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Michael Lark, On The Ennuii Of Comics And Moving To Creator-Owned Work


"I go to the comic shop maybe 3 or 4 times a year at the most. Most of the people in this room, I don't even know who they are." – Michael Lark

Adam Messenger writes;

At Big Wow Comicsfest 2013, Adam Messinger sat down and interviewed Michael Lark. Words were spoken from their mouths using their voice boxes. If you could hear it, it would sound like the rest of this article but you can't…you can only read what was said. It was way less pretentious than the intro to this article.

You've worked with a variety of characters through your career. Who do you relate to the most?

733px-IMG_0317_Michael_LarkOh, gosh! I think this is true of anyone who draws comics, all the characters have elements of us in them. At some point you've got to be able to relate to the emotional arch of the character to be able to really convey the emotions of the character. There's a little bit of me in any of the characters I do. There's a little bit of my emotional and struggles and stuff. Weather I relate to any of their lifestyles or anything? Not a single one. We're all human and our struggles are universal.

Skipping around to your Daredevil run, specifically the Devil in Cell Block D story. What did you do to prepare for drawing it since it took place primarily in a prison?

Well…uhh…I committed some crimes and then I got put in prision…(laughs). No, I just did research. There is so much stuff online. It's so easy to find stuff now. Just type 'prison' in Google Image Search and off you go.

The one thing I was impressed with was that with every issue you had the same prison. You created this cohesive working prison. That's not something that every artist can pull off. A lot of times it'll be different from issue to issue.

That's just me being obsessive with details. The reference I was using…it was NOT all one prison. I was me just being obsessive with details and wanting to keep things interesting. I mean, for some people it's enough to just draw the action sequence and throw something in the background to make it look like a prison. I tend to think about how the action is taking place inside of a space. I tend to think of it all in three dimensions. I don't know, that's just how my brain works.

Has there been a moment, while you were reading a script, when you were just horrified? Just like "OH MY GOD! HOW AM I EVER GOING TO DRAW THIS!"?

Oh, yeah! Pretty much everything I get in a script. I'm like "Oh crap! How am I ever going to draw that?" One time I was drawing a scene. It was a long scene, about 15 pages, and it was of Winter Soldier and Black Widow chasing some guys who were driving an RV down a windy mountain at night. They had to commandeer the RV, which was out of control. They're motorcycles driving around, people jumping out windows and shooting. I read the script and I was like "Oh my god! How am I going to draw this?" It actually turned out to be one of the most fun things I did. I mean that's really what this all is, is problem solving. You've got a certain number of pages to convey a certain number of things. How are you going to do it most efficiently, most effectively, and most clearly? How are you going to solve that puzzle.

You've got to work with a lot of writers. Has there been one writer that's stood out above others or a collaborative process that's been easier than others?

Anytime I work with Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker. Those two guys, to me, are the best. When I get scripts from either of them, I understand intuitively what they want. I don't know why. I don't know if every artist that works with them feels that way or not. I know I do. It becomes very easy to draw when they do stuff. When we were working on Gotham Central together it would be very interesting because they have different scripts. They write very differently in their scripts. Even though their stuff meshed together for the finished product, I would read the scripts…and it would be kind of jarring. In the end those two guys are the ones. All anyone has to say is "Will you do something with Greg?" or "Will you do something with Ed?" I'll say yes. I don't even have to know what it is, I'll do it.

Since your favorite stuff has been with them, do you prefer Daredevil or Gotham Central or the few issues of Captain America? Is there any one of your books that stick out as a definitive work?

I like all of those. I like everything I've done with either of those two guys. With Greg I did Gotham Central, a Captain America short story, and the Punisher. All of those were nothing but a joy. With Ed, it's the same way [with] Daredevil, Gotham Central, Captain America, and then Winter Soldier. Gotham Central was a labor of love for all three of us. We invested a lot of ourselves in that book because we created that part of that world. That corner of that world was our creation. Maybe that one, but creatively I don't enjoy the other stuff I do with them any less.

Since you carved out that part of the world, is that something you'd like to revisit or are you of the mindset of "What's said is said."?

We'll never have the opportunity to do Gotham Central again. We will never be invited back to that corner of that world because it didn't sell. We had to fight an uphill battle with DC Comics on that book every step of the way. The three of us were talking a while ago and Ed said "Wouldn't it be fun if we could do Gotham Central again?" I said "Yeah!" and then Greg immediately said "No! It's never going to happen. It was good but we'll never be able to do it again."

You've done quite a bit of "Big Two" company work but it seems the hot thing to do right now is creator owned comics. Do you see yourself branching out into that in the near future?

Yeah. Absolutely! That's going to be the next thing I do. It was really Gotham Central that did it. If I'm going to invest so much of myself into something like that, I want it to be mine. It was kind of heartbreaking to me to leave that book and then see what DC did with it after I left. To see what they did with some of those characters I truly loved… Very clearly, the people in the offices of DC Comics didn't get it. I'm really sick of that kind of crap.

Has it been announced what you're doing next?

I've talked to three different writers about doing creator owned stuff. Well…just two, but there is third that's in the running as well. I'm going to do something with one of those guys.

Obviously, you got into this because you like comics. What is your intake of comics right now?

Nothing! I don't read any comics.

Is it one of those cases of you know how the cookies are made and you have no desire to eat them?

Yes. I don't have any art up on my walls at home. No kind of art because all I do is look at it and go "How'd they do that? Why'd they make that choice? How'd that get there?" There's no enjoyment at all for me. None.

It seems like there is an irony there.

Well, also consider, I'm spending at least 8 hours a day every day with comic books. The last thing I want to do when I have free time is read a comic. I'm sick of comics by that point. I want to watch a movie, play X-Box, watch a baseball game, or go play with my kid. I do not want any comics any more at that point. There are also very few comics that really get my attention. I really liked Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. I read that. I haven't read Fatale yet. I'm going to wait for it to be collected. There are certain creators that I will read the stuff they do but I don't pick up any titles on a regular basis.

So trips to the comic shop don't really happen for you?

I go to the comic shop maybe 3 or 4 times a year at the most. Most of the people in this room, I don't even know who they are.

Just because you spend so much time drawing?

I mean I have a few artists I really like that are current creators. I check out their stuff, whatever they do. A lot of times I buy it, but it's mostly because I like the art. I don't really read the comics that they draw. I'll end up reading it because I've looked through it so much. I'll have absorbed it through osmosis. I don't sit down and go "Wow! I get to read the new Batman!" I've never done that in my life.

(laughs in astonishment) Ever?

No, I didn't read comics as a kid.

Wait, if this wasn't something that you were interested in, how did you get into comics?

 I just wanted to draw and tell stories. I had to learn the language of comics. I learned it while I was doing it.

Without the influence of comics, what drew you in? What made you go "Yeah! I want to draw and tell stories!"

As I kid I knew what comic books were. I had seen comic books. I just didn't collect them. I've always drawn. This is a really cool way to draw the type of stuff you like to draw and get paid for it.

So you were strictly influenced by a lot of the art?

Yeah. Growing up what I wanted to do was film design work and stuff like that. My favorite book as a kid wasn't a comic book. It was the Joe Johnston Star Wars Sketchbook. Seeing all those awesome marker drawings of space ships that he was doing was like "Hell Yeah! That's what I want to do!"

Has there been anyone who influenced you into the medium?

There was a lot of 80's indie comics that I really liked. Love and Rockets, Mr. X, I was a huge fan of Eddy Current by Ted McKeever… Gosh! It's been a long time… Oh! Guy Davis' Baker Street! I loved that book. I think he's an amazing artist. A lot of it for me early on was film stuff. Once I started working in the business and learning what it took to draw a comic book, I started getting into the stuff I'm still into. I like the old school adventure strip art like Alex Raymond, Milt Caniff, Frank Robbins, and stuff like that. If it comes to comics art, that's stuff I like.

What is one thing you'd like to achieve in the field before your time is done?

There is no one particular thing. I'd just like to be able keep making a decent living at it.

So you just want to go until you can't anymore?

Oh I'm sure there will be something not quite finished on my drawing board on the day I die. Just like Alex Toth did. I'm sure. I can't imagine not doing it, because I love the medium. I don't necessarily love the industry and the business of it but I love the medium. I guess what I'd like to do is be able to create comics a bit more on my own terms more than what I'm doing now. I would like to create MY comics and have them come out the way I want them to come out. Other than that, it could take any number of forms. Once I say "Okay, I tried this and I like this." And not necessarily feel like I've mastered it but I've got a handle on it, I'll probably want to move onto the next thing.

Thank you so much for your time!

Yeah, no problem!

You can follow Michael Lark on Twitter @MichaelLark66 or become a fan of his on Facebook at The creator owned book that Lark went on to choose was entitled Lazarus by writer Greg Rucka. The first issue will be published by Image Comics on June 26th.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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