It's been 30 years since Michael Mann's neon-tinged "Miami Vice" first raided television screens in 1984, and with so many other hot '80s properties, the fashion-forward, drug-busting cops are back.
"Miami Vice: Remix," by Joe Casey and Jim Mahfood, is a complete reimagining of the world of Crockett and Tubbs, but the IDW Publishing / Lion Forge Comics series leaves little but the title intact, focusing more on voodoo, magic, zombies and other supernatural elements than on incorporating a Phil Collins-fueled soundtrack into the action. An alternate reality take on the show and its characters taking place at an undefined time that may or may not be in the '80s, Casey and Mahfood have distilled their favorite parts of Mann's iconic show into a comic that's pretty much exactly what you would expect from the "Marijuana Man" collaborators.
Mahfood also discussed working with iconic UK writer Alan Martin again on the Kickstarter-backed "21st Century Tank Girl," and how a simple Facebook message inadvertently landed him his initial gig working with one of his comic book idols.
CBR News: Jim and Joe, your new "Miami Vice: Remix" series is using some pretty insane elements. What can you tell us about the project? How will "Remix" depart from the iconic TV show?
Joe Casey: Right -- there was a show, wasn't there? Well, the whole approach is right there in the title. We're taking elements of the concept and doing a brand new scratch mix version. That's what makes it fun for us and hopefully a gas for the reader.
It's about undercover cops on the Miami beat, confronted with all kinds of weird shit that only they can deal with. From ghosts from the past, to unknowable threats from the future.
Jim Mahfood: We're taking the "Miami Vice" mythology and placing it in our own separate universe. In our universe we don't even say if it's the '80s or not. We don't explain anything; you just kind of jump in. It's Crockett and Tubbs, but it's not the same Crockett and Tubs from the TV show. We have psychedelic voodoo, evil magic, zombies, drug dealers, strip clubs, the usual stuff.
Joe and I have worked together on several projects now and he knows how to write for my art style. We always enjoy putting a twist on things and using ridiculous, fun over-the-top action and humor.
What attracted you to "Remix?"
Casey: Two of the sweetest words a writer would ever want to hear when it comes to a new project: "money" and "Mahfood."
How familiar with "Miami Vice" were you before starting the project?
Mahfood: I was a fan of the TV show as a kid. I remember watching the very first episode when it came on because it had been hyped up so much as, like, an MTV Generation-type cop show. It was the most risque, edgy, stylish thing on TV. Michael Mann created it and was the showrunner for the first season. The first season is still cool and interesting, but its just funny to think it was considered "edgy."
That pilot episode was pretty badass! When they're driving down the road in a convertible, loading a shotgun with Phil Collins blaring in the background...
Mahfood: Yeah, that was groundbreaking stuff when it first came on. It was a show that was dictated by the fashion and the music. No one had ever really utilized music in a show that way. Every song on it was a #1 hit. All that Phil Collins-style music. It was very '80s MTV generation of, "We're gonna take everything that's cool and put it in this show about these two cool edgy cops that don't dress like cops and don't talk like cops."
I grew up in the Midwest, too, so for us to have this view of Miami and undercover cops was very exotic. We thought it was very cutting edge. It's funny to think of it now. The pilot still holds up, though, and lots of the first season. But when we started working on the comic we researched the later seasons and by season three or four they were doing absolutely insane episodes. In the comic we reference an episode from season five about alien abductions, which had James Brown as a guest-star in the episode! The whole episode turned out to be a dream. They had completely run out of ideas.
Joe, how are you writing this with Jim's style in mind?
Casey: I've worked with Mahfood quite a bit by now, so I just let my mind go nuts and I figure he'll not only follow my lead, he'll make it even more nuts. And that's exactly what he did. We riffed on the elements that we knew we wanted to include, from allies to enemies to illicit substances. Once we knew we were on the same page, so to speak, I just let it fly.
Jim, can you give an example of how Joe writes for you?
Mahfood: He knows what I want to draw, which is badass characters, hot girls and exotic locations. Strange, trippy, psychedelic scenes and violent action. Over-the-top things that have the sensibility of '70s grindhouse or exploitation. There's always a tongue-in-check vibe to the things we do. We're always kind of winking at the audience. Come along with us on this strange journey!
We're both big music guys, too. He plays guitar and used to be in a band. I'm a huge music fanatic, too. When we get together, we talk about music a lot. Our projects are definitely influenced by the music we're listening to. We did a book together called "Marijuana Man" for Ziggy Marley, and it's obviously directly influenced by the Marley music and reggae. It has a strange, stoner attitude. '60s and '70s head comics. "Miami Vice" is talking about '80s music and that kind of vibe.
We did a cartoon for MTV for Scott Mosier called "Disco Destroyer" that was fueled by our love of '70s classic rock, muscle cars and kung-fu movies. The things we do are direct references to the things we love.
"Miami Vice" featured groundbreaking use of pop music, and you're both famous for incorporating music into your comics work. How will you be doing that with "Miami Vice?"
Casey: No music. I holed up in a local monastery so I could be assured the absolute peace and quiet necessary to crank this story out. I couldn't afford any distractions. It takes extreme concentration to remember which one is Crockett and which one is Tubbs. I think, by the end of the series, I knew who was who.
Mahfood: Without giving away too much stuff, there are definitely references to stuff. There are scenes with references to specific bands and artists of that era. I want people to look for the stuff. They're hidden Easter eggs. Again, we don't come out and tell you if it's the '80s in our universe, but there's hints and things in there you can look for. It's cool because we don't have to say or explain when it takes place, we want the reader to look at it in their own way.
But yeah, I do work music into my art. Like I'll draw a band t-shirt of whoever I happen to be listening to as I'm drawing it. It's a subliminal way of putting an idea out there. It's also a reminder to me when I look at it later, 'Oh yeah, I was listening to that band when I was drawing it!' It's kind of a time-record for me.
So what were you listening to when you drew "Miami Vice?"
Mahfood: I wasn't specifically listening to a lot of '80s, but there was a lot of Van Halen happening. A lot of Van Halen. In the David Lee Roth era, of course. I'm not a big Sammy Hagar fan. The Diamond Dave Van Halen records are all so ridiculous and over-the-top. I love all that shit, and fuse that in with some '80s hip-hop, which was a golden era. Late '80s hip-hop. Late '70s punk stuff, too, like Dead Kennedys. Not that they have anything to do with "Miami Vice," I just like the driving nature of it. I like to listen to faster stuff by day so I'm alert. More aggressive, upbeat stuff. Then at night I switch to more jazz and reggae and instrumental music. More chill stuff as I'm wrapping up the day.
Jim, "Remix" isn't the only comeback you've worked on recently. What was it like working on "21st Century Tank Girl?"
Mahfood: I just got my copy in the mail and it looks gorgeous. It's me and the rest of the "Tank Girl" artists in one book together, written by the original "Tank Girl" writer Alan Martin. Alan and his wife decided to do this book through Kickstarter and not even mess with a publisher. So they ran a huge, incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign for the book and produced this gorgeous hardcover anthology. They even got Jamie Hewlett, the original "Tank Girl" artist, to come back and do his first brand-new Tank Girl work in 20 years. It's really a huge honor for me to be involved. "Tank Girl" was the first real book I discovered in college and decided I wanted to do comics. I was ripping off his style when I first started.
It's Jamie Hewlett, Bret Parsons, Jonathan Edwards, Philip Bond, Warwick Johnson Caldwell, Craig Noels and I in this deluxe book together. I'm very, very proud to be in it. I think Alan and his wife will be offering the book for sale on the internet after they ship out all the Kickstarter copies. Now that the word is out there that this book is out there and its incredible, everybody's been hitting us up trying to get a copy.
The downside for me is, I always want my books to be in the comic shops and have the option for retailers around the world to order it. I know comic shops are sort of slowly evaporating anyways, but I just like the idea that if I do a book through IDW or Image or whatever, there's an option for somebody to just walk in off the streets and buy it off the shelves.
You and Hewlett have a lot of parallels in your style and careers -- have you ever had a chance to meet or talk with him?
Mahfood: No I haven't. Not yet. We're friends on Instagram! [Laughs] He's liked a couple things of mine on Instagram. The night I discovered he was following me on Instagram I was in a bar with my friend. I was pretty buzzed and I completely flipped out, yelling and high-fiving people. 'Jamie Hewlett is following me!' Everyone was like, 'Who?' It was a huge, huge deal for me. I haven't made any attempts to reach out to him, though, because I'm a little intimidated by that. It's funny because Alan, who co-created "Tank Girl" with Jamie, we just became friends on Facebook a couple years ago. I just sent him a message saying, 'Hey Alan, much respect to you. Just wanted to say hi.' He replied right away asking if I wanted to draw a "Tank Girl" miniseries. It was that easy. I would up doing "Everybody Loves Tank Girl" with him through Titan Comics.
It's funny because I've built these guys up in my mind over the course of 20 years as being these untouchable dudes in England. Then Alan and I send two messages on Facebook and we're working together. Jamie seems a little more mysterious and elusive. I don't want to say I'm nervous, but sometimes it's weird to meet your idols. If it doesn't go right, you might be disappointed or something.
"Miami Vice: Remix" #1 is available now from IDW Publishing.