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Even the mob can get into the spirit of the season.
Today sees the release on on comiXology of Masks and Mobsters #5 , the latest issue of the digital series by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson. Not only does it feature a special holiday story, but the creators are also being awesome and donating everything they make off the issue to charity. Henderson and Williamson (who shared with us on Sunday what he’s been reading) were kind enough to answer some of my questions about the series and their plans for this special issue, as well as reveal a whole bunch of art.
Robot 6: Where did the idea come from for Masks and Mobsters, and what are some of your influences from the superhero and crime comics worlds?
Josh: I’ve made no secret of my love for Greg Rucka’s and Ed Brubaker’s Gotham Central. That was always a look at Gotham from the police forces perspective and how they wanted to avoid Batman. What if you were a criminal in Gotham … would you avoid the Joker? I know I would! I’d try to rob a bank in daylight and keep away from all the costumed madness. That got me thinking … what would the mob do when masked heroes and villains first started showing up? Putting it in a retro time period just added the visual awesomeness of the story. At this point, that romanticized version of that era has become a character unto itself.
As for crime comics influences: The Simon and Kirby crime collections, the older Crime Does Not Pay collections, Brubaker’s Criminal. James Robinson’s Starman and 100 Bullets. And a few dozen crime films.
How did the two of you meet? Did you know each other before collaborating on M&M?
Mike: Twitter, actually! Through various shared friends and so on. The social media networks can be an ugly sometimes, but once in a while they make for some sweet music.
Josh: Pretty much. I had seen Mike’s art a few times and knew he was someone I wanted to work with. We just started emailing, chatting, and then eventually I said “So what do you think of this …?”
And how did you guys hook up with MonkeyBrain, and what was the attraction of working with them?
Mike: We didn’t, at first. The first chapter of Masks was done awhile before MonkeyBrain started up, and we weren’t sure what we were going to do with it. Josh became aware of their setup before I did, and it seemed like the perfect fit!
Josh: I had been trying to get Masks and Mobsters off the ground for years. It just never worked out. But I knew I was going to do it and was really proud of that first chapter’s script. When MonkeyBrain came along, that first chapter was already ready to go. Soon as I heard their plan, I dived right in.
The attraction of working with MonkeyBrain was the husband and wife team of Allison Baker and Chris Roberson. I’d had countless conversations with them about comics and where the industry was going, and it was clear they knew what they were doing and they’d back my play with Masks and Mobsters.
I like the format of the series so far, how each story seems to stand on its own, but they’re all set in the same world and have some recurring characters and references. Is that an accurate description of what you guys are aiming for, and can you talk a little about your approach to setting it up like that?
Mike: There’s something really appealing about a story you can pick up anywhere, and it’s one the digital format lends itself to. We’ve just hinted at how large this world is so far, and just how interconnected it all is. And knowing that wherever people jump on board, there’s a whole lot of back story and connections for them to discover and alleyways to explore is a really exciting thing.
Josh: You and Mike have said it best. I really wanted to create something that people could jump in at anytime. It’s like Pulp Fiction. You can start watching that movie at any scene and get a glimpse of the larger picture.
That being said, will you be bringing some of these characters back and showing us what happens next to them (like, for instance, The Tower, who learned the hard way never to trust a dame?)
Josh: Yup. Everything will come back around. But with the way we’re doing the book and the short format, it’s going to take some time. I think our first year is all about putting the puzzle pieces out there. Whereas year two we will start putting them together. The Tower return, Deadly Bones will be back, Tony will figure out what to use the robots on, the heroes will really figure out what happened to Doctor Daylight AND most importantly … Bobby Silver will be back.
Issue #5 arrives today. Can you tell us a little bit about the story in this one?
Josh: Ah, man. I don’t know if I should. It’s our Christmas themed issue, so I’ll let our solicitation do all the talking:
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the city
Not a creature was stirring, except two mobsters out to kill an old man without pity.
In hopes that no Masks would be there
But then some ghosts gave them quite a scare!
You’re giving a Christmas gift to the Red Cross with this issue, in that you and Mike are donating the money you make off of it to the organization. What was the reason for choosing the Red Cross?
Mike: When we decided on a Christmas issue, it just seemed like the right thing to do, especially in the context of everything that’s happened, nationwide, over the last few months. The Red Cross was the logical choice, given how wide reach and their involvement with Sandy relief in particular.
Josh: This was all Mike. At first I had wanted to give away the issue for free, but there were some complications there. Then Mike suggested the Red Cross, and I knew he was right. Times are hard all over. So much has happened in the last few months and people have been good to us. We knew we had to give something back.
Above: Sample pages from the first issue
What other projects are you working on right now?
Mike: I’m currently finishing up a TBA graphic novel from IDW and just starting some art for a card game project, but Josh and I will be collaborating soon on something outside of Masks and Mobsters as well.
Josh: Captain Midnight with Dark Horse is currently running in [Dark Horse Presents]. My all-ages graphic novels continue with Sketch Monsters at Oni, and I have a few projects with Image that haven’t been announced yet. Something super cool with DC. So much cool stuff coming up. I sometimes doubt anyone is having as much fun as me with writing comics. And yeah, Mike and I just recently got together on something that else that will surprise people.
But Masks and Mobsters is our little engine that could, so we hope that people keep with us and new readers continue to jump on.
Above: Sample pages from Issue 2