Talking Comics with Tim | Paul Maybury

Artist Paul Maybury's latest collaboration (with writers Johnny Zito and Tony Trov), D.O.G.S. of Mars, is poised to be released on May 2 by Image. This 120-page/$15.99 story, pitting Captain Zoe and the Mars Base Bowie crew (at Earth’s first Martian colony) against nocturnal monsters, marked Maybury's return to long-form work since 2008's Aqua Leung (and was originally released digitally by Comixology in 2011). We discuss it--and he was kind enough to share some preview pages (as well as video showing his process inking some of the pages). After you read this interview, be sure to check out the interview that my Robot 6 boss, JK Parkin, did with the creative team, back in January 2011.

Tim O'Shea: This project originated on Comixology back in January 2011--was it always important to you to see it released in the traditional sense (via Image) or would you have been fine if it had remained as a digital release only?

Paul Maybury: It was definitely a personal goal of mine. I think Comixology is a great format, but it's definitely hard to stand out under the creator-owned section. There had been talk about going with another publisher that was cautiously approaching the idea, but wasn't completely sold. Somewhere around the release of issue three I decided to send a pdf copy out to a few trusted people and one of them was Erik Larsen over at Image. I wasn't really looking to get it published over there, but Erik really took the time to set me back up with Stephenson, who I hadn't spoken to in a few years. In the end it feels pretty comfortable as Image has been publishing my work here and there since the Belle and Sebastian anthology back in 2004.

O'Shea: When you signed on to work on the project, what was the critical linchpin of the project that got you to commit?

Maybury: I hadn't done anything long form since Aqua Leung in 2008. I'd been sort of stuck in spec limbo with various publishers and writers that ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth. The idea of doing something simple and strictly work for hire was appealing to me. It was a great way to test the water and get back into the swing of things with very little pressure from Johnny and Tony. I also did another work for hire book called Eat That Frog for Smartercomics around the same time.

O'Shea: Can you give folks a glimpse of the collaborative process between you and the writing team?

Maybury: Honestly, Johnny and Tony really just let me take the script and run with it, which I'm incredibly grateful for. Once I turned in the pages, the script that I drew from was sort of evolved by them and revised when it got to the lettering stage. Sometimes this changes the intent behind character's body language, and facial expressions are repurposed. In some ways I dislike this method, but it other ways I found it to be refreshing towards the end, as I wasn't as bored with the final product after discovering an alternate story. The final step was me going back in and fiddling with the dialog and placement of the balloons to make sure a lot of the original emotional beats weren't missed. Thank goodness for dropbox.

O'Shea: The work is distinctive as the pages are seemingly colored in Mars-like (mainly in orange-red hues), what was the thinking in terms of that look?

Maybury: A technicality. I originally didn't want to take the book if I had to color it for the price offered, but we came to a compromise of one tone. Ultimately, I think I shot myself in the foot, as I couldn't simply leave it alone at one color. I came up with a five shades, and created different combinations of them over various panels to set different tones. At the time I was teaching interns that year, so I made them a numbered chart to work off of and I would give them a page and just dictate a set of numbers to use for each panel. It was sort of an insane color by numbers code. The hours they were there, I worked on inking pages while they were to my right coloring, then I would take over and color correct while they switched places and erased so the work flow never stopped.

O'Shea: You reveal your character designs in the back of the collection (which I was fortunate enough to peruse), in designing the different characters were there certain goals with particular characters? For example, it struck me that Nurse Rogers was substantially shorter than the other characters?

Maybury: I read an early review of one of the digital issues where this person just hated that the female characters were somewhat unattractive. I personally felt I really didn't want any of the characters being too beautiful, or handsome. I like the idea of Raj being awkwardly tall, or Rogers being short with a goofy hair cut. I think this surface humor and reality to the characters makes them more endearing to the reader. Zoe and Turk have a rivalry and jealousy of one another that spans their ego and sexuality. I think it's crucial to show these struggles with average looking people sometimes, especially in comics.

O'Shea: What were some of the more challenging aspects of the projects or pages you were particularly proud of when you finished the project?

Maybury: Dogs of Mars was conceived as an IP generator for a potential movie. If you're familiar with comics that come about that way (which many do these days whether they admit it or not) your script really is more of a screen play. I had a hard time translating the script into a quantity of panels and pages that would fall into 100 pages. It really taught me how to be more precise with my pacing and to condense my story telling, which to a point has never been restricted by page counts. Again, Johnny and Tony were really easy going, thankfully, and let me fiddle with things to make it work for everyone involved.

O'Shea: Writer Johnny Zito said of your work: “Paul's designs are very industrial with Japanese gore splattered about. His vision of the monster is a grotesque, alien twist on the classic werewolf.” Would you say that Japanese gore is an influence on your work?

Maybury: Definitely, I've always been a 70's and 80's manga fan. When talking to Johnny about his love for B movies and horror, I really decided to go in a retro horror manga direction with a B movie spirit which really helped define the project I think. I never consider the gore aspect of things. I suppose it went a bit out of vogue in the last decade, but I grew up on things like Fist of the North Star, where you've got exploding heads and arms being thrown everywhere. I have no filter when it comes to that stuff which I guess is pretty evident in this book.

O'Shea: How much do you enjoy using social media (you are on Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube--as well other social media platforms) to make fans aware of your work--and build upon your fan base?

Maybury: It's pretty damn important these days. I really wish I could get away with not being on twitter but I can't escape it. Thankfully it's getting easier to get your art out there with sites like tumblr. The landscape is changing so quickly, I honestly couldn't even tell you how people are going to have to promote their work three years from now. There's a Paul Maybury that's a musician, and another that's an actor. I always have to stay one step ahead of them so I don't lose my name on whatever new social networking sites pop up. It's a lot of work...

O'Shea: On a related note, how did you go about making the work process YouTube (and Vimeo) videos?

Maybury: Oh man, I propped up a camera (not a real video camera) on a change jar, held steady by whatever crap is laying around my office, then I draw as quickly as I can, as I can only record a few minutes at a time on it. I'm not as crafty as Ming Doyle, and I couldn't even tell you how to do a time lapse in my videos. I hope someone gets use out of that raw footage though.

O'Shea: In addition to being a comic property, D.O.G.S. of Mars is a movie currently under development. Are the film-makers using your pages and designs as inspiration for the film?

Maybury: I'm not entirely sure as I'm sort of a hired gun with no connection to them. I did keep a film in mind when designing the costumes and monsters. I even used some known set locations in the backgrounds of the book, so if they wanted to they wouldn't necessary have to build a set.

O'Shea: Creatively what's on the horizon, am I correct in thinking you're currently at work on Party Bear? Also, care to elaborate on this tweet regarding Maxy J. Millionaire--or is it too soon?

Maybury: I've also done some short work in last year's Marvel Strange Tales as well as Erik Larsen's Crack Comics, and Savage Dragon Funnies for those that missed it. I will not be updating Party Bear again, as I have distant plans to rework the story in a new script. Josh Tierney (Spera) and I are co-editing an anthology at the moment. The working title is the Hunt. It's currently being shopped around so hopefully that will develop more soon. Aside from a couple of new book projects that I'm talking to publishers about, I'm really trying to finish writing my first full length graphic novel based on the character, Maxy J. Millionaire. A short version of it appeared on Zuda years ago. I'm 160 pages into it, and plan to wrap it around 200. Maybe it's a 2013 project? In addition to that, I post one panel comics on my tumblr for no particular reason.

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