The countdown has begun to this year's Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October (13th - 15th). We're delighted to continue our "Kendal Calling" interviews with 2000AD comic artist Mark Sexton, who's coming to the event all the way from Australia along with a number of others forming a Caravan of Comics from Down Under...
Mark has 24 years of experience in the film and comics industry. He first started off self-publishing two titles in the mid-1990s under the banner of AAARGH! Comics, for which he wrote and provided art, before being sought out by Alex Proyas to storyboard the cult science fiction film Dark City in 1996.
Since then, Mark has worked with such visionary directors as George Lucas on Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and George Miller on Mad Max Fury Road, for which he was one of the four core people involved in the conceptualisation of the six-times Academy Award-winning film.
He was also Production Designer on the Academy Award-winning Happy Feet.
Movies kept Mark busy for twenty years, but recently he has made a return to comics, both as a writer and an artist. He managed to convince Dr. George Miller to allow him to bring the classic anti-hero Max Rockatansky, of the Mad Max films, to comics for the first time; and is currently fulfilling a childhood dream of working for 2000AD, providing art for “Judge Dredd”, as well as other stories in the landmark 2000th issue which was published at the end of 2016.
He is also developing four graphic novel projects and working for Marvel Studios on a number of their hugely successful superhero films.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Mark Sexton: Right now I’ve literally just finished a Marvel film - which is sort of comics-y - and moving back onto a project I’ve been developing for a while about old Celtic mythology - something that I’m really enjoying. I haven’t got a publishing date because film work keeps cropping up and slowing me down! (Terrible excuse, I know).
I've also got a couple more ideas, one that I’m currently fleshing out to pitch to [editor] Matt Smith at 2000AD, another that explores the possible near future in Australia - but that’s a way off as yet.
And, of course, once the next film is over, hopefully a bit more work for 2000AD! That’s always a pleasure.
downthetubes: Which comic project you've worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Mark: After many years of trying, I managed to convince the director George Miller into letting me do a series of comic stories set in the world of Mad Max: Fury Road, which was published back in 2015 for Vertigo. I worked as co-writer and artist, with a great group of other comics creators who together produced a four issue series that both complemented and enriched the world of Mad Max in a way which seemed to surprise people with its authenticity. Then again, it’s not often that the people who are actually working on a film get to produce comic book stories that extend that film at the same time, so maybe that’s the reason… But whatever the case, it was extremely satisfying and a lot of fun!
The comics were collected as a trade paperback and I believe is still available through comics stores...
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Mark: I work from home and have a young family, so juggling domestic duties and creative work is always a challenge! Let’s just say that I plan to plan my day - but it usually ends up not happening that way. Lots of late nights and sweating over deadlines as a result!
downthetubes: What's the best thing about being a comics creator?
Mark: Without a doubt, having the chance to tell stories in such an amazingly flexible and potentially powerful medium as comics. You can literally do anything, and I really do enjoy working with other creators to see what you can produce together. There’s something akin to alchemy in the process which I find really exciting.
downthetubes: And the worst?
Mark: That niggling doubt that you’ve missed an opportunity to do something better - right after you’ve sent the finished pages off.
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Mark: That niggling doubt that you’re missing an opportunity to do something better...
downthetubes: Do you think it's easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Mark: From the perspective of physically (or digitally) getting your work published and out to the public to be read and enjoyed, I’d say it’s incredibly easy! When I started back in the 1990s, there was large costs involved in producing a comic book to be distributed around the country (let alone overseas) - the expenses of printing were substantial, and getting a good newsagency distributor was so important - not to mention contacting all the comic stores in the country and convincing them that your book was worth their time and money! The digital medium really has made so much of that redundant. Anyone can produce a comic and put it on the internet...
Having said that though, the challenge then is in how to make that work for young creator(s) in such a way that they are supported - both creatively and financially - to be able to continue to produce more work. And, also, how to get their work noticed. But again, the digital realm has made it so much easier to contact other comics professionals, publishers and editors to do that.
The real challenge is that with a comics market that has contracted substantially in the last couple of decades, the opportunities to have a book physically produced and in comic stores is far more tricky to realise - and this can really be discouraging. But there are always ways to achieve your dreams - just don’t give up!
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven't, what are you expecting?
Mark: I haven’t yet, but I’m really looking forward to it. I try not to expect anything of a new place I’m about to visit - feels like I’d be setting myself up for potential disappointment if my expectations are too unrealistic! Just as long as the people are friendly, the land is beautiful and I can get a decent coffee, I’m good!
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Mark: There’s so many, but the name that immediately comes to mind is Mike Mignola. I love how he’s managed to realise his own universe within the comics medium, where he can tell so many types of story. That universe can also make the jump to fit, animation, prose - yet the comics somehow are so well realised that they continue to be their own thing, unaffected by the way that the same characters and worlds might be “reshaped” to fit other media.
It’s a rare thing. I’d love the chance to talk about storytelling with Mike...
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Mark: The life of a comics creator is generally a solitary one (or at least very limited). So the opportunity for creators from around the country (or, indeed, the world) to meet and exchange ideas is incredibly valuable. And the chance for creators to also actually talk to comics readers and fans is just as important!
Festivals are a great touchstone for what’s happening in the world of comics and popular culture, and for the creators’ place within that. Absolutely essential stuff.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Mark: Don’t be afraid to talk to comics writers, artists, editors - most of them are very nice people, and they’re generally happy to look at work and give advice. You'll never get anywhere if you don’t ask!
downthetubes: What's your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Mark: I’m biased - I’m still thoroughly enjoying 2000AD after all these years. Available in all decent comic stores and newsagencies!
Book Your Festival Tickets Now!
• Book your tickets for this year's Lakes International Comic Art Festival here. This year's events programme includes live draws, masterclasses, interactive talks and a chance to get up close to the best comic creators in the world!
• Follow Mark Sexton on Twitter: @mark_h_sexton