INTERVIEW with MARK SABLE
Feb. 2, 2009
Mark Sable is a comic book writer and one of the nicest guys around. He has a B.A. in English from Duke University, an M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from NYUâ€™s Tisch School of Arts, and a J.D. from The University of Southern California Law School, so obviously heâ€™s a lot smarter than me and worth listening to. Sable has written GROUNDED, FEARLESS, and HAZED for Image Comics. He also wrote the recent CYBORG: RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and TWO-FACE: YEAR ONE for DC Comics, and a webcomic based on the TV show HEROES that ran on NBCâ€™s website.
MARK, THANKS FOR DOING THIS. Iâ€™VE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS CONVERSATION WITH YOU BECAUSE I LOVE GEEKING OUT ON COMIC BOOK TALK. OKAY, THE FIRST COMIC BOOK I EVER READ WAS THE MARVEL ADAPTATION OF THE ORIGINAL STAR WARS MOVIE. MY PARENTS TOOK ME TO SEE IT AT A THEATRE MINNESOTA AND I REMEMBER THEY WERE SELLING THE STAR WARS COMIC BOOK AT THE CONCESSION STAND. I THREW A TANTRUM UNTIL MY MOM GAVE IN AND BOUGHT ME A COPY. MY LIFE WAS CHANGED FOREVER. DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST COMIC BOOK YOU READ AND THE IMPACT IT HAD ON YOU?
I do remember the first comic I read, although I donâ€™t think it had the same impact on me as STAR WARS did for you (or for me, for that matter).
It was Avengers #199 . I picked it up at the late, lamented Roosevelt Field Flea Market on Long Island. It seemed like a steal, because, as the cover says, that comic could have been worth $2,500! The book featured two of my favorite heroes as a kid, Captain America and Iron Man. Up until that point, Iâ€™d only seen them in cartoons â€“ either the strange, barely animated Marvel cartoons from the sixties, or their cameo appearances from SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS. I love the idea that there was a book that had both of them, let alone a whole team of rotating superheroes. They also battled Red Ronin, a giant robot Samurai that had fought Godzilla before going rogue. The Avengers were fighting him from the inside, which was a mind blowing concept for me at that time.
Although Iâ€™ve done quite a bit of work for DC Comics, Iâ€™m much more of a Marvel guy. The reason I think, is because Marvel always felt like it had this grand, cohesive universe, in a way that DC, with its many reboots and infinite earths, did not. Like my love for comics, the Marvel Universe seemed to gradually, organically accrete until it became something greater than the sum of its parts. Grant Morrison (ALL STAR SUPERMAN, THE INVISIBLES) describes comic universes as living beings, and I agree with him, at least metaphorically.
I WAS A BIG COLLECTOR WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. I WOULD SPEND MY LUNCH MONEY BUYING ANYTHING THAT RESEMBLED A COMIC BOOK. HOW SERIOUS OF A COLLECTOR WERE YOU?
I collected comics sporadically after that AVENGERS issue until I subscribed (you could subscribe to comics back then directly from the publisher without going to a comic book store) to GI JOE and UNCANNY X-MEN. G.I. JOE was an underrated comic, much edgier than the cartoon. It was my first taste of soap opera, a continuing story that kept me coming back before. At the same time, I saw in the X-MEN, that comics could be more than melodrama. Even at a relatively young age I saw the metaphors in the X-MEN for racism, persecution and the idea of the mutant , â€œthe otherâ€. Intellectually I liked the social consciousness, but deep down I identified, as so many other kids did, with being a mutant. Feeling that I was apart from society, but that secretly I had gifts that Iâ€™d one day show the world. Of courseâ€¦the fact that I identified with Magneto (who graced the cover of my first X-Men issue, #200) more than the X-Men probably tells you something about either my politics or my temperament as a pre-teen.
I WAS EMBARASSED AS A KID TO BE READING COMIC BOOKS. COMIC BOOKS WERENâ€™T AS HIP BACK THEN. IN SCHOOL, I WOULD READ THEM BETWEEN MY NOTEBOOKS SO NO ONE WOULD SEE. DID YOU FEEL THE SAME WAY?
Totally. The height of my comics obsession was having Marvel Comics as the â€œthemeâ€ of my Bar Mitzvah. We had a cartoonist doing caricatures, and everyone went home with a t-shirt that had me, dressed as Iron Man (with his helmet under my shoulder) along with the words â€œI had a MARVELous time at Markâ€™s Bar Mitzvahâ€ on it.
Once high school started, Iâ€™d given up the hobby. It was regarded as childish by both my parents and peers, and I desperately wanted to re-invent myself asâ€¦well, anything but a nerd. It wasnâ€™t until the end of high school and the beginning of college that I read THE DARK KNIGHT, WATCHMEN and SANDMAN, all of which not only introduced me to comics-as-literature, but as graphic novels, I felt okay carrying them in public.
Worse, itâ€™s probably been about five years since Iâ€™ve felt comfortable sharing the fact that I read, let alone write comics. There was a terrible stigma that existed around the form until recently. I remember as a law student running into a classmate in a comics shop here in LA, and I felt like Iâ€™d been caught buying porn (I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a coincidence both used to be sold in brown bags). Itâ€™s been shocking to me that, since comics and superheroes became Hollywoodâ€™s darling, reading comics is not only no longer something to be ashamed of, but itâ€™s actually cool. The next generation will have it easier in that respect, although I still hope that comics will be a bridge to those who feel apart from society.
BE HONEST WITH ME: AS AN ADULT, HAVE YOU EVER DRESSED UP LIKE A SUPERHERO?
Ha, no. The closest Iâ€™ve come was dressing up as Spike from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, which was gay enough (although while wearing it I met the girlfriend who I dated the most seriously).
Speaking of gay (not that thereâ€™s anything wrong with that) â€“ that might be the reason I donâ€™t dress up like that. I canâ€™t name names, but when I moved out to LA I went to the Halloween party of a screenwriter who did a number of very successful comic-to-screenplay adaptations. I was the only straight guy there, which didnâ€™t bother me as it meant there was less competition for the women there.That I could deal with. What I had a harder time with was that the other guys there were all dressed as superheroes. And when I say dressed, I mean they wore nothing but speedos and body paint which made them look like they were wearing skin-tight Aquaman costumes. I went as The Pope, so I told them they were all sodomizers who would go to hell (in character, of course).
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALIZE YOU WANTED TO WRITE COMIC BOOKS?
Subconsciously, probably my whole life. At an early age, I created my own â€œuniverseâ€ using Star Wars and GI Joe figures, where everyone was an original character and they starred in intersecting storylines. I wanted to be a film and tv writer (and still write for both), but I didnâ€™t even consider that a viable profession until the end of high school. As crazy as it sounds, I donâ€™t think I realized I wanted a career in comics until I already had one.
My first comic, GROUNDED, started out as a screenplay. This was before super-hero movies, let alone those based original creations were a proven commodity (the jury is still somewhat out on the latter). It sat on my hard drive until I was helping pay my way through law school by working at an entertainment law firm. At that point, I was seeing comic properties sell, and thought that GROUNDED (then called POWERLESS) might work as a comic. My initial thinking was that at best, it would be my entrÃ©e into screenwriting, and at worst, Iâ€™d have something I created published on my terms. It did much better as a comic than I anticipated, and I wound up getting more comic book work.
At some point, I realized that, whatever the future has in store for me in terms of writing for the screen, I loved writing comics. Thereâ€™s a relatively quick turnaround from writing to publication. You get to see your words brought to life by phenomenally talented artists. Itâ€™s a collaborative medium, but at the same time the writer is respected more than anywhere except novels or plays. The audience is small, but dedicated, and you get an almost immediate response from readers. I could go on in on, but the point is I realize how good I have it, and while I may work in other media, it will never be as a â€œstep upâ€ for comics, because writing them continues to be the most rewarding professional experience in my life.
WHAT ARE YOU READING THESE DAYS? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE TITLES?
Right nowâ€¦wow, itâ€™s hard to say. Not because thereâ€™s a lack of great comics, just the opposite. And, especially with so many of my friends in the industry, Iâ€™m afraid to leave something out. But Iâ€™ll throw some out there that I think are must reads.
Grant Morrisonâ€™s ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. The best Superman story ever told. Itâ€™s got more ideas on one page than most books do in their entire run.
Adrian Tomineâ€™s OPTIC NERVE, which comes out too sporadically for my tastes, is a masterpiece. Each issue is a self-contained short story. Itâ€™s minimalist, realist work, not genre reading. Itâ€™s reminiscent of Raymond Carverâ€™s short stories.
THE WINTER MEN, by my good friend Brett Lewis and artist JP Leon â€“ itâ€™s a murder mystery set in post-Soviet Russia about the last remaining Russian supermen. Itâ€™s much more a crime comic than a superhero book, and might be the best thing since Watchmen. Itâ€™s criminally under-read, but anyone whoâ€™s reading this should dig up the hard-to-find back issues, as itâ€™s not been collected as a trade yet.
Other than that â€“ I follow writers more than artists or characters. Iâ€™m a big fan of Ed Brubaker, Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron, to name a few. And really, Iâ€™m naming a few. My weekly comicsâ€™ budget is insane. Thank god itâ€™s a tax write-off.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR INFLUENCES AND WHY?
Wow. Thatâ€™s a long list, and whatâ€™s interesting is, as I think about it itâ€™s different than who I may have thought it was. Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and Mark Millar â€“ they always remind me that comics are about imagination and ideas that are bigger than the page and come at your one after the other.
Alan Moore â€“ for his deconstruction, his ability to continually re-invent himself (itâ€™s amazing the same guy that wrote WATCHMEN wrote FROM HELL and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN), and mostly, for his level of craft. Look at the way a single page, let alone a single/chapter of WATCHMEN is constructed. Itâ€™s likeâ€¦well, itâ€™s like the mechanism of a watch itself. Reading and re-reading that book is a history lesson in itself.
Frank Miller, for bringing heroes down to earth with THE DARK KNIGHT, BATMAN: YEAR ONE, etc. Unfortunately, he and Alan Moore ushered in an age of imitators that made every character dark and gave deconstruction a bad name.
Kurt Busiek helped save deconstruction as a device in comics. I like deconstruction, but he showed me that it could be done without tearing down what came before in a dark and cynical way. Kurt takes things apart, but he puts them back together in a new way thatâ€™s incredibly inspiring. Itâ€™s deconstruction and reconstruction at the same time.
Kurtâ€™s ASTRO CITY might be my single biggest influence. It looks at superheroes from so many different angles, all of them fresh. I would never have attempted to create heroes outside of Marvel or DC if it wasnâ€™t for him, and when I do, I try to make sure that itâ€™s something weâ€™ve never seen before. Which is pretty hard to do in mainstream comics, where just about everything has been tried.
Then there are writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka. Books like POWERS and GOTHAM CENTRAL, which bring heroes down to earth in a gritty way, they are probably the most contemporary books that influence me, at least consciously.
Mark Waid. In an age of cynicism, his stories have always been incredibly sincere. He manages to tell emotionally true stories about super-heroes without being overly reverent or sentimental. His work great corrective to so many books in which the author is clearly trying to show he or she is smarter than the work. Story and character is everything to him. Heâ€™s also got great range. He reminds me of Sidney Lumet, in that heâ€™s less concerned with having a trademark voice than telling great storiesâ€¦in this way heâ€™s almost an invisible hand, and despite being a best-selling writer, I think heâ€™s underappreciated.
In full disclosure, Mark is the editor of my next creator-owned comic, UNTHINKABLE, coming in May from BOOM! Studios. Heâ€™s also become a mentor, and Iâ€™m proud to say, a friend.
Whatâ€™s interesting is, I feel, and have been told, that Neil Gaimanâ€™s SANDMAN is a huge influence. But I canâ€™t for the life of me pinpoint exactly why. The best I can think of is that Iâ€™m always shooting for something as deep, epic and meaningful as that series.
And thatâ€™s just my influences in comics. Iâ€™m just as influenced by playwrights like Shakespeare and Chekhov, and Conor McPherson; novelists like Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy and Phillip Roth; filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, PT. Anderson and Noah Baumbach, and most of all TV writers. Weâ€™re living in a golden age as far as scripted dramas go. David Simon, David Milch, Joss Whedon, David Chase, Ron Moore and most recently Matthew Weiner. Theyâ€™ve all played a role in elevating the medium to the status of literature. If this were the academy awards, dude, Iâ€™d have been pulled off the stage by music long before I finished that list. I think you are going to have to break this interview up in parts.
THE GENERAL SCHOOL OF THOUGHT IS THIS: ITâ€™S DIFFICULT FOR AN UNPROVEN WRITER TO BREAK INTO FILM, EVEN MORE DIFFICULT FOR AN UNPROVEN WRITER TO BREAK INTO TV, AND ITâ€™S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN UNPROVEN WRITER TO BREAK INTO COMICS. DO YOU FIND THIS TO BE TRUE?
Itâ€™s funny you say that, because while I think what you said is true, I donâ€™t think many writers, especially writers for film and TV believe that to be the case. In my experience, writers from other media think that breaking into comics is easy. Partly because some big name writers like Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith have crossed over into comics with relative ease. But thatâ€™s also because they were hugely successful in TV and film respectively. That hasnâ€™t been helped by the fact that during the writers strike, the big publishers were flooded with TV talent looking for work, and the comic industry totally gay for Hollywood.
If you donâ€™t believe me, ask editors at smaller publishers, who are handed busted specs by writers who think that theyâ€™ll be able to sell a screenplay that was passed on as a comic. Thereâ€™s some truth in that â€“ Iâ€™m a rare exception, so mea culpa â€“ because some development executives have a hard time visualizing things and reading comics does that work for them. I donâ€™t blame the execs though; most comics are quicker reads than specs, and if I had a pile of ten scripts to read or twenty comics, Iâ€™d go for the latter.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR NEW WRITERS LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE COMIC BOOK BUSINESS?
Take Fountain. [*]
Seriously? Itâ€™s really hard to break into the big two (Marvel and DC). They donâ€™t take open submissions, and itâ€™s more like donâ€™t call us, weâ€™ll call you. That may be different if youâ€™re a Chris Morgan or a Jon Davis with an established film or television career.
So, Iâ€™d advocate the kind of do-it-yourself, indie film approach that I took with GROUNDED. Which is basically: come up with an original idea, in whatever genre appeals to you, and try to get it published at one of the â€œsmallerâ€ publishers that take submissions, or publish it yourself. I donâ€™t know a ton about webcomics, but I do know that itâ€™s a lot cheaper to put your work on the web than to print it.
Of course, Iâ€™m making it sound a lot easier than it is. To break in that way, Iâ€™d still advise the following: Give yourself a long-range plan. Not months, YEARS. During which time you should be honing your writing skills, making as many contacts as you can, particularly with up-and-coming artists, and saving up as much money as you can.
The last part is because chances are, even if you are lucky and get an artist to work for free (unlikely), and land a publisher like Image (the Miramax of comic books), youâ€™ll still have to lay out money. For colorists, lettering etc. It might seem unfair to pay an artist, but remember that it takes them much longer to draw a page than it takes us to write one. Their time is valuable, backend money is almost non-existent when you get started, and money shows that you are serious and that you respect their work. Oh â€“ and get a lawyer to write up contracts before you go into business with anybody; that will be money well spent. Be prepared for a long road, and realize you might have to make a substantial investment of money in addition to time.
YOUâ€™RE MANAGED BY A COMPANY CALLED CHATRONE. HOW DID THEY FIND YOU?
I met Carina Schulze, one of the partners, in a writing class at The Writerâ€™s Bootcamp in Santa Monica (where Iâ€™m now an online instructor). Itâ€™s a little known fact that in addition to being a great manager, she is actually a damn good writer. Which is even more remarkable since English is not her first language.
We had a lot in common and struck up a friendship. That was around the time Iâ€™d pitched GROUNDED successfully to Image, but it hadnâ€™t seen print. Iâ€™d shown her some PDFs, but I was actually more interested in helping a fellow creator, Ivan Brandon (writer of NYC MECH, 24/7 and the upcoming VIKING), get a representation. He volunteered his services as editor on GROUNDED, so it was the least I could do. I think that made it a little easier when I finally came to them â€“ Iâ€™d already brought them a promising client, and by that point I had published work to show for it.
DO YOUR MANAGERS HELP WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR COMIC BOOK IDEAS?
For the most part, I draw a bright line between writing comics and translating them into other properties. My agent and manager donâ€™t commission my comic book work, and I donâ€™t think any agents or managers do, to my knowledge. The money most freelancers make in comicsâ€¦taking 10 %â€“ 25% of that would make it hard to survive. At the same time, more and more publishers are getting their own representation, and when you are dealing with an artist and an editorâ€¦too many cooks with conflicting agendas. That said, the line is getting blurred a bit, because sometimes when I develop a property Iâ€™m not sure whether it will be a comic, feature, television show, videogame or all of the above.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE FEARLESS AND HAZED?
For your readers â€“ FEARLESS was a mini-series about a vigilante with a severe anxiety disorder, who took an anti-fear drug not only to fight crime, but to function in his â€œcivilianâ€ life as well. As I mentioned earlier, if Iâ€™m going to create my own hero, itâ€™s got to be something that nobodyâ€™s seen before. That was a case of coming up with the concept first. I still had trouble wrapping my head around the character, so I brought in screenwriter David Roth, and had the most successful and enjoyable collaboration with another writer to date.
HAZED is a darkly comedic graphic novel about sororities and eating disorders. A satire in the vein of HEATHERS or MEAN GIRLS. I suppose thereâ€™s a high concept there â€“ â€œMEAN GIRLS set in College!â€ â€“ but HAZED was born more out of personal experience. I went to Duke undergrad, where the Greek scene was huge.
Besides having a great basketball team, Duke is one of the top schools academically. So it blew my mind when I saw some of the smartest women in the country completely revolve their life around how attractive they were to me, even if it meant starving themselves to death. HAZED was my (politically incorrect) way of trying to figure out why they did that. Itâ€™s been a strange experience, because Iâ€™ve been told many times by women they canâ€™t believe a guy wrote it.
YOU ALSO WROTE THE HEROES WEBCOMIC THAT RAN ON NBC’S WEBSITE? HOW’D YOU GET THAT GIG?
Former executive producer Jesse Alexander was a fan of my work, most likely because my good friend Pierluigi Cothran passed it along to him. Jesse referred me to Chuck Kim, a former DC editor who is on staff there and is in charge of the webcomics.
That turned out to be one of the best experiences in comics. First, NBC and the Heroes creators treated the webcomics seriously. They were and are considered canon. Which means you canâ€™t mess things up, but at the same time my work is considered as valid as any episode. Heroes fans are extremely devoted, and probably dwarf that of any single comic book. And I loved the challenge of having to tell a story in 5 page chunks.
TELL US ABOUT THE CYBORG SERIES YOU WROTE D.C.?
It was a mini-series that came out last year about DCâ€™s most prominent African-American superhero. Heâ€™s a member of the Teen Titans and surprisingly has never had his own series. If the Titans are DCâ€™s X-Men, heâ€™s their Wolverine. Itâ€™s a property that Iâ€™m surprised DC/Warners hasnâ€™t developed, because itâ€™s perfect for somebody like â€“ well, like Tyrese. Heâ€™s a badass, but also a genius, and way ahead of his time because heâ€™s not in any way stereotypical. Iâ€™m pretty sure DC is collecting it as a trade this year, which hopefully will expose the story and the character to a new readership.
Cyborg was a learning experience for me, and while Iâ€™m proud of it, I think that this past summerâ€™s TWO-FACE: YEAR ONE, is a much better reflection of my mainstream superhero writing skills. Itâ€™s a gritty crime drama about the rise and fall of one of Batmanâ€™s greatest villains.
I KNOW YOU HAVE AN ANIMATION PROJECT IN DEVELOPMENT AT CARTOON NETWORK, A PILOT CALLED POLARITY. WHATâ€™S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WRITING SCRIPTS FOR MOVIES AND TV, AND SCRIPTS FOR COMIC BOOKS? AND WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
All three forms have some similarities: they are visual mediums, they use three act structure and are often episodic or serialized. But I could go on for an hour about the differences. Comics are not about the supremacy of the image, as in film (where the Platonic ideal of film is the silent movie), or words, as in a novel or a play. Itâ€™s about the careful juxtaposition of the two, and each page, each panel is an endless channel.
As a practical matter, you have to be much more descriptive in a comic book script than you would in a screenplay. For instance, youâ€™d never tell a writer in a screen- or teleplay what their facial expression should be, it would be considered insulting micromanagement. In comics, the artist is the actor, and if you donâ€™t tell or at least hint at what the character looks like while heâ€™s speaking, the meaning can be completely lost. As to which I prefer? I love doing all three, but since Iâ€™ve had the satisfaction of being published and recognized as a comic book writer, Iâ€™m pretty damn happy with writing comics.
Iâ€™VE PARTIED WITH YOU AT THE LAST FEW COMIC-CONS. HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN ATTENDING?
You are not kidding weâ€™re partied! Thatâ€™s definitely one of the highlights for me each year, getting together with you, Jon Davis, Chris Morgan, Omar Shamout, Rob McKittrick, Josh Cagan etc. Both for our dinners at the Strip Club where you grill your own steaks, and drinks at the W Hotel or wherever the William Morris party is, where you manage to round up the hottest girls in the city.
Iâ€™m going to kiss your ass for a second by saying you are one of the best guys in the world to hang out with. You make sure everybody is having a good time, introduce your friends to beautiful women in the most selfless wayâ€¦and we havenâ€™t even gotten to strips clubs.
THANKS, DUDE. YOU ARE A GENTLEMAN AND A SCHOLAR FOR EVEN MENTIONING IT. Iâ€™M NOT HAVING A GOOD TIME UNLESS MY FRIENDS ARE HAVING A GOOD TIME.
Oh yeah, when did I start attending Comic-Con? 2002, the first summer I moved out here from New York.
OUTSIDE OF ALL THE PARTYING, WHAT IS THE COMIC-CON EXPERIENCE LIKE FOR YOU?
Each year since I pitched GROUNDED itâ€™s become more about work than it is about fun. Meetings with both Hollywood and comic industry players, networking, and of course, hanging out at a booth hawking my wares. But I donâ€™t want to complain. My worst day in comics is better than the best day at just about any job Iâ€™ve ever had.
AT THE NEXT COMIC-CON, I AGREED TO DRESS UP LIKE CHAIRMAN KAGA IF JOSH CAGAN DRESSES UP LIKE SAILOR MOON. WHAT ARE YOU DRESSING UP AS?
You know, not only can I not top you and Josh, but I saw someone last year who takes the cake for best (if unintentional) costume. For anyone who’s never been to Comic-Con, thereâ€™s a ton of people in wheelchairs motoring around. I think itâ€™s less that they are handicapped and more that they are fat and lazy. I saw a guy in a Wolverine costume in a wheelchair, and all I could think was, healing factor my ass.
YOU REALLY MISSED OUT THE YEAR WE BROKE OUT OF SAN DIEGO AND HEADED TO TIJUANA. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE LADIES THERE AREâ€¦OH, HOW SHALL I PUT ITâ€¦VERY FRIENDLY AND ACCOMODATING. ANY REGRETS NOT JOINING US THAT NIGHT?
Definitely, if only for the experience. I meanâ€¦so far I havenâ€™t crossed that line into paying for sex (not that anyone we know did that). I havenâ€™t refrained for some moral reason, but because Iâ€™m picturing my future wife asking me whether Iâ€™ve done that, and not being able to lie about it. But the way things are going in Mexico now, that place is looking more like the Gaza Strip every day. Going down now, even for moreâ€¦wholesome fun, Iâ€™m not sure weâ€™d make it out alive.
I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT PAYING FOR SEX, BUT UHâ€¦CHANGING THE TOPICâ€¦Iâ€™M A LOYAL SHOPPER AT AT MELTDOWN COMICS. I JUST LOVE THE VIBE THERE. WHERE DO YOU SHOP FOR COMICS?
Meltdown all the way. Itâ€™s walking distance, butâ€¦proximity to a comic book store was a priority for picking a place to live when I moved out here. They have everything I want, and itâ€™s justâ€¦itâ€™s the kind of place you can take a girl to, and not have her feel like an oddity. Itâ€™s one of the rare female friendly shops. Theyâ€™ve also been really gracious to me as a creator, letting me have parties there, the â€œsororityâ€-themed HAZED party sponsored by Kirin beer being the highlight. You run into lots of pros there, and everyone that works there is friendly and coolâ€¦Iâ€™ve actually made quite a bit of friends there.
YOUâ€™VE HAD THE DISTINCTION OF WORKING FOR BOTH CHARLIE ROSE AND HOWARD STERN, TWO VERY DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSSED PERSONALITIES. WHAT DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WOULD BE MOST SURPRISED TO KNOW ABOUT ROSE AND STERN?
I think most people would be surprised to learn that their personalities are NOT diametrically opposed. They have a lot in common, which I think accounts for their success. They are both smart as hell, workaholics, and off the air â€“ amazingly ego free. Theyâ€™d take an idea from an intern as readily as a producer. Itâ€™s all about the show for them.
Both places were good work environments, but the Stern Show was something special. Most of the time my work was mundane, like any office. But that was punctuated by some of the most ridiculous tasks Iâ€™ve ever been assigned. Making sure strippers from Scores didnâ€™t fall of a stage, planning Gary the Retardâ€™s birthday party, and babysitting Hank The Angry Drunken Dwarf for a day. I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ve told anyone this â€“ I never even told my bosses at Stern â€“ but I literally saved Hankâ€™s life. He just walked right into incoming traffic in Broadway near Times Square. An S.U.V. was coming and â€“ I mean, he was a midget, there was no way the driver could possibly have seen him â€“ so I ran into traffic and picked him up. Iâ€™m leaving out many, many more surreal stories, but suffice to say: Best. Job. Ever.
Itâ€™s actually a little bittersweet when I hear him on Sirius now, because I wonder what would have happened if Iâ€™d stayed. I was there before satellite and before Artie Lange, someone I would have loved to get to know. Buy the audiobook of his autobiography â€œToo Fat to Fishâ€ on iTunes and youâ€™ll understand why.
I WANT TO END WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF ALL, AND Iâ€™VE POSED THIS PREVIOUSLY TO OMAR: RECENTLY OUR FAVORITE STRIP CLUB, THE BODY SHOP ON SUNSET BLVD., BURNT DOWN. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN DEALING?
Honest answer? I canâ€™t believe youâ€™re going to print any of this. Iâ€™m coping quite fine. As you may recall, we went there on my birthday. And, after years of fruitlessly asking for strippersâ€™ numbers, a dancer finally asked for mine. One thing led to another andâ€¦letâ€™s just say that I feel like anything after that would be anti-climactic. Plus, Iâ€™m still friends with the dancer, who is actually quite smart and witty. The stories sheâ€™s told me about what went on behind the scenes thereâ€¦that was some fucked up shit. As Iâ€™m saying all this, Iâ€™m thinking that if you called me up and asked me to go to FourPlay, Iâ€™d be there in two seconds.
*Mark is referring to the famous Bette Davis retort, â€œTake Fountain,â€ when Johnny Carson asked her what was the best way for an aspiring actress to get into Hollywood. Fountain is a street in Hollywood that runs parallel to the more congested Sunset Blvd.