Mythic is the latest project from writer Phillip Hester and artist John McCrea. The comic tells the story of a secret organization that works to keep magic working properly in the world.
Hester, an artist himself, has drawn Green Arrow, Ant-Man, Nightwing, and Swamp Thing. He is also the creator of The Coffin and the Eisner nominated series The Wretch.
McCrea, an award winning artist in the comic’s industry, has drawn a who’s who of characters that include: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Judge Dredd and more. He is well known for his collaborative work with comics writer Garth Ennis on the comic Hitman for DC Comics.
With volume one of Mythic being released in trade paperback format this June, we took the time to chat with the creators about their inspiration, what it was like to work with one another, and the future of the characters going forward.
Bounding Into Comics [BIC]: Phillip, So reading through this I had to wonder where did the inspiration come from for this comic? I feel like I could see hints of other things in it and couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a little bit of “Men in Black” mixed with Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” in here?
Phillip: I must confess to having not yet read American Gods, though it sits proudly on my bookshelf. I’d say most stories– in comics, anyway– featuring ancient gods in modern settings trace their lineage back to Eddie Campbell’s “Bacchus”, or possibly Marvel’s Thor.
That said, my love for mythical stories and folklore would have coaxed this story out of me whether or not I had ever seen those books. Like MiB, Capes, Damage Control, and those Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf cartoons from Warner Brothers, I am always drawn to what the actual workaday reality would be for fantastical beings, be they super heroes or demigods.
My goal with the series is to humanize the grandiose and glorify the mundane, so showing gods clock into work, or average people become legendary figures fits that bill.
BIC: What is the research process like for this sort of comic and why did you pick the mythologies you did? Some of the characters and mythologies you used I am less familiar with. Like with Asha and Waterson. Did you intentionally choose mythology and folklore that would be less known?
Phillip: There’s a healthy mix of the familiar, the obscure, and the just plain made up. Oddly enough, sometimes we’d make something up, then find it had a corresponding root in existing mythology we didn’t know existed.
I often would write a story knowing I would need a witch, or a storm god, or a demon of some kind, then fitting the story by inserting whatever interesting myth I could dig up. I guess I’ve been subconsciously taking notes for Mythic my entire life, as Waterson is loosely based on an Apache creation story I memorized for a drama competition in high school.
I love doing that kind of half-daydreaming research. That said, nothing beats just straight up imagining brand new gods, devils, monsters, and heroes.
BIC: Have you two worked together in the past? Creatively what is it you like about one another’s work and why did you guys want to work together?
Phillip: Yeah, we’ve done a few projects together and I’ve never been less than awed by John’s skill. He’s really a master cartoonist and I will take every opportunity to work with him.
Like I said in the previous answer, I’m trying to humanize the fantastic while elevating the mundane, and if that doesn’t perfectly describe John’s style, I don’t know what does. He has a way of making really bizarre things seem plausible, and of finding authenticating details in depictions of everyday life that make them more ‘real’ than a mere photorealistic style is capable of.
You feel the grit under your nails when you read John’s comics. Sending John a script is like putting your own gift under the Christmas tree knowing you’ll be thrilled and surprised at what you’ll find Christmas morning.
BIC: John, what do you like most about working with Phillip? How do you both compliment each other creatively?
John: Being an artist himself, and a fabulous one at that, Phil understands how to write a story that is tailored to the artist- as far as complimenting each other, I just called him fabulous, didn’t I?
BIC: I was wondering what your process was for designing the characters? Seems as if a lot of the characters in this story either come from mythology or in the case of Charlemagne was a real person. Did you feel like you had to stick to some of the already established mythology and were there places you felt you could stray farther away from it?
John: For myths, gods etc. that I knew well I tried to put aside those preconceptions and go off on whatever tangent that presented to me during the long hours agonising over the drawing board- basically, I wanted everything to have ‘mythical’ presence so Finn McCool is massive, towering over the Giant’s Causeway and dwarfing the helicopter.
There was no point were I felt I had to stick to any preconceived notions of the characters, sometimes I did a little more than others, more of a mood/ deadline dependant thing, I guess.
BIC: Phillip, seems as if this book was almost about Magic and in some way spiritualism vs. Science, reason, and atheism. Maybe I am reading too much into the plot, but was this the goal of the story, or did it just sort of provide a fun playground to write and draw in?
Phillip: It’s all a playground! I’ve joked that Mythic was our attempt to treat every worldview the way Stan and Jack treated Norse mythology, but I guess it goes deeper than that.
Every world view can seem absurd depending on where you stand on that spectrum of belief, but none of those beliefs are as absurd as, you know, reality itself. I guess I am lucky enough to have a brain chemistry that regards that sort of bewilderment as kind of exciting and fun. I mean, it’s kind of wonderful that the world is so unknowable, right?
Anyway, Mythic is our attempt to celebrate that chaos by showing you what the world would be like if all our competing irrational beliefs were true– all at the same time. I feel like we treat everyone with the same good natured, loving irreverence that can both chide and celebrate our shared idiosyncrasies. Also, it’s cooler this way.
BIC: How much of an idea for characters are your own and how much of it is shared with John? Do you have a voice and a style in mind for these characters prior to them being drawn on the page?
Phillip: I had definite ideas of what they should look like when I wrote them, but always deferred to John on the final look. Why waste a talent like John’s? I think Cass could have looked like any other 90s-era sexy-Psylocke style heroine in lesser hands, but John managed to give her a depth of character with just a few visual cues that made my writing her both more challenging and more fun.
It’s been that way with a lot of characters. Some I planned to be secondary, but John drew them in such a compelling way I had to involve them in the story more directly.
BIC: John, what were the things you enjoyed the most illustrating this book and maybe what were some of the challenges as well?
John: All the epic sweeping visuals were great fun to do, that’s just putting the creative part of your mind into drive and parking the drawing bit, which is enjoyable.
Visually the most satisfying character to create was Cass as I love the way she ended up looking, but she was also the hardest to get right- I have many pages of sketches of her ( some of which are in the trade ) – she had to look cool, sexy but almost in an androgynous way, which is hard to get right.
I certainly didn’t want the busty babe look. And I feel that worked.
BIC: What was it about this project that attracted you to it?
John: The big epic Kirby-ness and the chance to work with Phil again- did I mention that he’s fabulous?
BIC: When drawing characters do you ever attempt to draw someone similar to yourself? Whether it be their attitude, body language or their appearance. Who did you connect the most with on this title?
John: Tommy Monaghan (from a comic I drew a bunch of years ago, it was written by some guy, can’t remember his name…) was me, with a thicker neck… As far as connecting with someone from Mythic, it was Nate as he is the ordinary (ish) guy in the story that we could step into the shoes of.
BIC: Phillip at the end Nate is now in charge of Mythic. I was wondering if you could give us a tease in what direction the story will go next?
Phillip: Spoilers! Nate has a steep learning curve ahead of him, and it doesn’t come without a price. Also, Killer of Enemies is on the loose and he’s all out of enemies.
We’ll learn the origin of the barely seen Diana, hunt for the reincarnation of Asha, and see what Waterson is up to now that he’s taken his brother’s place in Hell.