Thursday, September 28, 2006

Interview: Mark Schultz - Part 2

Here's Part 2 of the interview I conducted with author/illustrator extraordinaire Mark Schultz regarding his career, influences, and future projects. Once again, thanks to both Mark and Palaeoblog creator, Dr. Michael Ryan for making this possible.



Mark, thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions. We discussed your early career in Part 1 (at this link) and moved on to past/current projects, so let's continue there.

Q: Are there any projects that you’d change if you could or do you consider past experiences as learning and move on?

Schultz: I look at everything I’ve done as a learning experience. There are some projects I’ve done that I’m not particularly proud of, but I learned, and I think improved, from all of them.

Q: Because we can’t be working all the time, what do you do to unwind when you’re not creating heroes and monsters?

Schultz: Hike—for exercise as well as to refocus my mind and eyes. Read. Watch movies—preferably B&W classics that are generally ignored today.

The Thing From Another World graphic.
Howard Hawks' 1951 sci-fi masterpiece. A fave of both Mark and myself. © Turner Home Entertainment.

Q: Is there something you do to refresh your creative spirit and get back into drawing or writing mode again?

Schultz: Hike. Travel. Visit the ocean.

Mark Schultz Mallorca Spain Exhibition Poster.Q: You recently took a trip to Spain where some of your work was exhibited. How was your trip and did you find European’s reactions to your work to be different from North Americans?

Schultz: Generally speaking, Europeans don’t seem to draw as definitive a line between the fine arts and the commercial arts as we do in North America. They are much more open to the notion that comics can be a legitimate form of expression. The Spanish people, at least, seemed to me to be much more knowledgeable about art in general—they consider an appreciation of the arts to be part of their every day existence.

Let’s move on to future projects.

Q: Do you plan on returning to Xenozoic Tales? Are there any plans for another animated series or feature film? How about a DVD box set of the animated series?

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs Animated Series comp image.
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. © 1993 Mark Schultz and Nelvana Limited. Images from here.

Schultz: There is nothing I want more then to get back to producing new issues of Xenozoic Tales. It is just a matter of finding a way of financing the process of getting it started again. My glacial slowness makes things difficult. I'm hoping to build a savings reservoir that could give me the time to devote to getting the series up and running again. Specifically, I have a four issue arc in mind that would complete the storyline I left hanging, but would also stand on its own, and would be collected as a trade paperback. At this time there are no current plans for XT projects in other media.

Q: In addition to Xenozoic Tales, what property that you’ve been involved with in the past, would you like to return to and in what capacity?

Cover Artwork for SubHuman Issue 1 by Mark Schultz.
Cover art for SubHuman Issue #1 © Mark Schultz.

Schultz: I’d love to see SubHuman up and running. We really didn’t get a chance to get our sea legs under us with the initial Dark Horse mini-series. Both Michael and I have lots of stories Krill Stromer Family stories we’d like to tell, and hopefully someday we’ll have the chance. Beyond that, I have tons of other projects percolating away that are just waiting for the right opportunity to come to a boil.

Q: Who would you most like to work with that you haven’t yet had a chance to and who would you like to work with again?

Schultz: I’m pretty happy working mostly by myself, or with my already established cohorts.

Mark Schultz's Art Studio.
Mark Schultz's studio. Note the otherworldly visitors! Photos courtesy of Dr. Michael Ryan.

Q: What properties would you like to work on that you haven’t yet?

Schultz: I’d love a chance to illustrate Edgar Rice Burroughs, and more Robert E. Howard. Right now, a couple of years after I stopped writing Superman, I’m finally getting a chance to illustrate a Superman cover! I’m psyched!

Mark Schultz Superman Cover for Action Comics 836.
Action Comics #836. Artwork by Mark Schultz. © DC Comics.

Q: What are you working on now and what projects have you got in the pipeline?

Schultz: I continue to write the Sunday comic strip Prince Valiant, which is beautifully illustrated by Gary Gianni. I’m working on Vol. 2 of my Various Drawings art book series, doing lots of commissions in connection with generating work for that, and picking up comic cover and illustration work here and there. It all continues to go well, I will be generating a series of books for Flesk Publications, the publisher of Various Drawings.

Mark Schultz Various Drawings Covers by Flesk Publications.
Mark Schultz: Various Drawings Volumes 1 and 2. © Mark Schultz and Flesk Publications.

Q: Since Xenozoic Tales features dinosaurs, I can’t forget to ask if you have a favorite one?

Schultz: Of course, Tyrannosaurus rex is an icon that would probably be my all-time number one, but the coelacanth, with its great survivor’s story, is a sentimental favorite. I love drawing both of them.

Thanks again Mark for your time and letting all of us take a peak inside your creative mind. Please keep us up to date on your new projects and we wish you the best of luck with all of them!

Schultz: My pleasure. And thanks to all the readers for the support!

Stay tuned for a possible update from Mark on even more recent projects and topics we might have forgot in our first 2 parts!

Mark Schultz Comic Book Legal Defense Fund art for Sky Dog comics.
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund art for sky*dog comics. © Mark Schultz and the CBLDF.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Interview: Mark Schultz - Part 1

I'm fortunate to be associated with some truly amazing people. Because of these relationships, I'm able to pick their brains for great stories, research information for projects, and fantastic ideas. I plan to share some of this insight into these creative minds by presenting multi-part interviews here on this blog. These are people I admire for their outstanding work, their creativity, their unique approach to old and new ideas, and more importantly, their friendly, engaging personality.

The first of these interviews is with the multiple award-winning (Eisner, Harvey, Spectrum, Inkpot, and Haxtur) author/illustrator Mark Schultz.

Schultz, who has been described by many to be "one of the nice guys in Comics," has managed to tackle nearly every character we comic book and movie fans only dream of working with: Aliens, Conan, The Flash, The Terminator, King Kong, Luke Skywalker, Prince Valiant, Superman, Tarzan, and Tyrannosaurus rex to name just a few. However, he's best known for the lavishly-illustrated Xenozoic Tales, an action-adventure series featuring old world mechanic Jack "Cadillac" Tenrec and the bold, beautiful Hannah Dundee. Of course, there's more than a few classic cars and dinosaurs thrown in for fun.

Photo of Mark Schultz and Chad Kerychuk at the 2001 San Diego Comic-Con International.
Mark Schultz and myself at the 2001 San Diego Comic-Con.


DDM: First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat. I know a lot of people are anxious to hear what you’ve been up to and what exciting projects you have on the horizon but let's start with your own creation, Xenozoic Tales. I know it means a great deal to you, and readers are anxious to find out what's going on with the series.

Q: As the creator of Xenozoic Tales, (later re-branded as Cadillacs and Dinosaurs for Epic Comics and the animated television show from Nelvana), you’ve not only written but illustrated most of the series yourself. How did the idea come about?

Schultz: Through long hours of career dissatisfaction while I was executing advertising illustrations and working as a security guard. I’d long dreamed of becoming a cartoonist and spent a good deal of time imagining what my ideal comic book would be, based on my love for Edgar Rice Burroughs, EC Comics, King Kong, and other adventure movies and stories. Those influences, mixed with my interest in man’s relationship with the natural environment gelled into what became Xenozoic Tales. Essentially, I was creating the type of comic adventure I wanted to read, but wasn’t available in the contemporary market.

Q: In reading Xenozoic Tales, we seem to discover a slyly disguised ‘message’ at its core about the Earth and the symbiotic relationships of the planet’s systems. Not many comics or graphic novels can get away with this, yet you seem to have pulled it off effortlessly. The time period inhabited by your characters is a direct result of their ancestors’ effects on the Earth. Did you start with that message and find a story or was it the reverse?

Schultz: These concerns are very important to me, but even more important is telling a good story. If I feel that I am being preached to while I am reading a story, well, the storyteller has lost me. I trust that’s the same for my readers. The message, if there is one, must be integrated and buried within the dramatic telling of the story or it will alienate any reader who isn’t already on board with the point of view being promoted. In the case of Xenozoic Tales, the environmental angle was actually one of the last ingredients that got mixed into what started as pure SF adventure, but it was the necessary element that, I think, elevated the series, and, at the very least, keeps me interested in creating new stories.

Xenozoic Tales Volume 1 Softcover from Dark Horse Comics.
Xenozoic Tales Volume One: After the End. © Mark Schultz. Published by Dark Horse Comics.

Q: Because you are the creator of the series, you have control of what happens, and therefore no major production studio to second-guess your decisions. With the exception of the marketing and distribution help from Kitchen Sink, Marvel, Nelvana, and Dark Horse, you’ve been able to shepherd Xenozoic Tales through its different incarnations the way you want. Were there any drawbacks to overseeing everything and not just writing the story or illustrating the books?

Schultz: Actually, I always had marketing and promotional help with Xenozoic Tales, first with my publisher, Denis Kitchen, filling that role, and then with the agency of Kitchen and Hansen. I have very limited knowledge when it comes to promotion and marketing, as well as distribution, so I have always relied on others for the “business” side of the business. I’ve also been very appreciative of editorial suggestions as well—even though I’ve never had to work with an editor on XT, I feel it helps to have a sounding board—another perspective with different experiences—available. I could never do XT on my own—I’m just the guy who makes the final decisions.

Photo of Dinosaur Provincial Park by Chad Kerychuk.Q: One of the opportunities that I’ve truly enjoyed in life, is participating in palaeontological excavations. One certainly gains deeper respect for the scientists and volunteers that work under challenging field conditions with awkward equipment (ranging from heavy-but-powerful jackhammers to light-but-exacting dental picks) all in the name of research. Have you ever had a chance to join a palaeo/archeological dig and has it helped you with your Xenozoic Tales work?

Schultz: Unfortunately I have never had the opportunity to fulfill that life-long dream. Someday, I hope. I have been lucky enough to visit some fossil-rich sites, such as the Red Deer River Valley, but I’ve yet to find the time to participate. So, in the meantime, I pick the brains of cooperative sorts like our friend Dr. Michael Ryan.

Q: What other kinds of research do you conduct for projects like Xenozoic Tales?

Schultz: Lots of reading--mostly laymen’s scientific magazines and books--visual material of any appropriate kind, travel. Asking questions of the experts. I’m not shy about asking questions.

Your early training must have helped with Xenozoic Tales, so let’s talk a bit about the beginning of your career.

Q: What career training have you received? Was it formal, informal, self-taught, or a little bit of everything?

Schultz: I graduated college with a BFA in Painting from Kutztown State University in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the fundamentals of draftsmanship were not stressed like I now believe they should be, and as a result, much of my drawing ability, as it is now, formed through comic book on-the-job training. What I DID learn in college, and what I consider indispensable, was the ability to teach myself—to research and develop on my own accord.

Q: Do you recommend one method over the other for those hoping to follow in your footsteps?

Schultz: I don’t think there is any one right way. The unifying necessity is that you be passionate about what you are doing, immensely self-critical and unafraid to change as needed to become professional, and willing to push yourself harder than everyone else vying for the career you want. Success in the arts does not come to the faint of heart.

Q: Who were your creative influences growing up and why?

Composite image of Winslow Homer, Howard Pyle, and NC Wyeth paintings.
Top: Art by Winslow Homer. Bottom left: Art by Howard Pyle. Bottom right: Art by NC Wyeth.

Schultz: Visually, my work is strongly influenced by a love for classic American illustration. Winslow Homer, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Daniel Smith, Dean Cornwell, Herbert Morton Stoops, and Frank Hoban are among the illustrators I’ve closely studied. My principal influences from within the comics field include Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Roy Crane, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, and Al Williamson.

For visuals, as well as storytelling elements, the films of Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Val Lewton, and many other greats who worked primarily in black and white have had a strong effect on my work. Of course, Cooper and Schoedsack’s King Kong—there will never be a more complex, more visually and thematically rich film. Film and comics are two very different mediums, but if you look past the technical divides, they do share some important storytelling properties.

Mark Schultz King Kong Comic Book 02 Cover.
King Kong cover art by Mark Schultz. Issue 2 of 6. © 1990 Mark Schultz and Monster Comics.

For pure storytelling, the writings of Edgar Rice Burrroughs, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and John Steinbeck have meant a lot to me.

Q: Are there any current creative influences you’re learning from or just admire for the work they’re doing?

William Stout Dinosaur Art and Mike Mignola Hellboy Art.
Left: Styracosaur art by William Stout. Right: Hellboy art by Mike Mignola.

Schultz: While I don’t think there are any contemporaries who I’d call influences—Bill Stout being the exception—I admire the work of Gary Gianni, Mike Mignola, Dan Clowes—there are many others…

William Stout Dinosaur Art and Mike Mignola Hellboy Art.
Left: Art by Gary Gianni. Right: Art by Daniel Clowes.

Q: Did you have any ‘big goals’ when you started into your career and do you feel you’ve been successful at achieving them?

Schultz: I had no expectations when I started my comic career. I didn’t even want to get my hopes up that I would be able to make a basic living. Everything that’s come surprises me to certain degree. What success I’ve had amazes me.

Cover to The Flash: Stop Motion by Mark SchultzQ: You’ve spent a good part of your early career as an illustrator, yet lately you’ve built up quite the writing resume. Why the shift?

Schultz: Actually, I’m shifting back towards illustration now. I like diversity—I like to be able to go back and forth between drawing and writing. Plus, I take advantage of what the marketplace is offering me at the time. I think it's very important, and I keep telling this to students, to become adept with as many different skills as possible—to both take advantage of the marketplace and to maintain as much control over your own properties as possible.

Q: Which do you find easier: illustrating or writing?

Schultz: Nothing’s easy. But I can write faster than I can illustrate.

Q: What artwork/story/project are you most proud of and why?

Schultz: Xenozoic Tales—because it’s my own, start to finish.

Centrosaurus brinkmani art by Mark Schultz for Dr. Michael Ryan.

Mark recently completed the above Centrosaurus brinkmani depiction and another illustration for palaeontologist Dr. Michael Ryan.
Art © Mark Schultz from the collection of Dr. Michael Ryan.

-- Continue to Part 2 of the interview! --

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weather Comparison

The Nexus energy ribbon passes through here in the US...

Quite the difference in temperatures (Celsius) between here in Creston, Iowa and back home in Edmonton, Alberta.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D

As the 2D version is one of my all-time favorite films, I'm really looking forward to seeing this...

Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D Poster
Image: Copyright 2006 Walt Disney Pictures.

Trailer available at this link.

Joel Fletcher 3-D photo from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
Image: Copyright 2006 Joel Fletcher

For a taste of what the film might look like, be sure to grab your red and blue anaglyph 3-D glasses and check out Joel Fletcher's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D photo gallery. Joel was an animator at Skellington Productions and worked on the film.

Sources: Aint It Cool News and Cartoon Brew.