In “Origins,” comics creators talk about their formative experiences with comics. This time, we spoke with Doug Mahnke, who’s currently doing splendid pencil work every month on Green Lantern; his past credits include memorable runs on JLA, Justice League Elite and Superman: The Man of Steel, as well as the visually stunning Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D.
TECHLAND: What was the first comic book you ever read? What do you remember about it?
DOUG MAHNKE: I’m unclear what my actual “first” read comic was, being only 5 years old at the time, but the earliest comic I clearly loved was the first appearance of the Scorpion in Amazing Spider-Man. I thought the Scorpion was super cool, and I really wanted to have a mechanical tail like that. I was conflicted as he was the villain and I loved Spidey, but still I had a thing for the character. I copied drawings out of it and carried it around until it was shredded.
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What comic book has made the deepest impression on you, and why?
Good question, and hard to put my finger on. Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith’s comics adaptation of “Red Nails,” which I think appeared in Savage Tales, although I remember some oversized comic with the story as well. I was entranced by this story and its art, which was head and shoulders above anything else I had ever seen or read. On the other hand, Richard Corben and Greg Potter’s little story “Child” I found fascinating. I was hooked on Corben from the first look. His story design, the way he handled action, and his moody use of color and lighting has stayed with me.
Who were your favorite comics creators when you started getting into reading comics?
John Romita, Gil Kane, and Herb Trimpe I remember the most. Romita’s work on Spider-Man was seamless, Gil Kane’s anatomy made a big impression, and the way Trimpe drew the hulk defined the character for me.
Did you make comics in your pre-professional days? What were they like?
No, I didn’t make any comics, but I would occasionally draw a short story for a friend of mine, Gerald Hill, who collected comics with me. It was called “The Blue Minky,” and featured a character “based on” Gerald’s childhood friend David Lichfield. Lichfield’s character always had grand ideas about saving some princess or town from the ravages of the Blue Minky, who never would even notice Lichfield’s attempts. Most of the battles ended with the Minky accidentally stepping on or rolling over Lichfield, while Lichfield was monologuing or taking grandly about himself. Very intelligent stuff.
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What was your first published comics work? What’s your impression of it now?
A story written by John Arcudi called “Homicide,” which appeared in Dark Horse Presents. The art and storytelling were a little crude, and there were certain facial anomalies I shook out of my art long ago. I think it was 8 or 9 pages long, and took about a month to pencil and ink. I’m glad I picked up the drawing pace over the years.
You’ve been doing fantastic work on Green Lantern for a while now; what do you think makes that series in particular work visually?
An artist does the best job they can to draw what has been presented to them. I bring my imagination to the project and my particular sense of storytelling, but I also get to riff off of what others before me have drawn. As far as what’s cool with GL, it’s cosmic power mingling with everyday life.