Before there was Mad Men, there was Madman.
Created in the early 1990s by indie illustrator Mike Allred, he became one of the big successes on the independent comics front standing side-by-side with Jeff Smith’s Bone as comics to be reckoned with. Over the years, Allred has continued to carve out new stories of the man known as Frank Einstein through miniseries and one-shots, while ratcheting up the mainstream comics ranks with work on Sandman, X-Statix and last year’s Wednesday Comics. But through it all he continued on his prize creation, etching out a world full of oddities in this four-color odyssey. In 2007, he took time to look back on what he’d done before, pulling together the early adventures of Madman and his Snap City universe into a massive tome titled Madman: Gargantua. But even then he didn’t have room to fit everything, and knew there would be more. And now there is.
Released earlier this month, Madman: Atomica acts as a companion volume to Madman: Gargantua, as an immense archive of all things Madman. The over-sized hardcover comes in at over 1000 pages, and collects the Madman Atomic Comics series as well as several other later one-shots and extras collected over the years. Counting it up, Madman: Atomica collect 37 single issues in one place — and that’s without factoring in the pinups and extras. Newsarama talked with Mike Allred about this career-spanning comic collection and the thought put into the final product.Newsarama: Mike, what led you to take on such a massive job of collecting all your Madman work here in Madman: Atomica and the previous Madman: Gargantua?
Mike Allred: When I first talked with Erik Larsen about going to Image, he suggested doing a massive oversized collection of the previous Madman books leading up to the new Madman Atomic Comics series. Of course I was instantly keen to the idea. So it just seemed to be a no-brainer after finishing the series and realizing how The Atomics tied in to everything to do a follow-up.
Nrama: In addition to the later Madman Atomic Comics and The Atomics series, you have a hefty assortment of extras, pin-ups and rarities. What would you say is the most rare thing collected here, and why?
Allred: I guess I would have to say the Atomics one-shots, back-up stories and obviously the bonus material that had never been collected or even printed before.
Nrama: The copy of Madman: Gargantua on my shelf comes in at a Rubenesque 852 pages. I haven’t seen Madman: Atomica yet, but how does it compare?
Allred: 1064 pages! You could really hurt somebody with this baby.
Nrama: How soon after you did finished the previous Madman: Gargantua collection did you start thinking about what would become Madman Atomica?
Allred: Probably not until I was wrapping up Madman Atomic Comics. I'm sure the seed was planted, but didn't seriously start working it out until sometime last year.
Nrama: Seeing as how you’re looking over all this art – did you go back and tune up any of the drawings or pages from how they were originally published?
Allred: Nope. I don't think so. Sometimes something might get re-colored, are re-scanned to improve the printing quality. Tempting, but the only time I can remember completely re-tooling anything was when I re-drew pages from Grafik Muzik for the "G-Men From Hell" storyline in Madman Comics. I'd never finish a page if I had to work on it until it was perfect. My goal is to always playfully experiment and work to improve with each new project.
Nrama: What’s it like to have this big part of your life summed up in two massive tomes on your bookshelf?
Allred: Mind-numbing. Truly. I remember listening to John Byrne and Frank Miller talking about how many pages Jack Kirby produced in his career and how no one would veer come close to matching him. Being a young pup, I remember thinking that I would be lucky to finish another 100. So, I can appreciate the time and love that has gone into those pages. But I have to agree with them now. No one will ever match Jack Kirby in any way at all.
Nrama: Although there’s a lot in these two hefty tomes, I imagine there’s some stuff that didn’t make it into the books – including some of the crossovers you’ve done with other people’s characters. Is there any of that, or other material, you hope to collect down the road?
Allred: Right. Everything is in there except for the Superman, The Jam, and Nexus crossovers. Also, the Powers crossover form an Oni Summer Special. I'd like to get those collected in the same format. I'll get started on that. There's the Grafik Muzik< stuff too, but I don't plan on ever collecting that since it was never finished. That's largely why I re-drew and incorporated a conclusion the G-Men stuff in Madman Comics which can be found in Madman: Gargantua.
Nrama: In addition to this, you’re also doing a unique project called Madman Giant-Size Super Ginchy Special – can you tell us about that?
Allred: Madman and the "Snap City Universe" is my home. Y'know, where my heart is. I can't stay away for too long. Years ago when I was busy with other projects, I might have been doing X-Force/X-Statix, we co-published the Madman King-Size Super Groovy Special with our pals at Oni Press. It just feels right that if I can't work steady on a regular series to do something big and "special". I loved that book. So, I knew when I started iZombie at DC/Vertigo with Chris Roberson and my very first editor ever, Shelly Bond, that I would have to use any spare time to make another special. And so, another Madman Special is born.So, just like the Groovy Special, the new Ginchy Special has a big main feature story by yours truly and then three back up stories--this time by Emi Lenox, Matt Kindt, and Tonci Zonjic. But this special is eight pages bigger than the first at 64 pages and has a nice grab bag of new pin-ups in the back too.
Nrama: These two collections are a big portion of your career, but there are a host of smaller projects I’d love to see back in print, from Dead Air to Crash Metro and a lot in-between. Any thoughts about doing these other projects in a new collection down the road?
Allred: Crash Metro may be the one creator-owned thing I've done that isn't clearly connected to the "Snap City Universe". I've even made some subtle connections between Snap City and the iZombie world. I was toying with putting Crash Metro in Madman Atomica, but it just didn't feel right, and the book was already so darned HUGE. It was in a previous Oni TPB, however. I'd love to work with Martin Ontiveros, my collaborator, on doing more Crash Metro and giving it its own deluxe treatment. There's a lot of spacey adventure to be mined with those characters.
Nrama: I know you’ve been extra busy as of late doing iZombie over at Vertigo, but is there a chance you will do more Madman work in the future?
Allred: No doubt! Absolutely! In fact, the biggest Madman book ever is on the horizon. Now that Madman: Atomica and the new special are hitting the shelves at your local comic shop, I'll start giving the details on the Madman 20th Anniversary Monster! It'll literally be the biggest. This will be an 11 x 17 inch hard cover book with my most epic Madman story taking the lead, followed by stunning gigantic brand-new strips from all three Hernandez Bros., Matt Wagner, Frank Quitely, Paul Pope, Bernie Mireault, Joe Quinones, Peter Bagge, Dean Haspiel, Dave Cooper, Pat McKeown, Eric Powell, Darwyn Cooke, Philip Bond & Peter Milligan, Jay Stephens, Erik Larsen, David Mack, Craig Thompson, Michael Avon Oeming, Jeff Smith, Al Columbia, Steven T, Seagle & Teddy Kristiansen, and Kyle Baker. Also, a framing device by Jamie S. Rich, Valentino, and myself, A new essay on 20 years of indie characters and those who came before by Adam McGovern illustrated by me and Michel Fiffe...and if that weren't enough, every pin-up from the past 20 years , including Kirby, Frazetta, Moebius, Stevens, Toth and massive stack of new ones I'm just getting in.
All this just in time for Thanksgiving! I see this book as my introduction to the next couple decades of my career making comic books.Visit Newsarama on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and tell us what you think!