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Fanboy Comics Interviews Tony Donley, Creator of ‘Albert Einstein: Time Mason’

The following is an interview with Tony Donley, the creator of the new comic book series Albert Einstein: Time Mason. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Contributor Tim Palmer chats with Donley about his inspiration for the time-traveling genius, his plans for the comic book series, and how Tom Selleck fits into the equation.

This interview was conducted on August 12, 2013.


Tim Palmer, Fanboy Comics Contributor: Where did the idea of Albert Einstein: Time Mason come from? Was there anything in particular that especially inspired the story's creation?

Tony Donley: Oh yeah, totally. I had been watching a lot of the Science Channel and Discovery, and one day just stumbled on a show about Einstein. He figured out the basics of Relativity while riding on a bus. After that, it only really made sense to me that if there was going to be time travel, it would be Einstein who figured it out.

TP: How did you decide on Albert Einstein as the hero? Did you try any other famous historical figures first?

TD: That one particular show I watched really delved into him as a person. His quirks, eccentricities, he seemed to me like such a natural for a comic book hero. Most people only think of Einstein as the crazy-haired old guy sticking his tongue out in that poster that every college kid has on their wall. They are surprised to find out he was really charming and described as quite handsome in his day. The Time Masons are an Inter-dimensional Secret Organization, so it’s safe to say there will be loads of other historical figures in the series. For the time being, the focus will be on our Albert, though.

TP: The book has an amazing pulp look to it, from the art and colors to the dialogue boxes and lettering. What was the genesis of the style of the book?

TD: It was always going to be a throw back to classic sci-fi/adventure comics, and I guess my art style kind of leans that way anyway. I did try to simplify my style a bit for the series, a mix of Alex Toth and Paul Grist, always with Walt Simonson on my mind. I don’t know if any of that comes through, but that's what I was thinking. As far as the coloring, this is really just what I remember those comics looking like. I used the classic 64-color pallet to keep me grounded and only strayed a few times. When anyone sees the book, it reminds them of their youth and how much fun comics can be. Besides, looking at Photoshop with an infinity of colors just scares me really. I don’t know how colorists do it.

TP: In later issues, will we meet others in the clandestine order of the Time Masons, possibly other historical figures? Are the Time Masons at all associated with the Free Masons?

TD: I can’t give too much away, but in this first 5-issue series, we may run into a few other Time Masons. I really want to get into what happens when the missions of two separate Time Masons cross, and they each have different agendas. I love trying to keep time travel stories straight, and Marcus (Perry) and I can’t wait to turn the genre on its ear.

TP: How did the two of you end up collaborating on this project? And, what did that collaboration look like?

TD: Marcus and I have been friends for a while, and he is an incredible writer. It didn’t take much more than that. I tried to bring him on board last year for the DoubleFeature Comics story “When in Rome,” but he was unavailable. For this first issue, I threw together an outline and jumped right into the art. Marcus then came in and scripted over my work, and we plotted out where we want the series to go. Basically, Marvel Style. If it was good enough for Stan and Jack . . . For the remaining 5 issues, we will probably work from a plot or loose script from Marcus. We have announced that issue #2 is available for purchase now on the Kickstarter page and should have time in our schedules to start that in early October.

TP: Will we ever see the original Albert Einstein: Time Mason short story 'When in Rome' adapted into a comic? Were there reasons that you did not use that story for the first issue? 

TD:  Into a full issue, probably not. Originally, when I planned this series, I wanted to do a handful of 8-page stories to introduce the character. I scrapped that idea and decided to just jump right into full issues. Now, that is not to say we won’t find Albert in ancient Rome again. That's the beauty of the world we are building here; there is an endless amount of stories to tell.

TP: What advice would you give to those who are looking to fund a comic book project through Kickstarter?

TD: The best advice I received was from the Mayor of Comics himself, Jimmy Palmiotti. Jimmy told me to make it like a store. Have items that people want to purchase and make it simple. I would also add that I think it helps to have a finished product. We did this project because we love and believe in it, not because we were paid to do it. Hopefully, that came through to the audience. A fun video doesn’t hurt either.

TP: What is your opinion of the current state of independent/self-published comics in the world comics as a whole? And, more from a creative standpoint, what do you feel is the importance of independent/self-published comics in the comics industry?

TD: I don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a self-publisher. Anyone can throw their book up on the Web and see if it sticks. Not to mention the ComiXology Submit program. Independent creators being able to have their book out there competing with the big boys . . . That’s just awesome. We can all be in the same comic book store now, and it’s right in the palm of your hand. Independent and self-published comics have always been incredibly important to our industry. Not only is that where young creators can cut their teeth but independent books also have a pretty far reach outside of the normal fan base. A new comics reader may be afraid of 50+ years of Spider-Man, but they can pick up Essex County by Jeff Lemire and start reading right now. Remember, Ghost World made it to the big screen before the Web-head did. That's a pretty big deal.

TP: You mention Tom Selleck in your Kickstarter campaign, and there is a resemblance between him and your Albert Einstein, so what is Tom getting out of all of this? Have you attempted to pitch the project to the former Magnum, P.I. heartthrob?

TD: Haha. The whole Tom Selleck idea really just came from mustaches. I knew I wanted Albert to be a bit of a ladies’ man, but there was no chance with his trademarked, old man crazy hair. So, I decided to focus on his mustache instead. Once that was decided, where do you go from there but to Tom Selleck? If we ever have a movie or TV show, how great would it be to have Tom play an older Albert Einstein as a Time Mason. Some day . . .

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