the number of doors that will open for you once you get some work out there.
Raphael Moran– Any exciting news you want to share about any upcoming Arcana projects?
Mark Poulton- Besides Koni Konfidential, I have a Koni Waves/Caption Action graphic novel in the works with artist, Mike McMahon. It features cameos from some of my favorite indie characters so it’s definitely worth checking out.
Raphael Moran- Are there any projects you’re working outside of the comic medium? TV and film wise.
Mark Poulton- I’ve written a few spec screenplays over the years and was recently approached about writing a script for an animated project, but nothing is concrete at the moment. I really want to get a film project off the ground though. My writing career actually started when I optioned a teen comedy screenplay back in the early 2000s, so this is something that has always interested me.
Raphael Moran- Talk about your work on Avengelyne. I’m personally in love with Owen’s art style on that book and the way you have relaunched all the old characters to make them modern again. What can we look forward to on that book?
Mark Poulton- Owen is an amazing talent. I couldn’t imagine the book without him. In a perfect world, Avengelyne runs forever and Owen and I continue working together our entire career. I think it’s only a matter of time though before he gets swept up by the big 2.
As far as what you can look forward to in the pages of Avengelyne… when we first set out on the book, we put together a solid two year long story arc and we’re currently a third of the way done. I’d expect a change in the landscape for Avengelyne as things progress. The war she’s been preparing herself for is coming right to her doorstep in a big way.
You can also expect more Extreme characters to pop up. Writing these cameo appearances is a big thrill for me, because I get a kick out of seeing Owen’s interpretations of the characters. Bloodwulf plays a prominent part in upcoming issues.
Raphael Moran- Any other projects you want to talk about that we haven’t covered?
Mark Poulton– I have about a half dozen projects in the works, but there’s nothing with an immediate release. Thanks to my work on Avengleyne and Hawkman, I’ve been able to work with some talented people. I have a creator owned book in the works with Jesse Blaze Snider and a graphic novel in the works with original Avengelyne artist, John Stinsman. Owen Gieni and I have a creator owned project in the works too. As things progress, I’ll definitely keep Comicbooked updated. Thanks!
There you have it folks. Mark is a Class act. Throw some support his way. I only see big things for him. Next week, its back to grind as we get into the Future of Comics in Printed Form.
Follow Mark on Twitter @Koniwaves
Read his current work on Savage Hawkman from DC comics and Avengelyne from Image Comics.