followed the work of Mark Wheatley almost from the moment
I rediscovered comics, back in the mid-80s, and Ive
had the pleasure of knowing him almost as long. Marks
been one of the constants on the con circuit for years,
and like his work, conversations with him can be deeply
insightful, even illuminating one moment, and bust-a-gut
hilarious the next.
its that dichotomy, those alternating currents of
the sublime and the ridiculous, which actually gets to
the heart of the matter of both the man and his work.
An avowed and avid fan of many things old and nostalgic,
hes typically among the first to embrace and fully
exploit the newest of technologies. Furthermore, Id
argue that its his constant consideration of whats
past and whats to come, that balancing of the old
with the freshly minted, which marks him as one of the
mediums Renaissance men
Baker: Youve been doing a lot of work online,
as opposed to print, over the past few years. Howd
that come about?
Wheatley: Well, it came about because Mike Gold and
I have maintained pretty close contact over the years,
ever since I first worked with him on the book Mars for
First Comics. And, weve constantly come up with
projects that we wanted to do, and some of them we published
and some of them have been just flights of fancy. For
the last, I dont know, decade, Mike and I had been
discussing various ways to make newspaper comics viable.
not specifically newspaper comics, but where we kept ending
up was some form of a newspaper publication. And what
we realized we were really shooting for was a venue which
would allow us to present a lot of variety, and also reach
a general public, as opposed to the comic shop publicnot
that theres anything wrong with the comic shop public,
but its a limited audience, and we know theres
a lot more people outside of the comic shops than in them.
we were just looking for different ways to do this. And
we thought of tabloids that would be advertising supported,
that would only contain comics. And then we thought about
supplements, and we got some distance down the road to
putting some of this together. But none of it ever happened
because, as you might have noticed, that old technology
of newspapers has been dying quickly, and even at the
time we were pursuing it, budgets were getting slashed.
ideas just kept popping around, and we just kept talking.
And then one day
such a mixture in this; Mike and I were at the Windy City
Pulp Convention in Chicago, because we are very recidivistic,
in addition to being very adventurous with the technology,
and we both love old things like pulps and old time radio.
He decided we had to have some barbeque, which is not
unusual with Mike. And over barbeque he said, Ive
got this deal that Im putting together, and youre
the first to know about it. And weve got to go online
with these things, and thats what were going
I said, OK, what makes this special?
said, It s financed.
I said, Ooooooooh! [General laughter]
That does make a big difference, doesnt it?
It makes a huge difference, because it meant from
that point on, we were actively talking about doing it,
as opposed to how to do it.
And that project was, of course, Comicmix.com.
Yes it was. I believe it was in May  that we
had that discussion, and Mike told me I should pitch him
an idea. So, I asked, Well, what kind of ideas are
you looking for? And he said, I would like
you to do whatever you want to do. I said, Oooh,
I like that!
so, I came back and I think I pitched him a couple science
fiction ideas, and a pulpy idea, and he said, Yeah,
these are wonderful, but I think youve got something
better in you. I said, OK, and he said,
I d really like one of those amazingly weird Mark
Wheatley ideas. So I go, Oh. Ooooh!
I went back and within a day I had the idea that had been
percolating for a long time, which was EZ Street. It
was something I had wanted to do for a long time, because
I felt like comics have
a group of people who create comics, we have a low self
esteem problem. And part of that manifests in that we
never really include ourselves in the worlds that we create
in our comics. You know, its a normal thing to have
characters go to a newspaper office in a comic as a plot
point, but we rarely end up at a comic book shop, or interrupt
someone on the subway while theyre reading a comic.
It happens more now than it used to, but certainly, even
a couple years ago, it was rare.
so I wanted to do the equivalent of the old Mickey Rooney
idea where he says, Hey, Ive got all these
costumes! And then somebody else goes, Hey,
I've got a barn we can turn into a stage, lets put
on a show! You know, the stories where you get that
enthusiasm of people who perhaps didnt normally
do comics, but wanted to do comics, and I wanted to show
the enthusiasm, what was involved in getting it made,
and the frustrations and the joys. It would be all about
getting behind the scenes, letting the readers experience
what its like on the other side of the page.
Now, you have a co-creator on that strip, right?
I do. A wonderful, wonderful creator. Weve know
each other for a long time. He's Robert Tinnell, who I
call Bob, and, apparently his wife calls Bobby. He and
I met way back when Bill Wilson was publishing Questar
magazine, which would have been in the 80s. And Bob was
an apprentice or an assistant in the office, and I paid
no attention to him. [General laughter]
he remembered me, and years later I was introduced to
him at a Pittsburgh Comicon by a good mutual friend of
ours, Neil Vokes, who I've worked with a number of times.
Bob was still actively working on the movies that he was
directing and writing at the time. We just stayed in touch,
and we saw each other at conventions, and shared beers
and stories, and gradually started a phone relationship
where we talked about everything under the sunas
you know how that happensand we started talking,
like most creative people do, about that one day when
we would work on a project together.
when I thought of this project, it was obvious to me that
the only person who could write this with me was Bob,
because he had the background. The two brothers in the
story of EZ Street, one wants to be a comic book artist,
the other wants to direct motion pictures, and theyre
just perfect analogues for Bob and me.
remarked on this a lot of the times when we were working
on the story; that it was uncanny that he and I would
spin out a scenario for the next scene or sequence in
EZ Street and then, within the next couple of days,
the real thing would happen to one of us. [General laughter]
It was quite freaky there for a while.
it worked extremely well. Bobs a wonderful collaborator,
and we realized after wed ended EZ Street, that
our rhythms are very similar. By that I mean, we both
work very hard and get a lot done on deadline. And one
of the biggest factors is, when we get an idea, we can
have it done lickety-split. We're really fast. We've got
a lot of energy. And another good thing is that were
both very industrious at going out and letting everybody
know what were doing. [Laughter]
it was nice to have a team mate who I could push up against,
and he would be there, as opposed to some creators that
I've worked with who've been marvelous on the creation
end, but soft on everything else, like communication,
and promotion, and also speed. That immediacy of getting
it done quickly is very satisfying and even inspiring.
Because these days, when I actually have a week where
I can devote time to work, I can do nine or ten pages
a week. And Bob can work a script in a month, you know?
[Laughter] It's amazing. So, we work well together.
Mike Oeming and I, if you locked us in a room, could create
a comic book company. [General laughter]
And thats before lunch!
Yeah, right! [More laughter] So, thank god no ones
done that! [Still more laughter]
Or, if they do that, they better have some money to back
And cloning technology perfected, too. Because, you
know, I've gotten spoiled.
I've done everything. I've published. I've invented technology
for comics. I've written. I've drawn. I've edited. I've
done everything. And nothing has been sweeter than just
being able to just write and draw my own stories.
Well, when EZ Street ended, you guys started doing a
sequel of sorts.
Lone Justice, which was either an uncanny spin off or,
if youre cynical, made EZ Street the largest promotional
campaign of all time. [General laughter]
For those who might not have seen it yet, how would you
describe that project?
Well, first of all, EZ Street succinctly is a story
about two brothers who want to create, and Lone Justice
is what they end up creating, which is a Pulp story set
in the 1930s. It has a character in it named Lone Justice,
and we say we have to describe this story as being a four-fisted
adventure because two fists are just not enough to describe
it. [General laughter]
Now, is there a definitive arc to this particular story,
or is it something you two could just keep on doing for
the foreseeable future?
Well, you know, every story has an implied next story.
Life never ends. [Laughter] As long as theres imagination,
you can come up with the next story.
seem to have had an incredible long string of big event
comics that I actually had ideas for the next story that
we've never gotten to. And that has less to do with me,
and more to do with companies going out of business and
things like that over the years.
Lone Justice has a very definite arc. And it will have
a big ending [featuring] lots of fights and explosions.
[Laughter] But, if we wished, we could do another one.
Well, my next question is when these tales might move
from the web into a media that we can hold in our hands?
Well, that question is wide open there, Bill, because,
yeah, if they appeared on say, as an example, the Kindle,
yeah, you could hold it.
Or if it was on the PSP, you can hold it.
So those are headed in that direction, then?
Theyre already there. You can read it on your iPhone.
for this particular title, its not there yet. It
wont come out [in that format] until the books
in print, which is where I think you were headed with
Yeah, but to say, Will we be able to hold it?
see, that really doesn't define it anymore. You have to
use that word "print." [General laughter]
Point well taken.
for those Luddites like me, who don't own an iPhone
Yeah, me either. [General laughter]
know, I've noticed an interesting phenomena; all my friends
own iPhones. And I know this because you cant get
together with them anymore without them whipping it out
for some innocuous reason. Oh, let me check my iPhone!
[General laughter] Oh, here, let me just look at
that comic book from 1968 that I like so much. Yes, here
Let me play air guitar and pretend that Im
in a rock n roll band that you cant
Yeah, exactly. So, you can say youre a Luddite,
but the bottom line is youre exposed to this technology
constantly, and you just cant not know about it.
Its just out there.
the great thing is that we will be having books in print.
And I know a lot of folks who dont believe its
for real until its in print. But I think that day
is almost passed. I think that print will be around for
a while, but the fact that it would be real in print,
I think thats the day thats passed.
Its just another type of platform already, in a
very real sense, then?
Yes. Its just one of many, and one that doesn't
sell as much as the other ones. [Laughter]
Is that because of cost, or
Its all about access, I believe.
Exactly, distribution, really, is becoming one of
the main questions, too.
And the truth is, is that if youre on iTunes, lots
of people can get to you.
is the publisher, and theyre just really forward-thinking.
They've just lined up so many deals with the different
distribution platforms. I mean, being on Play Station,
my god, thats the largest gaming consol in the world.
The Xbox? Yeah, cool. But, Play Station? Thats the
big one. And to be able to push our stories out through
that channel is just going to be amazing.
Yeah, and then theres the various platforms supported
by the Play Station. For example, I could easily see The
Mark Wheatley Library being on a disc for Play Station.
Sure. But, you know, there you go again. Youre dealing
with a physical object. And I've got to tell ya that,
for the younger audience, physical objects are like a
non sequitur. Why? Why would you want a physical
object? I mean, I could download it right now.
s all about now. Just like my cat says all the time. [General
Right. Its all about content and immediacy.
Yeah. Yeah, why wait until you go out? Even if youre
ordering it from Amazon, its going to take a day
or two to get here.
And by then, its likely that you've forgotten
Yeah. Yeah, and thats us saying that, but I know
the young guys in the neighborhood here? They want it
now, and its all about now. Their parents may be
renting from Netflix; they re just downloading.
Well, how did EZ Street, Lone Justice and all your other
books end up at IDW? I ask, because I know you've got
more than just those two projects coming out under their
Well, thats true, Bill.
always intended to have a print platform, and thats
why the online readers you can read the comics on at ComicMix.com
are set up like turning pages in a comic book. And Mike
Gold was out there, exploring the deal possibilities for
close to two years, and we had a great deal of interest
from several major, major players in publishingboth
from over at the completely book publishing end of the
spectrum, all the way over to the comic book publishers.
And the one publisher that stood out above the crowd,
for a lot of reasons, was IDW.
have to admit, I was a little skeptical, because they
were a comic book publisher, and I was looking for a larger
platform base. But, what I didn't know was that they were
doing all this work on other platforms. [Laughter] And
it wasn't until we got into the nitty gritty of the negotiations
that I said, Wow, these guys have really got it
going! [More laughter]
since a lot of my books are involved with this, Mike was
very considerate in letting me know what was going on
during the negotiations. And when he finally presented
the multiplatform basis for this thing, I just said, Go
for it! And thats where we are. Were
with IDW, where they seem to have a penchant for collecting
amazingly good people.
The multiplatform aspect is obviously very key, but you
mentioned that there were several reasons that IDW was
the obvious choice. What are some of those other reasons
for going with IDW?
Amazingly good people. [Laughter]
Goldsteins a really, really smart, accomplished
guy whos running that company these days. Ted Adams,
of course, his track record with the company is a matter
of record. He's just made no misstep that I can see. Chris
Ryall is a very aggressive, hands-on editor who knows
how to keep a shop running, and he's pulled together a
lot of great titles and licenses over the years. And the
staff hes put together, who are in the trenches,
are great to work with. For my graphic novels, Im
working with Justin Eisinger, who is just an excellent
editor, an absolutely excellent editor.
another thing, they re employing real proofreaders. [Laughter]
its so much of a relief that Frankenstein Mobster,
which came out for Halloween, went through the wringer.
I almost think of course, this will never happen for real
but I almost think we dont have any typos in there,
anymore. [More laughter]
always a few that seem to squeak through. You know, that
final test for a typo is to go ahead and publish it. And
then you open the book randomly to any page, and there
it is! [More general, knowing, laughter]
And its always the first thing you see! Its
not like you have to search for it, it just jumps at you.
Yes. Yes, it slaps you in the face. Yeah, its
an amazing phenomenon that happens over and over and it
hits you even faster the higher the print run. [Yet more
anyway, they have really good proofreaders. Robby Robertson
is an excellent designer, who heads up their production
department. He's just amazing. Jeff Webber, who runs their
electronic digital platform division, he's from Andrews
MacNeel, that was his background and he set up Hallmark
Cards stuff online. He's just really good. There are just
so many good people!
theres Bob Schreck, whos coming in, and Scott
Dunbier. And thats just the people in the office.
So, its all about good people. They've bucked the
average here. I've never seen so many good people in one
You mentioned that Frankenstein Mobster came out recently.
Is that a comprehensive collection, or a director
s cut, if you prefer?
Uhm, no. [General laughter]
this specifically is the Made Man graphic novel, which
was originally published as a series of comic books from
Image about two years ago. And thats now coming
out through IDW in a collection that includes an additional
30-some pages of material, which are some new pages that
I had always intended to be in there, but we had to cut
for space reasons when we were originally running it as
a series of comic books.
includes all the original covers by me. It also includes
all the covers by people like Bernie Wrightson, and Alex
Nino, and Adam Hughes, Jerry Ordway, Mike Wieringo, George
Freeman, Scott Morse, Angelo Torres
not forgetting anybody. [Laughter] It was like a list
of Marks Favorite Artists. [More laughter]
Anyway, it was a real trip to get all those folks involved
with my project.
I also have a Behind the Scenes section which
includes my development artwork and paintings and things
I had done to get this series up to speed. So, yeah, its
a wonderful little package. IDW is great about the extras.
We've got all sorts of cool little embossing tricks going
on, and folding on the cover, and different kinds of varnish
coats we can put on for specific effects. Its nice
to be working with a company thats wide open to
the possibilities of print, still.
Since this isn't the definitive cut, so to speak, and
you've got more material featuring Frankenstein Mobster,
does that bode well for that character s future?
Oh, it bodes very well. Yeah, theres a new Frankenstein
Mobster story online at ComicMix.com, right now, which
was done as one of the Munden's Bar episodes. And I did
that in collaboration with a writer whose name is M. J.
J. and I have had an internet connection for years now,
because he produced a series of radio show parodies a
few years back that are just absolutely dead on, rip it
apart in an extremely side-splittingly funny way, the
old Pulpyhere we go againradio shows that
you would hear from The Shadow, or Doc Savage, or something
like that. It was called Two Minute Danger Theatre, and
in little two minute episodes he would do this character
The Voice, whose only power is this ability
to throw his voice. [General laughter] And he just follows
this through with deadly logic about where this would
go, and it is so funny. Its one of the funniest
things I've heard in my whole life.
I enjoyed working so much with Bob Tinnell on these books
but one of the side factors of working with Bob was that
he was just enough extra Mark Wheatley extender
to allow me to devote more attention to telling the story,
rather than all the mechanics of putting it together.
So I thought, You know, if Im going to do
another Frankenstein Mobster, Id like to have the
same sort of thing.
and I had discussed Frankenstein Mobster on a couple of
occasions, but he had a really serious take on it, while
M. J. has this sense of humor, and I wanted to crank up
the humor ina character way, not in a slapstick
way, because I think theres a serious story in Frankenstein
Mobster. But I also think that the contrast of comic relief
in it is something thats important, and M. J. has
just been absolutely brilliant in pulling that together.
And I can say that with a great deal of authority, because
we've got over 200 pages of script written now for the
graphic novel thats next up.
So that should keep you busy for a couple weeks at
Are you looking at that coming out for 2010?
You know, that was the original plan. But, right now,
its suddenly up in the air, because I've had another
project drop into my lap that would come first. And I
cant talk about that yet. All I can say is that
it could come together very quickly, and I'll be happy
to let you know when it does. If it doesn't come together,
then, yes, Frankenstein Mobsters the next one up.
OK. Now, I know that theres at least one other book
for sure, that's come out through IDW, and thats
your book with Oeming.
Yes, Hammer of the Gods: Mortal Enemy, our first volume
of that series came out, I think, on the first Wednesday
in October. And that, again, was a chance for us to get
it right. Going back to the Mars book they published,
the collection, every time we've done a book there, their
ability to get it right
bears on our talking earlier about technology. When I
first started working on Mars, way back in the 1990s,
I had this thought that it would be a good idea to keep
reproduction-quality materials available, in case we wanted
to print it again at some point. Now, I know this has
plagued a few other folks, but we had the foresight to
keep perfect copies of the line art for Mars. So we were
able to recolor it and just make it beautiful. Its
like having an HD quality comic book. [Laughter]
for Hammer of the Gods, we were in the same boat. We had
our digital files at a high resolution, from back when
we did them originally as black and white, when we originally
published Hammer of the Gods through Insight [Studios],
before it went to Image in color. So we've always had
the highest quality material to work with.
added material to this edition of Hammer. Its got
more in it than was in the Image volume. Theres
new artwork and character designs, illustrations, write
ups, things of that sort, and new covers. But, essentially,
the story is still the same [one] that was originally
told in Mortal Enemy, which gives the origin of our character
Modi, the Viking boy who is cursed to never touch a weapon.
And therein lies his frustrations, because all the other
Viking kids get to play.
But all the other Viking kids get to rape and pillage!
Yeah, I know, its so frustrating. Just let
me cut his head off!
no, no, you cant touch the axe, because he'll
lose his soul if he touches the axe.
And those things do occasionally come in handy, dont
Yeah. And there is some complication in the story. He
does end up having this interesting relationship with
a Valkyrie, and the other Viking kids didn't get to do
Does this, again, bode well for new Hammer of the Gods
Its already happened! You can go right now to ComicMix.com
right now and read the entire second Hammer of the Gods
graphic novel, Back from the Dead. Its there, for
free, right now. And, guess what? Its going to be
in print next year.
Excellent. And it'll get the same IDW treatment, including
back matter and proofreading and everything?
Absolutely! I guarantee you, it was put through the wringer.
Well, is that the end of that particular story?
No, Mike and I have always thought that there would be
a third, major act of this thing, but Mike is now Art
Directing for Valve, the game company, and he's a little
busy. [Laughter] So, were not sure when we'll be
able to get to the third one.
OK. But there is one final arc there; it just needs some
free time for you guys to develop and work on it.
Yeah, we'll get to it.
other than that we've got a lot of other things on tap
that will be coming out from the Mark Wheatley Library.
Just about anything you've seen my name on, were
packaging it up for new editions.
Any titles you want to toss out there at this point?
Well, the schedule at this point that I can say is hard
and fast is that after Hammer of the Gods and Frankenstein
Mobster this past October, then in February, 2010 Lone
Justice will begin as a ten issue monthly mini comic book
series, and be followed by a graphic novel. In April,
2010, EZ Street will come out as a graphic novel. And
very soon we'll be having a meeting to schedule the rest
of the books.