There’s only one thing better than a living legend, and that’s a living legend who hails from Long Island! And when it comes to inking, Mark McKenna is clearly one of the best!
We recently bumped into Mark at the deli, and here’s what happened:
Q: Tell us a little about Banana Tail, and Banana Cabana? Where did the idea come from? Where is the idea headed?
A: Banana Tail is my personal labor of love. It’s something that my passion continually drives me to make successful. Banana Cabana was short story that I created to give some more content to my www.bananatail.com website. Originally I did all my stories as rhyming stories and my buddy Mike McKone came up with the story idea and after BTail makes a banana barrier to prevent himself from getting wet, cabana came to mind, and of course…it rhymes!
Q: The BananaTail website is coming together nicely! What’s next for BananaTail?
A: Thank you! The Banana Tail Limited Edition portfolio is next up. I had 6 top flight artists do their renditions of Banana Tail and I’m turning them into a nice high end portfolio.
Q: What is the wildest thing that you ever witnessed at a comicbook convention?
A: As I comb my way through a tight crowd, I tend to put my hands on peoples’ backs as I walk through the tight spots. One day, not noticing I did this, I apparently put my hand on a woman’s chest as I passed. She turned to me, and yelled “PERVERT!”. I didn’t even know what I did, and to be honest, if you’d seen this woman, you’d know it was a complete mistake. She was frightening.
Q: We see that you grew up on Long Island. What got you started in this wild and wacky funnybook business?
A: I’m from Bayport, Long Island. I was a collector as a kid and used to take iconic Marvel comic covers and trace over them… That’ was my artistic outlet for a while and then I used to create my own characters. When I was a high school senior my guidance counselor told me my time was up, what did I want to do with my life. I said I like to make Super 8 films and comicbooks. I ended up going to the School Of Visual Arts in NYC and eventually meeting Sal Almendola the new talent coordinator at DC Comics, who said to me, Keep at it and you’ll be professional at some time. I spent the next few years honing my skills.
Q: From Archie to Conan The Barbarian. From Batman to the Avengers. From Atomic Robo to Star Wars. Your bibliography is one of the most impressive, prolific, and versatile bibliographies that we’ve ever seen. How do you do it? What’s your secret?
A: It’s all about adapting. I never mess with pencillers’ art if they spent all day drawing it. If I know how to improve the art, certainly I will, but I don’t have my own distinct pencil style, so I adapt to the pencils and the styles in front of me. With Archie, I was told that I had to attack it differently and from doing my own BTail books as well as a bunch of Disney stories, I knew how to be bold and bouncy with my linework.
Q: Who are some of your all-time favorite inkers?
A: I loved John Beatty, Jerry Ordway, Bruce Patterson and of course, Brian Bolland.
Q: Who are some of your all-time favorite pencilers?
A: Bolland, Mike Zeck, Rudy Nebres, Dave Stevens. Bolland’s artwork on Judge Dredd had such an impact on me that I actually drew a 4-page Dredd story before I turned pro.
Q: Who are some of your all-time favorite comicbook writers?
A: I have to say some of the guys I worked with, like Alan Grant, J. M. Dematteis, Keith Giffen, and Judd Winick.
Q: What was your favorite comicbook project in the 20th century?
A: Do you mean one I was involved with? For one shots, I’d say the Parallax One shot where Hal Jordan takes out the Sun Eater and dies a martyr I did art with buddy Mike McKone and Ron Marz wrote it. I can’t think of one thing that I recall blowing me away, although I loved Astro City and Marvels.
Q: Which city do you most enjoy attending comicbook conventions in, and why?
A: Baltimore is a great show and a great city with the beautiful Inner Harbour a block or 2 away. Everything you need is within a few blocks and the show has built up to be one of the best independent shows in the country.
Q: Is there a favorite brand of inking tools that you prefer first and foremost, above all other such brands? If so, kindly tell us a little about it?
A: I’m a bit of a dinosaur and stick with old reliables, crowquil Hunt pen nib #102 and Raphael series 8404 #2. For more angular or scratchy looks I use more pen also for finer details such as eyes and noses. The brush gives a lush smooth line and is great for animated styled art as well as big sweeping pieces.
Q: Briefly describe your workspace area?
A: I work in front of my big screen TV with my feet propped up on a coffee table, lap board in my lap at an angle. I have a beautiful studio in the basement as well, but I like the TV for background noise better then the radio.
Q: What are you reading these days?
A: I was into the Walking Dead as far as comic-related books go. I have 4 hardcovers on my bedstand. I recently read The Shadow Killer, a gory, scary Big Foot novel by Matthew Scott Hansen and a Clint Eastwood bio called American Rebel by Marc Eliot. I’m currently reading my dear baby sisters 1st attempt at a novel called Saving Toby, which impresses the Hell out of me. I knew my sis was smart, but I had no idea she had “this” in her. I’m proud of her and this accomplishment. Next is Life by Keith Richards and Bumping Into Geniuses by Danny Goldberg.
Q: What is the Saving Toby book a story about?
A: To me, it’s West Side Story meets Bridges Of Madison County with a lil’ Pretty In Pink thrown in. Overall, I’d say it’s a romance.
Q: What music are you listening to these days?
A: I buy anything by The New Pornographers, Weezer, and most recently picked up new Blue October’s Any Man In America, which I’m really enjoying. I also constantly play Green River Ordinance and Augustana.
Q: What are you watching on television these days?
A: I don’t watch regular TV shows much although I did get into Fringe for a while and Reaper. I will try out Grimm and Once Upon a Time and oh.. The Walking Dead is wonderful!
Q: Seen any good movies lately?
A: Real Steel was a fun popcorn feel-good movie…but you know what? I haven’t been to but one movie in the last month or two. During this past summer it was all about the superheroes and I loved/liked every one of them.
Q: You’re an archaeologist on a dig in Egypt. You just discovered something in the sand that will change the world. What is it that you discovered? And how will it change the world?
A: Cold Fusion? Nahhh. The Tomb Of Imhotep? Nahhh. The Ark of the Covenant? Nahhh. Probably a Buffalo Headed Nickel, but when I flip that nickel into a box and it stands on end, I get the power to read people’s minds! Ultimately, I use this power to rule mankind!
Q: You’re a classical music composer, and you’ve just completed composing your magnum opus. What are you calling it?
A: Ode to Ennio Morricone
Q: Ennio Morricone? Nice! What’s your go-to spaghetti western?
A: Gotta be The Good The Bad and The Ugly.
Q: You’ve just run on to the field at a nationally-televised major league baseball game. What’s your plan?
A: Certainly to promote Banana Tail. I’d be in my yellow banana hammock, running around holding the books overhead like the Bible! Maybe I’d be fully dressed, eh? LOL
Q: You get to cast a well-known actor to portray you in a major big-budget feature-length about your life. Who do you cast, and why?
A: I’ve been told with my white goatee I’m either Kenny Rogers or Michael McDonald but they’re both older then I am, so that won’t work. Probably Brad Pitt then.
Q: What are some of your favorite ways to pass the time on long flights in-between comicbook conventions?
A: The in-flight magazine and movies. One Delta flight had a music trivia game that you played against the other passengers, that was AWESOME!
Q: What is your idea of the perfect breakfast?
A: Has to do with corned beef hash or sausages and eggs!
Q: What upcoming comicbook project are you most excited for?
A: I have a book in the works; an indie title called Angel Falling.
Q: What is the wildest one thing that you were ever commissioned to draw?
A: Some guy wanted Rogue with her pants down. I don’t think I did it.