As part of the massive list of new releases that Image Comics has set for 2014, The Mercenary Sea was a bit of a sleeper when it hit the shelf last month. But in almost no time, sales guaranteed that the first issue would be printed with a brand-new variant cover from artist Matthew Reynolds alongside the second issue, this Tuesday. In anticipation, I reached out to Mathew to have a talk about his current endeavor, how he met writer Kel Symons, and what’s on his playlist when he creates his art. Thanks to the miracle of social media, we were able to do just that.
Mike Sains: “Mercenary Sea #1” went to a second printing in just about twenty-four hours. But sales numbers aside, how do you feel the book has been received by critics and fans?
Mathew Reynolds: Most people seem to be enjoying the fact that it looks different. Some people don’t care for it at all…”them’s the breaks”. [It is] Not easy to hang your hide out there for people to take shots at; and they do. We didn’t make the thing for them. I couldn’t be happier with the fans we have so far. Some people really get it. It’s meant to be fun.
MS: How did you meet Kel Symons? Follow-up: How did you come about working with him on this book?
MR: He saw my work in an article on IO9. They did an article on my [Indiana] Jones work. He contacted me and we started talking about our love of old adventure tales and we started batting ideas back and forth. We put together a proposal for Image and they gambled along with us.
MS: Do you and Kel have stories / arcs mapped out for the months to come, or is this a week-to-week experience for you two?
MR: Right now we have three years worth of story mapped out.
MS: Was having The Mercenary Sea published through Image always the goal, or, was it simply the best option?
MR: It WAS the best option.
MS: Who or what are you major inspirations / influences for your art work?
MR: If you go to my deviant art site, you will see I have several styles and many inspirations. Al Williamson, Robert McGinnis, Drew Struzan, Michael Golden, Don Bluth, Doug Wildey, Mike Mignola, John Buscema, all influences. The western painters Russell and Remington. Lucas and Spielberg. Vittorio Storaro, the cinematographer on Apocalypse Now. Also the film American Pop.
MS: Do you listen to music when you create? If so, what’s on your playlist?
MR: I listen to a lot of old soul(pre-1975), and film scores. Jazz as well. I don’t listen to old country music while I draw, though I like some old country very much (pre-1975). I do listen to old western swing while I work sometimes. Golden age hip-hop gets some rotation. The good stuff, before fake gangsters crippled the art form. Traditional African drumming gets me sailing right along.
MS: When creating within the confines of a specific genre like Mercenary Sea (action / adventure / high seas) do you have certain artistic “notes” you’d like to hit? Things that might play as an homage to other genre tales?
MR: Sure, King Kong, Raiders [of the Lost Arc], The Dirty Dozen. I think the biggest influence are our childhood heroes and playing in the creeks and rivers, hunting for dinosaurs, all that stuff. BB guns and canteens.
MS: Do you have a particular writer you’ve always wanted to work with / have your eye on?
MR: Tons, too numerous to list.
MS: If you could be the artist on any major character run for Marvel or DC, who would you want it to be?
MR: DC: Kana the Ninja. An old character that appeared in G.I. Combat. Or The Mercenaries another old G.I. Combat series. MARVEL: The Punisher (I have a soft spot for crazy ass Frank, the poor bastard.) or The Black Panther.
MS: Both of your answers (minus Black Panther, depending on who you ask) pertain to “street level” characters. Do you prefer characters that don’t have super powers? (Also, Frank Castle is my personal favorite guilty pleasure. I love his insane sense of justice)
MR: I like the human desperation in non-powered characters. But T’Challa and Logan have something else I like a lot, animal attributes. Many “Spandex” heroes allow you to do some great things visually though. I love many of them. Captain America, Nick Fury, Batman, Zorro, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Conan, Doc Savage, The Shadow. Larry Hama’s G.I. Joes are a REAL colorful lot. Love those guys.
MS: Last question. If you were a member of a rag-tag mercenary ship crew, what role would you be? The captain? The navigator? The cook?
MR: Recon scout.
Mike Sains is a Staff Writer at Capeless Crusader. When he isn’t writing, he’s podcasting at various places online. When he isn’t podcasting, he’s collecting comic books, FunkoPop! figures, and vinyl records. You can hear him on Geek Girls, Nerd Boys, The Tower of Sour, and The Inverse Delirium, all available on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @MikeSains.