The following is an interview with comic book creator Mark Russell regarding the upcoming release of the comic book series, Billionaire Island, from AHOY Comics, as well as the upcoming trade paperback release of the Second Coming series. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Russell about the inspiration behind Billionaire Island, his shared creative process with artist Steve Pugh, the impact that the story may have with readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your comic book series, Billionaire Island, through AHOY Comics! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Mark Russell: Thanks! It’s about an artificial island created by billionaires. Not only to serve as a tax shelter, but also as a nice, comfortable place to wait out the end of the world. It was partially inspired by all the stories that have come out in the last few years about billionaires buying bug-out bunkers in New Zealand and throughout the world. To me, it underscores the folly of allowing all the world’s resources to be hoarded by a few people who feel like they can survive any threat to the rest of us. In real life, a Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne would be less likely to spend their wealth saving the world than protecting their wine collections.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with artist Steve Pugh, given your previous work together on DC’s The Flintstones? Do you feel that there is a shorthand to your shared workflow?
MR: Steve is a guy who not only gets my sensibility, he sort of exaggerates it. So, he’s really an enabler. He dares me to make gags bigger, the plotlines wilder than maybe they would be otherwise. A lot of times when I see his pencils, I go back and revise the script to make the lines goofy enough to match the characters he’s created.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Billionaire Island’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
MR: I feel like Billionaire Island, for all its craziness, is actually the most likely way that human civilization would come to an end. That we are creating these massive ecological threats to our survival with our economic exploitation of the Earth, while spending little to none of the money created by that exploitation dealing with the threat it’s creating. My hope is that readers respond to it not only as a story, but as something approximating their own epitaph.
BD: Your series, Second Coming, will also soon be released as a trade paperback. As with all of AHOY’s releases, there will be incredible extras included within the comic. What will readers have in store for them with the release of the Second Coming trade?
MR: Yeah, there’s a bunch of extras in the Second Coming trade. Most notably, an Introduction by Patton Oswalt. There’s also extra artwork by Richard, an Author’s Note by me, and some other things.
BD: What do you feel makes AHOY Comics the best home for the two series?
MR: Two things: First and foremost, they really got the sensibility and wanted to make Second Coming as much like Second Coming as it could be. They weren’t sort of begrudgingly tolerating it or trying to tame it, like other publishers might have done. And secondly, they weren’t scared of the controversy it was generating.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
MR: I have some more installments of the Monster Serials coming up with AHOY. My dark gothic serial (cereal) dramas starring my legally permitted facsimiles of Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and so on.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Billionaire Island and Second Coming?
MR: They can follow me on Twitter at @manruss. I sometimes give out extra tidbits and spoiler panels there. And it’s easier than breaking into AHOY headquarters.