Celebrating A Monster Of A Career
Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters is a new documentary about comic creator Mignola and his career, which is currently funding on kickstarter. Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows just spoke to the two men making it happen: Jim Demonakos and Kevin Hanna…
TRIPWIRE: What was the genesis of Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters?
KEVIN HANNA: Jim and I go way back, I actually had a tiny artist alley table at the first ever Emerald City Comic Con (the convention that Jim founded and ran) almost 20 years ago, and we have continued to come with excuses to collaborate on comic related projects through the years.
We are passionate about comic book creators and the amazing stories of how they come to create their beloved characters, and felt that would be a really interesting space for documentaries. We decided over burgers we were the team to tell their stories. Why not us? We have the experience, we know the stories, let’s just make them.
Without any hesitation we agreed that our first story would be Mike Mignola. Besides being an amazing artist and writer, he’s carved out a unique universe on par with what Jack and Stan did in the 60s, and he did it by not compromising, and doing things his own way. It’s unprecedented what he’s accomplished.
TW; How did the pair of you get together to work on it?
JIM DEMONAKOS: Once we decided we wanted to make the documentary, of course we had to ask Mike if we could invade his life. He knew me from my time running Emerald City and fortunately he trusted us enough to agree! From there it was a complicated travel plans as we traveled the world, speaking with Mike’s collaborators and peers about the significance of his work. We also had camera crews working simultaneously around the world on Hellboy Day from London, to Brazil, to Romania, LA to here in Seattle… all over the world; we really want to show the impact Mike has had.
TW: Mignola has a career that goes back to the 1980s so how did you plan a documentary that covers his whole body of work?
KH: One of the things we’re aware of is that we need to be careful not to just create a live-action Wikipedia page, where we’re talking about every single thing he’s ever done. Instead, we’re taking a more comprehensive approach to his life, and the things he’s creatively contributed to are all parts of his story, of course, but not the focus. We do touch on all of the significant milestones in his incredible career, but in a way that paints the bigger picture of Mike’s journey as an artist and as a creator building out the Hellboy universe.
We do have plans for mini-featurettes that are only through the Kickstarter that break out from the main story and focus on specific parts of his work. We’re still discussing what the best break-away subjects are, but we have some great stuff that we’re planning.
TW: Jim, obviously people know you best from organising shows and conventions over the years. How useful were these skills for putting the documentary together?
JD: I find the convention organisation skills to be pretty useful in most aspects of these creative endeavours. Looking to juggle this many moving parts and dealing with creatives or their agents, putting together a plan, etc, all of these skills I’ve learned from my time creating events!
TW: Kevin, you come from the world of animation and video games. How transferable were those skills when putting this together with Jim?
KH: Besides the obvious things like communication and organisation, the most important thing that they have in common is storytelling. Documentaries and animation are both places where if you’re successful, you take an audience along a unique journey they would never find anywhere else. For me animated and documentary films are the things that I watch that I want to talk to somebody about immediately after.
TW: How hard has it been to put this together during the pandemic and lockdown?
KH: We did a lot of filming in late 2019 and in to 2020, so when the pandemic and lockdown happened, we pivoted and shifted our focus to editing, transcribing, going through footage, crafting our narrative and preparing for when we could film again.
TW: You’ve got a pretty impressive line-up of interview guests. How hard was it to put that together?
JD: Creators in so many different industries have been inspired by Mike’s work and have been very excited to talk about him and how his influence has affected their work and career. We’ve been very lucky that few people have turned down the opportunity to sing his praises.
TW: You are funding this via Kickstarter rather than using more traditional channels. What made you decide to go the crowdfunding route?
KH: These days, we feel Kickstarter is such a viable route to go to create art on so many levels, whether it’s music, film or comics, we thought it was the perfect way for us to connect directly with Mignola fans all around the world in a way that incentivised them to support the project in a very hands-on way.
TW: Other artists have come and gone but Mignola has remained at the vanguard of comic creation. Why do you think he is still a creator with such a following?
JD: In a way, you’ve hit the nail on the head already. I think it’s because Mignola continues to create, and create at such a high level, that he has become such a revered figure.
KH: I think because Mike just makes the things that he’s passionate about, he’s not trying to pander or figure out what will sell the most. He just wants to draw monsters, and by following his passions and instincts, with the sincerity and specificity because of that, he created a place for fans like us.
TW: You have gathered a very impressive limited edition portfolio print set featuring artists like Alex Maleev, Tim Sale and Laurence Campbell. Quite a few artists have drawn Hellboy apart from Mike Mignola, so how did you whittle this down to the final list?
KH: I will say, that was a difficult thing to narrow down as there are a bevy of talented artists who have worked on the Mignolaverse to choose from. To be honest, a lot of it came from people’s availability, we emailed numerous artists who wanted to contribute, but were not able to work on the project within the time frame we needed, so that was a factor. Ultimately we’re thrilled that we got the fantastic artists who were able to make something happen.
TW: With comic shows and film festivals hopefully reopening towards the end of this year and into next, is the plan to show it at live events once it is completed?
JD: If possible, yes. That said, we have a number of possibilities in terms of distribution, so finding the right channel, whether that’s festivals or conventions, is definitely on our radar.
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