Interview: Marc Jackson the Man From Space

You may recall a self-published book we talked about early this week Man From Space, well we decided to do a follow up with creator Marc Jackson. I personally find self-publishing interesting so I couldn't wait to dig into it. marc_jacksonCB) Before we get into where Man From Space came from I wanted to know what you were doing (or still doing) before self-publishing? Industrial Design for some corporate conglomerate?

MJ) Well by day I’m a graphic designer and partner (with my wife Jane) in a company called Creative Hero. So when I’m not sitting in-front of a computer making comics, I’m er... sitting in front of a computer designing logos and what-not. When I’m not doing that, I’m very busy with our amazing 1 year old daughter Nancy and making my famous Spanish meatballs and drinking coffee, the good stuff, none of that instant nonsense.
CB) What inspired Man From Space? Where did the idea spawn from and what became your overall goal for the book?
MJ) 111 % my love of Star Wars and comics and bringing the two together. That both inspired and spawned this comic. I don’t actually script the comic first, for me it’s a visual thing first. I have a rough I idea of what might happen and I drew characters etc, but I literally drew the ship crashing on the first page and then the two main characters standing there and started typing.

Those words then led to the next page and so on. I did actually write and draw the last few pages as well and kind of connected them together. I had lines that I typed that I added in for extra laughs and stuff. The overall goal would be for someone who never met me to buy a copy and love it! I’d feel like Stan Lee.

MAN+FROM+SPACECB) What steps did you take in self-publishing? Did you shop around for print companies? Did you do print on demand?

MJ) I checked out a few speciality online printers who handle comics, but after contacting one of our print companies that we use, they gave me a great deal so I went with them. It was much easier to get what I wanted and they’ve been really helpful.
I gave them a mention in the comic, but thanks to Nick and all the guys at Print-it Northwest! You need a comic, look no further!CB) For the art of the book I’m guessing that it was done on a computer, about how long did it take for you do the first issues art?

MJ) Yep all computer in Adobe Illustrator but the very first drawing was done by hand of the main character (attached) then one day I just illustrated a page of weirdos and it went from there. Originally MAN FROM SPACE was a web comic that ran week by week with a cliff-hanger ending, in the grand tradition of the old Flash Gordon TV shows. Sometime around the summer of this year (the comic began March 2010) I thought about submitting it to a publisher. This made me take a good look at it to see if it actually was suitable. Would someone think it was good enough, or was I kidding myself. After a few comments about the web-comic over the past year, I decided that the one thing people really liked was the oddness.

I didn’t focus enough on that in the web comic, so I went back and totally re-worked the story from scratch, adding more weird stuff and a lot more humour, giving it a slightly more adult/grown-up feel, but still being all-ages-ish in tone. I used the images I’d already created and then worked them into a 3 panel page grid. I found this changed how I wrote the content too as the panels interacted with each other. A couple of great friends checked it out first and gave me honest feedback and then I tweaked and tweaked until I was happy. The next issue will be totally designed for print, so I’ll be mixing it up with the panels a lot more. I also had to run it past my wife, I can’t be blowing our hard-earned money on a whim y’know!

WHEMBLOCB) How long has Man From Space or creating comics been your goal/dream? I’ve listened to a lot of self-published indie creators and some of them jumped all in right away and produced material instantly and others seem to experience it at a much slower rate. A few indie books I’ve followed produced one book a year and yet you have issue #2 nearing completion?

MJ) Well for a long time I’ve wanted to make comics, the web-comic was inspired by an article I read about doing one new thing each day. So I thought I’d draw a page or two of a comic strip and then serialise it online. The comic took longer and actually pushing the button on print was a big deal, mainly down to this time it was actually costing money to do it. I got interest going before it came out and a lot of good folks, yourselves included, have said some great things. Issue 2 is only about 5 pages done, realistically, it won’t be out before February I would think. This comic took from August to November to actually happen and at least 85% was already drawn. Issue 2 will be worth the wait as I introduce an assassin who is a cross between Darth Maul and Nathan Lane in the Birdcage film, basically as camp as humanly possible, but also has a penchant for melting a brain or two. One main character will have his brain next issue, wow it’ll be a shocker!...

CB) What are your feelings about the indie market in the UK? Does it even matter or have a difference from the States due to the internet?

MJ) Well honestly I don’t really know much about the UK indie market, but I have been reading far more indie books in general these days. Back in the 80’s, all I read was Marvel, maybe a little bit of DC, but my main comic love was Groo the Wanderer which I think was my bible back then along with anything Fred Hembeck was drawing at the time! I was also a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes, which maybe comes across with the ‘Man and his fish’ set up?...

Just recently since embarking on self-publishing, I’ve been enjoying the delights of Image books Reed Gunther and Mud Man, Dark Horse’s BPRD (which is so great) and discovering the weird and wonderful world of Heeby Jeeby Comix!

CB) What’s the biggest misconception you get as an English comic creator and please say that everyone thinks you know Alan Moore or someone equally ridiculous to know.

MJ) Well I was chatting to Alan Moore just last week about this actually, he has a beard, so does my MAN FROM SPACE, they get on well. I met him through Penelope Cruz, she was instrumental in me getting the comic released in Spain as ‘Hombre del Espacio’...
I actually sang the MAN FROM SPACE theme song at her wedding, true story.CB) I knew it!

Man_from_SpaceCB) What’s after Man From Space? Will you continue with the adventures or do you have other projects that you want to do?

MJ) Yep, as best I can I shall aim to complete the 4 issues next year. Everything I wanted or would want to put into a comic, I can do with this one, so this is perfect. When I’m not working and being a family man of course... no, no dear I’m not working on my comic again.CB) Will Weirdo Books ever put out other people’s titles or is that a brand reserved solely for your titles?

MJ) At the moment Weirdo comics is MAN FROM SPACE only, we’ll see. Cool story, Weirdo comics was the title I used for comics I sold my Grandma when I was about 11 years old. She bought them for 50p... er 25 cents?... currency conversion needed!!

CB) Thank god you did it, because I was going to.

CB) What’s your feeling on digital comics when it comes to self-publishing?

MJ) For me putting out a limited print run, digital is a fantastic way of getting more exposure, somehow I managed to get MAN FROM SPACE on Graphicly, which I’m discovering is quite a big deal!

CB) Well congrats on Graphicly, I think in a short time you will find that it's a pretty big deal!

CB) What’s one question you hate being asked?

MJ) Isn’t it time you were going home?...

CB) Last question, do you prefer Batman (1989) or Batman Begins (2005)?

MJ) Hands down, no question, Batman 1960’s.CB) Touche Mr. Jackson.

Be sure to check out Man From Space either in print or digitally by heading here.