David Mack Celebrates 20th Anniversary with "Kabuki's" Return

David Mack has had a busy year. The collection of Marvel's "Daredevil: End of Days" (which Mack co-wrote with Brian Michael Bendis) has just been collected, he assembled an art book "Muse," and designed the end credits sequence for "Captain America: Winter Soldier" in addition to exhibiting at multiple gallery shows.

If all that weren't enough, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of "Kabuki," Mack's best-known and most personal work. At C2E2 2014, it was announced that Mack will be telling a new "Kabuki" story in the pages of "Dark Horse Presents" when the anthology relaunches in a new slimmer format in August. What this may mean for the long-term future of "Kabuki" has not yet been revealed, but this is the first time the series, most recently a part of Marvel's creator-owned Icon line, has been published by Dark Horse.

CBR News caught up with David Mack about returning to "Kabuki," and the creator looked back at the inception of series, the new incarnation in "Dark Horse Presents," his other work in comics since "Kabuki" hit in 1994 and more.

CBR News: David, first of all, congratulations. "Kabuki" first appeared in 1994 and I'm sorry that I didn't get you any china or platinum, but does it feel like twenty years?

David Mack: They have been the most creative years of my life; and the years of meeting my best friends and closest collaborators. I'm not great at telling if it feels like twenty years. It does in a way, a lot has happened. But it also seems like yesterday that I was creating "Kabuki" in 1993 as a college student with "Kabuki" as my senior thesis in Literature.

I turned it in for my senior level writing class, and for every class I could, graphic design, book making, and trying to integrate what I was learning from college into my work -- from college class studying of the Japanese language, world religions, mythology, childrens literature, history and traveling, and pouring that into my work.

"Kabuki" really began as my way of trying to tell a very personal story, and incorporating the things I was learning, personal things I was dealing with, and pouring that into my work (my childhood, the death of my mother, family dynamics, finding my place in the adult world, trying to understand the social dynamics of the world). The book was a sort of laboratory for me to try to make sense of some of the world at a very young age. I was barely twenty years old when I started doing it, so in a way that naïvete is maybe part of the charm of the book and the character.

You created the covers for Dark Horse's "Willow" miniseries a little while back, but how did the "Dark Horse Presents" story come about?

I really had a wonderful time creating those "Willow" covers. That was Dark Horse Editor in Chief Scott Allie who asked me to work on Willow. A few years prior to that, Scott Allie had recommended my work to Showtime when they asked me to do the "Dexter: Early Cuts" episodes. I did the last two seasons of "Dexter: Early Cuts" based on Scott's recommendation. I was able to work with Bill Sienkiewicz on one of them which was a joy, as we were also creating "Daredevil: End of Days" together.

For the final "Dexter" episodes, my work on them got a nomination for the Writers Guild Awards and the Producers Guild Awards. As a strange coincidence, the "Dexter" set designers were creating "Kabuki" murals on the walls of a "Dexter" character and including my art & books on the set that viewers of the TV show were recognizing.

When Scott asked about me doing a short story for "Dark Horse Presents," I thought it would be a very fun idea. At first, we were discussing doing a brand new original creator owned story for it. But then as this year turned out to be the twentieth anniversary of "Kabuki," we thought it would be a very fun way to celebrate by doing a "Kabuki" story in the very first issue.

It's been a little while since we've seen a new "Kabuki" story. Have you been thinking about or working slowly on something? Has it been in your mind over the years?

Yes! I had been working on a lot of other things lately in a variety of media. Earlier this year I was creating all of the art and design concept for the end credit sequence of the film "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." I had been doing a lot of album cover work, and fine art gallery exhibits, including two exhibits last year with my figure drawings presented with the works of Egon Scheile and Gustav Klimt. I've been doing some new paintings for Neil Gaiman collaborative prints from Neverwear. Writing "Daredevil: End of Days" was my big comic book work of last year. Writing with Brian [Bendis] on that last year, and working with childhood "Daredevil" heroes Bill Sienkiewicz & Klaus Janson was a dream come true and we had been discussing new projects to write and collaborate on.

But "Kabuki" stories keep percolating in my head. I have such a love of the characters. I had been working on some brand new creator owned projects on my own, and with my collaborators Brian Bendis and Bill Sienkiewicz. But with this being the twentieth anniversary of "Kabuki," I just felt like it was a great opportunity to visit the character with new stories in print again.

What can readers expect to see in this "Dark Horse Presents" story?

The last "Kabuki" story I did, "Kabuki: The Alchemy" ended with some big twists. So I wanted to accomplish something twofold with this story in "Dark Horse Presents." I want to make it very accessible to new readers who are not familiar with the character. I want it to give a sense of the character and the different eras and dimensions of the character for new readers. But I also want to offer some new twists and mysteries for readers who have been reading all of the previous seven volumes.

That has always been the trick for me in making "Kabuki." I like to make each story accessible to a new reader. That they can begin with that story. But it still fits in continuity and builds on the previous volumes and the more of them that you read, the more you see how they interconnect.

What can longtime "Kabuki" fans, especially those who have been waiting for the return of the series, expect to see.

I try to give each "Kabuki" volume its own visual theme and visual style that contrasts from the others. So for this story, I want to do a visual acknowledgment to each different visual approach to "Kabuki" from each of the "Kabuki" eras that then culminates in a new feel for this era.

This story has the introduction of a brand new character. One that will play a pivotal role in future stories. It's an honor to have a place in the first issue of this new "Dark Horse Presents." Very cool to be in the book with the Frank Miller, Geof Darrow story too as they are creators I grew up with and inspired me in my formative years.

For the Twentieth anniversary of "Kabuki" I should mention some other things that have been announced so far for the celebration. With more to come! Sculptor Clayburn Moore is now offering this wearable "Kabuki" mask, and a new "Kabuki" statue. The British fightwear clothing company Gawakoto has released a line of "Kabuki" action wear, rashgaurds & gi. The filmmakers of the documentary film about my work are offering a DVD of their film back in stock. There is a new "Lil' Kabuki" story in the Windsor McKay dedicated book, "Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream." Also my new art book "Muse" will be out at this time and more announcements to come!

David Mack's "Kabuki" makes its "Dark Horse Comics Presents" debut in August.

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