Catching Up with Dwight MacPherson - M-Theory and More

Catching Up with Dwight MacPherson

Dwight L. MacPherson has established himself as a prolific creator, with multiple new graphic novels and miniseries in 2008 alone. August sees the release of the second volume of his dark fantasy series, from Image, The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo, along with a collection of his pirate-themed horror series, Dead Men Tell No Tales from Arcana Studios. And September brings a project MacPherson’s especially proud of, the 1950s-set pulp thriller M-Theory, co-written with Bruce Brown and featuring art by Mark Barentine. With all this going on, we went straight to MacPherson to find out more about these projects.

Newsarama: Dwight, you’ve got at least three things to talk about – so let’s start with Edgar Allan Poo Book Two.

Dwight MacPherson: Book Two begins pretty much where the first book leaves off. Without giving away too much, the Nightmare King has decided to launch an all-out assault on Poo. So war breaks out, with the armies of the Nightmare King vs. the armies of the Terra Somnium, led by the Maghi. So it’s a war, they’re trying to capture and destroy Edgar Allan Poo.

NRAMA: So it’s all happy-happy stuff…

DMacP: Well, I compare it to The Two Towers….un, The Two Towers of Poo. But yeah, it’s a war, and it’s a war for the dream child, and…man! I could say more, but I don’t want to give away too much, you know?

NRAMA: How is this different from Book One?

DMacP: Book Two is…a bit darker. In Book One, there were assassins sent after Poo…in Book Two, it’s an all-out assault, all the armies of the Nightmare King sent out to capture and destroy Poo.

NRAMA: And it sounds like there will be consequences for characters we care about…

DMacP: Definitely. As you remember, at the end of the first book, Poo was reunited with Poe. But he wants to free Virginia, and there will be some consequences involved for all the people of Terra Somnium. I won’t say what happens to whom, but it won’t be a clear-cut victory. It will also bring a lot more closure to a lot of questions from the first book.

We’ve planned this as a long-form epic, and this answers some questions from Book One…and this will also raise some new questions that, God willing, will be answered in Book Three. But we do tie it up with a nice bow at the end, so if the story ends with Book Two, everyone will still be happy with the ending.

NRAMA: How long do you see this running, ultimately?

DMacP: Well, I originally saw it as three volumes…

NRAMA: Trilogy!

DMacP: Yes! But the way that the third book ends still holds the possibility of future graphic novels. It does have closure, there is a definite end, but there’s also a window left open…depending on sales, we could do more.

NRAMA: Now, you’re working with a new artist in this volume…

DMacP: Yeah, Thomas Boatwright is not working on this volume, which is illustrated by Avery Butterworth. He’s done some work for Heavy Metal and White Wolf Publishing, but this is his first actual “mainstream” project. His art is a little darker than Thomas’ – it fits the mood of the story perfectly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thomas Boatwright’s art fervently, but Avery really brings a darker tone to the story that compliments it. I think people will be very happy with his style.

NRAMA: Have you adjusted your writing toward his style?

DMacP: To be honest, I didn’t, because I always intended the second book to be darker anyway – and when I say “darker,” I don’t mean, you know, like 30 Days of Night (laughs), but…going back to the analogy, it’s like how The Two Towers got darker after The Fellowship of the Ring. Thomas Boatwright, he had to move on to some other work he had to do, and I’d known Avery for about five years, so I said, “Dude, you want to do the second book?” and he was all, “Hells, yeah!”

The guy is a machine! Good lord! He did 96 pages like that. And he colored a lot of the first volume, and that style remains the same for Volume Two. So it’s not too big of a jump, but it is different.

NRAMA: Next is the collection of Dead Men Tell No Tales

DMacP: Thank God! I thought it would never happen.

NRAMA: It has been a while…

DMacP: I think it was February 2007 when Dead Men issue #4 came out.

NRAMA: What’s been the hold-up?

DMacP: Well, Arcana is a smaller studio, and trades are an expensive beast to put together, you know? And they wanted a deal with Diamond Books, so we could move as many copies as possible. So a lot of it was putting together the distribution and making sure it’s as successful as possible. That’s what they tell me, anyway! (laughs) I have no reason not to believe them, though – they’ve been great to work with.

NRAMA: Any new material in this?

DMacP: Well, they did contact me about that…which was at the same time I was putting Edgar Allan Poo and Kid Houdini together…

NRAMA: So it sounds like you had no time to breathe at that point…

DMacP: Exactly! (laughs) What we did, though, was we put the four issues together, and the prose stories, and there’s a new forward from B. Clay Moore…I’m very thankful to him for doing that. He was pretty busy himself, but he got it in in a timely manner, and I really appreciated it.

NRAMA: Any plans for more Dead Men tales in the future?

DMacP: I actually wrote a sequel called Dead Men: Decimation, and I know pencils are done for all three issues, but it’s a matter of getting inks and letters together. But it’s coming soon, I know that.

NRAMA: And next we have M-Theory. What can you tell us about this book?

DMacP: M-Theory is everything I love about the 1920s through the 1950s – movie serials, radio serials, EC Comics, the great pulp movies, Radar Men on the Moon – all that stuff.

NRAMA: Who are the main characters?

DMacP: One is Dr. Friedrick Goetz. He’s a government scientist, he works at Area 51, he was one of the first respondents at Roswell. The book portrays a very different situation of what happened at Roswell…the mythology says it was a UFO crash; I paint it somewhat differently.

Another character is Agnes Font; she’s a prodigy. Her mentor is Dr. Albert Einstein at Princeton University. And for her master’s, she’s developing a device that can pick up transmissions from other dimensions.

And then you have Captain Bishop and his team, which is known as “Deep Space Expeditionary Force Number One.” And they’re in deep space and looking for intelligent life at the fringes of our galaxy.

Now, how all this ties together is that these three groups receive a transmission from another dimension -- an other-dimensional being has this apocalyptic message that the Earth will be destroyed. And people will just have to read the book to see what happens! (laughs)

I took ideas from some places like The Outer Limits – I think it was called “The Borderland,” where these scientists have created a dimensional portal and this guy goes into it…that was just really interesting to me. There was another episode where the guy had the same kind of device, and he was drawing power from the radio tower – “The Galaxy Being.” Like I said, it’s really everything I love about that era.

NRAMA: Who’s the artist on this?

DMacP: The artist is a guy named Mark Barentine. He’s a tattoo artist in Austin, Texas. Let me tell you – I have shown this to my agent and manager, and they were just blown away by it. The book just looks great.

NRAMA: How many issues is this?

DMacP: It’s three issues, but there’s room for a sequel – and a prequel! You’ll get to know these characters and their background and everything. It’s such a rich story that it’s been a lot of fun. And like all good SF, it has a bit of social commentary.

Being able to take all these things I love and put them in one place and have it make sense…man, it’s just amazing! The people who love pulp – this will be such a nostalgic event for them. The people who haven’t read pulp – this will definitely whet their appetite and let them see how cool it is.

NRAMA: Well, one thing that recurs in your work is fun – some of it has some darker, supernatural themes, but it usually falls on the side of humor or at least high-energy.

DMacP: Right. There’s a lot of humor in this, but it doesn’t go overboard – it’s not like Atomic Robo, for instance, which I loved, but that’s more of a comedic noir tale. This has a very poignant message at its heart – and a kind of sinister reality to it, if that makes sense. It really speaks about the human condition – but people will have to read it to find out what I mean. (laughs)

But I really did get to the point where I finished the script for the third issue, and went back and read the whole thing, and thought, “Wow, why hasn’t anyone done this before? I would have gone crazy over it.” And Mike’s art – it’s so energetic and really captures the drama, not the melodrama, but the pure drama of the serials themselves.

I am so proud to finally see this being published. It’s been sitting in a folder for about six months, but it’s something I really, really wanted to do, and because of the success of some of my other stuff, I was able to pitch it to Shadowline. I am so grateful to Kris and Jim for giving me a chance, and giving this book a chance.

NRAMA: Now, you're releasing M-Theory through [Image imprint] Shadowline initially, but you're moving on from there, correct?

DMacP: That's correct. M-Theory #1 will be published through Shadowline, and then all issues will be available through Chimaera Studio. Edgar Allan Poo Book Two will also be released by Shadowline and then made available online as well. Both series will be offered both as single issues and later as trade paperbacks through Chimaera Studios.

NRAMA: Why did you decide to move on from Shadowline?

DMacP: It isn't so much that I decided to move on from Shadowline, it's more that I decided to move toward Chimaera Studios. Publisher George Singley has been a friend of mine for a long time, so when he approached me with his business plan and offered a position with the company, I jumped at it.

Chimaera's business plan--as laid out by George and Ken Levin--is structured to put the power of choice in the reader's hands while offering creators several ways to benefit from their hard work. By offering digital downloads, POD (Print on Demand) hard copies and Diamond solicited trades, readers have several options when it comes to getting their books.

Heck, I'm old-school. I want to have the comic in my hands. But why not read the book online and put that $3.50 in your car for gas instead? In today's economy, readers need options, and, when it comes right down to it, many readers can't get all the books they want simply because they can't afford them.

With Chimaera Studios, that isn't a problem. Readers can always read the books for free and then, as their budget allows, pick up single issues or graphic novels. Readers are our valuable patrons, and Chimaera will always strive to increase their options and give them what they want.

NRAMA: So how will your new system of distribution work?

DMacP: Well, as I said, readers can download our comics now. But for those who would like to have single issues, Chimaera is setting up a shop on their website where readers can order copies. As each series wrap up, Chimaera will be soliciting the trades through Diamond, so they will be available through comic shops, bookstores and Chimaera's online shop.

NRAMA: What appealed to you about POD? How do you feel about it as a direction for comics?

DMacP: To be honest, many, many small press books are not even breaking even. As a result, books are being canceled and some creators are even getting stuck with bills from their publishers. On the flip-side, readers are feeling the pain and frustration of the cancellations, too.

Using a POD publisher protects readers and creators from having to undergo these painful experiences. It's really a win-win situation for everyone.

NRAMA: What else do you have coming up?

DMacP: Well, I recently spoke with some movie studios about some of my pitches, so hopefully, we’ll have some good news soon! Kid Houdini has really opened some doors in Hollywood – and that was another case of me saying, “Hey, this is what I loved as a kid – the Hardy Boys, Scooby-Doo…” I really took it apart and found what made it work, and put it back together.

My 12-year-old loves it, all my relatives love it…at least they tell me they do (laughs). But I wrote it for my kids, and I wrote Edgar Allan Poo to encourage them to read the classics, because those seem to get pushed further and further back in schools…I think it speaks volumes about America and our educational system…

NRAMA: But it sounds like you have a ton of stuff in the pipeline.

DMacP: (laughs) Well, I’ve got some pitches in some pretty unexpected places. I can’t talk about them right now, but I’m at the point now where I get a rejection letter, I just go, “Okay, on to the next place” and keep going. Nobody’s gonna stop me now.

The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo Book Two is in stores Aug.27. Dead Men Tell No Tales is available with Diamond Order Code JUN08 3650 M-Theory hits shelves on Sept.17; its order code is JUL08 222.

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