Comic book veteran Mark McKenna is launching a Kickstarter campaign for his third storybook in the Banana Tail children’s book series. I met Mark briefly at the Peterborough ComiCon in October 2019 and from that connection came news of this new campaign. I jumped at the chance to chat all about Mark and Banana Tails.
Martin Boruta: Mark, so great to talk to you today. You have been doing this comic book “thing” for a while now.
Mark McKenna: Thanks Martin, yes, I’m having a 35th anniversary in comics, having started a Marvel production job in April of 1985.
Martin: Wow, 35 years. That’s a good, long haul. Being a DC kid, I remember your work mostly from Doctor Fate. I was hoping you could remind me of some of your other work for the Big Two.
Mark: Well, I worked at that first production job at Marvel for just under two years on staff, and then in 1987, I was hired by DC to ink Doctor Fate. I was on contract with DC Comics for four years and was offered the opportunity to work on Doctor Strange at Marvel, so I didn’t re-up my DC contract and jumped ship. I stayed at Marvel doing freelance work for the next few years. After that, I bounced back and forth, and 35 years later, I’ve totalled over 600 comic credits.
Martin: That’s great. So, with all that Marvel and DC work when did you find time for a Children’s book series?
Mark: That was when the bottom dropped out of the comic business in the mid-1990s. I started to think about a future outside of comics and, along with my Dad, I began to conceptualize Banana Tail.
Martin: How was the reception for you to pitch a property to the children’s book market? I can’t imagine that’s an easy side of publishing to establish a foothold.
Mark: I had some close calls with Golden Books and Simon and Schuster in as far as publishing my kids books there but not enough to see it to fruition and in 2003 decided to self publish my 1st Banana Tail book.
Martin: Was your Dad still involved with the book at that time?
Mark: Unfortunately, my father passed in 2002 and never got to see the book in print. I think it was because of him that I opted to move forward and take matters into my own hands. This was just a bit before crowdfunding started to become a “thing”.
Martin: What about the other volumes of Banana Tail?
Mark: The Banana Tail’s Tales and Activity book were picked up by Barnes and Nobles and Image Comics published the second storybook. All the rights reverted to me because Image was not known for publishing kids books and Banana Tail’s Colorful Adventure didn’t get the support it may have had at a true children’s book publisher.
Martin: So Image was out, and Banana Tale Press was formed?
Mark: Well, I had already self-published the original Banana Tail storybook and the Tales and Activity books. I then used my comic book familiarity to go to Diamond directly and get them to give my BOOnana Tail Halloween Comic some extra support. It worked, and the book sold over 1100 copies. But I also did a Kickstarter that raised over $6000 to make production easier on me.
Martin: Other than Banana Tail, have you had any other self-publisher projects?
Mark: I also self-published a sci-fi comic called Combat Jacks which I treated as a mini-series and a collected edition. Between my crowdfunding efforts with both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, I raised a little over $9000 to do the hardcover collection. So I’m broad-minded in as far as trying different things.
Martin: Okay, tell me about the current project; Banana Tail and The Checkerboard Jungle.
Mark: The first two books focused on Banana Tail himself and Reena, the young mood colour-changing rhino. This time around, Banana Tail and The Checkerboard Jungle will feature Tic Tac, the plaid zebra.
Martin: Aside from the various reward levels featuring digital and print versions of the book, what else have you got planned?
Mark: There will be several fun items like prints, a coffee mug and a t-shirt. I’ll have original art pages available and original art commissions from my friends in the industry like Chris Marrinan, Fernando Ruiz, Joe St Pierre, Bill Wylie, Jay DeFoy, Mike Oppenheimer, Victor Castro, Jason Baroody, and, of course, myself.
Martin: That all sounds fantastic. I’m sure it will result in yet another successful Kickstarter for you. Thanks again for this and best of luck.
Mark: Thanks, Martin, it’s been a pleasure.
Mark McKenna’s Kickstarter can be found HERE and is live, ready for you to support!