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An interview with Mark Oakley

Thieves & Kings

1) What are some of your literary influences?

Every good book I’ve ever read has influenced me. I’ve read lots of good books!

When I was a kid, I read lots of sci-fi and fantasy fiction. From C.S. Lewis and Asimov to Tolkien and Bradbury. -But lots of other less notable and famous authors filled my reading time as well. I read Encyclopedia Brown when I was still learning how to read. And I read an author named Edward Eager when I was learning how to love magic and fantasy found in libraries.

When I grew older, I tried to get into books from earlier periods of history, but there’s just so much of it! I made an effort to sample all the big name authors. I read the Three Musketeers and Don Quixote. I went through a Russian lit phase, with War & Peace, Doctor Zhivago and The Idiot. I read A Tale of Two Cities and Sense & Sensibility. I read Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick. I read the Bible. I read everything I could, but still feel like I barely scraped the surface. I still don’t read very quickly.

My favorites were oddball little titles picked up on whims because they had interesting spines on used bookshop shelves. “Two Years Before the Mast” was an amazing account of sailing in the 1700‘s. I read one the title of which I’ve now forgotten, by an author who only wrote one or two other books and never became famous, but it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was about an old Napoleonic soldier stuck in a fortified down in the house of a beautiful young bride and her spy husband. He knew all the tricks necessary to keep people alive when food runs out. Over the last decade I’ve turned more to non-fiction and pseudo non-fiction. I love books on psychology and science. For my latest comics project, which deals with an X-Files sort of story line, I’ve been reading books about UFOs and crop circles and such. That’s been a lot of fun.

2) Art influences?

Spiderman and Warner Brothers cartoons when I was small. When I was in my teens, it was Bill Waterson’s Calvin & Hobbes and manga and anime. Hayo Miyazaki and Masamnue Shirow were easily the two who inspired the most “Wow!" in me during that period. These days, any comic, Western, European or Asian, which comes across my desk and which is well-drawn, serves to inform, inspire and teach me new things. I’m always willing to absorb beautifully drawn comics!

3) What mood were you trying to capture with Thieves and Kings?

It took me nearly a thousand pages to properly capture that feeling. Readers will know it and recognize it very quickly, however, when they read my comics.

But I will still make an effort here.

Ahem...

Amber dust and salty air.

Wind and warmth and ships masts and thick ropes swinging lazy down from big wooden block pulleys.

In the middle of it all, a city rises like spilled match boxes, cluttered with red fired roof top shingles and cliff faces and trees here and there about. -And people milling and carrying on and working with their hands. -And calling out and wearing nice things and stout boots and bright buttons, buying fresh bread and cheese.

You can stand on one of those roof tops and look out over the city below. It is your city! It is full of secrets, and it is noble. How do I mean, “noble”? -Why, even the meanest and most villainous of men know to hold the door open for a lady. Gotham this is not! The citizens aren’t all half-dead and foul and stupid and crude. You look down this glittering wonder, all the way to the water, and your heart swells because it is unutterably beautiful. And more than post-card beautiful! More than vacation magazine pretty. Because it is real! Reach down and press your hand to the road, and it will come up gritty. All the other story tellers wish their worlds could be like this one. It is not a Disney world with soft edges. Jump and land askew, and your knees will surely be scraped and bloody. You can die here! Broken glass cuts, but pink cheeks are unutterably soft and precious, and the blue sky! It is so deep and tall and the clouds so white and defined, you can lose your mind!

But there is more! It is the kind of beautiful you can jump into and be a part of! And it is almost too much! If you yell to release the pressure inside your chest, it will not be enough. You must dance and run and love or surely burst and die!

A sword might be necessary, because not all creatures want the world to exist like this.

4) Any upcoming projects we should keep our eyes out for?

Yes! I am currently (or just about to start) releasing pages from my new sci-fi project, “Jenny Mysterious”. Check out my Patreon campaign which should have launched by the time people read this. Think X-Files meets Doctor Who meets Kung-Fu. -All wrapped up in a cute high school girl. -Also, the next Stardrop graphic novel is coming out soon. Check out my website.

And of course... more Thieves & Kings


Cheers!