An Interview With Dwight MacPherson - or - A Very Cunning Plan
I have a very cunning plan. Writing is hard, so every now and then I try and trick someone else into doing the writing for me. That trick is called an interview.
Very cunning indeed.
The interviewee today is Dwight MacPherson - all ages comic / web-comic writer extrordinaire.
Scott Tingley-Comics in the Classroom: Dwight, thanks for joining us. Your new graphic novel, Kid Houdini and Silver Dollar Misfits , has been out for a few months now, and we will get back to that, but let's start by talking about your earlier work. A lot of us have come to know your work through your all-ages webcomic / book The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo . What came before that and how did that path lead to Edgar Allan Poo ?
Dwight MacPherson : Hey, Scott! Thanks for the interview, my friend. It's always a pleasure to chat with you.
Well, before Edgar Allan Poo, I wrote a horror/historic fiction mini-series entitled Dead Men Tell No Tales and two Adult Swim-type black humor books. One was titled Jim Reaper: Week One and the other Lil' Hellions: A Day at the Zoo .
As far my path to Edgar Allan Poo, I would say that my children led me there. What I mean is that until I wrote Poo, I had only written comics for adults. Because there was mature content in my books, my three sons weren't able to read any of my work. That's why I decided to create a fantasy story they could read and enjoy; a book that would-hopefully-inspire them to read Poe and the other classics.
CitC : Edgar Allan Poo got a fair bit of attention when it came out as a webcomic and then again as it went to print (more on the attention part later) - for those not familiar with it, tell us a bit about it.
DM : The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo is about the poet near the end of his life. His wife died, his newest book bombed and he was haunted by nightmares of his wife's ghost. For these reasons, Poe prays that he'll never dream again. The result is that his discarded imagination-in the form of Edgar Allan Poo- becomes separated from him and must undertake a strange odyssey through the land of dreams to be reunited with the dejected poet. But it's not an easy task. The gods and creatures of myth-led by the Nightmare King-are bent on his destruction.
CitC : You first published Edgar Allen Poo as a webcomic. Why did you go with online publishing to begin with? The pages were certainly high quality - it wasn't just a hobby story, so why not go right to publishing?
DM : It was experience that led me to release it on the internet first. It didn't take me long to realize that the more people who see and know about your work, the better your sales numbers will be. Newsarama, CBR and the other comic news sites are fantastic, but you have to wonder how many of the total number of comic fans actually read them. That's why I decided to attempt to reach a larger audience by making the comic available as a webcomic first. If I could have the book seen by many, many people, I though that perhaps I could build a following that would purchase the book when it transitioned from the web to the printed page. As the sales numbers and award nominations show, it was a good decision.
CitC : Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits is your second all-ages comic. Give it to us in a nutshell. How much of the real Houdini's history can be found in it?
DM : Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits follows the exploits of ten-year-old Harry Houdini. Harry runs away from home and finds himself a prisoner in Professor Murat's circus. Using the circus as their headquarters, Harry and his new friends Lydia the snake girl, Hans the legless boy and Jacques and Joe the Siamese twins, form a unique detective agency that will brave any ghost, goblin or ghoul to solve a mystery if you can pay their fee: one shiny silver dollar.
It is believed by many that Harry Houdini did indeed run away from home to join the circus while he was living in Appleton , Wisconsin . Beyond that, the story is entirely fictional. I did, however, read many of Houdini's letters and writings before approaching the actual writing of the story.
CitC : What draws you to this type of all-ages material? Are these types of stories what you always saw yourself writing, or is this a means to an end? I don't mean that cynically - lately a number of very talented writers have broken in to the mainstream end of the business writing younger reader versions of iconic superheroes for Marvel and DC - but is this what you want to keep producing or do you see yourself moving towards material like your new comic, the older aimed Interagents?
DM : The fact that I'm a nostalgic fool, perhaps. While I was growing up, I had the Hardy Boys, Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. These timeless kids' classics engrained the love of mysteries into my psyche, I believe. Nowadays, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that even remotely resembles these fantastic children's mysteries. So I'd say the love of the children's mystery genre of old is what drew me to tell an engaging mystery for kids.
I've never considered writing one genre exclusively. I-just like every other writer-have a lifetime of various experiences, inspirations and things I like that fuel my desire to tell stories. I realize that many writers settle into a particular niche and are happy with that, but I could never do it. There are just too many stories I have left to tell. And those stories span several genres.
I understand what you're saying, but the reality of this business is that Marvel and DC pay the bills; creator-owned books do not. I write creator-owned books because I love telling stories and feel passionately about the medium. Creators who write books for the Big Two are doing so because they need to eat and pay bills just like everyone else. Besides, I'm sure it's a lot of fun tackling some of Marvel's and DC's iconic characters. I know I would love a crack at them.
CitC : How did you end up at Viper Comics? They put out a fair number of all ages / younger reader books along with their older output and every comic I have seen from them is of very high quality - digest sized, good paper, sturdy binding, good art and writing. How did you get picked up by them?
DM : Kid Houdini artist Worth Gowell and I were contacted by Jason Burns after the Kid Houdini webcomic was posted on The Chemistry Set. Jason said that he would love to see Kid Houdini at Viper so he put us in touch with Viper publisher Jessie Garza. Jesse loved the project and the rest is history.
CitC : I really only read articles / interviews on a couple of the biggest comic news sites, and I recently realized that they never ask the interviewee the question: "Why superheroes?" It may seem like a silly question to some, but I think for those that may not be into comics it is a valid question...which is a long winded warm-up to my question for you: Why NOT superheroes? To most, comics mean Superman, Batman / capes and masks. Why are you writing strange and fun comics featuring historical icons instead of superhuman throw downs?
Which is the question I wrote before realizing that your Interagents has a superhero flavour to it, so part two is: Why superheroes now?
DM : Like most creators, the very first comic books I ever saw-even before I could actually read them-featured superheroes. Superman, Captain Marvel, Spider-man, Captain America and Hulk were the first characters I ever knew existed in comic books. So I think that nostalgia plays a big part in a writer's decision to explore superheroes. Another reason would be because superheroes are our modern mythological heroes. Every society has always had their legendary champions, and many creators embrace superheroes as our great modern mythological heroes. The Greeks told their stories of Odysseus, Hercules and Achilles, and we tell stories of Superman, Hulk and Batman. History has shown us that long after a civilization is gone, their myths remain. They are timeless... immortal. That is what is so alluring about writing a superhero book.
These are the reasons I decided to write INTERAGENTS . It was inevitable that I would end up writing at least one superhero story.
CitC : Why all the historical figures as main characters in your books? Is it something that has always been in your writing or just a coincidence that these two ideas just happen to be the ones to take off?
DM : I enjoy incorporating historical figures-specifically Houdini and Poe-because they are larger than life and I find them both fascinating. Mythological heroes are wonderful, but they were not real. Houdini and Poe were two actual human beings like you and me that lived and died and attained a near-mythological status. The fact that they are still popular many years after their deaths is a testimony to this fact.
CitC : Especially when Edgar Allan Poo was launched you were everywhere online. If there was a comic website or forum you were on it making a comment, giving an interview - generally being your own press agent / cheerleader. Why was that something you felt you needed to do and did it pay off? Are you out there publicizing as much now, or has the need for that leveled off?
DM : Thankfully, I had the advice of Mike Baron, Stephen Bissette and Steve Niles to guide me when I first attempted to break into comics. These successful creators expressed how vitally important it is to market yourself if you intend to stay in this business. That is what I attempted to do. And, since I'm still here and still working, I would have to say that it did indeed pay off. The coolest part of my marketing assault is that I made many, many new friends. Some of them have even become close personal friends. How cool is that?
I'm still out there publicizing, but not the degree that I was when I first started out. With my current writing schedule, my time for schmoozing is greatly limited. In a way it sucks because-well-I am a schmoozer by nature. I love meeting new people and making new friends. Always have. On the other hand, I've got a pretty full writing schedule and some of it is actually helping to pay the bills. So I guess I shouldn't complain.
CitC : What is next for you, all-ages or otherwise?
DM : My next release will be American McGee's Grimm from IDW Publishing. Grimm is a five-issue mini-series that is based upon American McGee's extremely successful online Grimm videogame. Sorry, kids... it's definitely not an all-ages book. [laughs]
I'm also finishing up the second arc to INTERAGENTS . The first two issues are currently available for purchase exclusively on IndyPlanet: http://tinyurl.com/9w8be6 .
In addition to Grimm and INTERAGENTS , I'm working on several creator-owned projects and a couple work-for-hire gigs that I can't speak about yet.
CitC : Anything else you want to mention?
DM : If anyone is interested in finding out more about me or my projects, please feel free to drop by my personal blog: dwightmacpherson.wordpress.com, add me as a Facebook friend or follow me on Twitter. I'm extremely active on the web and I am constantly updating readers about my new projects.
CitC : Thanks a lot for your time, and good luck with your next projects.
DM : And thank you for the interview, my friend.
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