Fight Club 3 starts next week 30 January published by Dark Horse Comics and here’s its cover artist David Mack talking exclusively to Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
TRIPWIRE: You created the covers for Fight Club 2. How different was the process for this second sequel?
DAVID MACK: I was already in tune with the spirit of the series from the beginning this time around because It was the same creative team, and we had developed a very good working relationship, and I had the foundation of the last series to build on.
TW: Did you see finished issues or just a script for each issue you had to create covers for?
DM: I saw the scripts first, and then I was fortunate enough to see much of the interior art of the issues as it came it. Both of these were a great help.
TW: Can you talk us through your process for an issue of this series?
DM: The editor sends me the scripts and whatever art is already finished and any notes from Chuck in case they have a preconception or idea for what may be an image for that particular cover.We worked out what may be the focus of each cover thRoughout the series.And I do a drawing for the editor and Chuck to see. Often Chuck may have some kind of quirky note to add to it, and that will be a joy to integrate that note.In the case of issue four of Marla and Stephanie fighting, they had asked for them both fighting on the cover. When I sent the drawing of the cover, Chuck came back with the note of: “Can you add a Grizzly Bear?” So I integrated the idea of the bear and it worked out in a visually dynamic way.
TW: How closely did you work with Chuck Palahniuk?
DM: In the case of the covers, it would be with emails like this with the editor. But I had a relationship with Chuck since 2006 when we would meet for lunch in Portland every now and then and discuss our work. He had written the introduction for my Kabuki volume called KABUKI: The Alchemy. I met up with him in Portland on this New Years day with the editor Scott Allie.And lately Chuck & I have been emailing about coordinating a signing in Los Angeles. The Fight Club serious will be out, and my current creator-owned series at DC with Brian Michael Bendis called COVER is coming out now, and it would be fun to do a signing together for both of these series coming out at once.
TW: How closely did you work with artist Cameron Stewart?
DM: Cameron’s art for the issues is emailed to me as they are being made so I can make sure the covers are in continuity with the likenesses of the comic.
TW: Covers either offer a direct representation of what is inside the issue or they are more abstract, giving people a flavour of what the interior story is. Which category do your covers fall into for Fight Club 3?
DM: Maybe both? There is a degree of abstraction. In the case of the first issue, where I have the figure leaping from ripped name tag to name tag, with Tyler whispering in his hear inside the outline of his identity, it is an abstract crystallisation of what the character is going through. But I also like to find a moment from the issue that embodies a psychological idea of the them of that issue, and I expand on it or let it breath a bit. I want the viewer to be an active participant in the unpacking of the visuals of the cover and what they mean.
TW: Are you doing every cover or just variants and are you doing every cover for the entire series or just select issues?
DM: I’m doing all the regular covers of each issue like I did for Fight Club 2. I also did a variant for #1 in addition to the regular cover of it.
TW: What are the challenges of creating a variant cover image?
DM: Often when people ask me to do a cover, if they don’t specify it to be a variant, I think they are asking me to do the regular cover or the only cover of the series. So I try to construct it for that purpose.In the case of Fight Club 2 & 3, with it being the regular covers, I try to create an image that will catch readers’ eye on the shelf or online and make them want to pick up the book or click on the image to learn more.In the case of Fight Club, which has a history, I want it to be recognisable as Fight Club to people who have read the book or seen the film, but to also crystallise a theme from that issue and the new series.
If I know the cover will be a variant, I may allow myself a bit more room to play, as hopefully the regular cover of the issue is doing the regular cover job already. But I still try to make it do that job of the cover, which is to make people pick up the book, but also it may have a bit more room to explore something from a unique angle and be expressive.
TW: How different is your approach to creating a cover for Fight Club 3 say compared with something like American Gods?
DM: I’m having a wonderful time working on American Gods also. I’ve been creating other work with Neil Gaiman released as prints from Neverwear with Cat Mihos, & we created an animated logo for Neil’s TV shows, & she is involved in this as well. And I work with editor Daniel Chabon at Dark Horse.The editor sends me P. Craig Russell’s layouts for the story, and Scott Hampton’s art for the story when they have it.So I know what characters end up in each issue. And I try to create an eye-catching image of that character in a composition that crystallises something about that character or what happens in the issue.Some of the actors in the Starz TV series have modelled for me as well, like Yetide Bedaki and Mousa Kraish. I’m lucky to know them in real life & connect with them on our own, and they have been helpful and insightful as well. In the case of American Gods, I listened to the book on audio in advance and made notes and drawings to myself based on ideas I had while listening to the audio of the story while traveling.
TW: You are possibly busier than you have ever been in your career, drawing interiors for DC and creating covers for series like this. Do you enjoy the variety of illustrating covers and also drawing interiors?
DM: Yes, I enjoy it very much. I like working in a variety of approaches and media. I had been directing some music videos in the last few years at the same time. Last year, I directed & animated the music video We Fight for Dashboard Confessional. And I filmed a stop motion music video for Amanda Palmer’s song called Pulp Fiction. I created the art for the music video of Neil Gaiman’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Democracy with music by Amanda Palmer, and Amanda’s earlier video Vincent Black Lightning, edited by Olga Nunes.I enjoy collaborating with musicians and also the work for TV and films. I worked on the opening titles of the Jessica Jones Netflix series with Imaginary Forces and we were nominated for an Emmy for that. And I created the art for the main titles of the Captain America: The Winter Soldier film, working with Sarofsky Design who I met in Barcelona when we were both speaking at the OFFFest Design conference.
TW: What are the pros and cons of cover work vs interiors?
DM: Telling a long-form story in interiors is fun to write and fun to draw, but drawing the interiors of a series is a very hectic daily schedule for months on end, especially if you are traveling and have an existing schedule of work. For much of the last few years I have been travelling overseas for the US State Dept. As a Cultural Ambassador. So making covers is something I can paint in hotel rooms and conceptualise on planes and still be limber enough to travel and move with a flexible schedule for my overseas travels for the State Dept. The schedule of creating interior art work on a monthly series on top of my existing schedule of travels, and covers and music videos and other things has been a new level of problem solving, but it has worked out well. And my travels for the State Dept is something that inspired the story of COVER by Brian & I. Someday I intend to create a non-fiction style memoir of my experiences in my travels for the State Dept when the time is right. But in the current time, we found a way to tell the story in a somewhat fictionalised way that also tells the story of our friendship and our creative lives. Brian & I have been best friends since 1993 so a lot of our friendship and experiences went into this story, and it had kind of a musical feeling to the way we worked together. Each of us riffing on what the other brought to the story that inform the other’s creative spark.
TW: Do you have anything else lined up in terms of interior work after Cover ends?
DM: Yes. As far as interior work in comics, I need to let the publishers reveal that at the right time. I’m currently developing the Kabuki tv series with Sony. This year is the 25 year anniversary of Kabuki as a comic book, so I’m cooking on some very special things for that.I will be creating some new music videos, and TV and film work, and more travels overseas for the State Dept and some gallery exhibits overseas and in the US.