David Mack (Kabuki) has become known for his unique multimedia art style of making comics. For those who’d like to know more about his work, Hero Video Productions has released The Alchemy of Art: David Mack ($24.95 US), a DVD exploring his style and methods with copious examples of his art.
There’s over an hour and a half of material, most of which is an interview with Mack in which he talks about his influences and early life and motivations. It opens with some of his images, which are stunning seen on a television screen. With the different light source (from behind, instead of shining onto a print page), they’re luminous, almost glowing, with gorgeous depth of color.
This is very focused on his work. Instead of seeing Mack on-screen all the time, we often hear him while looking at his creations. They’re gorgeous and imaginative, but they aren’t sourced, so we don’t know if the art is from now or years earlier or where it might have appeared previously in print or how to see more of it if we want. In that way, it’s rather like Mack’s art, recombinations of items with a variety of origins put into new context that can leave the viewer off-balance. Many more captions and labels would have been appreciated.
Mack is a wonderful subject because of how much he has to say about his work and how much he’s clearly thought about his art and its meaning. He shares stories about reading Frank Miller’s Daredevil as a kid and a particular issue that affected him. This is later echoed in a section about his work for Marvel, including his writing the character and his work with old friend Brian Bendis. Mack’s brother is interviewed as well, adding his perspective on how they grew up.
It’s unfortunate that when Mack talks about early work with Bendis and the two of them being a penciler/inker team, we don’t see any examples of work from that era. Instead, we see generic convention footage. In the same setting, Terry Moore appears several times saying very complimentary things about Mack and explaining why his art is of such value. He compares Mack to Picasso because of his distinctive style and passion.
Mack makes the best argument for a diverse background and wide-ranging education I’ve heard, talking about taking art classes during the day with live models and studying anatomy at night, including cutting up dead people. Everything he learned became fodder for his comic and his creative expression.
Instead of what many people do when creating their first comic, making autobiographical work that talks only about themselves, he said he didn’t feel “fully formed yet” and so he created a comic about someone who was a different gender, from a different culture, and so on. He made the mature artistic decision to transform his thoughts and experiences into something beyond himself.
There are three other segments: an in-depth commentary on Kabuki #4 (latest series); a preview of Mack’s upcoming children’s book The Shy Creatures in which he reads the galley to us; and a promotion for Visionaries & Voices, a non-profit studio for artists with disabilities.
This DVD is professionally produced in terms of visual quality and operation. As I mentioned above, I wanted to see much more art identification, but that was my only complaint. Background information is available at this fan site. It’s just been announced that this film won a Platinum Remi at the international film festival Worldfest in the category of Independent Video.