Comics are a crazy business.
Anyone who works in the industry will tell you that. A comic creator’s life is an endless cycle of solitary work, excruciating waits, exhausting travel and constant self-promotion. It attracts a certain type of person—both as creators and readers. And anyone who’s been in the business for more than a few years can likely tell you some pretty good stories.
Starting today, Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack are doing just that. COVER is a brand new ongoing series coming out monthly from Jinxworld. Focusing on the extraordinary experiences of one young comic book artist, it promises to lift the veil on exactly what it’s like making your livelihood in one of the most influential mediums out there right now, shining a spotlight on all the ins and outs, like meeting fans, selling your work, struggling to find your voice, getting recruited by the CIA…
Let’s just say that some comic artists’ lives are a little more interesting than others.
“It’s going to open up the international world of comics a little, but with some spy fun as well,” reveals Bendis, who is collaborating with his longtime friend Mack for the first time since becoming exclusive to DC.
“When we started the book,” Bendis continues, “we were toying with doing a valentine to the ’90s indie comics scene that we came out of—like a Dazed and Confused about comics. The passion that everyone who reads or makes comics feels for comics is so deep, but there isn’t anything that I’d call a real valentine to the beauty of comics. There are so many movies about the beauty of movies and the beauty of writing songs. But comics, even though they’re the cornerstone of our entire culture now, there’s really no impassioned look at the craft and that beautiful moment of creation where comics get made. We thought that we could do all of that, but also wrap it around this weird world we’ve found ourselves in and tell the story of Cover. We can have a lot of genre fun, but also tell a lot of honest truths about what it is to be a comic creator.”
Cover introduces us to Max Field, an independent artist who supplements his income by selling his art at cons. In the process, he meets Julia, a comic book fan with deep pockets who seems to show up at all of the same cons Max is at. At first, Max just takes Julia for an overenthusiastic fan, but as time goes on, it becomes clear there’s more to this situation than meets the eye. It turns out that Julia works for the CIA, and she just may have an offer for Max.
While neither Bendis or Mack are spies—at least as far as we know—the idea for Cover nevertheless was inspired by their long career together.
“ traveled the world together. We toured like a rock band all over the world. We’ve seen things and done things we never thought we would. So, over the course of our careers, not only were we getting to go to all of these conventions, but I was invited to speak at Langley, and David’s doing State Department business all over the world, being a cultural attaché. The world just started getting more interesting.”
Anyone familiar with Mack’s work knows that he’s not a traditional comic book artist, relying heavily on watercolors and mixed media in his work. His full talents are on display in Cover, which utilizes a variety of art styles in its first issue.
“David Mack and I have been friends and partners for many, many years,” shares Bendis. “We met when we were very young, so I’ve been witness to him throughout his entire adulthood, and I can honestly say—and it’s a word that I don’t use a lot—I really think he’s a genius. Having that in your life is very inspiring. It’s part of what keeps me honest as a creator. But also, when working with him, you feel this whole obligation to not waste a genius’s time.
“He’s capable of such special work that if you don’t do something to inspire that, then what the hell are you doing?”
To stir that inspiration, Bendis is including excerpts from Max’s comic book work within the pages of Cover. These comics-within-a-comic are all rendered in a decidedly different style than the real-world pages, which also vary in style depending on the location.
“I’m trying to give David all of the opportunities to do all of the things that he can do,” explains Bendis. “It works great because with David, we can show the comic book that Max is making. The one you see in the first issue is a beautiful indie comic that you can tell was a hit comic. Later, we’ll see another comic he’s made that’s a soulless piece of shit that he thought was going to be a big hit, but it wasn’t. So, I had to tell David, ‘Now, I want you to make a purposefully bad cash-grab comic.’
“There’s a point to that. There’s a point when an artist gets lost and they do something they shouldn’t. We’re having an inordinate amount of fun exorcising demons, revealing truths…”
Of the four Jinxworld titles that Bendis has released so far through DC, Cover may be the most unique and experimental, and it’s all the better for it. Mack’s art elevates the undeniably unique story into something that feels almost like a gallery art piece. While Bendis promises plenty of action down the line as well as a villain who also works within the comic industry, it’s the smaller, more intimate moments of Cover that stay with you.
“One of my favorite things in issue #1, and it’s so quiet, is in those first pages, when we’re just looking across the comic convention artist alley,” reveals Bendis. “You’re looking at Julia talking, but behind her are these blue, mysterious shapes of convention people. When I saw them all together, I realized that’s what David sees all day when he’s at the convention. There’s always one person in front of him and then this blur of shapes behind and around them. When I saw it all put together, I was just delighted. It’s such an honest book for him.”