Back in 1986, the best comic (my opinion) was released in the UK – M.A.S.K. Initially it ran as a fortnightly comic then, after a year, went weekly and lasted a total of 80 regular issues. There was also a preview comic, several Holiday Specials and the merger with The Eagle that eventually signed the death knell for M.A.S.K. in the UK.
However, M.A.S.K. comics in the UK outlasted the American DC Comics (4 part mini-series then 9 regular issues) and even the 75 episodes of the DIC comic.
Fast-forward several decades and IDW brought out their “M.A.S.K. – Mobile Armored Strike Kommand” comic that, again, didn’t last very long. The covers promised so much, but the comic failed to deliver on the inside – and that’s what really counts.
Then, out of the blue, we were treated to M.A.S.K. ’85 and it’s follow-up M.A.S.K. ’86 created by Kero Wack. These free online comics took me back to my childhood and I’ve been lucky enough to catch up with Kero to ask some questions….
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Hey Kero, thank you for taking the time to have a chat…
Kero Wack (KW): No problem! Summer just started and as a teacher, that leaves me with time on my hands. Well, except for the two crazy kids running around this house.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): I’d firstly like to ask you to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Kero Wack (KW): I’m an art teacher who originally thought he was going to be a comic book artist. I attended the school of visual arts and majored in Illustration and Cartooning. I worked on the MTV show “Daria” for two seasons and two full length films, but once that ended, decided to go back to school to become an art teacher. Best decision I ever made!
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): An MTV Show - how did you manage to get that gig?
Kero Wack (KW): I interned on the show during my last semester in college and out of all of us, I got the job. I didn’t work harder than anybody else and I didn’t campaign for it, so I asked why me? I was told because they want to hire somebody who they liked working with. it’s probably the one thing I really took from my time there!
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): How did the process work on that show?
Kero Wack (KW): working in an animated series isn’t as fun as it sounds. The deadlines can be nuts and there’s a lot of back and forth before anything gets done. The best days were where I sat in on the voice recording for the show. As a fan, it was cool to see the actors work.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Did you learn any new skills as a result?
Kero Wack (KW): I learned to love sushi. I had never really tried it before and it was a staple with the people I was friends with.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): It was the comics that got me into M.A.S.K. at the age of 13 – how did you get into M.A.S.K.?
Kero Wack (KW): The cartoon! I didn’t even know the comics existed. Comics to me were superheroes. The Christmas of 1985, I got everything in the first wave of Mask (except Firecracker for some reason) and that is still THE Christmas to me. I was hooked.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): M.A.S.K. had a profound effect on me – so much so, that I wanted to be a Toy Designer. This potential career path led me to taking both Art & Design and Technical Drawing at High School. Although I’m not actually much of an artist – how did you get into Art?
Kero Wack (KW): Art was one of those things I was always good at. When you are good at something, people just nudge you in that direction. Like if you are tall, you have to play basketball and things like that. Luckily for me, I love drawing and I spent hours everyday making my own comics or drawing all of my toys. I’ve recently gotten back into doing that and it's like it's 1985 all over again.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): The UK Comic had a feature called MASKart that encouraged it’s readers to send in their M.A.S.K. drawings. I started creating my own ideas. Instead of sending them to the comic (I wish that I had now as it would’ve been great to have seen them in print) I sent them to Kenner instead. I received back a fairly standard “no” response from Tonka (who had taken over Kenner at this point). When did you start drawing M.A.S.K.
Kero Wack (KW): I started drawing Mask when I was a kid, but I’m sure it was just Brad Turner and Condor fighting Sly Rax. Aside from that, I drew a picture of Matt Trakker hovering over Thunderhawk last year and that got the wheels turning.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Do you have a favourite character, mask and/or vehicle that you REALLY love to draw?
Kero Wack (KW): My favorite character is Brad Turner and Buddie Hawks is a close second. Buddie Hawks wasn’t a close second until I started drawing Mask ‘85, but as I figured out how I wanted him to look, I loved the design of him and his mask. Cliff Dagger is easily the one I don't like the Mask and I’m so tired of drawing him lol.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Have you ever designed your own M.A.S.K. creations?
Kero Wack (KW): Of course! Right now I’m actually designing MASK creations daily as I’ve begun taking on commissions to turn people into MASK Agents. The process is fun, as you have to keep it in the MASK aesthetic, but you get to play around with information and ideas that the people bring to you.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): You gave us M.A.S.K. ’85 and M.A.S.K. ’86 that you both wrote and drew; Is this your first foray into writing?
Kero Wack (KW): I’ve written like three novels during my life and countless comics that are somewhere in a portfolio case. The novels I am reworking into graphic novels and they are coming along nicely.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Can you talk us through the process of drawing the comic – did you storyboard, what software packages do you use? Do you draw freehand then scan in or do you use a pen and tablet?
Kero Wack (KW): I basically plot out all of the pages on paper so I can pace the story and make sure I hit the key points. I draw it on the tablet and then refine everything on the tablet using the MEDIBANG app. It's the best dollar I ever spent. I add ALL the dialogue after the fact. Sometimes I know a joke I want to add, so I take that into account.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): So, is all of that work done on a tablet, Mac or PC?
Kero Wack (KW): everything is done on a tablet except for my plotting/layouts. Those are done on blank paper so I can refer to them and scribble all over. They’d look like nonsense to most other people, but I can decipher what my brain intended.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Who inspires you with your style?
Kero Wack (KW): Chester Gould, Charles Schultz, and Mike Allred are probably the biggest influences. I am a HUGE fan of all three of those guys. Their lines are just amazing. I also try to blend a mix of comic book aesthetic and add in a bit of an 80s cartoon feel. It's a process.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Have you read the M.A.S.K. Comics and if so, which ones and what are your thoughts? (UK, DC, IDW)
Kero Wack (KW): I own the DC series, but they are either framed or in storage. I love that Curt Swann worked on them. The IDW stuff i bought when it originally came out and the trade when it was on sale. I feel like enough has been said about the IDW series, but the art was nice!
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): What’s next for M.A.S.K. ’87?
Kero Wack (KW): I am going to finish up my two personal projects before I even think about Mask ‘87. Mask ‘87 is probably not happening because I’m happy with the way I wrapped up ‘86. I do have an idea for ‘87, but it’s not fleshed out and I don't want to commit to that project right now.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): M.A.S.K. or V.E.N.O.M.?
Kero Wack (KW): Can’t have one without the other.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Ultra Flash or Spectrum?
Kero Wack (KW): To draw? Ultra Flash. Spectrum has funky angles. But that's the iconic mask.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): Thunder Hawk or Switchblade?
Kero Wack (KW): I hate Switchblade lol. It was my brothers and I never got to play with it. I guess it traces back to those scarring memories
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): I follow a GI Joe page and I’ve been following your visions for the Joes, how many 80’s properties are you influenced by and which one is your favourite?
Kero Wack (KW): Most of them! I think the people who grew up around that time period inhaled it all, but everybody had their favorites. Mask and GI Joe are clear front runners, but I was really into Masters of the Universe and superheroes too.
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): It’s been great chatting with you...
Kero Wack (KW): Thank you for taking the time to have this back and forth! It was fun to stroll down memory lane!
M.A.S.K. Comics (MC): I’m sure that we’ll catch up again soon.