IndieCreator with Bob Heske: Mike Henderson Interview
Monday, May 24, 2010 - 09:13
(Editor's Note: We would like to extend our thanks to our friends over at InvestComics.com and also to Robert Heske for their IndieCreator™ Column - now syndicated at Cosmic Book News!)
Interview With Mike Henderson
by Robert Heske
10 QUESTIONS WITH SMUGGLING SPIRITS ARTIST MIKE HENDERSON
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:153:]]Mike Henderson is one of those artists who, after you see their work, you go, “Damn, why couldn’t I hook up with that artist?” As luck would have it, Mike Henderson has teamed up with writer Ben Fisher and the result has been a bonanza for comic fans. Their flagship work – Smuggling Spirits – was picked up by Studio 407 and is already being made into a feature film (one of five comic adaptation films in the works for red-hot Studio 407 whose Managing Director, Alex Leung, was interviewed in this column not long ago). The title is so smoking it even has its own Wikipedia page.
When you check out the first ten pages of the graphic novel (see it here), you’ll know why. This won’t be a cheapie indie, btw. Rumor has it that this baby will have a decent-sized budget – even by HollyWeird standards. So stay tuned!
In the meantime, strap yourself in for a rapid-fire interview with a rising star to get the double entendre story behind Smuggling Spirits, and what else the team of Fisher/Henderson has up their sordid sleeves. Enjoy!
(BTW – Mike is playfully flashing the birdie at his writing buddy Ben in this comic con pic, not at you Dear Reader. Artists do that to writers often.)
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:154:]]1. SMUGGLING SPIRITS is a graphic novel written by Ben Fisher with artwork by yourself and lettering by Adam Markiewicz. How was the team assembled - was this originally a pitch that Studio 407 bought or a creator-owned title that Studio 407 picked up after completion?
(MH:) Ben and I had been working on little projects and short stories here and there for a while when he first brought up pitching Smuggling Spirits around. It seemed like a really fun idea, and was the first time I got to dig into a project that big. I was always going to handle the art alone, but needed a letterer from day one. I called Adam Markiewicz, an old Kubert School classmate of mine, partly because I didn’t have the time, but mostly because he was far and away a better letterer than me. I wanted a really organic look to the lettering and he was able to add a whole nuther dimension to the book. We first pitched it to the now defunct Ambrosia Publishing, who actually did publish it in two smaller volumes. When they went belly-up, Ben and I resigned ourselves to Spirits being a dead property, but it was just a few days after that we heard from Alex at Studio 407. So we were really excited for it to have a new home and a lot better exposure.
2. SMUGGLING SPIRITS takes place in Prohibition-era America and centers on a bootlegger and his newfound young ward find themselves on the run from an unrelenting entity (read: Darkling "monster") who believes they hold the key to its destruction. The bootlegger protagonist (Al Stone) has internal demons of his own. In doing research for the assignment, what were you inspirations to draw this gritty, grainy, graphic-noir novel?
(MH:) We drew a lot of obvious comparisons to Sin City, which is an easy connection to make, and a fair one, but there’s more to it than that. I did a lot of reference gathering for moonshiners and dustbowl era clothing and automobiles. I watched a few noir films but I’m always careful (bordering on paranoid) not to carry too much away from a book or a film.
3. AIN'T IT COOL called it "Road to Perdition with monsters." Is this your favorite review sound byte? What have other reviewers said about the project?
(MH:) It is and it isn’t. It’s flattering in the sense that Road to Perdition was a great book as well as a film, but frustrating ONLY in the sense that you don’t want to be known as “that book that’s kind of like that other book”. We’ve gotten almost exclusively positive feedback. I don’t mean that in a chest-thumping kind of way, but we’ve been very fortunate that people seemed to respond really well and the few negative things that came up (mostly about my art, and I’ll never repeat them!) were largely true, and in the end, helpful.
4. Congrats on the movie deal. Word has it that Studio 407 is working aggressively to finalize the script and secure funding. Is it safe to assume the film version will look akin to SIN CITY? Can you give us an update on casting, etc.?
(MH) Thanks so much! We’re really excited to see our baby up on the big screen. I don’t think it’s going to be in the same visual style as Sin City, though, and at this point it is going to be in color. Sin City was so distinctly stylized that it would be hard to follow in that regard. Spirits is going to be a whole different animal. I can’t, sadly, tell you much about cast and crew involvement yet, as I know very little at this stage. It won’t be long though before press releases start, but I’m as anxious as everybody else!
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:155:]]5. The first 10 pages (shown on the Studio-407 site) do a brilliant job of introducing us to the characters, the world they live in, and the dangers they face. Are you a co-creator for the project, and will you be doing any storyboarding for the film?
(MH) I’m a co-creator in the visual sense for Smuggling Spirits, but I had very little to do with the development of the story, at least in the original OGN. When Studio 407 snatched us up, I had a bit more input as we gave it another pass and polished it in a way that being at Ambrosia Publishing didn’t allow us to do. In our subsequent projects, I’ve had less problems pushing Ben around, creatively (laughs). It hasn’t been determined EXACTLY what I’ll be handling in terms of contributing art to the film, but I have every intention of being in the trenches and as involved as I can be, from storyboards to conceptual design. After all, who knows these characters better than me?
6. Aside from the graphic novel and film, are there any plans to extend the franchise to other media too -- such as anime or games? Fill us in!
(MH) There are plans in the works for both an anime and video game (personally I’m banking on some toys!), but they’re in the very, very early stages at this point. I wish I had more to report, but much like the film, news won’t be that far off.
7. What was it like working with Ben Fisher? How long did it take to complete the project? Tell us about your new intellectual property - BLOODWORKS - created in tandem with the insanely talented Mr. Fisher, and when it will become available for public consumption.
(MH) Smuggling Spirits, being the first time I’d done a project of that size, took about 6 months to complete. A little slower than normal, but probably to be expected when you’re working a day job, no? Bloodwork is very much a pet project that we don’t want to rush. We’re planning to finish the first arc before we start to pitch it around and keep it open for more and more stories we’d like to tell. There are lots of exciting directions we could take with it, and it’s a blast to draw.
8. Tell us about Mike Henderson -- what are some of the other projects you've completed and had published, and what's next up your creative shirtsleeve?
(MH) Ben and I have a second OGN, titled Hexen Hammers, coming late spring/early summer from Arcana Studios that has been a long time in the making. I just completed illustrations for Clifford Meth’s new book THE WHOREHOUSE MADRIGALS, from Aardwolf Publishing. Aside from that, I’ve been piecing Bloodwork together and working with an agency to bring my work to some of the bigger publishers hopefully very soon.
9. Please give us websites and blogs where we can follow you online. How can people contact you to do commission work?
(MH) My blog, which I just recently started, is: http://mikeshenderson.blogspot.com/.
I post mostly finished work there.
My older galleries are at http://www.comicspace.com/mshenderson/ a sadly dwindling site that doesn’t get nearly the exposure it should.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:156:]]10. Wrapping up, who is your favorite comic book artist? And what super hero, sci-fi, horror or other series would you love to do artwork for?
(MH) Now THAT is a loaded question! I’m very much an Eisner/Kirby/Toth kind of guy, and I freely admit to reading almost no ongoing titles these days, but I do follow certain creators. If I had to choose someone currently working in the business though, no one does it better than Mike Mignola. Precise, poetic storytelling in a striking visual style. A master draftsman. Every creator has a wish list of characters and stories they’d like to work on. Matt Wagner’s Mage tops the list (not that he would ever let anyone run with his baby), along with The Masters of the Universe and Marvel’s Adam Warlock. I’ll most likely steer clear of the horror/noir genres for a while, at least in the creator-owned arena. I have my own stories to tell at some point, but I have a feeling they’re a long time coming. I haven’t developed to the point I want to be, as a writer, to tell the stories that are in my head. We can’t all be Ben Fisher now can we? But I do have some stuff planned for a ways down the road.
Thanks Mike. Continued success in 2010!