Ace Face: The Mod With the Metal ArmsFor all the superheroes with metal arms, none have really looked into what's its like to live with them. Forget scratching an itch, but what about growing into them? In the upcoming graphic novel Ace-Face: The Mod With The Metal Arms, the titular Ace-Face deals with a lifetime of it – from childhood, to his 60s superhero heyday to his later hears as husband and father.
The book is from the mind of cartoonist Mike Dawson, who previously did the graphic novel Freddie & Me which chronicled his fanboy obsession with the music and personality of band Queen and his frontman Freddie Mercury. But with Ace Face he's come back to the cornerstone of comics: superheroes. But these superheroes are the serious and stoic ones you might know, but a satirical take on a man with bionic arms – and trying to grow into them. Dawson's taking his hardcore love for the classic comics of John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Alan Davis and putting them into his own words, lines and shapes.
For more on this April graphic novel coming from Ad House, we talked with Dawson by email.
Newsarama: Mike, thanks for talking to us again. What's this new book about?
Mike Dawson: The book is about a superhero called Ace-Face, a normal man with super-strong bionic arms. His heyday was in London in the 1960’s, which is where he came up with his look and his name, inspired by The Who and their “mod” period. Ace-Face’s real name is Colin Turney; he’s married to a woman named Sally, and they have a son called Stuart. Different stories take place at different times in Colin’s life, including present day, where Stuart is grown up and married.
The stories are mostly humorous, but also feature some straight-up superhero action. One of my favorite fight scenes in the book is between Ace-Face as a middle-aged man and a younger vigilante “anti-hero” who calls himself The Target. The fight is just like a fight in real-life, where it’s all messy and clumsy, and embarrassing for everyone involved. The Target’s shirt gets pulled up over his head in the middle of the fight, like the kind of thing that happens when two guys attempt to fight each other in the real-world. I would say that’s one of the recurring themes of the stories: comic-book violence vs. real-life consequences.
NRAMA: As you said, this goes over most all corners of Ace-Face's life. What stood out to me most was his origin. How would you describe it?
MD: Ace-Face’s origin story is thus: He was born without arms of his own, and his bionic replacements were built by his scientist Uncle, who attached them to Colin’s infant body. Since they were adult-sized arms, it meant that for the first 16-17 years of his life, he had to “grow into them”. It’s tough to have something that’s different about you when you’re growing up, and it wasn’t easy for young Colin Turney to fit in with the other kids while he had these massive metal arms hanging off of his body. I thought this was a fun concept to explore.
NRAMA: Ace-Face originally appeared in an anthology from AdHouse several years back called Project: Superior. What led you to revisit and expand on that short?
MD: I enjoy filling in Ace-Face’s history by jumping around and telling stories from different time-periods in his life. The story where Ace-Face encounters The Target takes place when Colin has retired from professional superhero-ing, and has started a new career as a teacher. There’s another story in the book called “Dr. Funhauser’s House of Fun”, which occurs in the early 80’s, when Ace was still an active adventurer, and running with a group of misfits called “The U.S. Outsiders”. I really enjoyed presenting the stories as if there were already a massive, complex back-catalog of published comics featuring Ace-Face that had been in print since the 60’s, just like with present-day mainstream superhero comics.
NRAMA: In addition to stories about Ace-Face, you also have stories about two super-powered siblings – Jack & Max. How do those relate to Ace-Face?
MD:The Jack and Max stories aren’t directly related to the Ace-Face Universe, in that the characters would ever meet, but they’re similar in that they have fun presenting super powered people in real-life situations. In the case of Jack and Max, they’re two brothers, close in age, and incapable of not squabbling with each other. Jack has the power of telekinesis and Max can teleport, so their fights quickly spiral out of control and cause a lot of damage. They can get kind of violent, in a cartoonish sort of way, which I am not sure is something all parents would approve of. I think it’s true to life though; I used to have vicious fights with my sister when we were kids, and a friend told me how he and his brother used to hurl cutlery knives at each other. Its part of having a sibling close in age and it makes me laugh.
NRAMA: You've made yourself known in comics for a vastly non-superhero book with Freddie & Me; why'd you chose to do superheroes with this book?
MD: I’m not sure… it was a lot of fun to work on these stories, and I’ve always had a soft-spot for the superhero genre. There are a few moments in Freddie & Me, where I reveal a few details about my history with Marvel and DC comics. There’s a scene that I personally love where I’m 16 years old, sitting in my friend Neil’s bedroom watching him play computer games, while I read X-Factor comics and draw. This is how I spent a lot of my time in High School. I’ve never played the game Ultima 6, but I spent hours watching Neil doing it… We all loved Marvel comics, especially work by John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and Alan Davis. Those three were our Holy Trinity for many, many years. I don’t think I’ll ever shake some of their influences, for better or for worse.
Thinking about it, it’s probably not entirely coincidental that two of the three, John Byrne and Alan Davis, were both writer/artists who took over entire creative control of many of their books. Even when I wanted to have a career working on X-Men comics, I was always interested in being the writer and the artist on anything that I did. I recognize that Byrne probably isn’t the coolest person to cite as an influence these days, but I can’t deny the impact he once had on me.
NRAMA: Like you said, it's nothing to be ashamed of. I'm with you – go John Byrne!
Anyway, before we veer off into fanboy territory let's wrap this up. Now that this book is done – what are you working on next?
MD:I’m going to be serializing a long-form Jack and Max story online at the webcomics site ACT-I-VATE. It’s called “Jack and Max Escape from the End of Time”. The plot builds upon one of the concepts I introduced in one of the J&M stories in Ace-Face: the idea that when Jack and Max are bad, their father, a Time-Lord, abandons their timeline, and goes back to before the boys misbehaved. The story is about what happens to the versions of Jack and Max who are left behind in the abandoned timeline. I think it will run 60-80 pages, and hopefully I will be able to complete it this year.