Q: You’ve enjoyed a longstanding career in the comics industry. Tell us how you got started and about your work in comics prior to joining Insight Comics.
Mark Irwin: I’ve worked for just about everybody. I started my career as an assistant inker and letterer. The art school I attended is in New Jersey, so I worked for a lot of different inkers there. That led to work with Image and then eventually with Marvel and DC. While I was with Image, I also became an editor and art director, which parlayed into working with other companies like Upper Deck, where I got to collaborate with the likes of Nickelodeon and Disney, to name a few.
Q: Can we assume that your career stems from a lifelong love of comics?
MI: Yes, yes. I grew up reading comics and magazines like National Lampoon, Heavy Metal, and Creepy, Eerie, and all the Warren magazines—lots of great comics that solidified a life-long passion.
Q: What was your gateway comic?
MI: Probably National Lampoon. I was exposed to it at a really young age. It was really subversive and featured some of my favorite artists. Bernie Wrightson, for instance, was one of the artists featured often, and he is still one of my all-time favorites. So, it was really the creators who cemented my interest in comics.
Q: Let’s talk about present day. What kind of comics will Insight Comics publish?
MI: Insight Comics will be a home for a diverse group of artists and writers who have the opportunity to develop different kinds of projects with different focuses— everything from action-adventure to romance, to manga, to European-based storytelling.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the creation of Insight Comics?
MI: Our publisher, Raoul Goff, had a strong drive to publish comics in a new and innovative way. Raoul then found me, and it was the beginning of a great imprint!
Q: For those who are familiar with books published by Insight Editions, what will Insight Comics have in common with Insight Editions?
MI: Quality. We’re both junkies for great art. Insight’s strongest touchstone is high-quality, innovatively designed books; that mission will also drive Insight Comics. In fact, we’re playing with format and plan to publish uniquely sized books that maximize the art, which in turn shows off the storytelling of our creators.
Q: What titles are you launching with?
MI: Starting off in spring, we have four European comics titles. Siberia 56 is a science-fiction horror story. It’s very painterly and has an old-school Creepy/Eerie story vibe to it, with a modernized look. Zombies: A Brief History of Decay comes out in April. I know, I know— another zombie story! But the story is bleak and personal, with unexpected character beats and a nice twist at the end. The third book, Elves, is the first volume in a lushly illustrated series about elves. It’s got a fantasy element to it, but the plot focuses more on the trials and travails and politics and schematics of an elven civilization. Lastly is The Baker Street Four, a story about the kids that assist Sherlock Holmes. Another beautifully illustrated book with a fun storyline involving lots of mystery, action, and danger.
Later this year, we’re publishing M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder. It’s the story of a young girl in a strange, quasi-alternate world who’s on a journey to release her mother’s ashes at a monument. That’s all she wants to do, but people keep trying to turn her into a hero of some kind as she traverses this strange landscape.
Q: Most of the books on Insight Comics’ inaugural list are European. What differentiates the European comics from American comics?
MI: American comics tend to focus on character first, then plot. The story is always about what happens to that person, how they react, how they change throughout the course of their journey. European comics tend to focus on the story more directly. The art is really incredible, of course, but at the heart, the stories are very imaginative and very different than what we do here.
While American comics tend to revolve around colorful characters, European creators love all genres: science fiction, horror, westerns–pretty much any story that can be told in comics form. I love that about European comics, and I hope to bring more of that to American audiences.
Q: How will Insight Comics be different from other independent comics publishers? Why should people read Insight Comics?
MI: In a nutshell, diversity of story, diversity of talent, and commitment to quality. Our books look better, read better, and have new and different content that will surprise and delight readers.