COMIC BOOK BIOGRAPHY: Monique MacNaughton
Monique MacNaughton: I was born in Ottawa, my dad was a military photographer and that’s where he was posted. We stayed there until 1978 when he was transferred to CFB Gagetown and we came to live in Fredericton, where we’ve been ever since.
1st: Are you an artist, writer or both?
Monique: On my own projects, I’m generally a solo act, writing up an outline for my story that I then follow, but everything else – dialogue, characterization, plot developments, etc. – is improvised as I go. It doesn’t always make for the tightest of writing, but I find that my stories are like stubborn cats – they do what they want. When I’m working with a writer, a greater amount of discipline and compression must be observed. I’ve had the benefit of working with some great ones, and even a few legends, and hopefully what I learn from them will improve me as a writer.
Monique: My earliest influences were the action/adventure cartoons I saw on TV, especially the Hanna-Barbera shows and the earliest anime shows to make their way over, and only later did I learn who was really responsible for the creation of those. So it was Doug Wildey, Alex Toth and Osamu Tezuka who were my first “creative parents”. Later on I got into comics, and learned from Neal Adams, the Buscemas, and Will Eisner. I then discovered the classic work of Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Wally Wood, Alec Raymond and Milton Caniff; they all gave me a love of the human form, and those of animals and of the importance of doing settings and objects accurately and with the right amount of detail. I was also exposed to Franco-Belgian comics through my French-speaking relatives and in the library. The production values and degree of detail in those books was mind-blowing, and probably most influential in my approach to storytelling.
1st: You have worked on numerous projects over the years one of the projects is called The Continentals , what can you tell the readers about that title. Who is involved in that project and where is it available?
Monique: After Darryl Hughes and I completed GAAK: Groovy Ass Alien Kreatures, he had an idea for a Victorian mystery/thriller that could be best described as “The Avengers (UK TV series) meet Jack the Ripper, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all in one go.” At least, with regard to plot and character archetypes. So Darryl knit all these elements together – he’s amazing that way – created a whole city and world for them to play in, and I had to make these characters and that setting live and breathe as a seamless whole. Most reviews on it have been quite positive, so I think we more or less achieved that objective.
Monique: UNA Frontiers is one of my “solo acts”, and it could count as my lifetime “passion project”. The basic cast and setting took shape years ago, influenced by post-apocalyptic sci-fi shows in the 70’s. Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, Rollerball, Ark II – I ate those up when I was a kid. I was also quite fond of Irwin Allen’s undersea epics and disaster movies, and anything with a robot or an android in it. The shows of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and the Krofft brothers also had an impact. So out popped this tale of the undersea and the surface world, of societies in recovery phase in the centuries following a cataclysmic global war, and of AI’s establishing their place in that world while facing – guess what – another war, because that big baby we call “human nature” can’t stop playing with matches and gasoline.
The surface society in UNA Frontiers is much like the 19th century at the tech level, except with remnants from the pre-burn era like genetically modified animals and tech remnants that are mined like minerals, with “remnant technologists” whose job it is to make sense of it all and perhaps restore some of it. Like most passion projects, it is essentially a niche thing, but what readers it has have generally stuck with me through the years. All of the archives of the work completed so far are at Drunk Duck, Amilova and Tapas, and ebook editions are available in my Coydog Press shop at DriveThru comics.
Monique: Comparisons between Sky Commander and The Rocketeer will be inevitable, and admittedly, they both drink from the same well that Commando Cody dug. In that case, what you do is come at it from your own particular angle. Darryl Hughes made the lead character a denizen of 40’s-era Harlem, with all the background and baggage that implies. Duster Haywood is a likeable working man, a gifted mechanic and technician with a dream that’ll take him to the sky – if he can get by all the biases and obstacles that his society and his era throw in his way. Fortunately he finds some support from surprising corners, and pits himself against an awesome Axis super weapon and its creators. I always did like the “propwash patrol” franchises from the WW2 era – Captain Midnight, Blackhawk, Wings, Crash Ryan, Airboy, etc. We hope to channel at least something of that legacy in Sky Commander.
1st: Is Sky Commander gonna be a trade paper back eventually?
Monique: That’s what Darryl and I are aiming for, as with all our other projects. Keep watching!
Monique: This came from Darryl going to a screening of Deveraux – maybe you remember that movie, and thinking “I could write a better fairy-tale mouse character than that.” That’s what he told me. So he buckled down and wrote the tale of Chevalier, a mouse blacksmith who, like another character of Darryl’s previously mentioned, wondered if he had some other destiny. He aspires to join the musketeer corps of his native land, despite even his closest relatives trying to talk him down from it, except for his little nephew, Tom-Tom, who is all in for this. When the princess of a neighbouring realm is kidnapped, placing inter-kingdom relations in jeopardy and threatening to trigger a war, Chevalier takes it on himself to go to her rescue and head off the burgeoning conflict, with Tom-Tom along for the ride.
Our overall approach is a little different from the usual fairy tale as told in modern times. While we are careful with the details, we don’t dance around the fact that bad things happen to people, bad choices can be made as a consequence, and other people can influence those choices for their own advantage. It could be considered a child-friendly introduction to “how wars start”, with both the honourable and dishonourable intentions laid out for them. The story is divided into four books, and is available through Amazon and other online booksellers.
Monique: Only one graphic novel so far from Darryl and I, but it’s a pretty hard take down of modern teen culture, social media and celebrity worship, and just how toxic this brew can get. It’s like The Sopranos had a three-way collision with Mean Girls and Heathers at the intersection of Kardashian Street and Lady Gaga Drive. Doing hits for the Mob would be a hell of an after-school job, wouldn’t it? $50K per hit buys a lot of designer clothes, but watch out for the hazards you didn’t expect!
GAAK is a zany UFO invasion epic that takes place in a small coastal town, pitting four oddball preteens against a pop culture-obsessed alien commander whose main ambitions are to (A) conquer the earth with his legions of vat-grown “pod critters” and (B) meet the cast of Star Trek. A gung-ho US army general and his hapless subordinate also join the fun to add a little bit of that special Strangelove flavor. If you’re nostalgic about The Goonies or are into Stranger Things, you might get into this.
1st: Monique, I know you are currently working on a project for Cataclysm Comics called the Heavy Strand, is there anything you can tell the readers about it?
Monique: The Heavy Strand, written by William J. Glover, takes place in a self-contained universe of awakening superpowers, secret formulas, suicidal missions and intrigue. The project itself is coming along a little slowly due to other commitments, but I hope to get the pencils for the first chapter completed in due time. James Hachey will be inking them.
1st: I have had the honor of working on a few projects with you, Tales of Peerless Piker , A dogs day in August and Essence of the Square. What can you say about these projects?
Monique: “Peerless Piker” was good, clean old-school fun, nothing like stalwart heroes taking on a fearsome creature of the deeps. ‘Essence of the Square’ was a nice short piece touching on how past and present interact in the Saint John of the present day. “A Dog’s Day in August” was very cute view of the same through the eyes of a dog. I love drawing animals and had a great time with Toby and his friend.
1st: Tales of Peerless Piker involved Lord Greystoke ( Tarzan of the Apes) in Saint John NB and was archived by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate in Tarzana Ca. How did like drawing Tarzan and what was it like to find out your work in being archived?
Monique: It was a weighty matter to have such a legendary character entrusted to me. Tarzan might be a venerable property compared to modern media franchises, but it was the one that established the traditions and tropes and frameworks that all its successors must at least acknowledge. It is also notoriously demanding and unforgiving for artists – you must absolutely have your anatomy chops together if you take this on, and know where every muscle goes and the range of every joint, and learn it the way the old masters of illustration did, because no amount of digital magic is going to cover up any deficiencies here. It’s like flying on the trapeze with no safety net. So doing this project was the real test of whether or not I was truly fit to sit at the grown-ups’ table in the comics world. To be archived along with the likes of Hal Foster, Burne Hogarth, Frank Frazetta and other greats is something I’m still not sure I deserve, but I’ll take it!
Monique: It’s not often that I do super-heroes – I’m mostly sci-fi, action and a bit of horror – but the origin story of Starbolt appealed to me through having a deeper theme of how character, upbringing, the company you keep, and moral and spiritual strength all factor into the ability to take on and win out over great forces of evil. In the real world, evil will likely not come to you in hard gleaming armour, shooting death rays and spouting Nazi slogans, and you won’t likely have a mystical suit of armour backing you up, but you need to be vigilant for it in whatever form it presents itself, and have all your mental and moral ducks together to mount a defence. That’s what “armour” is in the non-fictional world.
Monique: Darryl Hughes and I have an official site, Xcelsior Online XcelsiorOnline.com
My personal archive is most up-to-date at my Drunk Duck mirror TheDuckWebComics.com
My deviantArt gallery is DeviantArt.com, if you don’t mind browsing through my silly fan art.
Monique: Print editions and some Kindle editions of all of our Xcelsior books are available through Amazon. You may also order the print editions through your local bookseller.
GAAK, Paperback Edition Amazon.com
GAAK, Kindle Edition Amazon.com
HitGirlz, Paperback compilation Amazon.com
HitGirlz (4 part Kindle Series) Amazon.com
Chevalier, the Queen’s Mouseketeer (4 part Kindle Series) Amazon.com
Chevalier Book 1 Paperback Amazon.com
Chevalier Book 2 Paperback Amazon.com
Chevalier Book 3 Paperback Amazon.com
Chevalier Book 4 Paperback Amazon.com
The Continentals: That Shape Am Amazon.com
Ebook editions of my personal work (and some Xcelsior books) can be found at my DriveThru shop. DriveThrucomics.com
1st: Its been my pleasure Monique to interview you, you have had a big impact on me as a creator. Thanks for your time and Monique, do you have any other projects coming up we haven’t discussed and you want the readers to know about?
Monique: I’ve been working on a few more, as time allows. I would also point out the horror anthologies, Fractured Scary Tales and Monster Smash-Ups, to which I have contributed artwork, and had the privilege of teaming up with comics legend Nicola Cuti on a couple of stories, and with some other notable writers such as Robert Jeschonek. I thank the publisher, Kevin Glover, for giving me that opportunity.
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