Alien Pumpkins Attack! Mark McKenna and Combat Jacks!
Here’s another spooktacular comic book creator for Spook-tober! Check out my conversation with Mark McKenna about his scarifying comic Combat Jacks!
Carl: Comic book artist Mark McKenna has worked on over 500 comics in his 30-year career, including the X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, the Justice League and even Archie. He is currently working on a science fiction horror series about creepy alien pumpkins called Combat Jacks. I’d say it’s PG 13 because of some of the words – my dad skips over those when we read. The story is very cool and exciting. The pumpkin monsters make it just right for Halloween, so you should definitely check it out!
Mark, I’d like to ask you a few questions!
Mark McKenna: Yes! Let’s do it!
Carl: Did you want to become a comic book artist and writer when you were a kid?
Mark McKenna: No, it was only when I was in high school that I decided I would want to be a comic book artist, because I was either going to be that or I was going to be a filmmaker. The chances of me getting a job in filmmaking were a little tougher, so I thought I would try to be a comic book artist, then.
Mark: My first comic that I ever saw was Daredevil. I think it was like issue #7 or 8. I was living in Brooklyn, I was about 7 years old and I saw one of my friends had it on the corner of the street and I thought, “What is that?” I’d never seen this before – and then I was interested in it. And I had an uncle that used to live next door to me and he was a big comic book collector. I used to go through all of his comics. He had a lot of Uncle Scrooge McDuck and a lot of Archie and a lot of DC comics. I liked less Superman, but more of the characters nobody really knew, like the Spectre or Deadman and guys like that.
Carl: What comics do you read now?
Mark: I’m not a big comic book reader right now. What I try to do is, I try to read the collections, the trade paperbacks, which are like collections of 10 or 15 different books. I was reading the Walking Dead for a while. I read a book called Saga – I read the first issue of that because somebody gave it to me. A lot of times I do a comic book show and some guys will give me their comics to read. Sometimes I get a chance to read them, sometimes I don’t. But a lot of times I won’t read other people’s comics because I’m always working on my own stuff, like Combat Jacks or Banana Tails.
Carl: What comic was your most fun to work on?
Mark: (thinking) What comic was your most fun to work on? I like the ones in outer space, because I like doing outer space scenes. So, I would say Silver Surfer is one of my favorites, because I got to do a guy on a surfboard in outer space, which was cool. And in fact, one issue that I did – I think it was issue 96 of the Silver Surfer – had Ant-Man and the Hulk in it and it was really cool. I’d never worked on Ant-Man before so that was kind of cool that now I can say I’ve worked on Ant-Man, which was kind of cool. Other than that, I had a long run of comics where I did 39 issues of a book called Exiles. Exiles was the children of the X-Men – so Nightcrawler’s daughter, who’s also blue, her name is Nocturne and then there was Magneto’s son, and they had different characters – but the Exiles were not really the children of the X-Men, they were like “What if they ever had children? That’s what they would be.”
Carl: Cool! How did you get the idea for Combat Jacks?
Mark: Combat Jacks came to me around Halloween in 2012, so 4 years ago. We were watching Pumpkinhead, which is a monster – not a pumpkin monster, but a monster. I don’t know why they called it Pumpkinhead, there was some kind of history to him. But I looked at jack-o-lanterns, I always thought jack-o-lanterns are very scary-looking, but nobody’s ever really done jack-o-lantern monsters. Not too many at least. I think there was one in – Dreamworks did one… what was the show that Dreamworks did? Giants vs. Aliens or something like that. They did a short story, I can’t remember the name of the movie, but they did one where there were pumpkins that came to life in the cartoon. They didn’t kill anybody, they just went after their trick-or-treats. They were trying to get all the kids’ candy, that was that. I thought of it and I thought that would be something that would be good for me to explore – more Halloween stuff.
Carl: I saw Ichabod Crane make an appearance in it, was The Headless Horseman an inspiration?
Mark: I would say it started out that way. When I came up with the first issue, it was supposed to be just the one issue comic book. And then one comic company came over to me and said, “If you do four issues, I will collect it in a 100-page book.” So, I started looking for things that are called “public domain”. Public domain are things like dinosaurs and Headless Horseman – things you can use and not get in trouble for using. It’s not a licensed character, the Headless Horseman. So, I thought of the Headless Horseman and I thought that Ichabod Crane is running away from the Headless Horseman, but it’s really just a guy pretending to be the Headless Horseman. Then this guy jumps down – the jack-o-lantern jumps onto the pretend guy and kills him and then he goes after Ichabod Crane. Actually, that guy runs away and he takes over Ichabod Crane. So I thought about that. Then I go back into dinosaurs where dinosaurs are actually not extinct because of ice age or because of asteroids, but because giant jack-o-lanterns killed them millions of years ago, which is kind of fun to do.
Carl: When is issue #4 coming out?
Mark: I just solicited issue #3 to Diamond Previews, which is all the comic shops in the country, right? I just solicited this month. So, every two months I solicit a new book. So, where are we, what month – October?
Mark: So, I solicit in December, and it should come out – I’m going to solicit in February, so it’s going to come out in April – next April!
Carl: Cool! Will it be a Kickstarter project, too?
Mark: Yes! I’m going to kickstart the fourth issue, because I need some help with the expenses of it. I have to hire a letterer and a colorist and production guys to do the work so I can get it to the printer.
Carl: Great, I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for answering my questions!
Mark: Thank you sir! It’s nice to see you.