Tuesday 17 November 2020

Interview with Cliff Dagger

It always amazes the talented individuals within the fast growing online M.A.S.K. Community.  From those who, like myself, have written a script – such as Jason and Wyatt of Agents of M.A.S.K., to Kero Wack who gave us two complete comic strips over 7 issues and other great imagery.

One of the sections of the community that I love are those with 3D Printers who design great additions to the M.A.S.K. collective.  Whether it is based on vehicles or locations in the cartoons and/or comics or 100% new, creative not seen before ideas – it all helps bring M.A.S.K. to a wider audience.

Back on the 23rd of 2020, I set out the following challenge and included the cover of issue 52 –


“Ok, let's see you guys warm up your 3D Printers and get working on Cliff Dagger's Gun from the cover of Issue No 52 of M.A.S.K. UK!”

I didn’t really know what to expect – the results, I was blown away by!  I’ve recently acquired one such gun in the mail and have uploaded a copy of the video on Youtube for you view – or not – it’s your decision.  I also managed to catch up with the man responsible – Cliff Dagger.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  Hey Cliff, thank you for taking the time to join me today.

Cliff Dagger (CD):  Thank you for this invitation and I’m glad you received my new toy :)

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  The toy is a great addition to my collection, thank you.  

I’m sure that the readers would like to know a little more about you (who are you, where are you from, how old are you, etc.)

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I am 38 years old, French and I’m an industrial electrician, robotics, video surveillance ... and I have been collecting MASK toys for more than 10 years.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  Now, we all know you as the infamous Cliff Dagger and I appreciate your anonymity – what is it about Cliff Dagger that you like so much that you chose to take his name for your projects??

Cliff Dagger (CD):  When I was little at my nanny's, I was only allowed to play with super boring wooden toys!  In his son's room there were lots of great toys and I was forbidden to go!

One day I managed to go in there and I took Cliff Dagger and Jackhammer that I had mixed up with the wooden toys! The games have become much cooler and it has been in the accessible toy box for a very long time!!  Cliff is just a great memory from my childhood.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  You clearly are a massive fan of M.A.S.K. (ok, maybe V.E.N.O.M. more so), how did you first get into M.A.S.K.?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I watched the cartoons with my kids and I found them so bad!!  I started to watch MASQUE with them and the madness took me to collect my toys, to buy others and to start collecting them.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  So, when growing up, what toys did you have in your collection?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I have them all in European boxes, I also have some blister pack but not all of them, it was difficult to find them.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  Like many of us, you would’ve watched the fabulous M.A.S.K. TV Series – was this in English or in your first language (if first language, how do the voice actors to compare to the likes of Doug Stone?)

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I only watch them in French, I am very bad at English! I don't know the names of the people who gave their MASK voice in French.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  We here at M.A.S.K. Comics obviously love the comics – what about yourself?  Did you have the comics as a child and if so, which variant of the comic?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I remember the French magazines that were small with MASK, there were only a few issues with drawings much less beautiful than the UK comics, but I would like to find them anyway.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  What about your collection these days, has it expanded?  Do you have any items now that you wish you’d had when you were a kid?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I love the whole universe of MASK and I find the blisters (MOC) are super beautiful, I would like to have all the variants that exist including the Argentines.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  When I was a kid, I also loved Action Man and Star Wars, what other toys/comics/films were you into and how have they inspired you today?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I also collect the ghostbuster, the TMNT, the GI Joe (but only the main ones because it very quickly takes up a lot of space).

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  As someone who doesn’t own a 3D, I’m really fascinated by the whole process and I was wondering if you can help me break it down as to how the process works.  Firstly, in terms of the designs, do you have an art background? 

Cliff Dagger (CD):  In France there are compulsory contributions for the right to training!   My meter was full and my employer asked me if I wanted to use them!  When I saw that there was training on 3D software it fascinated me immediately and I jumped at the opportunity!!  It allowed me to have the basics, learned by practicing it's like everything...

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  How do you draw the designs is it freehand on a tablet, or more CAD?  Which type of devices (MAC or PC) and Software do you use?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I do everything on a PC, I use several drawing software which are quite well-known - Fusion 360, SketchUp and SolidWorks.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  In terms of Printing, what kind of device do you use and are 3D printers expensive to run?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I have several machines of different sizes and technologies; my favourite brand is PRUSA but they don't make a big machine.  FDM prints (like the Dagger gun) are not very expensive ... I rather count the time!  The assembly is long, it is necessary to clean the parts, the assemblies, install the springs for the barrel, tested... to make the box, the manual...  it is especially the manual work which is long finally.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  You were very quick at coming up with Dagger’s Cannon once I threw down the gauntlet, how long can it take to come up with your creations?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  For the canon, I spent ten hours on the 3D software (the ejection mechanisms are not easy), I spent so much time printing, testing and resuming what was wrong!  I found that insufficient in the box, that's why I added the small trailer.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  Do you also take existing toys from other toy lines and use those as a base for your fabulous custom creations to save some time?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  Lots of people ask me all kinds of things, Transformers, GI Joe, Dragon Ball ... I always answer NO, I'm having fun inventing MASK toys and as long as I'm not fed up with them I won't do anything else.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  There are many others in the Community who create their own M.A.S.K. creations, do you guys bounce ideas off of each other?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  Have all used the cartoon to take ideas so yes sometimes have done things that look like...  but everyone has their own style despite everything.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  Do you have any tips or pointers for those setting on a 3D printing journey?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  Many people buy 3D printers, the 1st prices have become very attractive!  That's good but it takes people to create, invent the files!  There are too few customizers in vintage toys and there is so much to do!!!  All those who want and who are ready devoted time, launched you, there are plenty of tutorials on youtube, lots of discussion groups, you are welcome!!

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  Where can our readers buy either the files or the actual toys you create?

Cliff Dagger (CD):  I don't sell the files because a lot of people behind do business and the creator is quickly forgotten... if anyone is interested, just talk to me on Facebook!  I answer everyone.

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions and thank you very much for Dagger’s Cannon and the Trailer for Jackhammer.

#assembleMASK #MASKcomics #MASKcrusade

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Interview with Robert Grignani - MASKforce.com

Through my M.A.S.K. pages I’ve become friends with many other M.A.S.K. fans around the world.  I became friends with Robert Grignani back in 2014. 

After a hiatus from the M.A.S.K. scene, Robert has come back with one fantastic site.  I had a little chat with Robert to find out more…

M.A.S.K. Comics (MC):  Hey Robert, it’s good to have you back on the scene!

Robert Grignani (RG):  Thanks, so much Scott. Great to be back and more involved again!

MC:  Firstly, can you please let my readers know a little bit about yourself?

RG: I’m a father of two boys and one girl and my eldest Rayner was instrumental in getting the website made. By day I work in the medical industry and I was 8 when M.A.S.K first came out so my age can be calculated. I’m a collector of predominantly 80’s toys with M.A.S.K as my first focus. As a collector of nostalgia, I do like the toys opened so that they can be held and admired. But I was and am a huge fan of the packaging art from the 80s and the history of the production and animation process. They really took the time to make something special. So, in addition to the toys, I collect the boxes and packaging of the toys, comics, animation cels/comic art and Any prototype/preproduction items as I can get my hands on them.

MC:  When we first chatted all of those years ago, you were running the Epic Toy Box page, can you tell us more about that?

RG: Would be delighted. With the collection I had, I thought it would be a great idea to share it online and be another portal to reintroduce our generation to relive their childhood. I decided to predominantly share via a Facebook page as it was more interactive and had plans for a Website. A couple years later I transitioned primarily to Instagram. It was great connecting with other like-minded collectors and new fans of the toys and cartoons. The demographic and interactions on the pages, especially on Instagram, was and is quite different to being on Facebook groups. 

MC:  M.A.S.K. is what brought us together – how do you get into M.A.S.K.?

RG: So like many, I’ve been a fan since I was 8 years old when M.A.S.K first came out as a toy and cartoon. I didn’t collect then, instead enjoyed the toys as they should be for playing. I fondly remember recreating the scenes from the cartoons. I would even bring Gator and Piranha in to the bath! It wasn’t until I was in university when the toy collecting bug hit. 

MC:  Like me, you have the full collection of the UK M.A.S.K. comics – how did you get into these?

RG: To be perfectly honest where I grew up for some reason, we didn’t get the UK comics, at least I didn’t see them. It is weird as I used to read the Beano and Dandy. I vaguely remember having 1 or 2 issues as a kid. What I did have were the DC comics and the mini comics that came with the first series. As an adult collector my love of all things toy and animation art brought me further into the comics realm and I proceeded to collect comics based on 80’s toy lines. Over the years I had collected the UK M.A.S.K comics as the opportunity presented itself and had about 50% of them. This year I had the opportunity to get the whole set and jumped at that chance. 

MC:  So, you have the comics from other countries, which country do you think did the M.A.S.K. comic best?

RG: Man that is a loaded question. I think each has their pros with no cons. I think it often boils down to nostalgia. The DC comics were more tailored to be in line with the cartoon and did an amazing Job. As I grew up with these, the nostalgia index kinda tips it. It also helps that Joe Del Beato, the amazing inker of the first run is a friend of mine for many years now. I also had the opportunity to get to know the lovely family of the late Bob LeRose who was the Colourist on the DC run. 

The UK comics are amazing. What is unique is that each artist brings their own style and feel. Artists such as David Pugh were able to bring hyper-realism of the toys themselves. I was fortunate to be able to get my hands on a couple of pages from David and this Switchblade in Jet mode is better than the box art, I think. I’m just in awe of the art. It is truly art, not just comic art. 

MC:  Indeed, David Pugh's artwork really brought M.A.S.K to life for me!

From a collector’s point of view, it isn’t just the comics you have, how big is your M.A.S.K. collection?

RG: I’ve been lucky to start my collecting journey in the early 2000s before the collecting waves and recent surge. As for the collection itself, currently everything on MASKFORCE.com is all from our personal collection. I wanted to have control and time to do the spins. It was a matter of finding the best item for the spins so I ransacked my toy shelves. To see more of the collection, it might be easier to redirect your readers to our Instagram or Facebook page (links below). We do occasionally do live feeds and have interactive sessions. 

MC:  Are there any items you don’t have in your collection that you are looking for?

RG: My main focus is now on prototypes and original art. I’m always on the lookout for any preproduction items be it concept art, slides, internal Kenner documents, proofs, unproduced toys, prototype toys, as well as original comic art and animation cels. Novelty items such as various M.A.S.K stickers and naturally any comics from countries that I haven’t posted about are things I’m also hunting down. 

MC:  Apart from M.A.S.K., what other properties do you collect?

RG: When I first started collecting, I focused on toys that I had as a kid such as M.A.S.K, G.I Joe, Silverhawks, Centurions, Starcom, Transformers and MOTU. I then expanded to toy lines that I remember watching the cartoons from and went in from there. That being said M.A.S.K was and still is the top. Since then I have decided to focus the number of toy lines and so my focus apart from M.A.S.K are Centurions, Sky Commanders, Silverhawks and BraveStarr.

MC:  You recently contacted myself about your new page, M.A.S.K. Force, tell us all about it?

RG: Yeah, I’m so excited to present MASKFORCE.com. I’ve always appreciated seeing toys in motion and wanted to replicate that and present the whole Kenner M.A.S.K toy line with 360 spins. There are a lot of amazing M.A.S.K sites out there and our aim was compliment them and come up with a different “spin” on the presentation of the toys. We hope we can be a resource for both new and old collectors alike and be a handy reference guide. 

MC:  That sounds awesome, how long did it take to complete?

RG: For about 5 years I’ve been contemplating this project, flirting with ideas. Finally, this year we started it in earnest and have been working hard on it for the last half of the year. I say “we” as this was a combined effort with my eldest son Rayner. Without him MASKFORCE.com would not be up and running as it is today. It’s still a work in process but we wanted to get the spins out first and make them the star. But we do have lots more planned!

MC:  Ok, so, what I’m really interested in – you have rotating 3D, I guess are they GIF’s?, on your site.  How did you manage to create these?

RG: Great question. When designing the site, we experimented with different products on the market and settled with using spins of many images compared to a GIF. This allowed for smoother spins with better control. These are not videos or GIFs but each spin is made up of individual pics of the toys from all angles. 

MC:  They are bloody awesome and the colours as so vibrant!

RG: Thank you so much. Credit goes to my boy who did a fabulous job!

MC:  Now, you messaged me recently with some great news about an update to your site, can you please let everyone know what that is?

RG: Yes! I’m happy to present a new section that has been requested. It was always planned, but the sheer number of issues made it a daunting task. I’m naturally talking about the UK comics. We have added the covers of the full run of the Original 80 issues and specials as well as most of the Eagle and M.A.S.K issues. All covers can be zoomed into and enjoyed in high definition.

This is just the start and as we will be expanding on this section in the future and I’m hoping this can be a collaborative effort between MASKFORCE and M.A.S.K Comics. So, stay tuned for more!

MC:  That’s brilliant – thank you very much for coming to us first with this.

RG: Appreciate the invite. I couldn’t think of a more fitting place to present the UK comics. 

MC:  I’ve set up a hyperlink here to M.A.S.K. Force – can you let us know any of your other sites that the readers should look up? 

RG: Sure thing, our 80s toy collection can be found on our Epic Toy Box Instagram page @epic_toy_box and on our EpicToyBoxFacebook page

I do want to make one final shout out to your readers. If anyone wants to share pictures of their collections, customs or childhood photos of them with their toys I’d be delighted to show them on our MASKFORCE community collections page. 

Thank you again for having us. Was a blast!

MC: It was a pleasure having this chat and good luck with the new site!!

#assembleMASK #MASKcomics #MASKcrusade 

Monday 31 August 2020

M.A.S.K. Comics interview with Kero Wack

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.

#assembleMASK #MASKcomics #MASKcruasade

Tuesday 25 August 2020

Kitty Bungalow's Voices for the Voiceless - featuring Doug Stone, Michael Bell and others

I was contacted tonight by the legend that is Doug Stone.


Doug is best known to M.A.S.K. fans as being the voice of Matt Trakker, Bruce Sato, Hondo MacLean, Dusty Hayes, Bruno Sheppard, Nash Gorey, Boris Bushkin and Maximus Mayhem.  As well as voicing on M.A.S.K., Doug has numerous other roles under his belt and in the Gaming World is known as Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid.

When not working working tirelessly as a voice actor, Doug, who has a love for cats, helps out at the Kitty Bungalow.  The Kitty Bungalow Voices for the Voiceless, is an Auction to raise funds for this worthy "Charm School for Wayward Cats".

Up for auction are signed items and your chance to have your favourite voice actor leave you a message for your voicemail inbox.  There are far too many to list so you will have to visit the details on the Kitty Bungalow Voices for the Voiceless site.

The auction is up and running now at www.biddingowl.com/voicesforthevoiceless auction site.  

If you are looking for something, you'd best be quick as there are already bids on Doug's items.

Good Luck!!

Friday 17 April 2020

Is Hondo MacLean the key to a M.A.S.K. Movie?

If you have read my previous blogposts, you'll know that I'm not a fan of the IDW reboot of M.A.S.K. - now under the "M.A.S.K. - Mobile Armored Strike Kommand" title trademarked by Hasbro.  The only thing that was good about the comics was some of the cover artwork.

Overall, the story telling, the premise, the changes and mostly the merging of all Hasbro owned properties into one universe, just didn't work.

One of the most divisive issues surrounded the M.A.S.K. team leader, Matt Trakker.  In the "real" M.A.S.K. from our youths, it didn't matter whether the cartoon, UK or US comics, Matt was a late 20's/early 30's, rich, white billionaire philanthropist.  In the IDW carnage, he became a young, troublesome, black youth.  Whether you loved or hated them, we also no longer and Scott and T-Bob who are central to M.A.S.K.

I've heard two differing reasons for the change.  The first was that the writer of the comic, Brandon Easton, wanted the change.  The other is that Hasbro want properties that don't have a white leading figure to appeal to the more Politically Correct world that we find ourselves in.

So, in order to have a key African American character, they favoured to change the central character of Matt from White to Black to fit some agenda.  Perhaps it was Brandon Easton who decided to make the change - if it was, this would reflect a very poor writing decision on his part.  Why change the leader's ethnicity when you have a perfect character in Hondo MacLean that you've not even included in your comic?

I'm no stranger to a M.A.S.K. script having written one of my own - unfortunately, I didn't get very far with Hasbro on it.  I do think that most of the IDW changes were due to DIC developing the characters in the cartoons - giving them their familiar backstories that we know and love - and Hasbro may have to change it so that they are not in an infringement with the new owners of DIC.  This could be part of the reason my script didn't get very far with them as my script kept similarities to the original M.A.S.K.

So, why do I think Hondo is key to a M.A.S.K. Movie?

When I wrote my script, it was left on a cliffhanger - one of the character's fates is in limbo and we are unsure if she is dead or alive or even where she is.  This was then going to be the catalyst for the sequel.

As well as that concept, I was also working on a concept of a standalone movie that would centre around Hondo MacLean.  As any fan of M.A.S.K. will know, all of the vehicles have a dual function - there is the "illusion" of a normal everyday vehicle and the "reality" of an armoured assault vehicle or similar.

One of Hondo's vehicles, Hurricane, is a strange one to try and shoehorn into a story.

In my opinion, there's only one of two ways that a M.A.S.K. movie can go - either it's set in it's original time of the mid-80's - this has worked extremely well for Stranger Things and Bumblebee - or it needs to be of now.  The style and vehicles of IDW's comic was neither - relying on basing the vehicles on technology stolen from Transformers - and they look shit.

Hurricane doesn't really fit into either the 1980's or the 2020's - it's a '57 Chevy and may look out of place.  In my idea for a standalone movie, it would be set in Cuba with Hondo being the main character.

Cuba is a nation of Prestige Classic 1950's American Automobiles.  Placing Hondo in this setting with Hurricane's illusion of a '57 Chevy would work extremely well. 

Many M.A.S.K. fans have always thought of M.A.S.K. as being a combination of G. I. Joe and Transformers....  I've always felt it was more akin to James Bond.  Hondo being undercover in Cuba would be a very James Bond-esque premise.

I don't think IDW were clever enough to give validity to M.A.S.K. - they don't know the characters, they don't know the vehicles and they don't know the Masks (they don't give the masks their names - these now seem to be code-names for the characters????).

If I were to write a M.A.S.K. script now, I would certainly change it.  If the narrative requires an African American Leader then Hondo would need to be key.  So, what would I do?

The original series of the cartoon differed slightly from the 10 Racing Series, the free mini comics with the toys, the UK Comics and the US Comics.  In the first series, Miles and his V.E.N.O.M. cohorts don't know the M.A.S.K. team.  There is one episode when they steal a crystal skull that gives them this insight but, by the end of the episode, all is forgotten.

In all the other material, including the Racing Series, Matt and Miles worked together on the M.A.S.K. project until Miles double-crossed Matt and stole half of the weapons.  What if this happened and Hondo then began to question the validity of the M.A.S.K. team?

What if Hondo questions whether Matt is part of Miles' plan and turns against him?  What if Hondo set up his own team not trusting Matt and Miles - fighting against both?

We would still have the M.A.S.K. we know and love - but, with a third rogue element of Hondo.  Many stories feature the struggle between good and evil.  But, more and more stories, films, comics, books look into the grey area between good and evil.

Who didn't love Captain America Civil War when it was a story of two teams who both thought they were right be being manipulated by a third party?

M.A.S.K. vs V.E.N.O.M. vs Hondo's team.....  A classic trilogy that I think would add more to the story telling.  Obviously, at some point, Hondo's team would eventually merge back into M.A.S.K.

Instead of changing the ethnicity or gender of our heroes, this would allow for new diverse characters to enter the fold.  I'm the first to admit that there aren't enough female characters in M.A.S.K. and as diverse as it was, perhaps some of the character names (Ali Bombay and Nevada Rushmore) aren't that diverse?

If, has been reported, the F. Gary Gray is going to be the custodian in charge of bringing M.A.S.K. to life, I think that he needs to give the fans what they are expecting.  Otherwise, it will fall flat on it's face.

What are your thoughts?  Please leave them below or over on my M.A.S.K. Comics Page.

#MASKcomics #MASKcrusade #assembleMASK #FGaryGray

Wednesday 31 July 2019

M.A.S.K. Trending?

Ok, so, I'm not going to lie to you - it's been a crazy few days.  A very unexpected, could not have been predicted, crazy few days.

As many of you will know, I run the M.A.S.K. Comics Facebook Page along with this blog.  On the morning of the 27th of July, a picture came up on my Facebook Page that I'd shared last year, one related to M.A.S.K.  It would appear I'd shared it to my personal page and not on my M.A.S.K. page when I'd initially came across it.

Anyway, I downloaded to my phone and shared it on my page, not thinking very much of it.  The image is a fan made poster for a M.A.S.K. Movie - 

I've not been very active on my page over the past couple of years.  IDW's vision of M.A.S.K. was such a let down and left me a bit deflated. 

What happened was quite extraordinary...  The average number of people that my post reach is around 1,000+ - maybe as much as 2000+ on a good day.

The number of people reached with this post just grew and grew as people engaged with it.  There were a lot of people who were understandably let down as they thought it was a genuine movie poster.

As the the views grew, so did the comments, likes and shares.  My page likes have grown by 50% in just a matter of days.

During the course of the few days, I managed to find the creator of this image - Pascal Kleefeld.  You can check out his FB Page here to support him.

The current number of people reached as of now (19:56 on 31/07) 338,091.

I do appreciate that these figures will be skewed slightly - eg, if I shared on my page my friends may see it as they scroll through their FB feeds would probably be a count - even if they didn't take notice or engage with it.

However, I think what this post has proved is that there is a desire for M.A.S.K. to make a return.  Not as that bastardised version from IDW but the M.A.S.K. that we grew up with and loved.

Due the boost that this has given to my page, it has also given me a boost of hope - given me my hopes that we will get M.A.S.K. back.  But, I think we, as fans of M.A.S.K. really need to push this forward.

You can see from above that that stats are great on this - but they could be so much better.  I really think that all M.A.S.K. sites and fans need to all group together.  We need to drive this momentum forward.

But what can we do?

The more we Like, Share and Comment on posts related to M.A.S.K. the better.  If we use hashtags - there are already three I regularly use - #assembleMASK #MASKcomics and the one created by Mike Quakenbush, #MASKcrusade - perhaps, just perhaps we can get M.A.S.K. trending.

So, where do we start?

Well, as that post has already proved so popular, let's like, comment and share the hell out of - you can access the original post from this link.  Remember and hashtag it.

There are a number of other images and posts I've recently shared - please like, share and comment on those also.

But this isn't just about my page - there are plenty of M.A.S.K. Pages and FB pages that you can like and interactive with -

And many more.

If you are a fan of M.A.S.K. and what to help bring it back, please do all you can.

Thank you,


#assembleMASK #MASKcomics #MASKcrusade

Sunday 30 June 2019

M.A.S.K. Comics interview with Artist, David Pugh

The M.A.S.K. UK Comic didn’t credit writers or artists for their hard work – unlike US Comics whereby there would be a title screen, so you knew who did what.  Through connections made via my blog and other M.A.S.K. sites, I found out from fellow M.A.S.K., and all round comic fan, Darren Gregson, the names of some of the people “behind the M.A.S.K.”, so to speak.

I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with David Pugh.  David’s style of art just brought all my favourite characters, vehicles and Masks to life….

M.A.S.K. Comics – David, welcome to my M.A.S.K. Comics blog.  It’s a pleasure to have you for a chat.
David Pugh – Happy to get the chance to talk to all those readers who enjoyed my work.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Can you tell me a little bit about yourself –your background and interests outside of what we know you for – your fantastic work in Comics?
David Pugh –I retired from comics in February 2011, I was tired of drawing heroes’ adventures and wanted some action of my own. In April 2009 I volunteered for two months as a graphic designer and Computer Arts teacher in the Tibetan refugee community in Dharamsala, India. I’d been a supporter of the FREE TIBET movement since I was eight-years-old and saw the news footage on my grandmother’s black and white television of the young Dalai Lama entering India, on his way to a life in exile. It was followed by a documentary about Tibet and I decided I wanted to go there. I made so many Tibetan friends and received so much gratitude from my very attentive students that I returned in 2010, this time with my daughter helping with the classes and staying for four months. I had planned to return for a further four months in March 2011 but then I heard that the Daily Mirror’s SCORER strip, that I was co-artist on, was to be axed. I decided I’d just buy a one-way ticket.  I spent three months back in Dharamsala but I was offered some creative voluntary work in Rishikesh, where I stayed for a further two months, getting free yoga lessons every morning. When my visa ran out I travelled across Nepal from West to East for three months. I didn’t return to the UK until June 2012. I’ve been continuing travelling pretty much full time ever since. During the course of my travels I began formulating a series of novels inspired by own adventures.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Were there any Comics that had a profound influence on you when you were growing up that helped shape your interest in working as an Artist?
David Pugh – I was ten years old sitting in my doctor’s surgery when I first saw the Eagle comic, featuring DAN DARE-PILOT OF THE FUTURE.  I was mesmerised by the Mekon, I had no colour in my life as we only had a black and white TV with one channel. I couldn’t believe that an artist could draw such realism and detail. My mother snatched the comic away from me, telling me I’d have nightmares if I looked at such things, to which I replied, ‘But Mum, I want nightmares like this!’  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to draw Dan Dare for five years, I couldn’t achieve the perfection of the original studio, well there were five of them working on it which I didn’t realise when I was ten. My mother never did buy me the Eagle but I was very happy that she did buy me Boys’ World and Ranger, the latter having the wonderful TRIGAN EMPIRE by Don Lawrence. It wasn’t until I got to Art College that I was introduced to the mighty world of Marvel comics and the works of Neal Adams, Jim Steranko and the inimitable Jack Kirby. Until then I’d only seen DC comics, which were a bit flat, Marvel was so experimental with inspiring layouts.

M.A.S.K. Comics – What was your path into mainstream Comics?
David Pugh – 1976 I was working as an Artist/ Visualiser in a Thomson regional newspapers Creative Services studio on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.  One of the editors of their fifteen titles knew I like comics and asked me if I’d like to write and draw a comic strip for the children’s page. They gave me an eight inch by three column space which was the proportion of an A4 page. The strip was called LOOKING GLASS LIBRARY, where two children and their dog find that they can enter the pages of classic books. I took them inside ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, FRANKENSTEIN and the Welsh epic the MABINOGION, amongst others. 1979 the company brought out a freesheet called the GLAMORGAN STAR and gave me a half page. I came up with a Judge Dredd inspired character, CAPTAIN CLASSIFIED-STAR RANGER, he was supposed to help sell classified advertising but he went on his own way. As I had been published for several years it qualified me to join the SOCIETY OF STRIP ILLUSTRATORS, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd and Alan Moore being members at the time. We had a monthly newsletter where we could showcase our work. Pat Mills liked one of my Captain Classified strips and offered me SLAINE in 2000AD. The rest is history as they say.

M.A.S.K. Comics –I’ve read that your favourite character is Loner from Wildcat – what is it about that character that appeals to you so much?
David PughI was delighted to be offered Loner as my character, the cool black hero was especially designed by Ian Kennedy with me in mind.  I had perfected a black and white style which I felt had enough texture to not need colour and I enjoyed the challenge of creating a handsome and tough black guy.  I was listening to a lot of West African music, so my Loner became a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Senegalese singer Baba Maal.  Drawing Loner was the happiest year of my comics career; the man helped me reach a new standard of illustration.  I was honoured when Kev Hopgood, who became Iron Man artist at Marvel, told me that he thought that I had created the most convincing black character in British comics.

M.A.S.K. Comics – I believe that there is a Graphic Novel of Loner coming out – is this a collection of stories from Wildcat or is it all new?
David Pugh – It’s a collection of the whole run from Rebellion, including the late Eric Bradbury’s work.  They didn’t realise that I still had all the original pages; they used the 1988/89 process film, I hope it will reproduce well.

M.A.S.K. Comics – How much would it mean to you to bring this character back and would you like to further develop him?
David Pugh – I don’t draw anymore, I’m getting more delight from the writing; it allows me to take my creativity to a higher level.  I was offered six pages in the SLAINE thirtieth anniversary book but I don’t enjoy looking back, so I turned the offer down; much to the consternation of some of my artist friends, who thought it would have boosted my career.  I was in India at the time and walking down a very different path.  Most of my contemporaries thought I was crazy as getting high profile comics work was getting harder to find and they believed I could have relaunched my career.  I am relaunching my career but as a novelist, a painter with words.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Your son-in-law is a Filmmaker – how would you feel if he approached you and told you he wanted to turn Loner into a Movie of TV Series?
David Pugh – It takes a lot of money and connections to produce a movie or TV series and of course Rebellion hold the copyright and Ian Kennedy and Barrie Tomlinson created the character.  I just took him to a higher level and think I gave him a strong personality.

M.A.S.K. Comics – We are in an age of 80’s properties coming back and making their way onto the big screen.  However, many of these, such as Transformers and G. I. Joe, aren’t true to their 80’s counterparts that my generation grew up to love and want to share with our children.  Do you think that Loner would have to adapt to work in 2019 and beyond and would that perhaps feel like a betrayal to what you love about that character?
David Pugh – Betrayal, not at all, I believe that in the right hands a good script writer can improve a character.  Loner was created very much out of time, so I don’t think the work has dated and wouldn’t require updating.  I’m sure the readers of the collection will realise that it was created thirty years ago.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Wildcat was one of the many comics from the same stable as Roy of the Rovers, The Eagle, Judge Dredd, 2000 A.D., etc.  Wildcat is also the name of one of my favourite vehicles from M.A.S.K. which brings us nicely onto my favourite all time comic.  How were you brought onboard to the M.A.S.K. Comic?
David Pugh – I had been sacked on SLAINE to put it bluntly, I took two weeks off after the second series and came back to find I had been replaced.  What hurt was that nobody told me this, it was down to Mike Collins, my replacement to pull the rug from under my feet at a Birmingham comic convention.  Pat Mills has since apologised for this but it meant that I was hanging around waiting for the odd FUTURE SHOCK, one of which I wrote.  I did an eight page story, THE MAN WHO COULDN’T DIE for the 2000AD SUMMER SPECIAL 1985.  Barrie Tomlinson, the group editor loved it and invited me to join the MASK team from issue one.  The big bonus for me, as well as being sent all the toys was that I was working with Pete Milligan’s scripts, though as in traditional British comics fashion, neither of us were credited.

M.A.S.K. Comics – M.A.S.K. started as a fortnightly comic during its first year, then, I assume due to overwhelming popularity, a weekly incarnation.  How far in advance did you get the scripts to work on before print date?
David Pugh – It was usually six weeks ahead, so not much maneuverability for missing deadlines. I wasn’t comfortable drawing more than three pages a week but I’ve never once missed a deadline.

M.A.S.K. Comics – For any of our American friends reading this, UK Comics are completely different from US Comics in that M.A.S.K. had 5 stories per issue – some only a single issue long and some serialised through for several weeks.  You worked on the serialised stories, were you given the full script in advance or only a week at a time?
David Pugh – The full script was sent to me, though I confess that I didn’t always read it through.  Like the reader I appreciated the anticipation of what would be happening next!

M.A.S.K. Comics – The process from getting the script in your hands – I take it you then had to do a basic storyboard or did you just know what had to be done and crack on with it?
David Pugh –No storyboard, I just did a thumbnail sketch of the layout as I went along but that wasn’t submitted for approval, only the pencils went to the company who were hired to keep an eye on the continuity between the toys and the artwork.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Many of the Comics you worked on were the sole property of the comic.  M.A.S.K. was the property of Kenner Parker, entrusted to IPC/Fleetway.  What are the differences in producing a comic such as this?  Do have to go back to Kenner to approve the stories and artwork before publication?
David Pugh – Kenner Parker hired a company called Copyright Promotions, so my pencils went to them.  Later I worked with this same company when I drew a series of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG adventure books.  I don’t think there was one artist among them; they just worked to style sheets.  I’m sure the MASK readers remember that I drew the vehicles for maximum impact.  Kenner Parker messaged Barrie to say that I drew the vehicles so well that there was no need for me to submit further pencils for approval.  That speeded up my production of pages.

M.A.S.K. Comics – For reference, I assume you were given all of the toys to help get them right?
David Pugh – That was the best bit especially as I had two young children at the time, they loved playing with them and were very careful. Having the toys brought realism to the strip, giving the pages a more cinematic edge and improved the action.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Your artwork really defined the characters and brought them to life – in the same way the Voice Actors did in the Cartoons.  (I would read the comics in my head in the voices created on screen.)  Did you ever have a say in the development of the characters or their individual stories?
David Pugh – No, I just interpreted the script and was happy working on Pete Milligan’s wacky ideas.  He became very famous during the three years I worked on MASK and went on to work in American comics.  Barrie Tomlinson wrote the final stories of my run; I think the reader probably noticed the change in direction.  Barrie allowed me to concentrate on big images, thereby giving the pages maximum impact.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Despite the main focus being M.A.S.K. vs V.E.N.OM., there were many ancillary characters – normally a catalyst if you will for the story.  One that springs to mind who entered the comics at issue number 5 is Kamikaze.  What processes do you go through to come up with these original characters.
David Pugh – Kamikaze was written by Pete Milligan, all he asked in the script was for me to create a huge, cyborg like super sumo wrestler.  Kenner Parker never intervened in the ancillary characters but I seem to remember them complaining that there wasn’t enough emphasis on the vehicles in the UNDER THE VOLCANO story and too many original inventions and villainous characters.

M.A.S.K. Comics – So, do these characters remain the property of the writer and artist?  Or the publisher or Kenner?
David Pugh – They remain the copyright of the publisher, I just retained the right to sell the original artwork.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to claim all the M.A.S.K. pages when IPC/EGMONT were clearing their warehouse.  I was possibly the only M.A.S.K. artist to make the effort to go to the storage unit but I had years of work to collect.  I managed to retrieve all my LONER work but left M.A.S.K. until last.  I started at issue one and my wife at the last story but we ran out of time as the unit closed at 5pm, so we never met up. Unfortunately that meant that I only have a few pages of FUNNSVILLE and UNDER THE VOLCANO, which were my favourite stories, as I designed a lot of original stuff for the both stories, good villains too.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Did you have a favourite character?
David Pugh – I had a soft spot for Miles Mayhem and Vanessa was quite hot!  On the good guys side I liked drawing Hondo MacLean, could be why I got the job drawing Loner.  I did like his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, a really cool car.

M.A.S.K. Comics – A favourite Mask?
David Pugh – Following on from the last question, Hondo’s blaster.  I would have loved drawing the X-Men so Hondo’s mask was as close to Cyclops as I was going to get.  Also, I preferred masks that didn’t totally obscure the character’s face. Brad Turner’s mask did have more expression than most with the right lighting though.

M.A.S.K. Comics – The Cartoon and the American DC version of M.A.S.K. somewhat simplified the designs of the vehicles.  Your vision, on the other hand, was more accurate.  Did you take great pleasure in making these vehicles look real?
David Pugh – The three years I spent on MASK improved my drawing skills so much.  I suspended the vehicles from my angle poise lamp to get the right dynamics.  I have to acknowledge the toy designers for putting so much realism into the vehicles that I believed that they were real.  I always had a problem with Transformers, they looked cool but I found them soulless.  I’m amazed by how successful the movies have become, MASK could easily compete with the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise.

M.A.S.K. Comics – One of the reasons I think your artwork stands out is that it wasn’t coloured – it was as you had drawn in pencils/pens.  It had more of an impact – would you like to have seen your vision coloured?
David Pugh – I was attempting a style that didn’t need colour and I was furious when they introduced spot colouring on some of the pages, particularly when most of it was off register. I contacted Barrie when I saw the first piece of this unimaginative block colour, but it took weeks for him to get Fleetway/Egmont’s art department to stop doing it.  It felt like someone had graffitied over my artwork.  I didn’t do any colour work until I worked on Loner and then it was only covers and posters.  The late Sandy James did an excellent job on the MASK centrespreads and covers, I never understood why Sandy suddenly fell out of fashion, he’d been a mainstay of British comics for so many years.  His was a sad story and demonstrated how competitive the comics business can be.  Towards the end of his career Sandy was supplementing his income by sketching in Glasgow market.  What an unbelievable shame after all those breath-taking MASK covers.

M.A.S.K. Comics – The covers and the centre page spreads where a mainstay of the comic and really drew kids, like me, into picking up M.A.S.K. in the newsagents.  To hear what you’ve just said saddens me greatly.  Did you work closely with Sandy?  I assume as sometimes the covers were a snapshot of the story inside you would have to at least liaise with him?
David Pugh – I met Sandy on a few occasions and I helped him find some new work on the adventure books I was working on for Ladybird Books.  Sandy did several SONIC THE HEDGEHOG illustrated books for them but his heart wasn’t in it.  He wanted to get back to drawing action adventure like Johnny Cougar, which he’s probably best remembered for.  As to your question the answer is no; Sandy was shown photocopies of scenes from the interior that Barrie Tomlinson thought would make good covers.  Sandy was left to it but still his pencils had to go to Copyright Promotions for approval.  I don’t think they were qualified to suggest improvements; those covers and centrespreads couldn’t be improved on, they were wonderful.  My son wallpapered all the centrespreads as a frieze on his bedroom wall, unfortunately I only bought one copy of the comic, so I don’t have any complete issues. When I worked on 2000AD I received copies in the post every week, even after I crossed the corridor to Boys’ Adventure comics.

Sandy's Cover
M.A.S.K. Comics – The UK Comic differed somewhat from its US counterpart and the DIC Cartoon.  In the other incarnations of M.A.S.K. we see that all the agents have a life outside of M.A.S.K. – Dusty is a Pizza Chef; Brad a Rock Musician; Bruce is a Toy Designer; Alex owns a pet store, etc.  The agents are called up as and when required

We don’t see that (very often) in the UK Comic – would you know if there is a reason?  I assumed with only 4/5 pages per story per issue would’ve been restrictive or DIC had the rights to that background story.
David Pugh – You’ve hit the nail on the head, we only had room for the action and that’s what I wanted to draw and I hope what you readers wanted to see.  There were too many talking heads on the cartoon show and the colours were a bit lurid.  We had more action in our comic than the cartoon show, they could have done better but 3D computer modelling was still very limited.  I learned 3D STUDIO MAX for my work on SCORER.  I built the entire Dave Storry house in the program and just dropped the drawn characters in situ.

M.A.S.K. Comics – I know that you have a special place in your heart for Loner – but what about M.A.S.K.?
David Pugh – As I mentioned MASK helped me take my drawing and inking to a much higher standard and I have to thank Barrie Tomlinson for giving me the freedom to create the dynamic layouts which became a trademark of my style.  I also enjoyed drawing some of the exotic locations that Pete Milligan set the stories.I was already getting a thirst for real adventure, so the settings were an important part of my storytelling.

M.A.S.K. Comics – When I was a teen, M.A.S.K. had a profound influence on me – I studied Art & Design and Technical Drawing as I wanted to be a Toy Designer and work on the M.A.S.K. Toy Line.  I even sent some of my designs to Kenner but was surprised to receive a response from Tonka.

It would be a few decades later I’d find out that Kenner Parker was sold to Tonka and eventually bought by over by Hasbro.  Were you aware of any of the changes going on with M.A.S.K.?
David Pugh – As I mentioned earlier, Copyright Promotions were the company I dealt with and I reached such a high standard in my art that my work no longer went to them for approval.  The staff there were mostly young women with no art training, they were more like continuity people on a film production.  I used to have a copy of the MASK style bible they worked to but it was mostly front on, side and back view and sometimes a three-quarter perspective.  I think the folder was designed for the cartoon show as there was a lot of emphasis on matching colour.

M.A.S.K. Comics – Ohhh…  a M.A.S.K. bible?  Is that something you still have?  Something you could share with us?
David Pugh – Unfortunately not, when I left on my world travels in February 2011, I sold my comic collection as a job lot and the M.A.S.K. bible went with it.  It was in a red plastic covered A4, full coloured landscape ring binder folder to which they would send me updates.  It had the M.A.S.K. logo printed in black on the cover was a nice collector’s item; I should have sold it on eBay!

M.A.S.K. Comics – Recently, Hasbro have attempted to bring back M.A.S.K. by “updating it”.  The essence of what made M.A.S.K. is missing completely.  If you were asked, would you love to work on M.A.S.K. again?
David Pugh – To the great disappointment of all the readers who loved my comic artwork, I’ve moved on to a new career in which I’m getting a deeper satisfaction, painting with words.  I don’t have the connection to pencil and brush that I used to have.  Drawing was so much part of my life that my middle finger actually changed shape to accommodate the pencil. It’s now returned to an ordinary finger!

M.A.S.K. Comics – M.A.S.K. was just one chapter in your history, tell me about your current project?  I believe you are now an author of a trilogy.
David Pugh – Yes, three books about retired and disillusioned comic artist, Jeffrey Dharma.  Each book is set seven years apart, the first book sees Jeffrey go on a solo journey of self-discovery in India.  He wants to walk the Hindu path of Vanaprastha, the time of life when you give up on responsibility, which I’m still pretty much doing.  However when Jeffrey discovers a small Jagannath beach temple in India and is told by the young priest that he is the earthly embodiment of Jagannath’s brother Balabhadra the god of the white races, Jagannath representing the black people, his life takes a new direction.  Through a series of bizarre twists of fate, Remus Jallow an African palm-tapper and his wife’s former lover becomes Jagannath’s new incarnation.  The two of them need to find their Oriental sister Subhadra, so that the three can connect in a highly sexual union and form a holy trinity to bring peace and love to the universe.  This part of the storyline is in direct opposition to a violent battle that is taking place in West Africa, where Jeffrey’s wife, Sylvia is at war with a very evil people trafficker and drug dealer, Bob Jatta.  Bob is on his own journey of self-discovery and hopes to transcend death to become the nemeses of all humankind; but that’s book two! You can see me talk about book one DHARMA SUTRA on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc9RNEdv-So&feature=youtu.be

M.A.S.K. Comics – When will we see this series in the shops?
David Pugh – DHARMA SUTRA is scheduled for release on 28 June 2019 but there is some opposition to me writing as Jeffrey Dharma, which was my intention. To quote… "After some careful consideration, we would like to suggest that you change your pen name.  I understand that you would like to link the name to the book title, “Dharma Sutra”.  However, as you know, Jeffrey Dahmer was a notorious serial killer and sex offender who engaged in rape, murder, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism.  I realise that you have spelt Dharma differently, but from a marketing perspective, especially given the genre of the book, we think your pen name is in poor taste.  This will almost certainly have a negative impact on the marketing of your book.  Therefore, we suggest that you to reconsider it.  Bookshop space is highly competitive to get onto as it is and we would not like to give buyers any reason to reject the book based on negative connotations linked to your choice of pen name."  I knew this, Jeffrey Dahmer is mentioned on page two but I don’t think the marketing woman read that far!  So, I guess it’ll be coming out under my own name but the decision is still under discussion as the book has been through several editors over two years and no one saw a problem.

M.A.S.K. Comics – From what I’ve read, your son-in-law had asked you about a pilot for a TV Series that sparked this adventure off, how did that all come about and did he have any input?
David Pugh – Michael Traverzo, my son-in-law asked me if I had an idea for a US TV pilot, what I actually came up with has become Book Three, JEFFREY DHARMA-ZODIAC MAN.  Jeffrey has developed the ability to interrogate the murder victim and get the name of the killer by connecting with the pineal gland in the brain.  This gland is the source of our dreams and the generator of DMT which eases death, the much quoted “White Light”.  The pineal gland takes forty nine days to develop in the human and forty-nine days to die; curiously this is the exact number of days that the Tibetan Book of the Dead tells us is the time that the soul chooses its new parents.  

Michael found it a bit out of his comfort zone, so I started writing Jeffrey’s background story less than a year later.  Dharma Sutra had been kicking around my head for several years and finally all the pieces came together in May 2016.  I had been friends with a Gambian palm tapper for about thirteen years and we travelled around West Africa together.  When travelling in Pushkar, India I came across a sahdu, a dread-locked holy man who looked the twin of my African friend and I thought he would be perfectly at home living as a sahdu smoking ganja all day.  This became one of the story lines for book one, along with Jeffrey’s quest for enlightenment through having lots of sex. 

The second chakra is the source of creativity and sexual desire, Remus Jallow the palm tapper finds this an inspiring concept.  As I touched on, following an encounter in a Jagannath beach temple in Puri, Orissa the pair discover that they havebeen chosen to be the earthly representatives of Jagannath, god of the black races and his brother Balabhadra, the lord of the white people.  The two need to find an Oriental woman to become the embodiment of the “yellow” races, their sister Subhadra.  When she is found the three partake in a ritual of cosmic love in an ancient cave temple in the Broken Hills of Orissa.  They find the enlightenment they seek and embark on a mission of spreading universal love.  This half of the story is in stark contrast to the war that Sylvia, Jeffrey’s wife finds herself caught up in and enlists a former lover, a Botswana hit man to take on the drug and people trafficking empire of the sadistic Bob Jatta, Remus’ boyhood friend.

M.A.S.K. Comics – You seem to be extremely creative; will we have more solo projects from you?
David Pugh –In the course of writing book three I created Aurum, the Gold World, where people with strong egos drop out of the Samsara, the cycle of rebirth to continue to live an eternity of self-indulgence and creativity.  Aurum is the location of Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song, where all the great song writers go when they die.  Radio one DJ John Peel has an office in the building.  Jeffrey and his colleagues briefly encounter Jimi Hendrix, on his way to play in the Red House over Yonder.  Aurum is made of solid gold and has a latticework of fairy mine-shafts which link it to every period of human time.  Along these tunnels stolen children have been brought for thousands of years and exchanged for gold.  I’m thinking it might be a great place for a series of short stories featuring famous historical characters.  Wild Bill Hickok and tiger conservationist, Jim Corbett become allies of Jeffrey when he invites them to join him on a rescue mission.  It was fun allowing the two of them to speak in their own voice.

M.A.S.K. Comics  You are also involved in Charity Work, I believe, what can you tell me about that?
David Pugh – During my time volunteering in Dharamsala I discovered that many of my Tibetan refugee colleagues had family in other parts of India but couldn’t afford the time off or the bus fair to visit.  I’d been helping my Gambian palm tapper friend, Lucas for years to visit his family in Guinea Bissau, the country was so poor that his father had migrated to the Gambia to look for work when Lucas was a young boy.  I’d also been giving money to the Nepalese waiters in my favourite bar, the Gem in Delhi’s Paharganj district, so they could take a week’s holiday to visit their wives in Nepal. 

When I stopped working in early 2011 my first thought was how to continue helping like this with no income coming in?  The idea come to me that I could continue giving bus fare to these friends if I sold my artwork.  I set up a web-page explaining that from then on any art I sold would go directly into my Bus Fare account, so by buying my work they’d be helping to bring some moments of happiness to poor families.  All went well, despite some of my Tibetan friends asking not to be featured on the web-page and seen to be accepting charity. 

Of course people who donate money like to see the faces of people they are helping.  The Africans had no such worries so I began concentrating on a program to encourage people to join Lucas on his home visits and experience what it was like to stay in a jungle.  I had found it an enlightening experience but most people wanted a hotel with a swimming pool.  I made the mistake of involving a rich Canadian-Gambian on the program, not knowing he was a gangster, he said that people would more likely sign up if they had the comfort of a luxury 4x4 rather than the local transport I had planned using. 

Senegal had introduced a visa which made it complicated to cross the country into Guinea Bissau, so I suggested that maybe we could take tourists to the rarely visited Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal.  The result was that this man who became the inspiration for my villain Bob Jatta, took all the remaining funds by threatening to abandon my wife and I on a remote stretch near the Senegalese border.  Today we have only one Bus Fare beneficiary a family here in Si Thep, Thailand, where I’m currently based.  I met a brother and sister who had made the nine hour bus ride to Pattaya to work in the bars and clearly hated it.  At first I gave them money to take the time off and visit their mother but the brother suggested that if I could give them money to regenerate their land they could grow fruit and vegetables to sell and keep pigs and chickens.  There was little Bus Fare money left so I topped it up with my own savings and now the siblings have been able to return home to look after their mother and have been able to buy a second-hand 4x4 to deliver their produce but that’s pretty much the end of my Bus Fare plans.

M.A.S.K. Comics David, Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to have this Q&A.  I appreciate you were having to make a big decision on the pen name for your book.

Well, there we have it.  After 3 decades of being an avid fan of M.A.S.K. comics, I've finally had contact with one of the artists of the best comic ever made.  

If you have enjoyed David's Art and reading this blog, I'm sure that you would also enjoy reading his first novel in the trilogy now available to buy.

Please feel free to share this blog with all of your M.A.S.K. friends.  Remember you can comment below or visit the M.A.S.K. Comics Facebook Page for more conversation.

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