The following is an interview with Stuart Moore (Wolverine Noir, Stargate: Atlantis) and Bruce Zick (Thor, Atomic Legion), the creators of Mandala, the new trade paperback that was recently published by Dark Horse Comics. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Moore and Zick about the initial inspiration for the comic book series, the intricacy involved with creating the story’s vast sci-fi world, their creative process of working together, and what’s next for Mandala!
This interview was conducted on May 17, 2014.
Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Dark Horse Comics recently released the trade paperback of your series, Mandala. What initially inspired you to write this story, and what do you most hope that readers will take away from it?
Stuart Moore: Mandala is part of a large, complex world created by a mysterious group called The Thirteen. They lured me in with promises of creative freedom, enlightenment, and great riches.
The playground of Mandala is all of human history and mythology. My main goal was to focus on the dilemma of Michael Morningstar, to make sure his quest and his trials would grab readers and keep them reading. But, there’s a fascinating mix of historical and mythological figures, drawn from all over the world, surrounding Michael.
BD: Given the complexity and scale of Mandala’s science fiction elements, did you find the world building to be a challenge throughout the writing process?
SM: It’s a very tricky, intricate world, yes. Michael’s mission involves traveling across the timelines to prevent a horrific future from coming to pass. So, there was more than ONE world to be built in the process! But, again, the character is the most important thing to me.
BD: How did your creative partnership on Mandala come about, and how would you describe your creative process?
SM: I wrote full scripts based on ideas beamed directly into my mind by the shadowy Thirteen. Bruce then had great freedom to pull them apart and expand them, adding imagery and drawing out scenes for effect. I went in and adjusted the dialogue afterward. It was a little more free-form than a lot of projects I’ve done, but I think that kept the story loose and lively.
Bruce Zick: I was approached by some members of the Thirteen to work on the project, and then shortly after that they selected Stuart as the writer. I was very excited to work with someone of Stuart’s caliber.
The process of collaborating reminds me a lot of working in the animation industry, where there is a back and forth between the writer and visual development. On Mandala, Stuart produced the script, and then I developed it with input from one of the Thirteen who acted as a sort of a creative director. Ideas were added or subtracted, while staying true to Stuart’s intentions. After the art was completed, Stuart then went back in for a minor rewrite to make adjustments based on the finished pages.
BD: Bruce, did you have an idea in mind for the art style when you first read the script, or has the artwork developed as you have worked on the project?
BZ: I had an early idea of the influences in style for this project which were different than anything I had done before. In the past, I tended to be more excited by the old school of artists, but on Mandala, I was looking more at recent artists, including Frank Miller and Mike Mignola. There were other more esoteric and abstract influences that I was hoping to achieve over the course of the book. I realized somewhere in the middle of the project that changing my way of thinking was a lot harder than I expected. By the time I drew the final pages, I had still not achieved the vision I was looking for, but I had made great progress. Most likely, a reader can see an evolution of style comparing the first chapter to the last.
BD: Do you have plans to continue this story in future single issues or another graphic novel?
SM: We are already at work on the next story. I’m not sure what format it’ll appear in.
BZ: We’ve already completed the next Chapter 7 of the series and are roughing out the ideas for Chapter 8. The next books are really super exciting.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
SM: I have an original book from Image called EGOs, with artist Gus Storm; four issues are out, and the first trade paperback will appear this summer. I’m working on a new series of middle-reader novels for Disney called ZODIAC, created by Stan Lee with illustrations by Andie Tong; that’ll be out early next year. Oh, and I’ve written a two-page Lockjaw story in Marvel’s ORIGINAL SINS #1, out in June. That’s drawn by Rick Geary.
BZ: A new book that I illustrated for Dark Horse—The Atomic Legion, written by Mike Richardson—just came out. It’s entirely different than Mandala, being very lighthearted and whimsical. Grand adventure geared towards all ages. I’m currently working on reviving an old series of mine, The Zone Continuum.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about the web comics that you are currently reading?
SM: I can’t get enough Dinosaur Comics by Ryan North.
BZ: I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t been following the web comics. Ironically, several years ago I produced two web comics for Komikwerks—The Zone Continuum and The Universal Intergalactic Discovery Company. But now, I’ve lost touch. Sometimes, my nose is so close to the grindstone that I have tunnel vision and don’t know what else is going on.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Mandala?
SM: It’s a massive, immersive story designed with the ambitious goal of helping the entire human race to evolve. It’s also a very small story about a frustrated guy who loses his girlfriend and winds up living beneath the streets of New York. Except when he turns into a winged demon. Trust me, you’ll love it.
BZ: Prepare yourselves for a strange journey. We want you to be entertained but also challenged and stimulated to ponder the world you live in and dare to ask questions. A not-so-subtle message of the story is that we, as individuals, can all evolve through self-awareness and become heroes with amazing powers. All we have to do is . . . wake up.