Apocrypha Entertainment Presents:
MM: Marc, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Let's start with your secret origin: what was your first comic?
MB: Let's see... I'm pretty sure my first comic was Savage Sword of Conan #102. It's kinda hard to remember exactly which issue, since they all had the same blend of mostly nude women, beheadings, and drunken Cimmerian revelry. My father, bless his immigrant heart, just picked up a random comic off the stands and brought it home. Had he actually opened the cover and peeped the mind-warping contents within, I'd be a different person today.
It's telling, I think, that my first comic didn't feature anyone in a cape.
MM: What was the first sci-fi/fantasy flick to register on your radar?
MB: Well, I was born in 1971, which puts me in the sweet spot for Star Wars. Which was not only the first sci-fi/fantasy flick to pop on the radar, but was the first movie I ever saw. Period. That is where you'll find my first encounter with a cape. Vader's.
MM: When did you first look in the mirror and have that moment- the one where you realized you were different than the other kids- that you were, indeed, a geek?
MB: There was one summer, I'm gonna say 1982, where I did something so stupid--I think it involved report-card forgery--that my parents punished me for the whole season. Or most of it. No going outside, no TV, nothing that required electricity. And the thing that hurt the most? That I was going to miss the HBO premiere of Clash of the Titans. (My father, in a moment of weakness, taped it for me, and handed it to me when I was "paroled" early for good behavior.)
MM: How young were you when you started writing?
MB: I'd always been good at creative writing, but never thought of it as a career path, until very late. In high school, I fancied myself an architect. But then I remembered how dreadfully boring Mike Brady seemed, so I dropped that. I started out in college as a business major, thinking I'd head into advertising. Given that my math skills had atrophied somewhere around integers, business fell by the wayside, and in my sophomore year I moved into the film program, with an eye on being a director. And it went well for a while; made a few short films and won a few awards, but the more ambitious I got, the more I realized that no one else was taking my flicks as seriously as I was. Hard to convince a crew who'd rather be doing keggers that holding a giant reflector "just so" was time well spent. So, I started writing. Because it was just me and the page, and the only person I had to blame for it sucking was myself.
MM: Did you go the traditional route of doing the school paper, etc?
MB: Nah. I was a football player. Knew lots of guys on the paper, though. And guys on the marching band, and in student government, and in the drama club, and on the wrestling squad, and the cheerleaders, and stoners, and photo lab geeks. I was like the black Ferris Bueller of my high school, but without Mia Sara and the Ferrari.
MM: What path led you to Entertainment Weekly?
MB: After college I took an internship at Starlog magazine, where I earned my geek stripes. Seriously, working there is like being in friggin' Easy Company. An incredibly small staff, so I learned to do everything, and I learned to do it fast: line editing, story assigning, publicist wrangling, writer soothing, photo selecting, and article layout. I met a girl who was over at EW and she said they were looking for young, eager, smart people they could work into the ground. Naturally, I volunteered. And the late 90s, early 00s were a good time to be a geek at a national magazine. Buffy and The X-Files were going strong, Blade was dropping, and Spider-Man was on the horizon. Pretty soon, I became the go-to dude for anything and everything geek...whether I knew anything about it or not. Luckily, I'm a pretty good bluffer.
MM: Your comics career got underway a couple of years ago. How did you team up with Adam Freeman?
MB: I've known Adam pretty much as long as I've known anyone who isn't family. I met him in the 5th grade, and we've been friendly ever since. That friendship really gelled in high school and has served us well over the years, through college, crappy bands, girlfriends, wives, children, his career in television and mine in journalism. We were both staring down the barrel of grown-up-ness and figured that if we didn't take our shot at the brass ring now, we'd never do it. So we did.
MM: How did you feel about how MONSTER ATTACK NETWORK came out? Was it what you hoped it would be? Were you on edge waiting for the audience's reaction?
MB: An old boss of mine used to say "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" I'm incredibly proud of Monster Attack Network. It was our first time out of the gate, writing for this art form. Which, in case no one's ever told you, is a fucking bear to write for. We came to it with a certain amount of hubris, like "We've written screenplays, produced TV shows, and read comics our entire lives. How hard could this be?" And that hubris was hammered out of us very quickly, once we sat there, flummoxed, thinking to ourselves in between forehead slams onto the keyboard, "How many words in a balloon? How many balloons in a panel? How many panels on a page?" Is there stuff I'd like to change? Sure. There are a couple of transitions here and there that aren't as smooth as I'd like them to be. There are a few lines that are a little too wisecracky. And some of the profanity is just there for profanity's sake. But it did the job we wanted it to. I think it delivers on the title's promise: You expect a big, loud, summer-action-movie-style entertainment, and I think that's what you get.
And, yeah, between The Highwaymen and MAN coming out the same week, I was glued to the internets reading reviews. My wife tried, unsuccessfully, to pry me away. And, by and large, people who read it, dug it. Same with The Highwaymen. Readers were kind of surprised by what it was: a car-chase-y suspense thriller. As if they didn't get that in comics. Which is a little sad.
MM: Your most recent book, GENIUS, is wildly different from M.A.N. or HIGHWAYMAN. Where did the idea come from?
MB: It was something that had been sitting on the hard drive for a while, the idea of someone who had the brains and the motivation to galvanize untrained-but-battle-hardened troops into a fighting force. I caught a Discovery Channel doc one weekend a few years ago about those middle-of-the-country militias that are always hoarding guns and training in the nestle of nowhere. When asked why they're training, one bloke said something like "You know what we're afraid of? Those people out there, those gangsters in LA. They've been under fire. They know what it's like to get shot at. And they know what it's like to kill. They're not afraid. When the big race war comes, we need to be not afraid, too." And I thought to myself, "What if you could marshal that power, direct its sharp edge? Who could do that, and why?" And Destiny popped into my head, because she's the last person you'd expect to be able to do that. So it made perfect sense.
And Adam's always been taken with prodigies. Kids with insane gifts that frequently drive them mad. What if your calling was to be a bringer of war? And what if you were better at it than anyone else?
MM: Were you worried about the controversial nature of the plot? Certainly, if it got made into a film, I suspect you wouldn't be able to shoot it on location in L.A. :-)
MB: A little bit, I guess. Though with the opening splash, you'd have to say we were courting whatever controversy we could get. And I was aware of that. At the same time I was concerned about that controversy, I was also like "We should be so lucky to Ice-T's 'Cop Killer' kinda heat. That sold him a zillion copies of that album." But I think we were as responsible as could be with an incendiary story. It's clear, I think, that this isn't a race war. It's not black vs. white. It's man vs. the system. It's revolution, and those are always bloody.
And if it got made into a film, we'd just have to ship a whole mess of black folks up to Vancouver.
MM: Your comics work has really been across the spectrum- you can't really be pinned down as a being dedicated particular genre. Is that by design?
MB: I think the thing I'd like to be remembered for is a certain level of quality. That no matter what kind of book we did, it was good--be it a high-octane action story, or a giant monster-stomp romp, or a gritty urban thriller. We wanna bring that same level of dedication to the upcoming stuff, most of which we can't really talk about yet, but we've got a WWII story coming, some Western ditties, some large-scale sci-fi, and a horror comedy that'll knock your socks off.
That said, if someone wanted to pay me well to write roaring engines and funny one-liners for the rest of my life, I'd die a happy man.
MM: San Diego is coming up. Do you remember your first time at the show?
MB: Absolutely. I was the summer before I started up EW's comics coverage, back in 2002, on the heels of Spider-Man, and I went out there on a fact-finding mission; just to meet as many people as I could so I knew who to call when I needed to fill those pages. My good friend Maureen McTigue, who was then the editor-in-chief of Harris Comics, took me around and introduced me to everyone she knew...which, given the love many in the industry have for her, was almost everyone. And when I wasn't making new contacts that would serve me well--the second person she introduced me to was AiT/Planetlar honcho Larry Young, who'd go on to publish MAN--I was taking in the panels and presentations, watching as Hollywood fell in deep-lust with Comic-Con.
MM: What advice would you give to someone taking the plunge for the first time?
MB: You mean going to Comic-Con? Get really good walking shoes. And get shorts that "breathe," if you know what I mean. Seriously, though: A first-timer needs to define the kind of show he or she wants. Are you going out there to wrangle new work? (Don't bother...only working pros get more work at Comic-Con; just concentrate on meeting people and not making an arse out of yourself.) Are you going to see the rich and famous? To peep the upcoming geek goodies? To buy back issues or take in the Masquerade? Videogames? Toys? Anime? Wanna just get laid? Get drunk? All of that is possible, just not in the same year. Just figure out what you really want, the two or three things that would make the trip worthwhile, and make it happen.
MM: Will we see you in the bar at the Hyatt? Or do you avoid the nightlife?
MB: You will absolutely see me in the Hyatt bar. Or at one of any of the 19 parties that are going on each night. The Hyatt bar is part of what makes Comic-Con worthwhile. I can't guarantee that I'll be there every night, or all night--I've got kids at home, and if I don't get at least one good night's sleep while I'm gone, my wife'll kill me--but if someone wanted to buy me a pint and ask me what might've happened to Monroe and McQueen had we gotten to do another mini...I wouldn't stop them.
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