Writer / creator Mark Poulton (Savage Hawkman, Avengelyne), co-created Graveyard Shift last year with Jon Malin (Cable, Thunderbolts, Jawbreakers). They crowdfunded the comic book project through Indiegogo. The campaign eventually reached an amazing $106,096 before it ended! The graphic novel tells a story that’s been described as if the X-Men met the Universal monsters, and shows the adventures of a group of science and security personnel that are are betrayed and murdered by the people they work for while studying advanced human regeneration. They’re cast aside by being put into their own experiments and are reborn with super human abilities, and soon turn to battling evil as a team known as The Graveyard Shift!
Mark and Jon quickly capitalized on the tremendous success of volume one and began making plans for volume 2, but this time they wanted to bring up other, independent, unknown creators so they announced a talent search contest that launched in November. Artists were encouraged to submit their work through Twitter using the #comicsgatetalentsearch, while writers submitted their work directly to Poulton. Artist ‘Render Contender’ and artist Todd Mulrooney, along with writer Von Klaus and Cal Jameson were each selected to take part in the next iteration of Graveyard Shift by contributing to a Supplemental Book to be packaged with volume two.
I recently spoke with Mark about the whole process, discussed his career, and found out how the current campaign was going, which ends in just over a week from now. That campaign is on track to possibly even surpass the response to volume one.
Chris: I loved my copy of Graveyard Shift volume 1, and I’m proud to say that Bleeding Fool was the first outlet to announce the winners of your creative team for volume 2. Tell our readers what has happened since then and what’s the current status of the crowdfunding campaign.
Mark: As I write this, the campaign for Volume 2 is nearing $80,000 ($87,100 as of this writing). Graveyard Shift has become a business for Jon and I, and thanks to the success of the first campaign, this one is much bigger. There’s not only Volume 2, but a Supplemental Book with 3 one-shot stories along with a reprint of Volume 1 with a brand-new cover by Jon. We want to build a big back catalog of books for fans that we can keep in print, so a new fan can always jump on and get caught up.
Chris: That’s a great approach. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve been working in the comic book industry for just over 10 years. Tell me how you got your first break, and how you eventually began working with Jon Malin.
Mark: My comics career started in 2006, but my writing career began before that when I optioned a teen comedy screenplay back in 2001. The film never got made, but during the whole process I was working on what would become my first comic book series. I teamed up with my artist friends to create Koni Waves. The series was about a female detective in Hawaii, who solved supernatural mysteries. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Hawaii Five O with a Scooby-Doo vibe, and that’s Koni Waves.
The series caught the attention of my hero in comics, Rob Liefeld. I was a member of his message board and he was impressed with my work and started giving me jobs including eventually relaunching Avengelyne at Image Comics. I first met Jon through those same message boards. Jon had done some work for Rob too and I was a fan of his art. After relaunching Brigade with Rob and Marat Mychaels in 2010, I reached out to Jon about working together. The first issue had just sold out and I was feeling good about myself, so I pitched Jon a little idea about the Universal Monsters as X-Men… Jon said I had him hooked at the first mention of monsters and that’s how Graveyard Shift was born.
Chris: Wow! The internet is amazing! As I said before, Volume one of Graveyard Shift was a huge success. Tell us what you learned from that campaign.
Mark: I learned a lot. I knew fulfilling the campaign was going to be tough, but I had no idea. It took 2 months for me to fulfill the project once the books arrived and I think the experience will help me this time around. There’s little things that will save time. We bagged and boarded all of our books and used Silver Age bags and boards. Switching to Golden Age bags and boards this time around will save us time because the books will go in a whole lot easier. Jon also did his sketches inside the book, so he couldn’t get started until the books arrived.
For volume 2, Jon is going to do the sketches on a separate piece of paper so he can get a jump on them. As well, the Gemini Comic Mailers are a big hit with fans and they’ll be back for the fulfillment this time around. I have them in huge stacks in my basement, but I placed them with the label up. I have to flip one over everytime I fold one up. If I place them label down, I’ll save seconds on each package. It might not seem like a big deal, but those seconds add up when you are dealing with thousands of books.
Chris: What was the motivation to let some new talent work on volume 2, and how has that been working?
Mark: The community had been so good to us and made Graveyard Shift possible. We wanted to give back to it and give some aspiring talent a break. There were guidelines they had to follow. Jon and I came up with plots for Von and Cal to follow for their stories. The new characters being introduced were already created and the artists were given character designs for all of them to follow.
Chris: So tell me a bit about your creative team and the creative process.
Mark: The creative team behind the main book is me and Jon as writer and artist. Anthony George is our colorist and Eric Weathers is our letterer. Jon and I work the Marvel method. We go over the story and then I plot it out. Jon begins drawing pages. As he finishes pages, he passes them off to Anthony. I begin scripting dialogue as the finished pages come in. The final step is we’ll send the script and pages to Eric to letter and then have a Google Hangout session with him going over placement of balloons and changing any clunky dialogue or adding new dialogue where needed. Thankfully, Eric is a patient man.
The creative teams for the Supplemental book is as follows: Epilogue story by writer Cal Jameson and artist Render Contender. Killer 99 story by writer Von Claus and artist Todd Mulrooney. And Volume 3 prequel/Lonestar team up story by me and artist Mike McMahon. Anthony George and Eric Weathers will do colors and letters on all books. The process is pretty much the same except Cal and Von worked full script.
Chris: Where did the initial idea for Graveyard Shift come from?
Mark: The inspiration is 90s’ comics, specifically the early Image era. Books like Youngblood, Spawn and Wildcats mixed with horror and sci-fi. The elevator pitch has always been what if the Universal Monsters were the X-Men. You take those classic monsters and mix them with Jim Lee era X-Men and that’s the recipe for Graveyard Shift.
Chris: You mentioned some one-shots, but is there a volume 3 in the works? What are you currently working on?
Mark: There’s definitely a volume 3 in the works. I wrote the prequel to it and that’s what’s included in our supplemental book. The plots for the volume 3 books are done and I’ll start fleshing them out more when I get the free time. I’m currently scripting the dialog to my upcoming graphic novel with artist Mike McMahon, USAssassin. Mike penciled the Graveyard Shift Volume 3 prequel, so I think fans will enjoy his work. Hopefully, we’ll have an announcement soon for USAssassin.
Also, my son, Chase and I just finished writing a Lil Graveyard Shift story. Hopefully, that will be included in the Volume 3 campaign. In addition, I recently finished a children’s book for Jason Solomon from the Solomonster Sounds Off Podcast called The Adventure of Hardy the Horse. We brought one of his mom’s stories to life after she died from cancer and I was happy to help him honor her. I’m also finishing up pencils on another children’s book. Oh, and I also do a line of pro wrestling themed kids books for Sevenhorns Publishing and have a couple coming out by the end of the year. I’m always busy.
Chris: Wow, Mark! No rest for the wicked I see! Let’s shift gears a bit. When did you first get into comics as simply a fan? Have any old favorite comics you can remember?
Mark: I first got into comics in the 80’s. My first comic book was GI Joe: A Real American Hero #34. It had Ace and Wild Weasel on the cover in a dog fight. I remember seeing the toy commercials on tv and they would always mention the Marvel comic at the end of the commercial. I was already a fan of the toys and cartoon, so I had to get the comic! I would see ads in the GI Joe comics for other books and soon I started discovering other books. It was the 90s where my fandom really kicked in. Guys like Liefeld, McFarlane, and Lee were really standing out and it made me want to make my own comics. Those 90s’ X-Force, Spider-Man and X-Men comics, as well as the early Image books, really shaped the creator I would become.
Chris: I know you have some penciling experience, as well as your writing. What’s your favorite aspect about the creative process?
Mark: Honestly, I love the whole creative process. I love seeing an idea take shape and watch it become a physical product for readers. Seeing that final product is the best! A more specific answer would be that I love seeing what an artist will do with my idea. Sometimes it doesn’t always match up to my original thought and sometimes it’s even better and inspires more creativity from me. That’s a true collaboration and it’s a great experience!
Chris: Have you been surprised at the response to the first volume and to the current campaign? What stage is volume 2 at?
Mark: I have been. I remember being so nervous before we launched the campaign for Volume 1. I was worried we might not get the $5,000 we asked for funding and we ended up being fully funded I think in a half hour. This campaign we were funded in 10 minutes. It’s amazing! I want the fan base to know how much they are appreciated. Volume 2 is currently being drawn by Jon. He’s more than a quarter done at this point. All of the stories for the supplemental book have been completed. They just need to be colored and lettered.
Jon and I have so much planned. The stories for Volumes 3 and 4 are already figured out. We are creating a huge world for readers.
Chris: On a side-note, you’ve been working with a lot of creators who are pro-consumer, pro-ComicsGate, MovetheNeedle, etc – which are each part of a larger consumer movement that just wants to have fun in their comics without overt political preaching, without being scolded, without being insulted by the creators. What are your thoughts on this consumer/creator movement?
Mark: First, I think it is a great community. I’ve never seen such supportive readers. So many books, not just by established pros, but by first time creators that are becoming successes because of them. Second, as a pro and reader, I want the same things. As a pro, I think professionals should act professionally and as a reader, I just want fun comics. I don’t care about the writer’s political views. I just want a cool story and kick ass art.
Chris: Couldn’t agree more, Mark. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Good luck with Graveyard Shift, and everything you’re doing. We’re rooting for you!
Mark: Thanks for the support! It is greatly appreciated.