Michael and Laura Allred walked into their assigned discussion room last Saturday afternoon at the 2010 Baltimore Comic-Con just as Dennis Kitchen wrapped up his presentation. Allred joked that he would have paid Kitchen to give him an introduction. As the crowd slowly shifted, Kitchen fans out and Allred fans in, Michael invited everyone to come up and fill in the front few rows for a much more intimate panel experience. The Allreds settled up at the table in front of their microphones as Chris Roberson, writer of the Vertigo title “iZombie,” prepared to ask them a few questions.
Roberson started off simply asking Allred how he got into comics. Allred replied by telling a story of how, when he was young, he was pushed off the top of a table that he was dancing on and hurt his head seriously enough that he wound up in the hospital. When he woke up he was surrounded by comics that his brothers had picked out for him to read while he rested. A few of them stood out in his mind. He mentioned some old issues of “Justice League of America” and “Aquaman,” but the one that really stood out for him was an issue of “The Brave and the Bold” that was the first appearance of the Teen Titans, illustrated by Bruno Premiani. Allred said that Premiani’s work was the first style he was really able to recognize.
Allred also mentioned a love of Barry Windsor Smith’s “Conan the Barbarian” comics. He told a story of how he had spent half of the money he made working over one summer to get the first 24 issues of the original Marvel Comics series. Allred said it was a wise investment.
Allred went on to say that the death of Gwen Stacy in “The Amazing Spider-Man” issue #121 was significant to him in that it was the issue that made him give up reading comic books for a while. He wouldn’t get back into comics until a friend turned him onto books like “The Dark Knight Returns,” “Watchmen” and “Mister X.”
While living in Europe and working a television broadcasting job, Allred had been writing a screenplay titled “Dead Air” which he would later turn into storyboards and then finally into an original graphic novel. From there he worked on the series “Jaguar Stories” and “Graphique Musique.” The Character of Frank Einstein would come out of Allred’s work on “Graphique Musique” and would lead into his most recognized work on “Madman.” While he worked on “Graphique Musique,” Allred got in touch with Matt Wagner, who showed his work to Neil Gaiman, who wanted to have Allred work on an issue of “The Sandman.” But after sending in some of his work, Allred was told by an editor that we was not ready yet for a Vertigo book. A while later, the same editor would come back and ask him to come and work on “The Sandman.”
Allred talked a lot about how important constructive criticism is in his work process. He likes having the freedom on a title like “Madman” to do what he wants but he’s still open to new ideas. He suggested that editors have been very integral in his work, mentioning a few notable instances where things had to be changed before they were put to print — including some of his work on both the “X-Force” and “X-Statix” titles he worked on for Marvel Comics. On one occasion, Laura Allred couldn’t make blood red because it “had to be black.” Another more memorable instance was when they had to change a likeness of Princess Diana over an entire six-issue arc after alleged pressure from Buckingham Palace. Michael and Laura Allred also remembered in the “Madman Superman Hullaballo” book, in a panel when Madman asks Superman if he believed in God, they were originally both sitting on a swing set. But Michael was told by an editor that Superman wouldn’t sit on a swing set and he had to change the panel for print.
About halfway through the panel, the Allreds opened the floor to fan questions. One attendee asked what the status of the Madman movie was. Allred explained that as of right now the rights to the movie are still with Robert Rodriguez, after it was first optioned by Universal Studios over fifteen years ago and after five screenplays had been written. Otherwise, there was no new news about the movie.
Another fan asked about The Gear, which is Allred’s family band in which both of his sons play. The Gear is also the basis for Allred’s “Red Rocket 7” graphic novel. Allred said that at this point they were just working on new song structures.
Finally, someone asked what new things we could expect from Madman. Allred had some exciting news about an upcoming giant-size special that would have a full-length Frank Einstein story written and drawn by himself, accompanied by several short stories by guest artists. Allred also mentioned a Madman twentieth anniversary book coming out that would include 20 one-page strips along with a deluxe edition of the book that would include all the Madman pinups.