Talking Comics with Malachi Ward
You might catch him working at the Secret Headquarters comic shop, but Malachi Ward is an indie comic creator whose latest graphic novel From Now On releases this May. To support it, he’ll be heading up and down the West Coast, but before he hit the road, I got a chance to chat with him about his upcoming release, Prophet, pizza, and the upcoming California primary.
Graphic Policy: So, how are you, is it five there? In California?
Malachi Ward: No it’s eight.
GP: Ok, good. I was thinking that’d be horribly early, alright. The first thing I want to ask is how old you are?
GP: Okay, I’m 37, just so we’re on an even keel. And have you always lived in California? Are you a native?
MW: Yeah, I grew up in a little desert town between L.A. and Palm Springs.
GP: Ok, I’ve only been to California once, spent a week in Eureka and…
MW: Yeah it’s pretty different than southern California up there.
GP: You know that’s what I found, I just took shorts and stuff, and I’m just like what the hell? This is worse than where I came from. Alright, so I wasn’t sure if I had the issues of Prophet you did, and I do, I’ve got issues 34 & 35 where you did the backup story, but I have to ask if there is a part 3? Because I don’t have issue 36
MW: There was a part 3, yeah yeah, I’ll send you the pdf or something.
GP: That’s one of the things that really got me back into comics, the Prophet book and the sci-fi stuff and alternative comics. Now looking through your latest book, From Now On would you call that a collection or anthology? And I notice that all your stuff is definitely very sci-fi, but not like bad sci-fi stuff, like not cheesy, or like I’ve got the Barbarella movie, and my wife is not a fan of that at all.
MW: Yeah it’s definitely a different kind of sci-fi than Barbarella, but that’s okay.
GP: Right, I don’t look at it like Jane Fonda is so hot, but I like the exploitation of it, or like that it’s a picture of the time when it was made.
MW: Yeah, and the production and everything.
GP: Those bird people. So I’ve got the collection here and two issues of Prophet you did, and I think I used to have the issue of Smoke Signal you had worked on, so how did you get into doing this? When is it you started doing comics and stuff?
MW: I got a table at the Alternative Press Expo in 2009 and at that show I had Scout, I had been messing with around with comics since probably 2007. I was a painting major and, my work has always been very narrative and I started getting into comics and thinking of them more as something I could do. And began to figure out within the very broad scope of comics what I could do.
GP: Right, I’ve made a few mini-comics and it’s definitely something you gotta figure out where you wanna go. You can’t just say I wanna make comics and now I’m gonna draw Batman. So where is it you would ultimately like to see yourself? Do you just want to get more successful with what you’re doing now? I mean you don’t strike me as a person who’s looking to go into the big two kinda comics but….
MW: Yeah, not necessarily, I want to be more successful with the projects I write and draw myself, but I also the projects that Matt Sheehan and I do together and would also like to expand more stuff that Matt and I write for other people to draw, to pursue that kinda work.
GP: Now do you have a day job and stuff?
MW: I work a little bit at a shop in L.A. called Secret Headquarters comic book store, which basically I love working there, I would like to work there as long as I can while doing comics, I get to keep up with what’s coming out and what people are buying, interacting with publishers and readers.
GP: Oh yeah, thats, if that was a possibility around here for me I’d do the same. But the nearest shop is almost an hour away, and it’s not, well, they’re all about avengers and superman and batman, and that’s their drive, which I get some of that stuff for sure, but when you try to talk about other stuff it’s, well, you know there’s not much of the small press stuff. There’s so much stuff out there that is good and pushing the boundaries of what you can do with comics and what people think of them, but still the main seller is still X-Men vs Avengers or whatever. And I don’t know with Secret Headquarters cause I’ve never been out there, but I assume it’s an alternative styled shop, but is that something that you can appreciate, that you could get dragged down sorta? I don’t know what the store is like, or what the main sellers are so maybe that’s a completely off base question.
MW: No no, I mean Secret Headquarters definitely carries both kind of comics and both sell very well, but there’s a customer base that pretty much sticks to the more mainstream style comics, and others who are into everything. One thing I realize working is how random it can be for something to become like crazy popular, like right now one that sells and sell and sells is the Brian K. Vaughn series Saga, and it’s not a bad comic at all, there’s definitely a reason why it’s popular but yeah, it’s just crossed this threshold where it’s the comic that people that don’t necessarily read comics get. So that, yeah, I can get the whole “why this one and why not that one?” But I guess that’s the way any kind of of entertainment or art goes.
GP: I don’t want to get into process too much but am interested to know, you got a real specific look for everything right, what do you do, are you a traditional worker or digital or a mixture?
MW: Traditional, the process has kinda evolved over time, everything begins being drawn on paper, the color is almost always digital, and I’ve been moving more towards doing pencils digitally and printing out a blue line of those and inking on that, but there always ink for my own kind of emotional satisfaction I guess.
GP: Yeah, inking is always the best part, I don’t what it is, there’s just something about it. What do you use?
MW: Kinda a variety of things, I use a watercolor brush and I ink with, I can’t remember the name, but it’s a brush pen, kinda like a pentel brush pen but it’s a little finer, a finer point to it.
GP: Right, I’ve got a bunch of nibs, about two dozen or so and can’t work with them for nothing, I’ve tried I don’t know how many times and like all I can get is a smear of ink, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, they say to load them with a brush and..am I alone in that?
MW: No, not at all, a lot of the tools are like that, I think people get good at those because they say early on this is the one and they just make it work. Like I love the brush pen that I use, but I don’t think it’s a really a great brush pen or anything, just the one that kinda fit to how I was working already, and I can get it to do what I want it to.
GP: Right on, I haven’t done as much lately beyond a few illustrations, but I take horrible care of my stuff, all my brushes sit in water for weeks at a time and get dried out, are you the sorta person who’s very meticulous and taking your brushes and rinsing them and drying them and everything or are you?
MW: No, no, I take terrible care of my brushes.
GP: Are you uh, a fan of pizza?
MW: Yeah of course.
GP: What’s your favorite topping?
MW: Favorite topping? I usually keep it pretty simple with pizza, I mean I’ll just go for the straight pepperoni, although there’s one concoction that my wife likes to get that I like also, it’s like pepperoni and jalapeno and goat cheese and pineapple, it sounds mildly terrifying but it’s pretty good.
GP: No I can see that, my wife is always about tomatoes and banana peppers.
MW: Oh yeah, yeah.
GP: I thought it was pretty funny because I got a daughter and for the longest time all she’d get was pepperoni and black olives.
MW: Yknow I think I have got it like that too.
GP: Well this is the thing, the grandparents took her out and she got sick, and that’s what they had gotten, it was from one of the lesser establishments in town and ever since she won’t eat it. Black olives on pizza and she won’t eat it, she’ll eat them on a salad or something, but if they’re cooked she is convinced that will lead to sickness.
MW: You know I remember in first or second grade I ate a nutri-grain bar and then threw up, the only time I’ve throw up in my life, and the last time I ever ate a nutri-grain bar!
GP: Now the other thing I want to ask you, and feel free to not say anything, but Graphic Policy is the place comics and politics means, so are you excited with the current political season?
MW: Well it’s gonna be crazy, I don’t pay the campaign super close attention, like these big political, presidential races because it can get frustrating, but man this one’s gonna be bonkers no matter what. You know like in one way I’m pensively excited to see what happens but it could potentially be horrible, but yeah we’ll see. I mean it’s gonna be insane I’m sure.
GP: I mean you’re a voter? And California hasn’t had their primaries or caucuses, I’m actually not real sure on what the difference is.
MW: I’m not accustomed to it mattering.
MW: I mean usually for california it’s a foregone conclusion you know, who’s gonna be the nominee, it’s kinda weird that it might actually mean something this time
GP: Right, that’s the whole thing, it seems like both parties are self destructing. I mean each side in the Democrats are like, we can’t stand Hillary or Bernie’s a socialist, they’re finally getting into the mudslinging on their side and the GOP side, from the start, 17 or 19 candidates i mean, the whole time with Trump being the frontrunner, usually they all kinda coalesce around whoever the front runner is but they’re not doing that, they’re almost eating each other. Now think about this, in 2008 twitter was just barely around in the news, but here we are eight years later and that’s what they’re reporting on in the news. You know, “well Hillary Clinton tweeted this or Donald Trump tweeted that!” that’s what people put on the news, what people write on twitter, not to say twitter is the best thing around, but just to have this flip to go from the news reporting what’s going on in the world to the news reporting on social media outlets.
MW: Yeah, in that way, twitter is this giant platform to see what these people are saying, celebrities and stuff, so it makes sense that they’d be reporting on it, but it’s the fact of that way of communicating that twitter produces is definitely a strange one.
GP: Right, i mean what’s gonna happen in the next eight years to be looking back, it’s just nuts to imagine.
MW: That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot recently, because of the madness of the political scene, I’m genuinely looking forward to like what is gonna happen, it’s gonna be weird.
GP: Alright, I want to let you get back to, you’re at your studio, so what’s the next thing you could tell people to look forward to?
MW: From Now On should be in shops in May, and we’re doing a little tour in California, doing signings and drawings and stuff like that, And Matt and I working on a story called Ancestors that’s being serialized in Islands, the anthology from the same people that did Prophet, so we have the first two parts out and part three comes out in Island #7 which also comes out in May, then in October Ancestor will be released as a book.
GP: Alright, thanks for your time Mr. Ward, great talking with you!
MW: Thanks, you too!