Behind the Red Velvet Rope of MIKE ALLRED's Mind with X-RAY ROBOT

X-Ray Robot
Credit: Tradd Moore (Dark Horse Comics)
Credit: Michael Allred/Laura Allred (Dark Horse Comics)

Madman creator Michael Allred is back creating an all new creator-owned superhero - two, actually, with X-Ray Robot.

The hero's titular debut series will debut March 25, telling the story of a scientist named Max Wildey who accidently opens a door in reality, and in walks a 277-year-old robot who claims to be Max - from the future. Described as a "psychedelic sci-fi adventure" by publisher Dark Horse Comics, X-Ray Robot is a new hero joining Allred's inter-connected creator-owned universe centered on Madman.

Ahead of the release, Newsarama sat down with Allred to discuss the project, his style, and a few other notable signatures of his work.

Michael & Laura Allred
Michael & Laura Allred
Credit: AAA Pop

Newsarama: Mike, what was your experience like hopping back into the world of creator-owned characters here with X-Ray Robot? What excites you most? Do you have any trepidations?

Michael Allred: No trepidations. I’m actually constantly working on my creator-owned stuff, but with what little spare time I have.

Always on my mind. Always in progress. Just in a little sectioned-off part of my brain behind a red velvet rope.

Nrama: How long has X-Ray Robot been in development? When did you first start working on it with Darl Horse, and why do you think they wanted to publish it?

Credit: Michael Allred/Laura Allred (Dark Horse Comics)

Allred: You could ask our editor Daniel Chabon. Easily one of the most patient individuals I’ve ever known. It’s been several years since we first sat down to discuss it.  And why would Dark Horse want to publish it? A very good question indeed. [Publisher] Mike Richardson has always been very kind and supportive of what we do. Dark Horse is a very treasured touchstone for us. It’s been a real treat doing something with them again.

Nrama: From what we’ve read, X-Ray Robot will tie in somehow to your other creator-owner title, Madman. What’s the connection there? Are you building a larger universe?

Allred: Oh yeah! Been doing that for decades. If you look closely, all of my solo creations tie-in together. I’m now starting to make the threads clearer and more integral.

Credit: Michael Allred/Laura Allred (Dark Horse Comics)

Nrama: Ahead of the first issue’s release, what would you say is the key to crafting a good first issue of a comic series? Especially a creator-owned series?

Allred: Interesting characters is always a good place to start. Put the reader in a situation they can invest in, or find compelling, and then turn ‘em loose.

Nrama: Building off of that, how does a creator-owner series build an audience? Especially in an industry dominated by Big Two heroes?

Allred: It can be like capturing lightning in a bottle. If there’s a secret formula, it’s beyond me.

You can only do your best work and hope it connects. Few things are more powerful than buzzy positive word of mouth. You can throw a lot of money at something, like a big budget studio film, but if there’s no positive buzz, it evaporates. If I at least entertain myself, selfishly I admit. At least my heart is in the right place satisfying my creative impulses. And so far, enough people show up to allow me to keep going. I never take that for granted with ever-increasing gratitude.

Credit: Chris Samnee/Matthew Wilson (Dark Horse Comics)

Nrama: Now, let’s talk about the titular character, Max Wilding, the X-Ray Robot. Max can x-ray alternate dimensions, a power that comes with some trippy, psychedelic imagery. Which came first, the art or the powers? Tell us about the process of making his powers come to life visually.

Allred: I have to admit that’s purely instinctual on my part. And then Laura [Allred] takes my black-and-white scribbling and injects everything with her psychedelic magic.

Nrama: Is everything we see happen to Max in X-Ray Robot #1 literal? Or are some of the panels only representative of what's going on between dimensions?

Allred: That would be telling. That’s something I definitely want to allow each reader to discover and interpret on their own.

Credit: David Rubin (Dark Horse Comics)

Nrama: Tthere are several images in X-Ray Robot inspired by David Bowie. You also just released a graphic biography of him, Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams. Why is David Bowie so important to your comics?

Allred: I discovered David Bowie as a child when I saw his spaceman persona jumping off a magazine cover while looking for comics at the neighborhood drugstore. I started buying all his records and the imagery in my brain exploded. Only the Beatles and Pink Floyd have come close to igniting my brain in that way. So I often pay homage from time to time.

Nrama: Now, along with each of the four issues of X -Ray Robot, you’re releasing 3-D pin-ups of the characters. Can you tell us how those came about? Why are they coming along with the comic?

Credit: Greg Smallwood (Dark Horse Comics)

Allred: One of our great pals, Christian LeBlanc, created the 3D conversions for the Eisner-nominated Madman 3-D Special. Best 3-D comic I’ve ever seen. Just beautiful work! And we talk about converting anything and everything to 3-D just for fun. Fortunately for everybody, Christian had the time and inclination to do these. I’m always looking for some way to make our comics have extra levels of playfulness. Thanks to Christian these are pure bonus!

Nrama: Is there a potential for X-Ray Robot to continue beyond these four issues? Or is the saga of Max Wilding going to end here?

Allred: Well, I don’t want to telegraph too much, but I will say that all of my creations have the potential to interact and continue on multiple levels.

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