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[DISPATCH] An Interview with MAPS Artist Ming Doyle
The [DISPATCH] returns with a 1:1 with Ming Doyle and news about our upcoming Live Draw.
Welcome to a brand new installment of the [DISPATCH] – after a very busy hiatus thanks to our [REWARDS] DAYS (more on that below), we’re back with a weekly direct report from us to you, with news, recaps, exclusive content and more.
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First up, an announcement: tomorrow, we’ll be releasing PERO-PUZ, the latest comic from our upcoming [MAPS] Graphic Novel Sourcebook. And to celebrate that, here’s a chat with Ming Doyle, the fantastic artist who brought the story to life. Be sure to come back in 24 hours or so for the official release!
3W/3M: Thanks for joining us, Ming. Let’s start with the obvious question: What drew you to the 3W/3M universe? Given the potentially limitless scope of telling stories in a brand-new sci-fi world, was there anything about the prospect of working on [MAPS] that made you nervous prior to getting the script?
Ming Doyle: Sci-fi has always been my favorite genre as a reader, and it’s also what I like drawing best so I was thrilled to dive into this new world. I said yes to working on the project without a script in hand, and I wasn’t nervous at all, just very anticipatory. Once I read the story, the smaller, intimate moments were what appealed to me most. The idea of focusing on the everyday people who populate this world, even if only briefly and externally, was compelling to me.
Your story, PERO-PUZ, is centered around a game, and while the rules of the game aren’t explicitly laid out within the story, I imagine you needed a certain understanding of how things function in order to make the visuals track. Were there any logistical hurdles for you to deal with either from an aesthetic/design perspective, or even mentally trying to make sense of a game that didn’t exist but needed to feel really for the story to have impact?
The most difficult part of laying out the story visually actually had to do with the game board itself, as its design was still under development as I was pencilling and inking. The final board design is so beautifully detailed, though, that it was really a joy to interpret it in my style. As for conveying a sense of the game being played on page, I left most of the logistics to the narration, and mainly focused my efforts on drawing suitably absorbed and contemplative expressions on the players.
Interesting. Since you mentioned the board and its development process, what was it like taking Mike and Mike’s designs and making them work in your style? Did it simplify the process because there was less to create from whole cloth, or did it make it harder for any reason?
Once the board design was finished, I had a really fun time drawing it. Even though this project had plenty of lead time on art, my biggest regret is probably somehow still not having the time to render the boards in an even more ornate manner! I think it would be quite interesting to see how various artists approach the celestial themes.
In thinking about your longer form work, it’s been a minute since you did something as overtly sci-fi as Mara. Was there any period of adjustment trying to find the right approach to the material, or did your previous work inform a lot of the decision making for this story?
It has been so incredibly many minutes since I’ve been able to roll around in some good old sci-fi! There’s always a slight period of adjustment for any story, even a short one, but I was lucky to have some truly great concept art to literally draw from. The first panel I drew was actually the last one in the story, which focuses on The Machine’s menacing face. Once I spent some good time noodling on all the wires and nodes in its design, I felt like I had a good feel for how the kind of people who would build something like that might look.
While we’re on the subject of sci-fi, what are some of your favorite stories involving sci-fi world-building? Is there anything in the genre that’s an immediate “I have to read it” or a just as quick “not for me”?
Oh, it’s probably a greatest hits list of cyberpunk and fantasy: Blade Runner, Snow Crash, the glorious Johnny Mnemonic, Star Wars and Trek in all their iterations, the anime Planetes, Gundam Wing, The Fifth Element, Stargate. Some of these, like Planetes, focus on the nittiest, grittiest bits of life in an imagined world, while something like Star Wars has room to go either operatic or granular. As long as there’s a disreputable bar or alley you can imagine tucking yourself into, any world can be enjoyed and built up or down from there.
Switching gears a bit, I wanted to talk about your other work in comics. You’ve been involved with a ton of anthologies – Wonder Woman Black & Gold, Popgun, Secret Identities, Comic Book Tattoo, Womanthology, and more. What do you most enjoy about short form storytelling?
Life being as short as it is, I appreciate having the opportunity to sample a broad array of styles and stories without sinking years or decades into any one world. Though I do think there’s something very noble and alluring about dedicating yourself to a singular work. I haven’t ruled out a monk’s life spent illuminating one grand manuscript, but if that’s to be my destination then I’m still enjoying kicking rocks on the road there.
Speaking of a broad array of styles, I know that you studied both drawing and painting at Cornell. Do you still paint, and would you ever work on a painted sequential story if given the right circumstances (and time)?
I still use water-based media and acrylics in my personal sketchbooks. It’s been years since I’ve touched oils, just because of the chemical and ventilation issues, living and working in a small home with a child, but I’d love to break out the turpentine again someday. Oil painting is so forgiving since it takes so long to dry, it’s almost like having an undo button in real life. And nothing beats painting for tactile satisfaction.
Some of the first graphic novels I read as an adult were Alex Ross’ fully painted comics for Marvel and DC, and I really admired them while I was in art school. I think for comics, I’d enjoy painting the colors to one of my stories someday, under my own inks, rather than going for a purely painterly approach. That’s something to consider, thank you!
That would be very cool to see. Since you’re also a writer, having co-written Constantine: The Hellblazer at DC, can we expect more writing work from you in the near future?
I don’t have anything planned writing-wise for the near future, but I’m always open to it! And I’m always thinking about my own stories, it would be fun to start posting small snippets or fancomics again soon.
A few years back you illustrated a series of anatomical drawings for DC Comics: Anatomy of a Metahuman. Was the approach there to look at existing anatomical drawings and photos and then extrapolate from those how things should look in a superhero context, or was it way more complex? I’d love to hear more about how you approached the projects and what parts of that proved to be particularly challenging.
That book has some of the work I’m proudest of, but it was an arduous undertaking. I almost became an anatomical drawing myself – I was spread so thin over that project for so long. But I am still pleased by the look of it, now that I’m further removed from the experience. The script and editorial directions were largely vague, like "Draw a closeup of Aquaman’s respiratory system," and then I’d just extrapolate out from there and either be told to redo it all or imagine the next bodily system. So it was fun to come up with completely alien or metahuman physiology, and incidentally some of my friends who are doctors and nurse practitioners have told me they really enjoyed the book and gifted it to their colleagues in the medical field, so that’s edifying at least.
You’ve worked for a number of companies on a wide range of titles, and your Vertigo book The Kitchen was even adapted into a movie. But on the off chance that anyone is encountering your work for the first time in [MAPS], what can you tell them about your most recent Image book, Two Graves, that would make them immediately want to preorder the trade paperback that’s coming out in September?
Two Graves is really a tone poem; it is the most atmospheric kōan. It follows a young woman on a road trip with Death, and it’s a meditation on the journey to death through life. It takes the time to linger on lots of small conversations in cars, at the bottom of the ocean, in medieval pastures, on rural porches. Genevieve Valentine, the writer, gave us a lot of space to explore small moments expansively, which I feel is rare in modern Western comics. So if you’re in the mood for something weirder and quieter, this book will be a fun pickup for you. The other huge reason to check it out would be to see Annie Wu’s work. She and I drew the book together, and I loved seeing pages from her. I think anyone else would, too.
Thanks so much to Ming Doyle for taking the time to chat with us. We’ll be releasing PERO-PUZ for all paid subscribers tomorrow.
Excited to announce: we’ll be hosting a brand-new Live Draw this Friday, July 14. We’ll post all the details and info for you later this week, and we’ve got a special guest joining us. Hope to see all of you there on Friday to watch great art come to life and take your questions over on Chat.
The big news across much of the last few weeks was [REWARDS] DAYS, which laid out everything that members of THE CIRCLE, our premium membership tier, and Annual subscribers will be getting as part of the Year 2 rewards.
[REWARDS] A comprehensive list of everything you’ll receive for Year 2 right here. There’s a lot to be excited about.
June 30 at midnight Pacific was the cutoff for all Year 2 print rewards, so any new subscriptions will lock you in for Year 3.
Several of you have asked what you need to do to ensure you get your rewards. Just like Year 1, we’ll send out an email to collect your shipping info and shipping payment details soon. This will likely happen late in the summer, and we’ll make a big deal about it when it goes out.
[THE THIRTEEN QUESTIONS] Currently available exclusively for members of THE CIRCLE, you should absolutely experience THE THIRTEEN QUESTIONS for yourself. That’s all we’re going to say about it for now, but it’s important for where we’re going.
[COMICS] We announced the final [MAPS] artist, our own Jonathan Hickman. Jonathan will be drawing and coloring a story, his first sequential work in some time. You’re really going to enjoy this one.
[3W/3M] We crossed the 20,000 Subscriber mark, welcomed some new faces, and we’ve got bigger and better plans for the year ahead. Your support means the world to us, and we’re going to continue to build on what we’ve done and keep getting bigger and better to deliver more for you. The best truly is yet to come.
[THE COMPETITION] Last week also saw the final round of our first community writing competition. The Round 2 winners turned in script excerpts, got feedback on their pages from Jonathan, and we picked
a winnerthree winners. The journey continues, and we’ll be bringing you more from all three stories as the process continues, artists for each are announced, and they come to life.
More comics, the Live Draw, and more are all headed your way this week. Gonna be a fun one!