Billionaire Island Vol. 1 – Mark Russell and Steve Pugh

Mark and Steve stopped by Spoiler Country to buy an island and swim in their pool made of money but got stuck chatting it up with Casey T. Allen instead. Come inside, walk this way and enjoy the cool stylings of Mark Russell and Steve Pugh as they discuss life, career, and Ahoy Comics Billionaire Island.

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Steve the drunkin’ robots A.I. Transcript

Mark Russel and Steve Pugh – Interview

[00:00:00] Mark Russell: Oh yeah. Yeah. What you and Steve have in common.

What’s that you’re both. You’re both in Birmingham.

Casey: Oh, Oh, nice. Nice Birmingham across the water. How you doing Steve?

Steve Pugh: Right? Well, I used to be, that’s where I grew up. I’ve moved slightly over to Worcester. Cool. Okay. A bit industrial she’s she’s from Scotland. She, she likes to see trees and grass and those scary things that creatures living.

All so I just stay in doors mainly now. Concrete.

Casey: I hear ya. Yeah, we, we are about maybe 20 minutes outside of Birmingham, Alabama, and which was named after Birmingham, England. And we have like a huge deal industry and are used to now it’s mostly medical, but yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting place.

Steve Pugh: Yeah.

Yeah. Bourbon Berlin too. But it has a record. [00:01:00] Well, our Birmingham’s a reputation for being a bit of a Mac. It looks at other countries and thinks, Oh, we should have one of those. So go in London, got a giant Ferris wheel. Well, you got a giant Ferris wheel.

Mark Russell: It’s like the Las Vegas strip approach. It’s like, we’ll just build like our own sort of crappier Eiffel tower.

Steve Pugh: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s very much like that. And they’re constantly like bulldozing Victorian buildings to put up

Mark Russell: range. No one wants to be reminded of that.

Casey: So anyway, yeah, we we have, we just have a bunch of like micro pubs with varying success of like decent IPA, but that’s about as good as we get here.

Steve Pugh: Do you remember? Bear? I haven’t used to come in pubs and,

[00:02:00] Mark Russell: Artists drifted off we’re human beings.

Casey: Yeah. Tell us about how it was in the before times.

Steve Pugh: And they walked about and they just went into the shops without having to ask.

Casey: So yeah. Speaking of

Steve Pugh: that, you know,

Mark Russell: we’ll talk about for comics, like it’s the Precambrian era, you know, before. Like like a meteor came, destroyed, everything, you know, for the mass extinction in their life. That that was being like chained to doing comic books all day, every day.

Steve Pugh: So it was a lot like that before, but now I don’t know.

I can’t, it was by choice before now. It’s kind of. The doors look locked

Casey: as an artist. You I’m sure you hit a lot of the cons and, and sell your, your art and stuff like that. Has that really has, has that been a kick in the [00:03:00] pants?

Steve Pugh: Nope. I never leave the house. Oh, really joking about that. I am a bit of a Sharpie. I, I think I do, I have, I did, I did start to be more going in the last couple of years, but obviously put a stop to that. And I started doing like local ones in in the UK, but it’s been awhile since I was doing the convention scene.

Cause I’m not I’m, I’m not a very natural drawer. I need, I need to be in a room and kind of really grind that it. And if you, as a, as an artist, if you go on and you don’t sketch. You you’re seen as a bit of a

like, like, like, like you’re not moving away,

Mark Russell: sketch the cons, like, you know, there’s like this is completely natural to him. So that makes me wonder how many people got into drawing as a way to sort of like deal with social awkwardness. Like, it’s sort of a thing that can draw their attention away. So they don’t have to sit there awkwardly, waiting for people to make contact with them.

[00:04:00] It, to me like this, it seems like, kind of like I’m not, even though I’m not an artist, it seems like a nice way to sort of like divert your attention away from the, you know, the, the, the people that were just passing you by and ignoring you.

Casey: Yeah, that totally makes sense. Like dealing with the social awkward.

Mark Russell: Yeah. Like a way of sort of like telling the world that you’re not interested or you don’t, you’re not offended by their indifference. Yeah.

Casey: Back back when I would. Well,

Steve Pugh: if you, if you don’t, if you don’t want to interact, you can just start drawing, drawing Batman and off, off your own back. And nobody bothers you because they think you’re doing a commission.

Right. It. I, I, I’d rather, I’d rather to, to be honest.

Mark Russell: Yeah, it was when I go to cons as an art, as a writer, I just have to sit there and gawk at people. Like I’m a, you know, like at the perfume counter at Macy’s or something I’m just sitting there with my little, my little comics, like hoping someone will stop and talk to me.

So I don’t, I don’t, I should just, I should just [00:05:00] draw while I’m sitting there. I would look, I would look much cooler. Disinterested.

Steve Pugh: I, it makes it make, you know, the writer needs to do the work. In my opinion, I did signing with Jamie Delano. God, it must be like early 2009. I’m so old. And I was always sketching away and he was being a bond Beaver and conversing with all the Hellblazer fan.

So I was like, all right. So I made in caption all my sketches. So he had to do a bit of work as well.

Casey: Nice. So, so Steve, you, you got, you got started in British comics, like 2080 and all that other stuff. Has it been, have you enjoyed doing the more American style comics or is that even a factor into you? Like as, as a thing.

Steve Pugh: So actually I did it the other way round. I was one of the few that did American comics [00:06:00] and then did some, 2080 after the fact because my, my ambition was always to do, do 2008.

I mean, that was where I was focused, but the opportunity up to do some the, for first, the grim Jack and. They introduced me to Karen Berger and I did hell blazer, an animal man there. And then I came back and did some UK stuff. Because at the time the UK stuff was, was very, very vibrant and there’s lots of stuff going on.

It was now tangle and deadline. And you know, that, that, that era was very, very, you know, if you, if you lost a job, you could just pick one without, you know, then the same day. But, but yeah, I was never a superhero. Kind of guy. I didn’t read them and I didn’t not like them. I just wasn’t that interested in the arts except maybe, you know, people like Alan Davis did some beautiful stuff, but I wasn’t particularly, and the way they were call it back then everybody looked like they were covered in beach balls because of the, [00:07:00] just the star that was just starting to come in.

And the comics were looking like just ugly. So I, I kind of did the horror stuff because you could be more illustrative with it and you didn’t have to do this.  Did this kind of anatomy thing you could just do, you know, atmospheric stuff with clothes and mutant dogs and Annette and demons and stuff.

And I was quite happy doing that. That was what I ended up doing. I kind of got into superheros weird way by, by animal man. Cause that was kind of a horror comic, but he had, he read moments as well and the costume. So that’s how that’s when I had to learn to do a biceps and stuff like that, which I’d never had to worry about before.

Casey: Break out the old anatomy books and,

Mark Russell: well, it’s kind of weird that superheroes have [00:08:00] like, you know, muscles on muscles and these huge bites of stuff. Because if you had like super strength, like Superman, how would you work out? You know, like, like a 300 pound barbell would just feel like nothing to you. You don’t get any resistance when you’re working out.

So, so how are you building these muscles? I think if they really existed and they really had super strength, then they would just all be kind of flabby.

Casey: I want to see fat Superman so

Mark Russell: bad. Now you’re going to be some fat guy with skinny arms who is still just enormously strong. Yeah.

Casey: And to keep up all that strength.

I mean, he he’d probably have to eat like, like a fricking horse anyway, so yeah, it makes sense.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. I didn’t even metabolizes the sun or something

casually, not being a nerd when I

something with the sun or I don’t know, I wouldn’t know me. So you’re getting

[00:09:00] Mark Russell: vitamin D, but what do for protein? It seems like you have a protein deficiency. If you relied upon ingesting the sun.

Steve Pugh: He devours his enemies off screen

Casey: seat. This conversation has just led you guys to, to the next big Mark Russell, Steve Pew Teamup, which began way back with the Flintstones. How did, how did that happen and how did you guys get assigned together to work on the On the comic?

Mark Russell: Well, I didn’t there’s this Flintstones was the second comic I ever wrote.

So I didn’t really know anybody in the industry or, or anything really. But luckily in re Jayden’s, the editor was aware of Steve’s work with, with animal man and stuff. So she’s the one that sort of paradise.

Steve Pugh: Yeah, I was essentially I was tricked into it.

[00:10:00] Mark Russell: Every good thing in your life, you have to be tricked into it. Otherwise you wouldn’t.

Steve Pugh: Yeah, I just, I just do what Marie Jovenes says, because she’s consistently proved to be clever than me. In, in choosing projects. I know she said, I mean, she was trying to find an artist for the, for the Flintstones and I, I pitched to write the Jetsons.

But we will, we would bounce around a lot of ideas at that point. Just because we were a chat moved to China a lot and. She asked if I could just, you know, maybe do the first two or three issues and then they find a regular artist for you. Okay. I’ll do that. And adequate when, when two or three issues were done.

You said, well, you know, this is going really well. Why don’t you just stay on the plates, but that’s you know, obviously always enjoying it. So that wasn’t a problem. The only problem was of course, I thought I was only doing three issues. So I’d used all my lead time on those three issues. And the I am is in [00:11:00] this crazy breakneck way.

But but yeah.

Casey: What was your what did you think when you found out that you were getting paired up with the author of goddess disappointed in you and Apocrypha now?

Steve Pugh: Yeah, I got to admit, I, I don’t even have time to see TV shows or movies. I’m just constantly. It’s sad. It’s going to sound a bit grim. I I’m just drawing all the time. And I haven’t now I haven’t written by wonder woman issues yet. Oh, wow. So I have heard the Flintstones line.

Mark Russell: So he’s like current until like 2017.

He’s.

Casey: So how do you guys communicate while you guys are working on a book? Is there like a constant through line of communication or does, [00:12:00] is, is it that Mark just writes the script, hands it off to Steven, Steve. Takes off of that.

Mark Russell: Well, more of the second than the first, but, you know, we also email a lot during the, especially during the formative phases of a comic, just to like sort of talk back and forth about things and, you know, I’ll send him some reference picks, just some ideas, not that he has to stay with them but just to sort of like give them a clue, give him clued in a little more about what I was envisioning.

And then he does something completely different, which is better than what I’m thinking. And we go with that.

Steve Pugh: Well, main thing is that I understand is in the early stages, I’ll obviously get it wrong, but I’m, I’m trying to get inside what Mark wants and try and give him that because, you know, that’s, that’s really what I’m supposed to be doing is putting his ideas on the, in the, on the paper as successfully as I can.

So, you know, [00:13:00] it often comes down to, you know, understanding the pacing of, of his humor and, and, and getting where the gag is supposed to go and trying to land it, but also trying, hopefully not to overplay it. It’s, it’s sometimes difficult.

Mark Russell: Yeah, the worst when you, especially when you’re trying to land a joke and Steve gets this implicitly, but I’ve got other artists who didn’t and it’s always a disaster is you can’t have the, the person, the subject of the gag understand.

It’s funny like that. If you draw a character like smiling or gagging or mugging for the camera, you know, as the punchline is happening, it’s a disaster. It, Steve is a really brilliant job of just sort of like capturing the the emotions of the people who don’t realize they’re in a comedy.

Casey: That’s actually that that’s that’s gold right there.

I like that advice. It’s how do you emphasize, like to the artist [00:14:00] in the script though? Like how do you go, Hey, this is the funny, like right here. Focus on this or do you, is it just like understood when he,

Mark Russell: luckily, you know, I’ve been, I’m kind of spoiled with, you know, artists like Steve and Mike being with people that just sort of get it.

People just sort of understand, you know, how to read a script. And so I don’t have to explain it to them usually, but, but yeah, I’ve thought about like coming up with my own sort of style guide where I, I just have a list of like, sort of tips like that, where if there is a gag or if there’s a wine, I’m really trying to just land don’t.

Crowd the panel with a lot of experience details. Don’t have the person sort of winking at the camera or mugging because it destroys the line. Then this is something that they have to, you know, they are unwitting unwitting characters in their own tragedy. So, you know, everyone, no one realizes that they’re living in a dystopia.

So you have to sort of like play with that rule. You have to get in the mind of the character. Not necessarily the mind of the writer.

Casey: Nice. Nice.

[00:15:00] Steve Pugh: So liquid scripts through the, there that the full dialogue although Mark will perfect the dialogue when he’s, when there was the, the lettering stage, but get you got the full, you understand exactly what each character is feeling and where each hole is at in the scene, which is with vital release and, and some, some scripts don’t, don’t do that.

So, yeah, it’s, it’s a lot. Well, I, I, I think it’s good too, fairly solid to work from.

Mark Russell: One thing I sort of learned as I’ve gone on that I do more now of now than when I first worked with Steve on the Flintstones is in the art notes from describing what’s happening in the panels. I spend a lot more time now describing the emotions of the characters like what they’re going through in their heads or what, you know, they, how they’re reacting to the other line.

So it’s, it’s. It’s like, not only just to clue them into what the sensibility of this panel needs to be like, but also to like, sort of just give them a sense of of the, of [00:16:00] how make them, you know, focus on like the emotions as opposed to everything else going on in the panel.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. And that’s great when the more, you know about the characters, the more the artists can do background stuff or have them, you know, picking up Kind of some in the scene and playing with it or just doing something interesting visually what that is and working against the what’s an elephant, the character or that, where they are emotionally missing it just the more, you know, the more you improvise because.

No more, you know what, isn’t wrong?

Mark Russell: Exactly. We hear you’re not, you’re not stepping, you know, that you’re not stepping on other. So,

Casey: when did you guys actually start the early process of assembling billionaire Island? And I’m assuming it was one of those deals where you both wanted to get a chance to work with each other again, [00:17:00] Well,

Mark Russell: for me, it was yeah, and I, I had written pretty much written the entire six issue series in 2019.

Then we, we just had to wait for Steve at the time. I think it was working on Harley Quinn breaking glass which I thought was going to make him a huge star. Probably never want to work with me again after that, but luckily we were able to get them from billionaire Island and but the delay of him working on that in us, waiting for him was really good because it gave me a chance to go through the scripts like a couple of times and really refine them before, you know, he was, he, he was even seeing them.

Casey: That’s awesome. What was the appeal for for doing this through through a hallway, they seem like really great guys.

Mark Russell: Yeah. I really like working with a Hawaiian. And for me, the appeal is one working with the people who get it, people who have kind of a similar sensibility and don’t treat you like you belong in a leper colony because you’re trying a funny comic.

And, and also, you know, the fact [00:18:00] that they’re just sort of more. W the more open to doing this, this, this sort of creative, they treat this even to like, create our own titles. It sounds like a really bad idea, like pilling our Island as though they’re, you know, they’re, you know, they call it the limousine.

They treat this as though it’s like the best idea anyone’s ever had, and they don’t just sort of like, Toss it to the curb. You know, it’s like a lot of publishers, especially when you pitch something that as sort of marginal to the comics industry is a billionaire Island will publish it, but they’ll do it with sort of with the mentality of like a reptile it’s like, I’ll, I’ll lay a thousand eggs and if it hatches and survives and so be it.

But if it doesn’t, then I don’t really care. And they’re not, they’re more like a mammal. They will, they will foster and nurture this egg or this, this child as though it’s the only one they’re ever going to have. And I really liked that sort of boutique mammalian approach they bring to to, to their titles.

Casey: I got a chance to talk to Tom Pyre not long ago. And [00:19:00] number one, he was over the moon. It seemed like he was over the moon about every single title at that company. There wasn’t one book there that he was like, yeah, Then when we go through these guns right here,

Mark Russell: operation over there, they, they only do titles. They really believe in. So when you sign with them, you know, that you’re getting like, really they’re going to treat it. Well, they’re going to promote it. They’re going to like, do whatever the story demands. Not necessarily just forcing you to shoehorn, whatever you’re telling into like the the format they want to publish it.

And so, yeah, they’re really good publisher to work with for that reason.

Casey: When all of this for for people listening in, in 2028 right now the U S is in the world is going through a global pandemic. It just so happens that billionaire Island also has a little bit to do with a pandemic of sorts.

And so how bad did you shit, your pants, when, when you realized that the thing you were writing about in your comic [00:20:00] was kind of like. Happening.

Mark Russell: Yeah, it was a little weird. I mean, it was a, it was a little ironic that, you know a comic book that deals with the pandemic itself gets interrupted by a pandemic.

Cause like, if you want to come out and March, and then there was like a three month gap because of COVID-19 between that and issue number two. But I don’t know. I feel like in a lot of ways my comics have always been sort of about like the Decrepitude and decline of civilization. And I think as people why people usually mistake them for being prophetic because they’re, they’re talking about the things civilization is undergoing at the moment.

And and unfortunately that just happened to be like another moment of that synergy.

Casey: Okay. Do you think that The way that you wrote about, you know, the things that are happening in the comic, do you think it kind of mirrors the way things are going now or Do you think it’s worse?

[00:21:00] Mark Russell: Yeah. Hard to say.

It probably is worse.  But, but, but yeah, it’s, it’s really about where we will go according to the trajectory. As, as I see it. And if, if it’s hard to say this about a comic like that, but perhaps it’s not pessimistic enough.

Casey: Yeah, I can totally, I can totally understand that for sure. So how, how many more issues of billionaire Island do you guys have?

Mark Russell: Well, right now that’s six is the only, or the only issues in existence, but I think we’re in talks nothing official yet, but I think we’re going to do another six issues.

Casey: Oh, nice. Nice. Kind of like a second going, which Oh my gosh, fantastic book. I’ve enjoyed that quite quite a bit. It was one of the few books that I had the opportunity to pick up and, and just really enjoy through this year.

And I’ve enjoyed it, [00:22:00] man.

Mark Russell: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, one of the things I like about, you know, not when, when Steve and I worked on the Flintstones together, as far as I knew that was going to be the end of my comics career, that that was going to be the last, if it failed, it would probably be the last time anyone ever asked me to write a comic book.

And so I tried to like, sort of make it about everything. Yeah. Sorta like, make it about like, talk about like all kinds of, you know, everything under the sun. I thought it was wrong about civilization and And then once I started getting more jobs, I realized I don’t have to do that. Really. I don’t know how to do that approach.

I can talk about specific things like billionaire Island. I could talk about, you know, just wealth inequality and how it’s going, how it assists in the destruction of civilization. The second coming, I can talk about religion and how wrong people have gotten this religion to which they’ve devoted their lives.

And so I liked the fact that I could sort of go deeper into commentary on specific subjects because I know I’ll get another chance. If I, if I bomb

[00:23:00] Casey: and I mean, honestly, like looking at, at the, all the things that you did in your work. You’ve really kind of, you keep pushing and pushing and pushing. I don’t think you’re going to bomb anytime soon because everything you do when you push is amazing exit stage left, the Snagglepuss Chronicles was really, really quite fantastic.

Thank you. Picked up a little bit of Tennessee Williams up in, in the,

Mark Russell: yeah, just a little, yeah, based on Tennessee Williams. So yeah, I’m glad you caught that though.

Casey: It’s it, it was fantastic. And so I’ve recently been listening to a podcast called you must remember this, which is a bunch of old Hollywood stuff.

And it kind of went through the pink scare. Which kind of [00:24:00] like made me think of, you know, the, the Snagglepuss Chronicles and, and how all that stuff wasn’t was like, Oh, I kind of already know a little bit about this. So

Mark Russell: yeah, the history is a great sort of, well, of stories to draw upon. If you know, my advice to like a young comics writer or artists would be to like be interested about in something in the world other than comics.

You know, because that will make your comics more interesting. That will inject part of the world you’re talking about into the comics. And I think that’s what makes, you know, maybe the Flintstones or Snagglepuss interesting to people is the fact that it’s, it’s a comic book. It’s not really just trying to find his place in the world of comics.

It’s really more about letting the world invade that comic book and tell it’s own story.

Casey: That’s a, that’s an amazing way to put that. Totally makes sense. What have you been inspired by lately? Has there been any rabbit holes you’ve been going down?

Mark Russell: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been reading [00:25:00] a lot about the I’ve been reading a lot of like, History like pop culture, history, like about different movements.

And also I’m reading a book called the precipice, which is about like, sort of how, you know, the sort of breaking down the odds of human survival over the next century. So. What’d you I’m, I’m I’m reading first because I’m interested in taking notes. Cause I, I think once we do the second volume of sec of billionaire Island, a lot of this will come into play, but yeah, that’s always the sort of thing I’m interested in.

Like how did civilization happen? What, you know, where did we get it wrong? How can we fix it?

Casey: Are we hopeless

Mark Russell: or helpless? I think we’re, we’ve we’ve definitely dropped the chili on the floor a few times, but I, I don’t think we’re without hope.

Casey: Well, that’s good. That makes feel a little bit better. Steve.

What’s been inspiring you lately, man.

Steve Pugh: Oh wow.

Yeah. Oh gosh. Well I said,

[00:26:00] well, we’ll go thing. The script sounds a bit. I dunno, I’ve been, I’ve been listening to music

Casey: and you knew when you, when you do the art, like, do, do you, do you listen to music while you, while

Steve Pugh: you draw. At some point, yeah. I mean, a lot of the time I’m working in silence with no TV, no movie,

Mark Russell: I imagine in my bedroom and the darkness somewhere, it’s like maybe like a, like a coal, coal miners lantern or something going away.

Bob Cratchit, grub gloves about the fingers

Steve Pugh: led. Yeah. Yeah. So no music I have to regulate. I use kind of mood music for different scenes. I thought that’s quite interesting cause I, I, when I’m drawing, I, I, I do try and I, I do kind of think of the timing of panels and things as music

talking [00:27:00] about some pot Matt Lira had about like giving each character a sort of, sort of a theme and then. Having the, the, the, the art style match that character, especially Billy in Ireland. That was an interesting one because each character almost had all different art style. They’re almost in a different comic because he had like trained who was almost like a star Ranko kind of spy mercenary sort of thing.

So he was, had that lots of lights and darks, and then like the, the, the billionaire the main, the main Billy what’s this who’s the main, main billionaire guy there. Right. So

Mark Russell: the social media guy? Yeah. Yeah. Rick Canto.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. Rick, Rick had no shadows. It’s all on him because he’s, he’s lit from every angle all the time, because he’s always in the sun.

Casey: You know, I

Mark Russell: feel it’s that reading it, but now that you said that it’s like, I instantly see that in my head. Like that’s that’s so that’s a great, that’s just a great insight in how you present that character.

[00:28:00] Casey: So this is all you, Steve. This is all your, your take on how these folks are.

Steve Pugh: Wait one script though.

It’s all from Mark. It’s just trying to back him up. If you see what

Mark Russell: visual, we’re all Steve. I mean, like I’m not telling him, you know, this character and abuse needs to be done and more of a gritty style. This one needs to be more. Yeah. That’s all him. That’s his creativity.

Casey: That’s, that’s amazing using that style as, as a shorthand to kind of display like, this is who this is.

Well, I totally dig that.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. Well, there’s, there’s a lot of Comic-Con I’ve got a friend for wind light and he’s very much about the The art of comics and how to use paneling and, and design of pages and all stuff like that. And I’ve Marvel. I see it more magically, but I, I still think you can use the format of the art to stage direct and, and, and, and, and [00:29:00] you do, I don’t like to do things that draw attention to the facts.

The page is a comic page. If you know what I mean, like having too many cutout characters with people punching each other through panels, but at the same time, you, if you can use the media. Yeah. Have I gone again? Oh no. Okay. I thought I thought I disappeared cause I’m on my phone. Crapped out. You can use, you can use the medium itself to kind of.

Yeah, create these, these tricks that you’d use in, in, in cinema or music or, or, or stage plays too, to kind of, you know, inform the viewer, give them a little more information that will help them, you know, feel it, if that makes sense.

Casey: Oh yeah, that totally makes sense. So What do you do as an artist?

Actually, both of you, because what you, the work you do is, is 100% sedentary. [00:30:00] Unless Mark is on a treadmill, like typing away. What do you do to get off your ass? Cause you have to take care of yourself. You can’t stay seated all day and not inflict a little bit of pain on yourself.

Mark Russell: Yeah. I work exercise into my process. Like usually I have a writing session in the morning, like two or three hours. Then when I write it myself in a corner, I get stumped by something I’ll go for a run or I’ll lift some weights. And then usually doing something like that, sort of repetitive and meditative, like by the time I come back to the, to the writing, I’ve usually kind of figured out whatever problem.

I usually figured out an escape route from the corner I’d written myself into. By the time I returned.

Casey: That’s awesome. So you’re, you’re physically working it out.

Mark Russell: Yeah. And it’s, I think it, you know, for me, it’s, [00:31:00] it’s like a form of meditation. Cause you know, I go, I run for about three miles and in my mind just sort of clears of everything.

And so I generally my just sort of like, don’t even try to, like, it’s not like I’m problem solving while I’m running. It’s like I try to empty my mind of all. Sort of concerns whatsoever and just relax and let my subconscious do the heavy lifting, but it almost always works when I come back. I’m usually never quite stuck is when I left.

Casey: It was various in.

Steve Pugh: Wow. Okay. Okay. Here’s what I do. One o’clock in the afternoon. I wake up

and then I work till six 30. Then I make dinner and I watch TV with Kate till about 10. Then I start working again til 8:00 AM and go to sleep. Holy smokes, man. It’s nuts. [00:32:00] I get about 13 or 14 hours, but in fact, in fairness it’s not I don’t sit at the table. I just, I’ve got, I’ve got my own couch that I lie on and I’ve got the board on a beanbag, so I’ve got great posture.

Mark Russell: Yeah, those, those are, that’s not uncommon. I’ve, I’ve heard a lot of comics, people work for of hours. And the reason for, I dunno if this is why Steve does it, but the reason is that it’s because those are the quietest hours of the day, you know, between like midnight and morning. It’s like, there’s not like a lot else going on so you can focus

Casey: nobody blowing leaves or anything, or street street work being.

Yeah. I totally get that.

Steve Pugh: Something pulls you out of it. It’s like half an hour to get back in the zone.

Casey: I I have to be at work at 6:00 AM, so I’m a generally put the kids to bed around 10 o’clock and then I have two hours to write. [00:33:00] Wow. And then go to bed at 12, wake up at four 30 and then, yeah. So half

Mark Russell: hours a night, sir, you only sleep four and a half hours a night.

Casey: Roughly.

Mark Russell: Do you need to sleep more

Casey: on the weekends? I try to get a little bit extra and hope that that kind of balances it out, but. It’s it’s, it’s worth it. I’m not suffering yet

Steve Pugh: four and a half years is quite, I mean, five, probably my low fives as low as I can go without like losing a day. I’ll just. I sat for a day.

Mark Russell: I’m like the village idiot or something I need like seven or eight.

Steve Pugh: No, no, you’ll, you’ll do it right. For a

Casey: healthy, normal person.

Mark Russell: Ended up kind of like, you know, it was only because of like, I don’t have a day job anymore when I had a day job.

Yeah. It was [00:34:00] more like five or six

Casey: speaking of day jobs. Like. How was it for you for both of you when, when you went full time into comics, was it people think you were insane? Was it was it fraught? Was it, you know, how, how. How did you make that entrance into doing this full time?

Mark Russell: It was really scary.

Cause I didn’t have much lined up when I w when I first went full into comics, I just felt like I, I, I was going through the motions of my day job and they’re asking me increasingly to do things I did not feel good about. So I felt like if I was going to make the jump to comics or to re.

Full-time writer. That was probably the best time to do it. So, and I but it, but it worked out, I was able to get more work value the work I’ve been able to do as a writer, much more than anything I would have done at the day job. And but yeah, for the first like year, it was kind of terrifying. [00:35:00]

Steve Pugh: I pretty much started as soon as I left that I left college. It was it was what I was going to do really nice. I worked briefly in a toy shop for the money, obviously. But yeah. But like I said, when I started off work was so easy to pick up. It was, it was insane. I mean, he didn’t really even have to it, which was kind of lucky because I got to look at my early stuff, but it was just like that, you know there, there was so much going on.

There was so many, like pages needed to be printed that they just needed to be filled. And it was a great time to kind of dive in and, and just fine.

Casey: How’s the scene in great Britain now with, with independent comics or comics in general?

Steve Pugh: I don’t know. I mean, I, I, I think it’s all moved to sort of Kickstarter really.

So that [00:36:00] sort of re I mean, he doesn’t, I don’t know if there’s a kind of. I, I’m not really part of the indie scene which is always the most exciting of the comics industry, because I don’t really do the cons. , I don’t have a lot of contact with that brief. I see that I briefly encounter exotic young writers and artists who look forward to cool to talk.

So when we do the luxury thing, but it. I no, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I’m not, I’m not the person to ask on that one.

Casey: Just a lot of the people do the concert cuts to kind of like meet people and network and stuff and. Steve just walks in and just drops his portfolio on the table. And that does it for him. And that’s that says a lot.

[00:37:00] Steve Pugh: Well, no. What actually happened was I, I, I literally sent photocopies to an American company and they had a hole in their schedule.

And they rang me up and they said, can you do like 20 pages in a month? And I said, sure. And it, it it’s taken me nine months to do 30 pages. But I, I did it because, you know, they needed me to, and I was scared of being shot. Yeah. That’s

Mark Russell: the key to success is to say yes to jobs. You’re not ready for

Casey: healthy fear.

Mark Russell: Yeah. Let go of the vine, not knowing if there’s one there to meet you. That’s really the only way.

Casey: So, so do we know when a billion inner islands is going to be collected?

Mark Russell: Well, they just released the the trade paperback collecting the first six issues. I think like a month ago. So that’s out. Anyone who wants to read it can read it in book form, which is kind of the way I prefer people to read it, get the full six issues.

Cause they’re all kind of written as [00:38:00] chapters and one, they’re not independent stories. They’re they’re chapters of like one unified story. So billionaire Island volume one. Is currently out. And then I think there’s going to be a volume two we’ll we’ll work on that later in 2006.

Casey: Nice, nice. So what’s, what’s next for you guys?

Mark Russell: Well, we are doing another mini series together. We’re doing the Superman versus imperious Lex as part of the DC future state line. And that comes out, I think less than a month.

Casey: That is that’s nuts.

What can you tell us about it? Like, I don’t want you to spill, you know, spill all the beans or whatever, but come on, just some of the beans,

Mark Russell: a few beans.

Steve. Are you gonna do it? Hey,

Steve Pugh: whack. I have got no, I, I I can’t even post pencils on Twitter. Oh, [00:39:00] they shot my Oh,

Mark Russell: Paul.

Steve Pugh: All right. Yeah. I’d like you to take the cause I think, I think he’s

Mark Russell: going to be disappointed me anyway. So yeah, basically what it’s about is the it centers around the planet, Lex or Lex Luther is sort of the, the dictator and like the greatest hero on the planet.

Superman is like the most hated man in the world. So it’s sort of a reversal of roles for Superman and Lex Luther on the planet. And FlexWare. But Lex Luther is like, kind of he he’s he’s running a scam on the people there because they don’t know where all the money’s coming from. And he’s trying to keep one step ahead of the scam that he’s perpetrating on the people of XR.

Now I’ll leave it there.

Casey: Nice, nice. So

Steve Pugh: but this is the most beautiful. Lexis ever looked is aged beautifully. I

Mark Russell: will say that the highlight of my month is when Steve sends [00:40:00] me the art for Superman versus imperious lacks because the art artwork is just like, it looks awesome.

Casey: Yeah. That’s what I was curious about because like, obviously I don’t think Superman really ages normally, but Lex, I mean, this is, you know, That few generations ahead in the future.

So,

Mark Russell: Yeah. Yeah. Lex gets these beautiful face graphs. So is the rest of them is like a withered old man, but his face looks pretty young.

Casey: So he looks kind of like the mom in a prison.

Mark Russell: Yeah. It’s like, that’s his version of like, you know, Trump’s like, like bronzer and like two hours with like a hairdresser in the morning.

It’s like, what’s the attempt to stay young. He just gets grafted on him.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. He’s always had this thing, you know, Superman’s now gorgeous and now Alexa can have cheekbones too.

Casey: So vanity is a, is a driver for legs for, for real. And yeah, I can totally see that. That’s that’s awesome. And when you’re going to

Mark Russell: be a [00:41:00] dictator, you got to look your best.

Casey: Yeah. Yeah.

Oh man.  I’m so happy for the next month speaking, speaking of dictators. Oh my gosh.

Steve Pugh: Oh yeah. Yeah. Good. Good luck to you. It’s it’s it’s we’ve we’ve got our own one over here, but I’m so pleased for, for your country.

Mark Russell: How dire things are that we look at like Britain with like wistfulness. I would love to trade Trump for Boris Johnson.

That’s how, you know, it’s like saying you know, Oh, you’ve just got a broken leg. I’ve got mine cut off, but a bad, bad sign. When you start having like Tyron envy.

Casey: Oh man. Yeah, but w we’re just going to hope for the best and you know, same for you guys across the [00:42:00] pond. We’re going to hope for the best for y’all because

Steve Pugh: we’ll try

Casey: that shit scary right now, man.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. Let’s hope no country, like, does something crazy, like drift off into the. English channel. Yeah.

Mark Russell: Best case scenario. This is a moment of temporary insanity, which was saying something when that is your best case scenario. Oh yeah.

Casey: Yeah. So back to the future state how, how did you guys get assigned to the the Superman Lex Luther book?

Mark Russell: They approached me with the idea of like doing this of like doing the, a story on Lex org as part of the future state. And I thought I read the Lexmark comics and I, I thought there was really funny, but the old Lexar comics were kind of just about like really sort of petty, like Lex Luther, basically just going to a planet that has a red sun, so that Superman doesn’t have his powers.

So he can like challenge him, do a fair fistfight, which it seemed a little sixth grade to [00:43:00] me. So I wanted to tell much I wanted to retell that story, but with a much more nuanced sort of feeling like Lex Luther was forced to flee earth where he would have been running things, you know, if, if everything had happened to plan, but the untimely arrival of Superman forced him to, you know, kind of ruined everything for Lex Luther, he Superman is the guy who’s ruined his life.

So he goes to this other planet. Out of Superman’s way, where he can finally become the dictator of a world, the way he envisioned he would be with. The earth and Superman finds them there. And so it’s kind of about how, you know, dictatorships and tyrannies are kind of all sort of balanced precariously upon fragile egos upon, you know, sort of people’s like precarious visions of themselves.

And and so, yeah, I want to tell, I wanted to retell that story in a much more sort of modern nuanced way that also gives some commentary on like our. Our present day [00:44:00] global slide to fascism.

Casey: Yeah. Yeah. As an aside, like how was it? Writing, you know, I guess like the premiere characters in, in DC comics, like, you know, you can’t really get any bigger than Superman.

Mark Russell: It’s very different than writing the creator and stuff. I mean, that’s probably the most obvious thing I could have said, but, but it’s very different. Yeah. In the sense that you have this cultural equity already sunk into the characters. So you have to spend much less time to sort of building them up and explain to people who these characters are.

People know who Superman is, you know, the moment they opened the book, which was really kind of liberating in a way, because then it just allows you to sort of tell the story without having to like, do too much in developing the character.

Casey: Nice. Nice. Steve, what was it kind of fun? Doing a punch them up with, with, with soups and, and lacks.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. Yeah. Obviously. I mean, you feel the weight of previous artists on your shoulders. You really, [00:45:00] wow. You know, like you were saying, these are their icons and you don’t want to you them, so they don’t look like. Who they’re supposed to, but, so that, yeah, that was probably my main concern. Plus we’re back to the muscles again, so that I remember how they got this really weird ball shaped upper body that kind of sits on, on this Mount, above the hips.

It’s really specific old timey bodybuilder body. Like a circus strong man chest. It’s, it’s very unique anatomy. And if you don’t, if you draw him like a big swimmer, you can, you can’t draw him like other superheroes. He’s he’s got to have this kind of big upper white to him. It’s very weird to get your head round.

Mark Russell: I’ve heard that,

sir. I heard that that body type carries a higher risk factor for cancer. [00:46:00] I think Superman probably. Okay. I think he’s probably safe, but yeah. I mean, he

Casey: eats the sun, so.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Russell: That was probably the biggest downer I could have.

That’s me.

Casey: I mean, you, you, you live old enough. I mean, it’s gonna get you that that’s the common denominators cancer.

Mark Russell: Yeah. That’s you get to a certain point and it’s just a question whether it’s going to be cancer or dementia, you know, Which which fork of the, which fork in the path are you going to take

Casey: and how terrifying would a dementia Superman be though?

There’s a

Mark Russell: story right there.

Casey: See, dude, you guys need to keep me around. I am fucking gold

Mark Russell: premise, man.

Casey: So I, I can’t wait to see to see all this work on this. It sounds exciting. And. [00:47:00] Just knowing what you, what you’ve both put out before. It’s not, I said, punch him up earlier and that sounded almost like a derogatory term for something like dumb.

You don’t just do punch him ups. You do stories that actually have. Quite, quite a bit more behind them then just like this guy was going to punch this guy and then, then the it’s gone be a good day. So I

Mark Russell: don’t see. Yeah. I don’t see the point in using comics as sort of like a, a, a stand-in for professional wrestling with superpowers.

Exactly. I think the thing that makes Superman, it’s sort of a great character when he started in the thirties, that he was a thought experiment. You know, like when the world was on the verge of again, you know, the first time sliding into, you know, this morass of global fascism as a thought experiment, what is it going to take to stop it?

And I think that’s what we’re, to the extent that superheros that relevance now, that’s where it [00:48:00] lies. It’s like as a thought experiment, how are we going to stop this from happening?

Casey: So we’re, we’re kind of going back full

Mark Russell: circle. Yeah. Which is great because that’s what made them sort of new and refreshing back then.

And it’s sort of refreshing and necessary now.

Casey: So What is, do you have any other characters that you would like to kind of mess around with and, and kind of get in that sandbox? Or are you happy? Just kind of doing your, your own thing.

Mark Russell: Me or

Casey: Steve we’ll, we’ll actually both of you.

Mark Russell: I liked doing the creator on stuff.

I think, you know, I’ve got some other things lined up that I can’t really talk about, but I, I really enjoy doing more creator owned stuff. Although I’m, I’m really excited about the, the Marvel and DC characters. I’m going to be writing in the near future. Oh,

Casey: nice. Nice. That that’s all you can say about the Marvel characters.

I’m

Mark Russell: I’m [00:49:00] taking it. Yeah. So, but yeah, I’ve been, I’ve been lucky enough to work on some on some. IP, some other titles that will be announced in the near future that I’m, I’m really excited to be working on.

Casey: That’s that’s amazing. I can’t wait to see what you have coming up and, and if you want to let us know about it on the show, by all means, give us a heads up and we’d love to to talk about it and at least give it a shout out on our social media and all that other stuff.

Steve, what do you have cone up, man?

Steve Pugh: Oh

Casey: outside of the well-deserved wrist,

Steve Pugh: I’m probably going to take a couple of months off after the legs book because I worked billionaire on and then I think I did something else and then the wonder woman, and then I think they all ran together.

So there wasn’t a break in between them. Holy smokes.

Mark Russell: He’s been a busy.

Steve Pugh: Yeah, which is great. You know, I’m grateful for the work. I’m not going to look complaining, but I think I will [00:50:00] take I think I will watch your movies and catch it when I see

that’d be good. Yeah.

Casey: Go ahead. I’m sorry. Well, I was wondering you, you both have families or or at least a significant other, how do you achieve that? Like balance where you can be present? Because this is, you know, a pretty. Involved think to do you, you are both in it to win it and you’re working your ass off.

How do you maintain your your personal relationships and also get the job done and, you know, put, put bread on the table.

Mark Russell: Well, for me, it’s all about just working into the normal rhythm of my life. Like I’m usually the one in charge of making sure the boy gets up and [00:51:00] goes to like a digital school in the morning.

And then once he’s sort of like up in, in, in doing what he’s supposed to be doing, then I can work for awhile. And then I try to like shut off by like say six or 7:00 PM so I can have the evening to spend with my family. But yeah, it’s kind of sad right now because, because I have to work from home during the shutdown and, and so they just see this sort of sad looking man staring at his laptop, you know, not really doing anything for five or six hours a day.

The matchup is bro. I’ve become a museum piece. Yeah. I think what they imagined was much more romantic in dramatic than, than just watching this guy sit there and like, pretend like he has ideas for five hours.

Steve Pugh: Yeah. I think the secret is, I mean, I do the evening thing as well. I make sure that I’m around it and I do work.

Like I work quite a lot of hours, but I think the secret is to be when you’re present, be [00:52:00] present. You know, when you leave that in the room and when you, when you with just, you know, just be with her, it’s just repeating the same thing really. But I think it was, it was worth

Casey: repeating. It was poignant.

It, it, and it totally makes sense because yeah. If your partner sees, she, you kind of glazing over she will at least Hit you or something.

Steve Pugh: I’ve got a very total partner she’s she’s she’s started with me for law and yeah, you know, we’ve had, we’ve had some ups and downs in life and we’ve always been there for each other.

So I think we’ll probably start with each other now.

Casey: Nice, nice. So towards the end of the show, always liked to ask comic shops are the lifeblood of the industry. We want those places to stay open. Do you guys have any that are near and dear to your heart that you’d want to talk [00:53:00] about? And you know, maybe our listeners in the area might, you know, learn about a new comic shop or at least listeners could order something from their online shop.

Mark Russell: Yeah, I’ll go first. There’s a few in Portland that I like. Frequent as a customer and also do a lot of work there as a professional cosmic monkey and for those in Northeast Portland and then books with pictures in Southeast Portland. And I also really like, I like comics in Vancouver up there in Vancouver, Washington.

And there’s Excalibur comics, which I used to go to a lot when I lived out in Southeast Portland. So yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of really great comic shops in Portland. Actually. I could probably go on and name of dozen there’s things.

Casey: Rolling a rock and yeah,

Mark Russell: my house, but yeah, there’s you really can’t go wrong.

All the comic shops, I think in Portland are. Luckily owned and sort of staffed by people who really care about comics and like are happy to be your Somalia [00:54:00] in recommending like comics. Cause they’re, they’re not just, it’s not just a job to them. It’s something it’s also a hobby and a passion.

Casey: Nice.

Steve, do you have any, any comic shops that you you want to give a shout out to?

Steve Pugh: Yeah, I guess I’m just really trying to look up the name of my friend’s Jewett shop. It’s it’s Oh God.

Casey: To, to email us and we will we will shout them out on Twitter for sure. Okay. Oh, that’s I mean, honestly, it’s been, it’s been shut down.

Steve Pugh: Well, one in Birmingham, but they got taken nostalgia and comics. That was where I, I grew up in nostalgic comics, but they recently changed their name and got taken over.

So I, I don’t remember what they changed their name to. Cause I’ve been to moving up since so it would be weird calling it shouting out. I’ll start from comic. Cause they don’t, they’re not there anymore. And Phil, the guy won’t until I

Casey: poor went out for [00:55:00] nostalgia and comics, as we say in the dirty, dirty, we say in the dirty South, pour one out.

For nostalgia and comics

Mark Russell: and all homeys.

Casey: Well, guys, it’s been a pleasure talking to I’m super stoked to get this out. I thank you both for coming on.

Mark Russell: Oh, thanks for having me Casey

Steve Pugh: and dude,

Casey: and anytime y’all want to come back on you know, either together or, you know, on your own. By all means, give us a heads up.

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