Interview with Mark McKenna
Mark McKenna is a 26 year veteran of the comic book industry. In that time he has worked on Batman, Wolverine, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and most recently on Star Wars, counting over 450 comics in all. Mark is currently working for Dark Horse Comics on Star Wars-The Old Republic: The Lost Suns (ships June 8th). Recently his work on the online web comic titled “Star Wars: Blood of the Empire“was collected into an 84 page trade paperback.
Mark created the children’s book property called Banana Tail, along with his dearly departed father back in the late 90’s and his new book Banana Tail’s Colorful Adventure was published by Image Comic’s “all ages” book line, called Silverline Books. It is a gorgeous 3D computer-generated product which is being categorized as a “Young Reader’s Graphic Novel”. The hard cover was available through stores late Fall 2010.
Also look for Mark’s work in Archie Comics digests and Archie and Friends.
Mark is the author Banana Tail.
I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog
What is the last comic book you read?
Boy, I haven’t read a comic in years; I read collection of comics called trade paperbacks. The two that comes to mind are The Walking Dead and The Stuff of Legends.
What were your earliest memories of drawing and writing comics?
Professionally speaking, when I started a 9 to 5 job at Marvel Comics in 1985, I got hired in an apprenticeship program under the art director and comic artist superstar, John Romita Sr. I was hired as an art corrections artist where 3 of us were hired to fix or change comic art to adhere to the writer or editors vision.
Were you encouraged to draw or was it something that came natural?
I was neither encouraged nor denied the options. It was when I had to make a decision as a high school senior that my guidance counselor said I needed to make a decision at that point in my life. I was thinking of going to film school, but the chairman of the film dept at the School of Visual Arts in NYC scared me off by telling me the chances of getting a job in film were…astronomical. That’s scared me plenty!
I was only slightly above average as an artist in my childhood. I would spend a lot of my time tracing over comic covers that I found inspiring and as a young boy I used to like to draw army men parachuting from airplanes and monsters like Frankenstein and the Mummy.
Are you working on a new book?
As far as Banana Tail, my children’s book is concerned I am trying to put together a BOO- Nana Tail Halloween Special comic book, but time is moving awfully fast for me, so Ill see if I can get it done for the holiday. As far as my comic book career goes, I am working for Dark Horse Comics on a Star Wars project called The Lost Suns.
What inspired you to write Banana Tail?
My dad and my children. I remember spoiling my kids when they were young by buying them books and toys. I coupled that with the thoughts that I’m a comic book artist with connections in the industry. Add to that a dad who’s a brilliant idea man and…VOILA! Although my dad’s vision for Banana Tail was one with a monkey with a banana for a tail. I tried it and it looked too weird!
How did you come up with each characters?
My dad again. He came up with Banana Tail and Tic Tac, although he imagined Tic Tac to literally have a tic-tac-toe pattern all over his body. I tried numerous versions and the checkerboard Tic Tac works best. As far as Reena, the mood-color changing girl rhino is concerned, my comic editor at the time, and current Batman group editor, Mike Marts, came up with the names Reena and Eggboo, the wise grandfatherly ostrich on the island. I came up with teh idea that she is mood-color changing, so kids could associate moods with colors. Example, Blue is sad, red is angry.
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
Im doing comic art commissions for fans and comic conventions. At home, I’ve become a pretty good cook and in my next life might want to come back in some culinary job. Cooking is creative and I enjoy putting things together for my family.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?
My dream is that Banana Tail becomes dear to many kids hearts and there is a beautiful fondness for the characters and lessons taught about caring and diversification without pounding it into a child’s psyche.
Have you had the pleasure to meet Stan Lee the great comic writer?
I have met Stan Lee 2 times. My first time was at a Marvel Holiday Party back in 1985-86. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Stan was standing at the bar by himself, so I made a bee line towards him and had about 2 minutes of face time with him, before everybody else jumped him.
The 2nd time was 2 years ago at the New York Comic Con inJacobJavitsCenter. I was working on aNHL(hockey) Comic that Stan was writing; in fact he was featuring the entire line of 30 hockey comics for Guardian Media Entertainment and was lecturing about the line. Because of my involvement as an artist, I got to get a nice photo op with Stan and tried to remind him of the Marvel Holiday Party, but I’m sure he didn’t remember.
Who are some of your favorite cartoon characters you would love to dine with?
I grew up with Gigantor, Astro Boy and Space Ghost, but I think they would creep me out and Gigantor is bigger then a house. I think I’d like to sit in with Banana Tail, Tic Tac and Reena and teach them about life a little bit while watching them being mischievous.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
Working as a freelance artist and writer, you don’t have “bosses” looming over your head. You have to create your own discipline. I don’t think it comes natural with day to day life and having a family to care for. I found earlier in my career, my best work came after8 PM. I would work best at nights, probably until 3 or 4 in the morning. There are far less distractions at night. No dogs barking, no phones or doorbells ringing. As we built a family, I found my working hours evolving into more “normal” hours, due to trying to regulate sleep schedules and eventually the wife went back to work, so I needed to have a clear head in the morning.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Please join my Banana Tail Fan page on Facebook and visit my WWW.Bananatail.com website for news, updates and free kids stuff to do!
Thank you for this interview.
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My name is Ella Johnson. I started Mymcbooks to promote reading. As a former teacher, I know that making basic education fundamentals interesting to children can be challenging. Education can be fun, exciting and captivating for children with the right learning tools. So my goal is to “make learning interesting and fun” for the children while they learn, by introducing them to fun books with colorful and captivating illustrations.
In 2009, I start the giveaway program giving away free school supplies at random to 2 winners each year. I also started a monthly free giveaways for books and gifts.
August 2010, I extended the free school supplies from 2 to 5 winners at random on my blog and also give away 20 bags full of school supplies to familes in need at Chick-fil-A in Brandon, Florida during their family nights. And in 2012, I beat my that number and gave away a lot of school supplies to needy families. Hopefully, I can continue to do this each year.
In 2011, I started writing reviews on children’s books then giving these books away free on Mymcbooks Blog. I increase the number of books we giveaway free to help support parent. My goal is to give away as many as I can each year. This is also a great way to introduce parents to new books.
Mymcbooks blog is always looking for other ways to give kids free books. So I started Mymcbooks Birthday Library http://mymcbooksbirthdaylibrary.wordpress.com/
My goal is to giveaway at least 300 books to children each year.
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Read Interview about Ella Johnson, http://melangeofcultures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/interview-with-ella-johnson-founder-of-memorable-children-books-gifts/ Interviewer: Nicole Weaver
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