Neil Gaiman and Greg Rucka reshaped the comic book industry with their writing talents, but British artists have added their talents to the pool as well. Mike McKone has worked on comic titles for DC and Marvel, drawing everyone from the Avengers to the Justice League. McKone discussed his love for American comic books and his plans to see more of the USA with Whitney Grace.
Whitney Grace (WG): What have you done work on?
Mike McKone (MM): I’ve worked on Spider-Man, Teen Titans, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and I’ve been doing this a long time, so I’ve drawn pretty much everything from Marvel and DC.
WG: How long is a long time?
MM: It’s my twenty-fifth year in comics.
WG: You don’t look like it.
MM: Thanks, I started when I was very young.
WG: And you’re from England, I’m going to guess.
MM: Yes, I’m from Newcastle in England, but I live in the US now.
WG: What I find interesting whenever I speak with someone from another country is how they view American comics. When you lived in England how were American comics viewed?
MM: I began reading American comics as reprints in British magazines. The Hulk, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four were reprints of American comics from the sixties. That was my first exposure. I lived near a railway station and they were selling American comic books. When you’re a kid, of course, anything that’s new and a little bit exotic is what you want to get your hands on. My friend and I went there and bought them.
WG: How much were the comics then?
MM: We had pennies and pounds, so I think they were like ten or fifteen pence each. That’s around twenty-five cents.
WG: That’s not a lot. Today, they’re four dollars!
MM: Yeah and it might have been five dollars if they hadn’t reduced the page count.
WG: And I remember when they were two to three dollars a piece back when I collected single issues. What was the first title you ever drew for?
MM: It was Justice League America and that was the first comic I ever drew. I showed my portfolio to Dick Giordano, who was editor at DC, and a couple weeks later he gave me a Justice League comic to draw.
WG: What characters were the most memorable to you working on that first issue?
MM: Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. I hadn’t read too many DC comics, I was more of a Marvel guy. To me, Marvel had a much better collection of characters, because it was my first exposure. I wasn’t too familiar with those characters, but I had read Kevin Maguire’s work so I knew a little bit about Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. It wasn’t Batman.
WG: Batman is Batman. Did you work on Batman?
MM: Yes, I have.
WG: That’s awesome! What types of comics are you working on now?
MM: I worked on an Avengers graphic novel by Warren Ellis and I’m about to start working on Justice League Canada with Jack O’Nan.
WG: What characters will be in Justice League Canada?
MM: I think the only one announced so far has been Adam Strange, so I can’t say any more than that. If I did I would be thrown into the DC jail.
WG: What is it like in there?
MM: The reading is okay, but there’s very little visitation.
WG: On the topic of visitation, in the DC jail most people are visited by spouses or significant others. What do you think about superheroes getting married?
MM: I don’t know if superheroes should get married, because superhero comics are ideally juvenile fiction and when I was a kid I didn’t want to read about marriage, I wanted to read about adventure and superheroes saving the world.
WG: What are some of your favorite characters?
MM: I don’t really have favorite characters anymore, but when I was a kid I loved Spider-Man, the Hulk, and The Thing, because they were like normal people who happened to be superheroes. One of the reasons I didn’t like the DC characters was because they were superheroes with a little bit of character injected into them.
WG: It was kind of like a pantheon of gods vs. a real world.
MM: Kind of like that. I grew up reading Marvel comics, so I was naturally biased towards them. Now I like characters that are very expressive, so I’m not a huge fan of heroes like Captain America or Superman. They’re not that fun to draw, they’re kind of conservative in their behavior and body language. They kind of stand around and strike a pose. I like characters who have more fun.
WG: Is it like you’ve drawn one Superman you’ve drawn another?
MM: No, they’re not going to kick anyone or slouch. The visual alphabet I employee with them is kind of ABC, where as a character like Plastic Man he can do anything.
WG: It makes some think of a cookie cutter boy scout image that you’re dealing with. You might not have as much lee way as you want if you think of something fun.
MM: You have to remain true to the character. If you think about Captain America, he’s a soldier so he’s very rigid. There are things he won’t do. He won’t sit at the edge of a couch, he will stand with his arms folded. I like characters that can do anything, I’m bored very easily. I don’t want to pick a pose and be able to drop it into any other issue.
MM: There really aren’t any differences. The real differences are between the editors. There might be more differences between two Marvel editors than an editor from Marvel and DC.
WG: Any thoughts on Disney acquiring the Marvel universe?
MM: I come from a socialist society, so the idea of giant corporations absorbing smaller companies into one super corporation isn’t something I’m particularly thrilled about. As far as I can tell, Disney hasn’t had any affect on how people work at Marvel.
WG: Two other people I’ve spoken with said Disney brought better accountants to Marvel.
MM: Really? I’ve never had a problem with Marvel’s accountants. Marvel and DC are fantastically reliable employers, because freelance art is notorious for people who will take work from you and never, ever pay you. Marvel and DC are angelic in their reliability. I’ve never had any problems working with them for twenty-five years.
WG: It’s good to know that if you’re a freelancer there is a company that is reliable out there and will work with you.
MM: It’s more your responsibility than anything as a freelancer. If you’re reliable, do good work, and are easy to get along with then they will give you work as long as you want it. If you fall down on any one of those, you can’t blame them for going with someone else.
MM: I’ve done a couple of jobs for Dark Horse and Image years and years ago. That’s pretty much it. I’ve got tentative plans to do some independent work in the next year.
WG: Will you write your own book?
MM: I’m going to work with some friends, but nothing I can really discuss right now.
WG: That stinks for me. I hope you have it signed and notarized soon, so you will share the details. One more question, is there anything you would like to end with?
MM: I used to be based in San Diego, but I decided I haven’t seen much of America, so I’m traveling around to see if there are other places I want to live.