From Kabuki to California clubkids, artist Rick Mays has run the gamut of genres in comics. Although best known for his work on David Mack's Kabuki: Scarab, Mays has become a trusted hand with virtually every major American publisher including Marvel, DC and Top Cow. But of all the projects he's done, his latest project Poseurs has pushed him more than most any other.
The recently released graphic novel Poseurs takes three teenagers into the heart of Los Angeles party scene and shows them finding out there's more than meets the eye. From the streel-level scenes on L.A.'s eastside to the Bel Air mansions and their celebrity denizens, Poseurs brings the famed environment to life. Poseurs was planned for release as part of DC's Minx line, but after that imprint was shuttered Mays and writer Deborah Vankin found a new home with California-based independent publisher Image Comics. With that unplanned hiccup behind them, Poseurs is on shelves now with the creative duo already in talks for a second volume.
Newsarama: Rick, your current big project going on shelves is the graphic novel Poseurs. We talked with writer Deborah Vankin when the book was announced, but what’s your take on the book–how do you describe it to people at cons?
Rick Mays: I describe Poseurs as a teen dramady. It's more light hearted than most of what I'm used to doing, but the comedic and dramatic elements are there in almost equal measures. I haven't done pretty much any cons recently. I have to have someone in-house, like a girlfriend or wife that will actually snatch the pencil from my hand and say, "Go pack a bag. I don't wanna hear it; you're doing that con, so let's go!". I really need to break that habit. But yeah, back on topic, I describe it as a dramatic comedy that follows three teens as they struggle with their identities in the face of burgeoning adulthood.
I've been asked, "So, how does this new book compare to Kabuki: Scarab?", which isn't a fair comparison, as they're two altogether different books. When viewed in those terms, Poseurs could be defined more by what it's not, which is, again, unfair. Some things I consider to be my strengths (I've TRIED to make them strengths, anyway), setting a moody foreboding atmosphere, highly kinetic action and creating the illusion of movement, making violence beautiful, aren't present in Poseurs. Jenna, Pouri and Mac are all in the process of finding themselves as they transition into young adulthood. This much, they share with Keiko, the central character of Kabuki: Scarab. But their journey doesn't involve violence, bloodshed or a dark moody story. By way of answer to pretty much any question of that nature, I can only say, it's not the same type of book, at all. It's a youthful drama with a heavy comedic bent and it's really good. Please read it!
Nrama: Which one of those three teenagers in Poseurs to you most closely identify with, and why?
Mays: I'd have to say Jenna, partially because, like myself, she was a city kid of modest background with artistic aspirations. I liked that she's observant and frequently appreciative of her environment and the things that are going on around her. Also, her character is comfortable as a loner but can blend in seamlessly in social situations where she otherwise might not fit (in spirit, she actually doesn't fit) and that's a respectable trait.
Nrama: Have you yourself toured the LA nightlife scene or been to the kind of Hollywood parties shown in the book?
Mays: Haha, oh yeah. I was no stranger to nightlife at the time, but it really took off when I moved to LA from the east coast. Between the restaurants, clubs, bars, parties (and an all night arcade in Pasadena), my friends and I had so many haunts to hit on any given night. We'd go to E-3, then hang out in Hollywood. We'd hit the LA Auto show then head out to Los Feliz. We'd snack at LoliCup, then go to West LA for bar hopping or karaoke. We'd eat at Chandara, then hit a club Downtown. We'd get out of fight training and hit a party in Venice. And, the occasional odd party at the W. Yes, it was awesome! I know what you're thinking, but I had a VERY active nightlife and was taking on amateur MMA fights while I was working on Scarab (which seems to be a go-to title whenever my name comes up), so my work wasn't suffering. If anything, those things enhanced my work, considerably. Also, some of my close friends are the children of "celebrities" (man, that term gets old) and as a result, I've landed in some wild situations I otherwise wouldn't have been anywhere near. A certain actress' birthday party in Beverly Hills would be an example of such an occasion (man, that night spun WAAAY out of control). Aside from frequenting clubs and parties in LA, simply living there you'll see people you recognize from *media of your choice* and see how they look and dress when they're just out to lunch or dinner, at the mall or the beach. That's sometimes interesting for someone who doesn't watch tabloid TV.
So, by the time I was doing Poseurs, I think I was well equipped to make it authentic.
My favorite Hollywood story (That's printable, which most aren't and not particularly mortifying, which many are): I've been a big Kari Wuhrer fan since The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. It's a little known fact that, when she was about to release her album Shiny, I was the assistant to the photographer (a friend of mine) on the shoot for the CD jacket. She was extremely cool and a total sweetheart. Sorry, I just had to get that in there. Yay!!!
Nrama: No problem, Rick. Although comics seems dominated by super-heroes, you’ve been able to not get tied down to drawing capes all day–but even then, Poseurs seems like a new world to you with all the fashionable clothing and such. Was that one of the selling points for you?
Mays: Ha, I still find myself working with capes much more often than not and it's cool. But, yes, that was a selling point for me. There have been times when I've really lucked out with super-hero titles, with respect to not being limited to always having to draw them in their "official" outfits. When I was doing Gen-13 with Adam Warren, I'm not sure if I ever drew the G-13 kids in their outfits. I was mostly able to dress them however I wanted, which was great (at one point, I was drawing them in their birthday suits, because Adam's THAT awesome and he rolls like that). So, in the case of Poseurs, where the characters are constantly changing clothes, I was never bored with dressing them. That was fun.
Nrama: For drawing superheroes you might refer to their previous comics to get them right – so how do you get the fashions right of the LA club scene?
Mays: Well, in some cases, Deborah sent links for what she had in mind, which helped me with what she was looking for. But, I've been habitually stashing contributions into my fashion memory bank for many years. Back in the day, before everyone had regular access to the interwebs, I used to enjoy magazine shopping. When I lived in Van Nuys, I'd go to the newsstand on Victory, or the one on Ventura & Van Nuys to browse. Aside from videogame and fitness mags, I paid a lot of attention to fashion magazines and music magazines. Things would pop and I'd pick up mags and look for a chance to use them. When I started spending time in Japan, with all the wild fashion trends on display there, I probably went overboard with that. I had to start chucking stuff. I like to make characters I'm working with look good and stylish. I'd imagine every artist does. And again, we went out a lot and I'd be lying if I said we weren't paying attention to what the ladies in the clubs, bars and parties were wearing. Whee!
Nrama: For this you worked with a first-time comics writer but longtime journalist in Deborah. You’ve worked with a variety of people, but how was this unique?
Mays: There was a definite sense of "handle with care" (the material, not Deborah). When I first read the script, it was clear that Deborah really enjoyed writing it. It was her baby and she cared very much about how it was represented visually. Usually, while I'm working on a script, the writer's already knee deep in something else and much of the time, I don't even have any interaction with them (there are, obviously, some MAJOR exceptions to that). Deborah was very involved and hands-on throughout the entire process of my completing Poseurs. I believe, I was doing the pages in groups of 18 and every page of every batch was screened by Deborah before I sent them off. At times, I'd get the greenlight from Shelly (Bond, the editor at DC/Vertigo, HI, SHELLY!) and start inking pages, then I'd get an email or a call going, "hold up, Deborah's got some notes!". It was even frustrating at times, but I appreciated that I was working on something very personal and important to her. She'd obviously put a great deal of time and effort into Poseurs and she deserved to have it come out the way that she wanted. Hopefully, I've pulled that off. It's fortunate that I had lived for so many years in LA by the time I was doing Poseurs, written by someone else living in LA. I was familiar with the areas of town she referenced, so they weren't foreign or imaginary for me. The LA that Deborah sets the story in is authentic and familiar and, as a "Pittsburgh rude dude by birth, Cali boy by choice", I liked that. As a professional storyteller, I appreciate the observational prowess and writing skill that it took for her to do it.
While I've yet to meet Deborah in person, we already had the familiarity and fondness of the world in which the story takes place in common. This has been my only experience with Deborah's writing thus far. But, given her ability to craft characters and pull you through a story, I'm guessing that if she continues to write graphic novels/comics, she'll probably be very successful at it and have a legion of fans.
Nrama: The next question people have after they read this book is easy –what are you working on next?
Mays: I'm not sure. Deborah's mentioned a sequel to Poseurs, so perhaps I'll be spending more time with Jenna, Mac & Pouri. We still have yet to iron out the details, but that's a possibility.
Nrama: What would you say your dream project is–do you have an idea for your own series, or a genre, or maybe a friend in comics you want to work with?
Mays: There are three answers to that question and I imagine the answers probably say something about me, so I'll try to address all of them. Crime fiction is my genre of choice and I do have characters and a series that I developed with a friend of mine. It involves two parallel running crime stories that are told one arc at a time. Some of the character pieces are up on my DeviantArt Page. But I haven't posted any of the actual pages that I've done. Obviously, that would be my dream project, it being mine and all.
As far as people I like to work with, Adam Warren's a good friend of mine and I still enjoy working with him, whenever I have the opportunity. I get his panel to panel flow and sense of movement (we're quite different artists, but there are some similarities in our sensibilities there) and I think we work well together. And, let's face it, that run on Gen-13 was FUN and we kicked much arse on Livewires. David Mack is one of the very few writers who simply trusted me enough to leave much of the storytelling up to me and not take absolute, rigid control of it, shot for shot and down to the letter, in the script. It's stunning how unusual that is and that freedom enabled me to do some good things in Kabuki: Scarab (well, that and the material he wrote was great). The chance to repeat that with another character would be very appealing. I also enjoyed working with Devin Grayson on Arsenal. I'd be happy to work with any and all them again.
And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention colorist, Christina Strain. She's rocked the shit, the few times I've been lucky enough to work with her and I'd like to do more with her.
Other things that would constitute dream projects for me? Anything Resident Evil-related, involving the Jill Valentine character, or anything Silent Hill-related, involving the Heather Mason character (these subjects are addressed, rather indulgently, on my DA page). If Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall is actually happening, I think I'd ROCK on that. Also, a comic miniseries based on Let Me In (A film that I loved. Also, like Kick-Ass, featuring Chloe Moretz, who is AWESOME! Call me a fanboy, I'll own it.) is already out and I didn't get anywhere near that. That would've been nice and I'd have KILLED on it. Those would be examples of things that I would be elated to work on.