Comic Book Biography: POP MHAN
In this up close and personal interview, Rik Offenberger traces the career of Pop Mhan with the artist himself. From art assistant to one of the top rated talents in the industry, it hasn’t always been a smooth road for Pop, but through it all he has persisted with a strong work ethic and a willingness to put in the hard yards. This is Pop Mhan…
First Comics News: Why Pop Mhan instead of Mhanaojyakorn?
Pop Mhan: Well, hell… How’d you like to be the editor that has to call Pop Mhanaojyakorn and give him a job? John Doe over here can draw just as good, but you don’t have to call that Pop Mhanaiuajhajghsujhsus*&%$##^# guy and try to pronounce that crap…
1st: You stared as Hoang Nguyen art assistant, how did you get that job?
Pop: I was pretty persistent with Hoang. I hounded the poor guy for the better part of a year, but I finally broke him down.
1st: Your first published work you ghosted for Hoang Nguyen onLawdog, how did this come about?
Pop: As I was assisting Hoang, he was always looking at my progress as well as trying to find a good starting point for me to start doing panel work. That happened in Lawdog vs. Grimrod.
1st: Was this intimidating?
Pop: Yes, very. Up to that point, I think I had drawn maybe five pages my whole life, but I also knew that Hoang “had my back”. It was a very nice slow way to ease into panel work.
I didn’t really do layouts or full pencils on the pages I worked on. The system we had made sure that Hoang had his hands in every step of producing that page. In that way, it made my step into comics much easier. But yes, it was still very intimidating.
1st: Were you satisfied with the results?
Pop: I cried myself to sleep the night the book came out. I felt so bad for ruining Hoang’s book. I still wake up in a cold sweat most nights… “zzzzz… zzzzghk… AHHH, I SUCK!!!…”
1st: After that you went to the ChicagoCon,
Pop: It was the 1994 ChicagoCon. When I was 19, I was hit with a lot of good fortune. First, I met a kind man and publisher upstart named Phil Adams. We had met at a smaller con and along very well. Phil was the one that flew me out to the ChicagoCon where I got my big break. There are not too many people that would bend over backwards for people like that.
1st: How did you end up meeting Jim Lee?
Pop: At the con, doing the “publisher circuit”, I finally got my art looked at by the great Sal Regla. Sal then led me into a private room where Jim Lee was signing. There were about 40-60 people waiting to meet Jim as well. Sal had marched me up to the front of the line and made Jim look at my stuff. The looks I received from the people in line… it was chilling…
“…zzzzzzz …zzz …zzzzghhgk …AAAH, LYNCH MOB!!!!” I have many nightmares, as you can see.
1st: Did you feel good about this meeting?
Pop: I about died. Jim Lee is one of the few people in my life that genuinely intimidates the crap out of me. I’m pretty sure he knows it too. I was and still am today, all thumbs and incoherency around Jim. BUT after the meeting and the fact sunk in that I had just met my god… yeah, I was feeling pretty good.
1st: Did he offer you a job right away?
Pop: Nope. It was about two months after that encounter that I was offered the intern position at WildStorm.
1st: What does an internship involve?
Pop: It’s three months of training to see if you have what it takes to be a comic artist at WldStorm. You study, learn, and draw for that time, then you are evaluated to see if you are good enough to move on.
1st: Was it a paid position?
Pop: Yes. With many nice benefits.
1st: You ended up doing pin ups for Stormwatch, Union, Team 7,Backlash, Deathblow, and Spartan.
How did you make the transition form pin ups to a regular monthly with Union?
Pop: Awfully. I didn’t have the mentality it took to do a monthly.
1st: How did WildStorm decide you were ready for a monthly comic?
Pop: I’m not entirely sure. I would think the powers that be evaluated the work you’ve done while you were there, and then decide if there was a project that you can be placed on at the time.
1st: Why did you leave WildStorm for Maximum Press?
Pop: I left WildStorm for some family and personal problems. When I left WildStorm, I pretty much tried to leave the industry as well. After I sorted some things out, I returned to comics and Maximum was there.
1st: Why didn’t you return to WildStorm?
Pop: I guess I felt ashamed of how I handled my time there, plus I also felt that I was not good enough yet to be at WildStorm. WildStorm really treated me like gold, but I think I squandered that opportunity. I wanted to go my own way into comics for a time and finally when I felt that I was good enough to go back, I would ask them again. That’s the plan, anyways…. I’m still not good yet….
1st: I respectfully disagree.
1st: Was Maximum Press chasing after you, or did you go to them looking for work?
Pop: I don’t really remember all the details of that. I think I was the first one to call them.
1st: Rob Liefeld had originally sent you a form rejection letter early in your attempt to enter the comic field, was there satisfaction in getting the job?
Pop: How do you know so much about me?
1st: That’s my job.
Pop: While I was trying to break into comics, I had sent two samples. One to Malibu, and one to Extreme Studios. I didn’t even try to send one to WildStorm because I figured it was a pipedream. I received a form rejection letter from both Malibu and Extreme Studios. But the whole time I was doing stuff for Maximum, I didn’t even remember that I got that letter, so I guess there wasn’t that kind of satisfaction.
1st: You also worked on Santa the Barbarian, is there any ill will towards Santa, or was this just a job?
Pop: You know, I hate that bald-headed, tubby, sack. If I catch him in my chimney, it’d be UFC night!!!! I’m joking, it was just a job. I love that bald-headed, tubby, sack
1st: How did you end up at Marvel?
Pop: I got lucky.
1st: Was it a different environment working at Marvel?
Pop: Like you wouldn’t believe, brother. It was quite a reality check.
1st: Reality check, how so?
Pop: There were no kiddy gloves there like I had previously experienced. Image back then (and this is a gross generalization) were very artist driven. In that way, as an artist was given some kiddy glove treatment. Being at Marvel, there was no special treatment. Marvel was the reality for artists… You work hard, or you don’t work at all.
1st: There was a lot of hype about your redesigns on Ghost Rider, how was this received?
Pop: Yeah, there was quite a ruckus about that, but I didn’t do the redesign, Adam Pollina did. As far as the reception goes well, during the time, the editor told me all was well. I didn’t know about all of the hoo haa until I got my first computer many years later. From what I was reading online, there was much ado about the whole affair.
1st: Why did you leave Marvel for DC?
Pop: At the time, I was told that Chris Bachalo, he’s awesome, was leaving Generation X and they were thinking about having me as the replacement. However they said that I needed to work out some of the kinks of my art before that were to happen. Enter, Ghost Rider, a book that was about to be axed due to poor sales and they were desperate to try anything to promote the sales before that could happen. So, to work out my kinks and hopefully boost some sales, I was put on Ghost Rider. I failed miserably. I just couldn’t keep up with the deadlines on that book, and I was ultimately let go. I found work at DC doing a one-shot called: Impulse/Atom, and shortly after that, I was offered a choice of either Flash or a new book that they were launching calledYoung Justice. I picked The Flash.
1st: You left Flash after 6 months, what happened?
Pop: Well, I started off pretty strong, but fell into the trap of low self-confidence. I was reading about what some people were saying online about my Flash, and the more I read, the worse my self-confidence got. My editors and friends were telling me that I was doing a good job and not to listen to a bunch of “embittered wannabes”, but in the end, I just succumbed to my own self-doubt depression. Finally, being almost 3 months late on the last issue I worked on, I got booted.
1st: How did you get the job on SpyBoy?
Pop: During the Flash fiasco was when I met my wife. She helped me through that sordid depression and I took a break from comics for a while to recharge. During the “break” I received a call from Phil Amara at Dark Horse asking if I was interested in developing a property for them called “SpyBoy”. When I heard that they were talking to Peter David as well, I signed on.
1st: How much of costumes and gadgets did you get to design?
Pop: I am the one to blame for all of the visuals in that book. You have my most sincere apologies.
1st: After SpyBoy you took a year off comics, what did you do?
Pop: No, actually it just seemed like I left for a year, but it was just that I was drawing all 4 issues of Star Wars, and trying to catch Spyboyback on schedule. I did work on a few things for Hasbro during this time as well.
1st: How did you end up back at DC doing Demon?
Pop: I left comics after the Spyboy one-shot and found myself doing grunt work at an InternetSolutions based firm. After 6 months of that nonsense, I made a few calls and found myself drawing a couple of fill-ins for Marvel and Top Cow and ultimately Demon for DC.
1st: What can you tell us about Demon?
Pop: It’s pretty crazy; Joshua is really kicking up some dust with his script. It’s got fast cars, Yakuza, chills and thrills and everything you ever wanted in a comic. Plus, I’ve got some sweet Chen sisters’ covers to sell the book for me!
1st: What else do you have coming up?
Pop: Man, right now, I am just trying to keep my head afloat juggling the Demon and my screwed up back. Although, much to the chagrin of my wife, I have nothing etched in stone after the Demon. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
1st: What would you like to work on that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
Pop: I have a few creator owned projects brewing in my head that need to get out, but I’m in rush. Right now, I’d like to work on a few titles that I’ve already worked on. Maybe an issue of Ghost Rider like the way I dug on him during the Midnight Sons storyline, Spider-Man, theHulk, and Wolverine!
I’d like to think that I have grown stronger mentally as well as artistically and I have this longing to redeem myself for the people who supported me through the years as well as for myself. But mostly I’d like to revisit these characters; because throughout the roller coaster ride that is my career, I think I have found drawing to be fun again.
1st: Well, Pop, thank you for your time.
Pop: it’s been fun visiting memory lane again
To visit Pop Mhan on the web go to http://www.popmhan.com
To visit DC Comics on the web go to http://www.dccomics.com
To visit Marvel Comics on the web go to http://www.marvel.com
To visit Dark Horse on the web got to http://www.darkhorse.com