Fisher Center Series Hosts Renowned Graphic Novelist
“I want to keep this as interactive as possible,” said Mack, opening his Fisher Center Series talk, titled The Alchemy of the Art of Alchemy, the fourth and last installment for the fall 2008 series. With slides of his latest work – the Alchemy – playing behind him, Mack reflected on his interest in comics and graphic art but paused throughout to take questions about what his audience was interested in knowing. Mack also invited his audience to look at original artwork that he had on display.
With all of this at work, The Alchemy of the Art of Alchemy wasn’t exactly a lecture, per se, but an inter-animation between author and audience; author and art; slides, originals, prints and explanations – an embodiment and reflection of how Mack breaks frame in the structure of his graphic novels themselves.
“My panels aren’t usually linear; they’re often more experimental,” Mack said. “Non-linear story-telling always made sense to me because life is experienced in a non-linear fashion,” explained Mack. “There’s a cubist aspect to how we perceive what’s happening.”
Questions from the audience spliced with Mack’s narrative. One Hobart student asked Mack about his choice to draw only the first volume of his pioneering Kabuki series in black-and-white. “In using black-and-white in the first issue, I was trying to abstract the world, veiling it and heightening it at the same time-adding a timelessness while transplanting you to a very specific time.”
Speaking to his art in general, Mack added, “I consider myself a writer first. I use art as another tool of the writing, using images in service of that story.”
Several William Smith students asked how his work relates to feminism, addressing the gender component of the Fisher Center’s theme. “In my work, I try not to work in -isms,” Mack explained. “More often than not, I never explain who or what my characters are, giving the reader what’s said about them-a changing, shifting thing that is not really a noun but a verb, letting their actions speak for them.”
Bringing to life the curiosity of audience members, devout and new, old and young, “What made you start drawing?” a young son of an HWS staff member asked. “Well, I always loved to draw ever since I was young,” Mack explained. “When I was young, I wanted to be a stuntman, which I got a lot of negative reinforcement for, but when I drew things, even monsters and robots, my Mom and people around me encouraged me to do it.”
With a second viewing of the exhibited works and a chance to interact with Mack during a book signing that followed, the Fisher Center Series’ audience was both animated and in awe, applauding Mack for creating a unique and innovative lecture.
“I came to the talk tonight approaching it from an art perspective,” said Hobart Rowing Assistant Coach Brian DeDominici, an artist trained in sequential art. “I identified a lot with him; we draw from similar areas of inspiration. But overall, I just really enjoyed being able to hear him speak.”
Best known for his creator-owned project, Kabuki, (published first by Image Comics and now by Marvel’s ICON imprint), Mack’s work has enjoyed international acclaim for its innovative storytelling, painting techniques and page design; the series is now under screen adaptation. Mack has also written and drawn Daredevil for Marvel Comics, authored the children’s book “The Shy Creatures,” and is currently adapting sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s books to graphic novels for Marvel.
Above: Mack (center) leads a workshop for HWS community members, titled The Alchemy of Art — Artistic License, in the Fisher Center. He also led a round-table discussion earlier that morning and screened a documentary about his work and career, titled The Alchemy of Art, the night before his talk.