Interview: Doug Mahnke

posted by Andrew Cross

Doug Mahnke is a local comic book artist who has worked in the industry since the early 90s. Starting out at Dark Horse on titles like The Mask and Aliens, Doug has since applied his talent to Superman: Man of Steel, JLA, Justice League Elite, Batman, Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein, Stormwatch P.H.D and is currently on Green Lantern. The following is an interview I did with Doug at the recent Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2).

Your art has a gritty, real feel to it. Because of the darker tonal shift in the popular movie versions of DC characters, do you feel this is why your style is in such demand lately?

No, as far as gritty and real. I don’t even know how I look at my art work, to tell you the truth. I’m always willing to make changes and improve things. Gritty and real? Reality is gritty and real. Comic books still just look like comic books to me.

You live in Minnesota, you have a beautiful wife, many beautiful kids, and a bunny. Why is your stuff so dark then?

I don’t know. [Smiles] An outgrowth of my own twisted brain. I may have nice kids, a nice wife, a nice bunny, a nice dog, but none of that counteracts the natural…I would just say, darkness, that exists within me. I just overcome it, via them. They’re the good part of me.

Artists are always talking about tough deadlines. Do you see them as a necessary evil or as something to make you work in more creative ways?

Well, they aren’t going to make you work more creatively. They are definitely going to apply stress and the people who can work through deadlines, you know, do. That in itself gives you a reputation or something that a company can rely on. Some people crumble under deadlines. I just write through the occasion. If you want people to come back to you, if you can combine good quality art with the ability to get something done, you’re in. You’re golden.

Does living in Minnesota bring any advantages or disadvantages to your work?

Yeah, because people from Minnesota are absolutely fantastic and cool people. Why wouldn’t you want people from Minnesota working in this business? [Laughs] Ah, you know. Hey, you’re Minnesotan. I’m Minnesotan. Think of it as a special bond. Do we bond with the New Yorkers? I don’t know. We do our best. [Laughs]

You’re currently doing War of the Green Lanterns. Does it ever feel overwhelming being attached to these huge events?

Just in the sense that the deadlines can be painful, but that’s just part of the business, just like anything else. Just like if you own a restaurant. You get up early, you open early [and] close late. Comics are no different. If you got the responsibility you’ve got to take it and run with it.

Ever wanted to return to the Alien universe?

I haven’t thought of it in a long time really. When I look back on what I did, it’s more along the lines of, “I wish I’d done it a little better,” but technically that could be said for a number of projects.

Ever wanted to return to Major Bummer at all?

Of course! Major Bummer is a personal project. That’s mine. Is there time to do it? No, not right now, but my career is not over. In a perfect world, yeah, I’ll get to do more Bummer. It just isn’t going to be any time soon.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Action Comics #775. Any thoughts on it?

Wow. It’s been 10 years? You know Joe Kelly. What a fantastic story. I don’t know if we ever thought it was going to be thought of so greatly. It’s stood the test of time, and you know you can really thank the fact that Joe felt very strongly about that kind of story. He wanted it to be told and to show that good guys still do and can win. And he did it right.

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 at 8:20 pm