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Kickstart Comics – The Mark Sable Interview for Rift Raiders

Kickstart Comics – The Mark Sable Interview for Rift Raiders

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by EJ Feddes November 23, 2010



We’re wrapping up our first round of Kickstart Comics coverage with an interview with Mark Sable, writer of Rift Raiders. We’re talking about his new book, about the differences between writing your own creations and working on established creators, and more

EJ:  I’ve been seeing your name on more and more comics over the last year.  How did you get started in the industry, and what brought you to Kickstart?

MARK:  I started with a creator-owned book from Image called Grounded with artist Paul Azaceta that was released in 2005-2006.  That led a bunch of doors being opened for me in both comics and film.  DC Comics noticed me and I got to write things like Supergirl and Teen Titans, Image gave me the green light on two more books, Fearless (with PJ Holden) and Hazed (with Robbi Rodriguez)…and I suddenly had the ability to pitch to Hollywood as well. 

A pitch for a TV series eventually became Rift Raiders.  When Hazed - a dark comedy about sororities that’s as far away from Grounded and Rift Raiders as possible was published, a number of companies were interested in optioning it.  While Mandalay wound up with it, I developed a good relationship with Jason Netter and Samantha Olsson at Kickstart, which at the point was a production company that had only dipped their toes in comics.

When they started talking about the possibility of becoming a publisher, Rift Raiders fit their business plan and my creative philosophy.  Which is producing accessible, self-contained books that are not limited to the superhero genre and getting them in as many hands as possible.

EJ:  Do you take a different approach when writing characters you’ve created versus when you write for company-owned characters like Two-Face or Cyborg?

MARK:  Yes and no.  I think sometimes there is an expectation that a creator won’t put his heart and soul into a company-owned character because they don’t earn it.  Or that they won’t work as hard or as quickly on their creator-owned work because they are not getting as much up front money.

I try to write company owned characters as if they were my own, and create books as if I were getting an amazing page rate

That said, there some things you have to take into consideration when dealing with either type of character.  With my Marvel and DC work, I try and respect the continuity (which is a way of respecting the audience) without being a slave to it.  I also try and respect the work of the creators that have come before me, (because there is an unfortunate tradition of people raping, killing and resurrecting other people’s creations), while trying to tell a unique story where others have tread before.

With my creator owned work, I think the challenge is the lack of limitations.  I don’t want to break all the rules just because I can, and without editorial guidance I have to reign myself in.

But ultimately, it’s all about serving the story well.  I’m always trying to tell the best story possible so readers will want to come back for more.

EJ:  Who are your influences as a writer?

MARK:  It’s probably easier for me to name which writers AREN’T an influence (although that might not be the best career move).

The no brainers are Stan and Jack, who not only created most of the medium’s most memorable characters, but dared to create something new rather than simply build on the work of others.  I marvel at Alan Moore‘s craftmanship and his ability to move seamlessly between genres – I’m amazed that the same person could create Watchmen, From Hell, and League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

As for those creators who are more active now…Mark Waid, James Robinson, Brett Lewis, Brian K. Vaughn, Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Matt Fraction, Christos Gage…their work inspires me (at the same time it makes me jealous).  I feel awful because I’m sure I’m leaving some big name out.

What I look for in a writer is a unique voice, and strong storytelling – particularly strong stories that are dense rather than decompressed.

EJ:  You’ve worked with Julian Totino Tedesco before, on Unthinkable.  Did you write Rift Raiders knowing he would be the artist?  And if so, did you write things into the story because you know he’d make them look amazing?

MARK:  The concept was in place before I knew Julian, but the script was written (and re-written with him in mind).  At first, I played to what I thought his strengths were from Unthinkable – drawing incredible detail.  So I tried create little period-piece vignettes to showcase every conceivable time and place I could fit in an 88 page graphic novel.  Some things I thought he’d draw incredibly include giant Zeppelins, Steampunk Exoskeletons and reptilian humanoids who evolved in place of man.

But I noticed two things very quickly from Julian’s character designs and the first few pages.  He was experimenting with a looser style, with these incredibly expressive characters who seemed to move across the pages with an incredible dynamism.  So instead of trying to overload him with detail I tried to give him more space than he had in Unthinkable, and let him have fun.  I couldn’t be more pleased with his results.

EJ:  Oh, it’s an amazing looking book.  The end of Rift Raiders leaves the door open for more stories — would you consider a sequel?

MARK:  If Julian, Kickstart are open to it, and readers are into it – absolutely.  I have no shortage of ideas for multiple sequels.  But I want to stress that it was written with a beginning, middle and end so that readers will not walk away feeling they haven’t gotten their money’s worth.

Right now though, I’m focused more on creating new work, for Kickstart and others.

EJ:  Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

MARK:  I plan on having 2010 go out with a bang.  From DC, I have a book called Teen Titans:  Cold Case.  It’s a double-sized (but not double-priced) book about the first meeting between the Teen Titans and Flash’s Rogues Gallery of villains.  The art is by Sean Murphy, who has been blowing people away with Grant Morrison’s Joe the Barbarian.

My first published work from Marvel will debut within a week of Titans.  It’s a What IF?  Spider-Man story asking (and answering) the question what would have happened if Spider-Man killed Kraven the Hunter?  The art is Paul Azaceta, the first time we’ve worked together (outside of covers for Unthinkable) since Grounded

Paul and I are following that up with a creator-owned book called Graveyard of Empires.  It involves Marines fighting zombies in Afghanistan and it looks like we’ll be putting that out through Image.  There’s lots more in the works I can’t talk about yet, but hopefully all this will whet readers appetites until I can say more.

EJ:  Oh man, that all sounds awesome.  We’ll have to talk again when these books come out.  Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us!

Rift Raiders is in stores now, and you should buy it.  Heck, you’re going shopping this week anyway!  Also, if you have an iPad, Kickstart has their books available for sale on the Comixology app.

I’d like to thank everybody at Kickstart for being so great all week – they’ve all been really fun to talk to, and we appreciate everybody taking the time to answer our questions.  They’re good people, and they’re doing really good stuff here.  Check out their Facebook page then go pick up any or all of their books – I had so much fun reading these books, and I think you will, too.  Provided you like things that are awesome, of course.