“Between the Panels” is a bi-weekly interview series focusing on comic book creators of all experience levels, seeking to examine not just what each individual creates, but how they go about creating it.
With the number of established comic book publishers already in the marketplace, it’s quite a gamble to launch a new label. But that’s exactly what Mark London & Co. did in 2014 with Mad Cave Studios. Since the early days of having a single title to hang their hats on, Mad Cave has carved out an identity as home to some of the freshest, most unique series on the stands today.
First off, the basics…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): CEO/CCO and Writer
Your home base: Miami, Florida
Instagram: @MadCaveStudios / @MarkLondonMCS
Fanbase Press Contributor Kevin Sharp: Let’s start with the big questions: Why comics? What attracts you to working in this industry specifically?
Mark London: Comics have been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. So, being able to work in the industry is a dream come true. I love being a part of the creative process and I love meeting all of the like-minded people in comics. But what excites me the most is the responsibility of making the best possible stories for fans to enjoy.
KS: Tell us a little about your early memories as a comics reader. Where did you used to get most of your floppies as a kid?
ML: I started collecting comics when I was about 12. I remember going to Palm Beach in the summers, and I couldn’t wait to visit my favorite comic store, Past Present Future. The first comic that I remember reading was Silver Surfer #53, and it truly captivated me.
KS: Where did things go from the Surfer? If we flipped through younger Mark’s comic collection, what would that look like?
ML: You would pretty much find a ton of Uncanny X-Men, Ghost Rider, Punisher, and pretty much everything coming out of Image Comics. Probably some Valiant stuff, too.
KS: Can you remember a particular comic story that had an impact on you back in your fan days?
ML: I was a teenager when I first stumbled upon The Crow by James O’Barr. It’s such a beautiful book, but, at the same time, it’s heartbreaking. Years later, I found out that James O’ Barr had lost his family and the book was a result of everything that he was feeling. That book changed my life and made me feel emotions I had never felt before.
KS: Why was that the right story at the right time for you?
ML: You know how most teenagers are. They have so many emotions bottled up and for some reason, The Crow lifted me up. If I could only choose one lesson from that book, it’s that no matter how bad things get, eventually they will get better. In the author’s words, “It can’t rain all the time.”
KS: When most people think of working in comics, they’re probably approaching it from a creator perspective, whereas your path has had plenty of twists and turns. When did the idea of being in the industry enter into your career?
ML: For me, it all started as a hobby, something I would do in my free time. I loved writing stories just for fun. My only supporter back then was my wife, and she encouraged me to share them with more people. At first, I thought that hiring an artist and creating a webpage would be enough. Well, as usual, things don’t always turn out the way we expect them to, and the rest is history.
KS: You founded Mad Cave in 2014, after many other publishers had already planted their flags. Was there something you saw as missing or underrepresented in the marketplace that you wanted to provide?
ML: In my opinion, I feel that it’s important for comics to be two things: fun and liberating. Fun in the thrilling and exciting ways that a story can help you escape to a new world where anything is possible. And liberating in the sense that comics allow you a freedom to explore not only those new worlds I love creating so much, but also the freedom to explore yourself as a person. I guess what I am trying to say is that I wanted to see those types of comics continue to be represented in the marketplace. Those are the types of comics Mad Cave publishes and will continue to publish in the future.
KS: What was the first book Mad Cave published?
ML: Battlecats. In fact, it was our only title for so long that, early on, we were known as the “Battlecats guys,” not Mad Cave!
KS: And was there at all a sense then of “mission accomplished?” Not that there weren’t more challenges still ahead, but that “We actually did this!”
ML: I love [this] question, because it can be approached from two different angles. First, from the business side of things, it can be scary to realize that your first book is not going to be the next The Walking Dead. Second, selfishly, there’s nothing more heartwarming than having all of your hard work materialize. Seeing Battlecats #1 in stores and on shelves was a dream come true. For weeks after, I was walking around with my chest all puffed out and my head held high because I had finally published my own comic!
KS: Since you’ve now seen the business from the writer’s and publisher’s perspective, what’s something you’ve learned about “making the sausage” that maybe you didn’t know when you first got in?
ML: Creating good comics is difficult. As a fan, you are not really aware of all the long hours and attention to detail creating a comic entails. I was very lucky to be surrounded by many talented people who truly helped me bring Mad Cave to life.
KS: How has your time in a top creative position, collaborating with another talent, informed the work you do as a writer yourself?
ML: It’s a privilege and a curse. A privilege because I have a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of some of the best talent in the industry. A curse because it highlights all of my shortcomings, which I then obsess over until I get them in check. All kidding aside, it’s a blessing because I get to learn so much every day.
KS: Can you give readers a sense of the kinds of things that might fill your current schedule on a typical day at work (assuming there is such a thing as “typical”)?
ML: Well, we’re called “Mad Cave” for a reason. Every day is pure madness around here, but the good kind. The kind that drives you to make better comics. All kidding aside (sort of), not one day is similar to another for me. There are too many days that I wake up thinking about doing one thing and end up doing something else entirely.
Thankfully, because I have help from some very talented and supportive people, I am always able to find time in my day to write. It’s really what I’ve always wanted to do and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
KS: No one in comics gets to a position of success entirely on their own. Who’s a person that was especially helpful to you on your journey? Someone who gave you advice, opened a door at a key time, offered moral support, or whatever else.
ML: My wife Laura. Without her support, I would have never taken this giant leap of faith. I can’t forget Giovanna Orozco and Chris Fernandez. Two five-star individuals who help shape every crazy idea I have… of which I have many.
KS: Are you able to kick back and read comics for pure pleasure these days, or is there some part of your pro brain always on duty?
ML: I do still read comics just for fun, but, yes, it can be hard to disconnect and enjoy them as a fan. As a writer, I tend to really gravitate towards the first issue of a new series because I enjoy seeing how creators appeal to new readers.
KS: Tell us about a passion of yours totally unrelated to comics. It could be something you collect, study, practice, etc.
ML: Going to the movies was, and still remains, a great passion of mine. At one point in my life, I actually considered becoming a director. But I guess the man upstairs had different plans for me.
KS: Obviously, that world has been turned upside down since COVID. What’s the last movie you remember seeing in a theater as of this chat [late 2020]? Also, what’s your go-to theater snack?
ML: The last movie I saw was The Invisible Man, and I thought it was fantastic. As far as a theater snack, that’s easy: Raisinets and a Diet Coke.
KS: What’s a comic or graphic novel from any era that you look to as an example of the craft at its highest form?
ML: This one is probably at the top for many. If I had to pick one, it would have to be Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Its focus on philosophy, psychology, and symbolism is what makes that story stand the test of time.
It is really a transformative comic that forces you to confront uncomfortable truths. There is so much depth within the plot and characters to analyze that one could easily write a whole book of essays discussing the many meanings in Watchmen.
KS: Finally, you’ve got a full slate of upcoming projects. Tell us what we should be on the lookout for in 2021.
ML: Getting the new year started with a bang is another fan-favorite coming back to consume your soul: Honor and Curse! Genshi is on the run from the Iga and now has to rely on the training of the Elder One to control the Tengu. Little does he know that his absence from the Iga clan has left them vulnerable to their enemies, the Koga. This volume is going to blow you away with all of the wild concepts we only hinted at in the first volume. Genshi’s world really opens up in this arc. Nicolas Salamanca and Tekino are returning for art duties, so you know it’s going to look the business.
Mad Cave will be releasing a new series every month through 2021, and each one will be an exciting and unique addition to our catalog. We’ve been working with some really strong talent; a lot of them are actually talent search winners from 2019. Those books will start to trickle out starting in February with They Fell From the Sky, written by Liezl Buenaventura and illustrated by Xavier Tarrega — an all-ages story akin to Lilo and Stitch or even Mars Attacks! Then, in March, we have Nottingham. Written by David Hazan with art by Shane Volk, this is a dark twist on a classic tale. It’s a crime noir set in Nottingham which follows Robin Hood, but from the sheriff’s perspective.
I am also hard at work on the last volume of Battlecats and the second volume of Wolvenheart. We should have more info on both of those titles in the coming months.
Last but not least, I have to mention Maverick, Mad Cave’s new YA imprint focused on OGNs. Maverick should be launching in the Fall of 2021, so keep your eyes on social media for more information coming soon.