Marc Jackson Brings The Ninja to His Comic Books
Marc Jackson is a cartoonist and teacher who self-publishes his work and is a Bleeding Cool regular. He writes of his latest Ninja work,
Back in early April, just a couple of weeks after everything hit the fan, I suddenly found myself in a situation where I was losing my regular comic strip work. Now anyone who is fortunate enough to have regular comics work will know, you are in a zone of producing stuff regularly, you know when you need to be working on it, when it needs finishing and how long it takes you. You finish it; then you do it again, make comics and repeat. So when you lose that work, you don't lose the motivation to make comics and so rather than get all sad (nobody wants to see a cartoonist cry, we're supposed to be fun). With a captive (literally) audience, I set to work on my first weekly web strip on Instagram called BRING THE NINJA. The plan would be to put out a new four-panel strip each Friday at around 3 pm UK time, something for those that followed me to follow each week and hopefully get caught up in the fun along with me.
Earlier in the year, I'd started watching Cartoonist Kayfabe hosted by Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor, and their constant enthusiasm for comics, back issues, and self-published work were really interesting and infectious to me. The first episode I watched saw them talking about the TMNT legacy, and I was hooked. Jim had put out a comic called Street Angel that I'd never read, but this was another comic that also featured Ninjas, and it really struck a chord. I managed to pick up the FCBD issue from a few years back on eBay (I paid for it, hmm) and really loved it. Then I watched Ed, Jim and Tom Scioli (his work on Transformers vs. G.I.Joe was another influence but more so for what I have planned for in BOOK TWO coming in September) talk about The Dark Knight Returns, and once again, I was swept up. I distinctly remember the day I bought book four of the series after reading about it in the YOU magazine from my Dad's Sunday paper glossy magazine. I told my Mum this was a 'hot comic,' and I was blown away by what was inside. I'm sure I had no idea what was going on, but man alive, it looked amazing, this was a comic book??… So there I was, armed with all that visual inspiration in my brain. Ed Piskor hit me again when he started posting his late-night lockdown reading material of old Miller and Klaus Janson Daredevils. I possibly had never seen at the time of release (I came to the character circa Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr Daredevil) and was caught up in Janson's fantastic work once again. I had a single issue of Batman from 1982 in my collection that he inked that I'd been pouring over with my cereal and coffee where Bats squared up to the Mad Hatter and always loved his work. He did a one-shot Star Wars comic that I read in parts in Marvel UK's Spider-Man title in the mid-'80s, and his style just leaped out at me, I can't describe it, but it was just a step in a new direction from traditional art, but still with that legendary quality and I loved it.
And so, my arsenal was complete, and on Friday, April 10th at 3 pm UK time, slap bang in lockdown, I put out the first strip. The comic was basically made up week to week, with a few plot ideas written in my notebook to start the ball rolling. I had a few elements, characters, ideas, etc., but I just wanted to see where it was going. It was so much fun to give myself a weekly deadline and work this way, and the comic twisted around in a world of ninjas, robots, super-heroes, and disgruntled ex-wives! Each character was to be different than the next, weirder, goofier and zanier, Chuck Chang, Floyd Fighter, John! the emergency robot and villainess 'Atomic Booty'! Each strip got more ridiculous, and although it was designed as a flip thru comic for Instagram, I was then driven by my desire to get it out in print. So I switched gears, got ahead of myself on the production (initially I'd do a Friday strip the night before), and planned out enough parts to get me a 16-page mini-comic. This Friday book, one of the comics comes to a close online and also is released in print, which is perfectly timed (but totally by chance).
As well as me crediting the Kayfabe guys for their marching orders to 'make more comics' I somehow managed to get a quote for the back cover from the incredible Bill Sienkiewicz!!! I know, crazy, right? I watched my first ever interview with Bill over Christmas and was intrigued by his work ethic of wanting to do new things at Marvel but being willing to do them for a much lower rate than the time he was spending to create. His mindset? He was getting to do what he wanted, he was getting paid at least, and somehow, he was being allowed to create mind-blowing, different work for big-time titles such as New Mutants, Elektra, etc. etc. without being questioned. Bill talked in other interviews I've since read and seen about approaching his comics differently, utilizing exaggerated facial expressions, body language, and poses to make the comics leap off the page. It was surreal stuff and connected with me and my goofy, cartoony style. I made contact with Bill on Twitter and basically asked if he'd be willing to read the strip. He agreed (?!!?), and then the amazing part came the quote. Wow. What a quote. It could have gone one of two ways, but I had a feeling that Bill might dig it and dig it he did! Even his reply back after first reading it was back cover worthy, but then he sent me the real deal…
"Bring The Ninja is a mash-up between Rocky & Bullwinkle, chop-socky cinema, and reading the back of a cereal box; It's an all-out surreal, zany and hilarious hoot you can't NOT get sucked into loving" Bill Sienkiewicz.
So that's the story of when faced with losing work, you pick yourself up, take in all the inspiration your brain can muster, and you make a comic. If you're lucky, you make a good one, but making one in the first place, that's the essential part and to keep making more of them.
See you in the funny pages!!!
You can pre-order/order the comic right here and read the strip online right here.