Sumner welcomes his old friend Mark Askwith to this week’s Hard Agree. Mark’s done itall and interviewed everyone in the pop culture sphere over the last thirty years. After starting out in the late 80s publishing scene (like Sumner himself – but 3,000 miles further west, in Toronto), Mark managed the hugely-influential Silver Snail comic book store in Ontario, before co-writing the comic book sequel to The Prisoner TV show – Shattered Visage – with Dean Motter in 1988. The next year, Mark became a full time TV producer and writer, co-creating and launching the long running Canadian pop culture show Prisoners of Gravity, before spending 20 years as one of the founding producers of Space, Canada’s equivalent to the Sci-Fi Channel. Over those two decades, Mark got to meet, befriend and hang out with some of global popular culture’s most influential creators – and he’s here to tell Sumner all about it (in between lengthy bouts of celebrating their mutual pop culture obsessions).
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Mark Askwith Interview
Andrew Sumner: [00:00:00] I probably won’t go COVID specific on the preamble.
So have you been otherwise, mate, how’s work. How’s work going. Work is
Mark Askwith: work is work is okay. Just finish the graphic novel with the artists, Rick Taylor, not the American Rick Taylor, the Canadian, Rick Taylor. And I did silencers with him. And he came up with his dream project. He wanted to do a love letter to queen street, which is a a kind of strip of Toronto that runs between university and spinoff.
And it was the hub of the art scene in the, in the seventies and eighties. And it’s where the silver snail was still. Yeah. Yeah. So I, I, he wanted it to be 1974. I fought him because I thought, well, no, no, if we move it up to the eighties so we can do comics so we could do all of that. And he went, no, I know exactly what I want.
And he had great reasons and it, it was a dream to write one of the [00:01:00] most fun things I’ve ever done. And it’s about an art student in 1974. It’s really an alternate version of, of Rick Taylor and his story. What would ha what his life would have been if he’d become gone to art school and become an artist, he’s an artist, but he didn’t go the traditional route.
So that’s been good. I’ve just finished a bunch of pitches and a bunch of TV shows stuff. But, you know, it’s tough. I mean, I think COVID has been tough on all of the entertainment industries and I haven’t gone to any conventions in what a year and a half, two years. Yeah. And that’s of course, where I would keep, keep up with you and with so many other friends in the
Andrew Sumner: industry, of course, man.
I mean, I that’s, it it’s a difference that I’ve felt keenly because as you know, for the last 20 years I’ve spent my, my life crisscrossing, the USA, you know, preaching to the the pop culture faithful as it were. And a big part of my life has been at San Diego being at New York comic con being a bunch of other shows in the states as well.
[00:02:00] And and you know, flying the Titan comics, flag and whatnot it, over the last 10 years, that’s certainly what I’ve been doing. And and it’s, it’s definitely. A funny thing happened. And I might even have, I’ve told this story here on the podcast before, but after 20 years of constant travel, suddenly having that grind to a halt at the end of February, 2020 was an interesting experience.
And a bunch of things went down at work. It really slowed down the working experience here in the UK. And so. I added a whole ton of holiday bank. Why not? So I took some time off while things were slow. I would say that suddenly at a certain point around about June, 2020, I began to feel really physically different how I’d felt for a long time.
And, and when I couldn’t figure out what it was at first, and then I realized it was that I was caught up on my sleep and I wasn’t constantly too. I know it’s actually, I woke up in the morning feeling well, rested, you know, and I’d [00:03:00] walk around the neighborhood and I I’ve lived in the same part of Westland and for a very long time, but I never really knew it was almost like a visitor, my own borough outside of the things I did, my kids when they were growing up, you know, I really didn’t know, you know, my Poland and that.
Well, I know a lot of the back of my hand now and but it was so interesting. And actually I got to this almost zen-like point where I felt good about it all about six months. About 15 months and it’s not quite the same now I’m kind of itching to get on that plane and start traveling and seeing all my old friends in the U S.
Mark Askwith: Yeah, it’s that part of discovering your neighborhood is so crucial. That’s exactly what happened to me. And you know, my life for so long has been getting on the subway, going to work, working, coming home. And there was a big chunk of the day that was all about work. And then I would come home and I would have dinner and then I would read, but I very seldom, maybe on the [00:04:00] weekends I would venture out, but about four or five years.
I was talking to a friend and he said, you know what? You really need to walk more. You need to walk. And my wife walks every morning for about an hour and I thought, you know what, I’m going to do that. So at the end of work, I would walk part of the distance home about half an hour, maybe 40 minutes.
And just like you, I started to discover my neighborhood and I would take different routes and everything was great. And then when everything shut down, then it was like, well, I’m still going to do my walk, but now I have a more time and B I can explore my neighborhood. And so that’s how it felt for about a month or two.
And then I started thinking about projects and things I could do. And then, because I was writing I, or research. I would go out in the morning and I would have a problem, or I would have something that I was thinking about and I would come home and I’d be able to spend a couple of hours just essentially writing down what I thought when I was [00:05:00] walking.
And that fascinates me that whole, we think, and walk. What walking, how walking and talking or walking and communicating are really linked together for certain people. And it’s, it’s just changed the way my life is now because I walk a lot more and it frees up the way I
Andrew Sumner: think you and I have actually had a very similar experience mate, because I I, one of the things that I introduced to my day, as soon as I was grounded at home, was going for a daily walk and exploring the neighborhood and for a very long time, for a very long time through that at the height of the pandemic.
I was doing a solid two hours a week. Every day without fail. I might cut into two parcels one hour, but that’s what I was doing. And, and I’m not doing it quite that pace now, but I never worked for any less than an hour a day. Like I specifically go for a walk and I’m probably like yourself. I have a brain that’s almost never quiet and turns over [00:06:00] all the time.
And so the great thing about going for that walk is it just allows me to indulge the various like topics and thoughts that I’m, I’m whipping around in my mind.
Mark Askwith: But why is that different? Why is, are those thoughts whipping around your brain different from when you sit at your office chair or when you’re walking Bates seem to be very, very different from, from my
Andrew Sumner: point of view.
Yeah, me too. My, and I think it’s associative, right? I mean, even if you’re at home, but you’ve joined during the pandemic credits at home workspace, or you always worked at home, you know, it’s, it’s when your cars aren’t here. I am, you know, kind of in, in, in my home, in the usual place where I, I interviewed on podcasts from, but also where I write from also where I edit from also actually do my job, work a bunch of Excel spreadsheets, all that stuff.
It’s all done there. So anywhere in the vicinity of this, it feels like the workspace and it feels like my brain is being channeled in a particular direction. Yeah, via years of [00:07:00] nurture rather than nature. Whereas, you know, going out for a walk with a constantly piece of evolving scenery, whatever it may be.
And you know, the thing that I never do is duplicate the same walk on the bounce in our dentures, ritually, do the same loops or anything. I’m always trying to like shake it up, but it just spurs different things in my mind. And I think it’s also the feeling of escape, you know, walking away from your desk and walking out of your home on, onto the road, onto the street, the summit, whatever the weather is like outside of that, it’s terrible where it’s beautiful.
It’s a very freeing thing. Isn’t it?
Mark Askwith: Yeah. And when I was working at TVO in the, in the nineties or when I was working at space in the two thousands, I would walk every day. I built, I mean, I would eat lunch at my desk cause I didn’t have, I feel, I never felt I had a lot of time, so I would, I would eat at my desk, but then when I needed a break and you know, almost everybody, I mean the great excuse, but working as people would go and they would have a cigarette.
Well, I don’t smoke, so okay. I’ll take [00:08:00] a 15 minute break and I’ll go and do a walk and it’s such a great cultural neighborhood. I mean, look it up on Google maps sometimes. I don’t think you’ve been to try. Have you been to Toronto? I
Andrew Sumner: have been to Toronto. I’ve been a couple of times actually, but you and I have never met in Toronto.
We’ve always met. Yeah. Last time. The next time I go to Toronto, we’ll definitely meet up.
Mark Askwith: And what’s weird is we’ve never met in San Diego or any of the other conventions. It always seemed that we would meet in New York. So I didn’t see you in Chicago. I don’t know how that happens.
Andrew Sumner: That is true. And I definitely have similar patterns with other people that I meet at one show and another and never see it.
The other, I mean, I’ve got a bunch of people say it both, but that’s, that’s so true. Given how many years of being against San Diego for it’s funny that we never met
Mark Askwith: other. I started going in 86. Yeah, brilliant minds. Yeah. Well, I, you know, this is the story of my life. So I arrived in San Diego in 1986 and everybody tells me, oh, well, you [00:09:00] know, the great San Diego’s are over.
I’m like, what? Yeah. Well, last year was Alan Mueller. It was fantastic. You know, all this great stuff is going on, but now it’s too big. And it gotten up to 9,000 people I think, and people were complaining about it. And I was thinking, this is Mecca. Like I couldn’t believe it. And because, well, I think the first time I went through about 7,000 people and a thousand of them were professionals, I guess I could count myself as a professional because I was managing this over snail.
But the ability to go to dinner and meet Nick Lando and Mike lake and all the creators, you know, I was a huge fan of the British scene and to be able to walk into a bar and see Barry Smith there, or Dave Gibbons, or, you know, whoever, I mean, I couldn’t, at that time, I couldn’t afford to go to them. For time or for money, but go to San Diego because it was the max.
Everybody would be there and, and it was extraordinary. And then I, for me in about 2002 that’s [00:10:00] when I was going for space and I had a really focused agenda. And that meant that I never really saw anybody. I, you know, I didn’t have interviews just lined up. I think at the height of preserves of gravity, I was doing 45 or 50 interviews and one San Diego.
And so that meant I essentially, I would be in a hotel room and people would be coming in and we’d be changing the backgrounds. And it was a very funky thing because I never felt that I was at the con I was con adjacent and yet everybody would come up. And then, because we worked until seven, generally I would have dinner with my crew and I wouldn’t really, and I had to get into a band early cause often I would have to research or I would do whatever.
So I might have two hours a day where I could socialize or go out and have lunch, or, I mean lunch again with a 15 minute situation. But I know how busy you are at the cons and it’s all, it’s interesting to me, cause it’s almost all work. You know, if you’re at [00:11:00] dinner, you’re often at dinner with clients or your dinner with your crew, or however it works and you never really turn off.
And so convention seasons. A really big part of our lives, obviously.
Andrew Sumner: No, it’s so true. I’m going to take this moment to say welcome to Hardegree. My name is Andrew Sumner, and I’m here with my guest, mark Asquith, producer writer, fellow interview, mark casket. And I think that’s the longest we’ve ever gone into this episode before I’ve actually introduced who the guest is, which is the way that my conversations with calls go by the way, and to return mark, before we start talking about you and your career path as to your point, and we’re talking about, of course, the convention experience, particularly at San Diego, New York.
But I, for me, even though I do both, I’ve been doing both of those shows for a very long time. Put a vast amount of work into both of them with my team. You you’ve also met a number of times really the apex for as a San Diego. Cause that’s the kind of [00:12:00] the progenitor of it all. And, and, you know, that’s the original non-profit for the good of the medium.
It’s not say anything about New York comic con, which is a great event, which I love, but that thing exists to, to make money for read. Right. Whereas we’re a. San Diego comic con exists to benefit and promote the art form itself, which I think is a beautiful thing. But the thing about thinking about that show particularly is when I just think of the huge amount of work that that the Titan crew puts into that very large booth that we have at San Diego.
And so, you know, essentially a regular San Diego day for us is you get up at six, seven o’clock in the morning, you grabbing some breakfast, you’re doing all the stuff on the booth, you’re on the booth all day. And then you get people like myself who have to take, go away and take some offsite business meetings.
And then I, I am see our Titan comics and tightened books panels. At San Diego. So I would go and I’d go and host those. And [00:13:00] then you know, do various other things like I’ll, I’ll do the diamond presentation to the comic book retailers about what our plans are, all that kind of stuff. And then when we hit the evening, then it’s like, you’re, you’re entertaining your, your, you know, your key business associates, whether that’s creators or whether it’s the American, the very cool American retailers or global retailers that we work with.
So the whole thing is, I think we’re, we’re, we’re just on fumes by the end of it. And I think it’s probably three to four hours sleep a night is the maximum you get, well, a lot of cats who work for me are 25 years younger than I am. Yeah. And and, but everybody’s wiped out at the end of it, you know, and what I frequently have to do when I get back home after San Diego, particularly, and also New York con con is essentially, I have a week where I just completely wipe out and can’t do anything.
You know, I, it’s not unusual for me to spend almost two, three days asleep. [00:14:00] Like it’s like going, going on a trawler and coming back after working 48 hour days, you just totally spent at the end of it, but spent in a glorious way. I think.
Mark Askwith: Yeah, it’s funny. I, I asked Frank better about this once and he, he said it takes him three days to recover from each day.
He spends at a con, which is tough. I mean, that’s tough. My problem with conventions, not my problem, but I would have to shoot the convention so often it was Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and on Sunday I would leave and I would take the red eye because I would have to get into the office really early and then make a story for Monday about San Diego.
So I would have to, I mean, I didn’t have a chance to have that unwind period because Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I would be creating stories. And then generally, I mean, I might do a story on Friday, but generally I would say, you know, I’m out or I’m doing something completely different and then Friday, and then get Saturday and Sunday off and [00:15:00] somewhere hope that I would get a day off, but it it’s hard to explain because you, the nature of television and my kind of television was that you had to get it on air as quickly and as expediently as possible and showcase all of what a convention is about.
So, like New York Comicon to me is so different from San Diego. So as a storyteller, how do I set those up until locators work? Crowd shots, work, cost, play work, but also then it becomes the guests. And one of the things that you talk about and often you and I would talk. When I was interviewing you, it was for space, which was Canada’s national science, central channel.
It’s now been rebranded as CTV Saifai. But back in the day, my, we would have certain shows like Dr. Who? So I would seek out the British guests, even if they didn’t have anything to do with Dr. Hu, but they could talk about it and they would have a doctor who’s story. And then of course, you [00:16:00] guys were a goldmine because Titan handled all these wonderful doctor who product.
So I think for the live for there were three years in a row, or you were definitely a part of my doctor who coverage, cause yeah, maybe Tuesday would be doctor who and then Wednesday would be Battlestar Galactica, you know, I would pay. So the stories so that if you were into toys, there’d be a day that you could watch on, tell them, you know, space would cover the toy bit.
And then there’d be a day where you could catch up on moot, you know, television, because I spent a lot of time. You know, interviewing movie stars and television stars. And but to me it’s all part, like what I wanted to show was this is a community because as you know, an Andrew Sumner, is there next to maybe a, you know, an actor like, you know, I dunno Peter Capaldi, when you want to do is have this great collision of that person is famous.
That person isn’t. But they’re both talking about Dr. Who, which I think fans relate to. [00:17:00]
Andrew Sumner: Yeah. I think that’s so true mate. Now, now, before we get back into, onto a pop culture and a comics focus, pop culture focus, I’d just like to take you, if you could talk me through, you’ve got, had a particularly interest in Korea and some interesting steps in your career.
So do you just want to take me through the basic planks a bit, mark?
Mark Askwith: Well, it’s weird. Steps. They didn’t feel
Andrew Sumner: like steps without you noticing I’m sure
Mark Askwith: happened organically. And they were real quantum leap. So I got a very good at it education from the university of Toronto. And I came out and I started working for a small breast called coaches and that we publish Margaret Atwood and Michaela and and an author called BP nickel and BP.
Nicole became my mentor. And at some point in early 1982 BP nickel said, do you want to be the 50th best designer in Canada? Or do you want to be the best in the world at something? And I, [00:18:00] of course, you know, like any young kid, I like, I want to be the best in the world. And he said, nobody understands comics like you do.
Nobody. I’ve never met anybody who gets them. So you should do it. And at the time I was at a crisis in my life personally, I, I, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I loved coach house. I love the people, but I felt a bit, yeah. I’m in paradise, but I’m in somebody else’s like, this is wonderful, but it just didn’t line up.
So I, I, a friend was getting married in Greece and I went to Greece and then I toured around and I ended up in London and I went into the forbidden planet and. I had never seen a store like that. And I met lik Lando and I met Mike Blake. And by the
Andrew Sumner: way, for, for anybody, I’ve probably not mentioned this on the show, but if anybody ever watches me in my other guy’s presenting forbidden, pilot TV they’ll know that, Hey, I also, I worked for them in planning.[00:19:00]
I presented his YouTube channel and, and I do a bunch of other things there as well. And levy pit Titan, and Nick Lando is my boss. You know, that’s, that’s
Mark Askwith: brilliant long haired guys. And, you know, we were all into it and they energize me and they changed me. I came back to Toronto and the silver snail were deciding that they were going to move into distribution.
They became on drama to distribution. So they needed a manager of their store, the silver, snail, and Queens. So I was like, yeah, man. And 19 82, 19 83, moving things along. And in 1983, we had a guest appearance program from Paul Smith who is on the X amount at the time. And I great artists great run
Andrew Sumner: for strange as well.
Mark Askwith: thought, yeah. Yeah. He went to, you know, he did a ton of other stuff. Yeah. And as an animator, but what was interesting is that I interviewed him and we were kind of doing a magazine [00:20:00] and we’re doing various things and he was like, you should get into, like, you should get into con he was so supportive and I’m like, well, I’m doing this now, but you know, maybe we’ll see, you know, I wanted to write comics, but at the, you know, the moment.
You know, this is my job. I’m running the store, but he must’ve said nice things to Marvel or nice things to people. And so people said, well, we want to come up to the store. So I built and Kevin, I had a number of other people coming up and then I went, this is a middle of 1983. And I said, oh my. I have an opportunity to be an evangelist for comics because I have the store.
I knew the people, that much music. I knew the people that, you know, basically MTV in the states. I had all kinds of contacts like that. And people because the people shop there and producers from the CBC producers from radio. So then in about 84, I became a regular on a really famous radio show in Canada in the morning.
And [00:21:00] I started doing various things. And then in 1985, people discovered, you know, comics in a big way. And then 1986 was the year of miles Watchman and dark night. And I was, you know, I had had Frank Miller, it was a friend and these people were known to me and every, you know, because I was a retailer. I had a certain weird access.
And so my Rolodex grew and all these artists, I suddenly realized, well, you know, I know all these people, but mostly north American, to be honest. And I, then I, you know, at some point I thought, well, I’m, I want us to become a publisher. We’ll do, you know, silver, snail comics. And we did one called pork night and it made the artist and writer wobble in a lot of money.
And, you know, I thought, well, this is it. This is what I want to do. And the owner of the silver snail said, no, I want you to keep doing what you’re doing. And I said, look, I’m [00:22:00] working like 85 hours. I w I did the math. And I figured out that the high school kids were getting paid more than I was. And this was an owner route, knew that I, you know, bled this over snail.
I bled. So I would never leave. But I said like, this is insane. Like this. Work, the math doesn’t work. And so I had to leave and it was heartbreaking. It was the most, it was horrible. And I go, well, like what’s a comic book guy going to do. I mean, there’s nothing out there. I mean, I don’t know. I can’t walk into New York.
I can’t get a job as a writer. I, I, I tried, I was friends with a lot of the editors and our writers and artists, and they were really, really helpful. And at some point I realized, wait a minute, I’m if I’m supposed to be the guy, then why. Pitch an idea. So I talked to a producer called Ron Mann who wanted to make a comic book, a movie or document, which is
Andrew Sumner: phenomenal by the way.
I love it. And I own it, but confidential, [00:23:00] right.
Mark Askwith: Comic book confidential. And so he wanted to be basically a Valentine to Marvel. And I said, my God, you’re like, I knew him because I knew him from, he made a documentary about coaches. And I said, no, no, no, no. You’re into burrows and counterculture. And you’ve got to make a movie with Robert crumb, like, and you can get him because Robert crumb will, if you get him, then you can get Kirby, Eisner, Kurtzman.
And then I went, oh my God, like, those are the four guys. And you could do a documentary essentially about the roots of comics and they’re all alive. I couldn’t believe it. And then he said, well, yeah, I know, but I want to talk about current stuff as well. Okay. Here’s mouse. Here’s dark night, here’s American splendor.
And I just loaded him up with about 200 comics. And I thought, you know, this happens all the time, too. As you know, people come in producers or people, and then they go, thank you very much, but you know, I’m not going to do it. And his reaction was [00:24:00] the opposite. He was like, this is amazing. This fits by sensibility.
This is exactly what I should do. And so I did that and that, that one, the, basically the Canadian equivalent of the Oscar, which was great. And then on the strength of it, Producer that had worked by the way.
Andrew Sumner: I saw that when it was first released in London and I saw the ICA and what I think was a tape, but might be 19, 19 89, the first year, pretty much of me actually having a legit job, you know, in the, in the in the, in the media industry.
And very, very early days. I’ve just like it, it was within a year of me finishing grad school. Yeah. And if that’s what you call doing a postgraduate qualification and and, and, and yeah, I remember it very clearly, very, very, had a beautiful soundtrack.
Mark Askwith: Yeah. The soundtrack is amazing Palmer Vitis and the poster and everything is amazing, but the white change [00:25:00] my life was that they, Ron Mann very generously invited me wine.
There was a Canadian premier. Couldn’t make because the prisoner launched the same day, the same way. Yeah. Matt, by the way,
Andrew Sumner: the prisoner, I want to talk to you about in a little bit, because we’ve got a shared history with that and
Mark Askwith: PR comic book, confidential pre world premier getting married. And on that Thursday, the prisoner comic hits stores.
So, I mean, I don’t know how my bio rhythm was, but it was pretty amazing. And but he invited me to New York for the opening in New York. So I did a lot of press and then we had dinner and the dinner was Robert crumb, Gilbert Shelton, who like fabulous furry freak brothers, my hero, Linda Berry, my hero and we’ll ice her my hero.
And I’m, I’m feeling like I’m just this X [00:26:00] retailer and you know, this is crazy. Like it was crazy. But then as a producer came and said to me, look, if I ever have the power, I’m, I’m going to bring you on and you’re going to be a producer. And then he called me up and he said, yo, that idea we’ve been talking about, well, I’m now the creative head of arts at TVO and come and pitch me.
So I pitched him and he said, you’re going to do a seven minute show between two episodes of Dr. Who. So I owe my career to Dr. Who, and then they lost the rights to Dr. Hu. So he said, well, sorry, dude. You know, that’s it, you know, great idea. But, and I had the insane idea and I said, you know, dude, Let’s make it a half hour.
And that became prisoners gravity, which ran for five years and won a ton of awards and was the greatest, I couldn’t believe that I would ever top it because the show was built around everything I liked. So it was science [00:27:00] fiction, fantasy comic books, and you know, movies and tell them, you know, like cool stuff that we’re all into nerdy, you know, genre stuff.
And, you know, we, we did one of the very first television interviews with Neil Gaiman. I got to interview Alan Mueller. I got to interview Jack Kirby, hundreds and hundreds of writers and creators. Yeah. I mean it crazy like Matt graining and it depends who you are. Like who’s famous. Like somebody goes, oh my God, you interviewed so-and-so and you want to go, you have no idea.
Like it was an insane time. And after five years, they they decided, you know, okay, we’ve serve that audience. And so I became the show runner on Canada’s flagship literary show was just called imprint, which was a great experience and fantastic, but really you know, dealing with really famous, you know, hardcore literary authors.
And that was great. I mean, I really enjoyed that. And I thought [00:28:00] when I, when after two years I left that and I thought, I never want to read another book or comic again, I’m I don’t want to work in television. Television is dead to me. And I decided I’m going to write comics and I’m going to get back into that world.
So that was 1996, beginning of 87, sorry, 97. Yeah. And I, so that was fine. And then I started working for a company called studio X and another company called. Macro and they were digital companies and they had these brilliant ideas. And I knew nothing because I’m, you know, 500 years old. So I didn’t understand this whole digital analog thing that was going on at that time.
And then both of them closed on the same day on August the 15th. And I was like, oh my God, how do you lose two jobs on the same day? And that day space got its license and space. Of course, as I mentioned is [00:29:00] Canada’s national science channel. And I, I contacted them because I thought, well, you know, I have to, and they contacted me like it was one of those weird things.
And so the person in charge of it was a woman called Marcy Martin. And she said, you know, people that are coming in here and they’re pitching themselves and they all their big selling point is they know you, I’m like, she’s like, yeah. So and so, and so, and so like all these people would come into our office and their big thing was, you know, I actually am a friend of mark.
Well, all right. I’m glad to hear that. And so she said, I don’t have the money and I don’t have the position, but you have to work for us. And then she worked things out. I became one of the founding producers of space. I promised her five years and I thought, that’s it, you know, I’ll launch it. And, but I hate television.
Like I want to be in radio or I want to be in comics or, you know, but I don’t want to be in TV. I just have a frustration with the pace of that life. I [00:30:00] mean, it’s fine if you’re 25, but you know, you’re a 40 year old guy. You’re making television. It’s hard. And then I fell in love with the group of people I was working with.
And then the, as you know, in, in the late nineties, early two thousands, everything started to exponentially change and 2002 and Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman showed up at con you could feel the needle was completely go. And I, and I knew it because I could feel it. And I been there. So I thought, well, I can’t leave now, even though 2002 and sorted by my exit date.
And I just thought, this is like, this is exactly the most exciting place to be in the world is covering pop culture right now. And then it didn’t stop for 20 years. I mean, it’s been an amazing run, you know, like
Andrew Sumner: it has, you’re not gonna leave well, hasn’t it made that this last 20 years, if you’re in the pop culture business [00:31:00] and you’ve spent your entire life being focused on it, to see it become, to take over the mainstream in the way it has is really quite an amazing ride to have been on it
Mark Askwith: is.
And T to see friends work on, you know, Mike macgiolla or Neil Gaiman or Alan work on jeopardy. Yeah. Like, you know, I, and a couple of comic book, people died recently and they got write ups in the New York times. Jack Kirby died. I tried to get him a write-up in the New York times. I had an interview with him that I sent to all the American broadcasters, nobody aired it.
I said like, this is, I am offering this up. I worked for basically the PBS of Canada. Please like pick whatever you want from this. We’re not going to charge you, but you have to talk about the impact of Jack Kirby hat and we couldn’t get it done. Art Spiegelman. Got it done. So all praise to art, but that’s how different things were, you know, like that’s a sea change now, you know?
I [00:32:00] mean, it’s, it’s become part of the mainstream, which is so, I mean, it’s wonderful for me, but I kind of feel like, well, what’s the next frontier? Like, what’s the next thing. And I remember being ridiculed in the early eighties, for instance, And I was quoted in the globe and mail is saying, comics are a medium and not a genre.
And everybody rolled their eyes and everybody went what a pretentious piece of shit. And I’m like, but it’s true. Like comics are a medium. And it’s weird to me that mainstream in the comic book world meant X-Men and Wolverine and superheroes and mainstream in the real world marginalizes this. So to live in that world and to live in the, in the television world, because I had these two worlds, always fended, like I really felt like an embedded journalist you know, cause I had access.
The other thing is that I was really interested in science. So because space was allowed to do anything that I wanted to do, I covered a [00:33:00] lot of science. So I got to interview buzz Aldrin and tons of scientists and you know, Dr. Stephen Hawking, tons of physicists you know, A miracle
Andrew Sumner: job. I mean, that must have been wonderful for you mate, as, as a science fish outta, that must have been incredible
Mark Askwith: well, science, science fiction comics.
So when you got burned out of comics, you go, okay, now we’ll just do some literature and you do some literature and then you go, I’m really tired of that. Like, let’s go do science and then you do that. And, you know, interviewing people like Neil deGrasse, Tyson, Brian Green that whole style and you know, people in comics always want to talk to me about the comic book, people literature, you know, people interested in literature want me to talk about authors?
But the science people are like, holy shit, like you’ve interviewed a hundred astronauts. I’m like, yup. As a 12 year old boy growing up in Ottawa, Ontario, You couldn’t even conceive of that. You know, I got to interview Russian astronauts, which blew my mind. [00:34:00] Like this is amazing. I’m finally going to do it.
I mean, I love the Russian program more than I love the American program, but anyway, sorry, we digress.
Andrew Sumner: No, only because it’s it’s so on point mate, it’s so important. And what you’re saying, the whole concept of having spent that kind of pop culture, a career in the 10 year old and you go, and that is amazing.
Particularly given where you start from, it’s like me start in the Northwest of England in mercy side, you know, essentially being. You know, quite harshly challenged on the local trains on match day when Liverpool, the rabbits and the plane, but I’d be sitting there reading them a Batman comics, you know, and that led to quite a few altercations that starting from that point, you know, 10 years old emergency site, and then having a career, you know, and American pop culture.
I had no idea of how I could plot that course. I still don’t even really know how I did it now. You know? No,
Mark Askwith: I completely agree with you. And that’s the other thing that you [00:35:00] mentioned just, you know, you’re for mercy side, I’m from Ottawa, Ontario, Frank Miller is from Vermont. Like you look at the trajectories of these people and you go, wait a minute.
I mean, Guillermo Del Toro for, you know, Mexico, like how are these people? And when you meet them, you all have this commonality because you weren’t from, you know, the places like Hollywood or New York where this stuff was gonna happen. You know, I, you know, because he moved to Toronto. I got to meet the great director of the zombie film, you know?
And yeah. It was wild. He’d moved here, but again, he was from Pittsburgh. He’d never felt like, you know, he was part of the mainstream and of course Canada has David Cronenberg. And again, he never felt part of the mainstream almost, you know, Margaret Atwood, like what do you do with her? Is she a major author or is she, but she’s a nerd.
She loves comics. She did comics when she was at university.
Andrew Sumner: I think, I think that [00:36:00] amalgamation of outsiders is, is, is really a key constituent to the whole pop culture business, the whole pop culture, ethos, the whole pop culture in pop culture industry. And you encounter it time and time again. How did you end up doing this is a really interesting question.
I think it’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about it because very few people start out as establishment figures because there wasn’t an establishment for a start that 20 years ago, 30 years ago, there’s no pop culture establishment. I mean, people forget because of the speed with which it’s, it’s exploded that every, if you take a time machine back to 2007, an average person on this.
Has no idea who Tony stark is, has no idea who Steve Rogers is. Right. And if you asked them to name the real identity of a super hero, pretty much people can only say Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. And some people can say Peter Parker, but that’s it, that’s it. [00:37:00] Nobody knows Jack Jack shit outside of comic aficionados and these characters that are now preeminent in global entertainment, the whole world is a here’s another one, right?
Hey, 2007, ask anybody on the street. What, what is it that captain America. Special powers or what can he do? People don’t put, nobody knew, you know? And, and now the fact that he’s a Supercell jewel, that everybody knows it, right? That, that the change in and how much that information has embedded itself into our culture, how famous Tony stark is as a character, you know, that that’s only taken 13 years to go from.
No one knows to everyone knows. And, and now Marvel movies outperform everything, including them, including the star wars universe. It’s really been quite an amazing thing to watch.
Mark Askwith: It’s extraordinary. And as far as mobile goes, you have to look at the team of the brilliant brain trust, you know, to me, Kevin 5g and that team, but also it’s amazing to look back.
I thought iron man one was a pretty good film. I mean, I thought it was fine, [00:38:00] you know, it did what it had to do. It was good. And that was great, you know, as a comic book fan you’re like, yay. And then. These films started to follow. And I, I, I mean, I’m really lucky. I got to go to media screenings of this stuff.
I got to interview people and whatever, but I remember going like avoiding the media screening for the last two Avengers movies. And I wanted to see them with real people. And cause I didn’t want, like, I, I just didn’t want to do that. And I couldn’t, I knew I often have to make pieces, but I would use the EPK or I would use the interviews we did.
But then I thought, no, I want that experience of being an idiot, sitting in the cinema with my popcorn. And I remember, I will never forget the moment that, that, sorry, spoiler coming. Steve Rogers, captain America. Catches Thor’s hammer. Wow. The audience went bananas. It was [00:39:00] like, I touched down, had been scored or a soccer goal, or, you know, for me hockey, like I had never seen a group of people.
Re-upped with such passion and such cheer. It was crazy. And I, I thought, wow, they’ve actually paced this movie wrong. Now people are going so crazy for the next 10 or 15 seconds that we can’t hear any of the dialogue. I, and you know, that was a real breakthrough for me. The other one was I got to see before I was on set of the first Tim Burton Batman movie, which is actually, which was actually where I met Neil Gaiman, which is another story.
I got invited to, to preview screenings for that film and the first one, and you’ll get this because you’re in the industry and you’re involved with toy people, but it was the licensee’s screening. And it was hilarious because you would go and I’d be going, oh, this is great. This is great. And there’ll be silence.
And then someone’s product would show up like the Batmobile and the little [00:40:00] section of the audience cheer. And then the moment where the, where the bat plane came up in front of the moon and the whole, yeah. Whoever had the license, they went bananas crazy. Afterwards, you drink with a bunch of the guys who were there and they were all going, wow.
My product got, you know, great placement and I’m going to sell it out of this stuff. And I’m like, I’m so glad I’m not retail anymore. But at the same time, oh my God, Marvel and D you know, sorry, DC comics and they’re licensors. This is going to be a sea change. And I remember I visited I visited Paul Levitz.
Weeks or months before that movie opened. And I think the were worried. I think they’d seen a cut. They were a little bit worried and I was like, this is going to be a smash. He said, how do you know? I said, cause all the Bight black bike couriers in Toronto are wearing the black t-shirts and black t-shirts are sold out in Toronto.
He’s like what? I’m like every [00:41:00] buddy is wearing a Batman shirt and he goes, well, why? And I said, I gotta be honest. I don’t think it’s Batman. I think it’s the joker. And I think it’s the soundtrack ever decided that prince should do that game changer for that movie and for popular culture. So all of a sudden Batman which was known as, you know, a certain thing was on a TV show and Adam West played him and whatever became a completely different thing.
This Gothic, urban nightmare. And that movie is like really underrated as far as all of that goes. Yeah,
Andrew Sumner: I agree. I mean, I think I was completely obsessed with that movie when it came out as, you know, a lifelong Batman fan and saw it a ridiculous number of times. It’s probably the last film that I saw multiple times in the cinema, which is some guys just don’t do anymore, completely grown out of that, but it had a huge impact upon me.
What I lost. I knew in real [00:42:00] time, that’s an imperfect film. It’s very poorly plotted. It’s very poorly scripted. It’s full of holes. Burton is a brilliant visual stylist. I’m not convinced he’s any good with narrative at all, but for all its holds, there’s also so many brilliant things about it. Not the least of which is if you’ve read Batman comics since you were three and I don’t get me wrong.
I’ve talked about Adam West many times on the show, and I love Adam where soul of sixties, Batman, that’s where my love Batman comes from, but I was desperate for Neil Adams, Denny O’Neil, Batman onscreen, and then to suddenly get it in the way that it landed and for, you know, yeah. Jackson was great and took all the, all the oxygen of publicity at the time.
But in fact, Keaton’s amazing in the film and, you know, he’s got all the love he has now because he was just so good. It’s that was the thing that could have really sunk film, getting Bruce Wayne and Batman wrong. But nonetheless, it’s an imperfect artifact, I think where w because when you watch it now, you know, all its floors are labor.
And once the, once the kind of [00:43:00] excitement, the chain reaction excitement has gone. But what is absolutely true is, is cultural impact is amazing. Absolutely amazing. I
Mark Askwith: think they got one thing, right? You cast Bruce Wayne, you cast Tony stark. You don’t cast iron man. The only one where it gets a little buggy is Superman and captain America, because the way those masks work or lack of mask in the case of Superman, I mean, you know, then that becomes important, but otherwise, like iron man.
Really you got a nail, Tony stark, Batman, you got a nail, Bruce Wayne and you, but you’re right. And that I, because at that point I was now in media and I had made the move from being a retailer and working in, in wholesale. It was, it was like, you could see that it was having a change. We’re also one of those things where I would be able to say to people at DC, you have no idea what’s [00:44:00] happening in stores.
They cannot keep dark Knight in print. Like 25, 30 copies of dark night were shooting out of the store every day. Like retailers where, you know, they kind of knew the rhythm of their product, but the same thing happened with Watchman. When that trader opened for the first, you know, Nolan, Batman movie, and they did the Watchman.
I was at the media screening with my daughter and she turned to me and said, dad, do we have that? Yes, we have that. Read it to me. But they then sold more copies of Watchman were so again, the six weeks after the dropping of that trailer that had been sold since 1986. Yeah. So that’s the power of popular culture.
And I was onset of the Watchman, which was really fun. I got to interview the team, Zack Snyder and fantastic because it was shot in Vancouver and I’m, you know, Canadian journalist. Oh my God. I w I, [00:45:00] okay. So I have to so people like you, who we feel are embedded in this industry, we never know what our impact is going to be.
I’m on set and I’m talking to the set designer and Alex is a great guy. And we were talking about. We, we, I said, the first interview I want to do is setting everything up, but I want it to be by the kiosk, you know, where the kid is reading the comics, which if, you know, the
Andrew Sumner: graphic novel is a key
Mark Askwith: place.
Yeah, that’s right. So we did most the bulk of the interview there. And then I said, I want to move it. I want to do two other two or three other locations. And he said, well, how about, let’s go to the restaurant where, you know, driver takes Lori. I said, now nothing really happens in there except for maybe the four legged Turkey, what the four legged Turkey.
I don’t know what you’re talking about. Well, there’s a four legged Turkey, which kind of sets up the whole idea of cloning and the fact that Dr. Manhattan has not allowed that. And that sets up the squid just a minute, just a minute. Where is that? I said it’s in, it’s in the first [00:46:00] issue. It’s about issue is about page 21, 22.
It’s near the end or whatever. I’ve forgotten the number. He goes just a minute. Hello. It’s Alex, can you, do you have a copy of the watch? Okay. The scene at where I’ve forgotten the name of the restaurant, it goes, is there a four legged Turkey and the guy of the out of the boat or the woman at the end of the phone says, yes.
And of course it’s in the movie, but they didn’t have time to make it a prop because they were shooting that scene the next day. So you can hear it in the audio, which was whole areas. And I said, no, no, I want to do the interviews at Gunga diner. And then I wanted to do so we did a bunch of stuff outside the the movie theater and then outside of Gunga diner and then a real pleasure for me.
I did one outside, one of the the poster walls, because I think what they’ve given state in terms of the posters and pale horse and all that stuff, it was amazing. Anyway, that’s one of the seminal graphic novels for me, but [00:47:00] being on set of that was blowing my mind. I couldn’t believe. And I wore my silver snail Jack, because I thought he was going to be one guy on the court.
Who is going to know that, and I was wrong. Like, do any of the guys on the group? You’re Mr. about the store. A lot of the guys who were interested in comics had worked in Toronto and then moved to work on the X-Files or move to work on Lois and Clark or some of the other stuff that was shooting in Vancouver.
And, you know, it was about, that was, that was probably the greatest weekend of my life. Just going through the Watchman set because I’d lived with it for so long. I knew Alan and Dave, I knew what this meant to Dave. It was just an amazing thing. And I wish that I was able to go on set of the Sandman, but with COVID and everything locked down, it’s not going to have a bed, but I’m really looking forward to Neil’s Sam man.
Andrew Sumner: Oh yeah. It’s going to be epic. Have you, have you [00:48:00] checked out to Dirk’s audible version of.
Mark Askwith: My God
Andrew Sumner: don’t make it an amazing guy. Yeah. He’s, he’s amazing.
Mark Askwith: I’ve never met him, but I, boy, that guy, I respect him greatly. That’s an amazing piece of work
Andrew Sumner: I’m looking at. It’s called dirt. Makes my friend, we once collaborated on.
When I was at IPC, when I was publishing the various men’s and music mags, I used to publish, you know, before as a Titan. One of the things I did was I looked after the all the old British comic books that IPC time Warner still owned, you know, the Valiant in line, that’s still core all those kind of characters, but the other thing we owned, which another acquaintance my Michael Moore got used to work on was a sex and Blake and and so Dirk adapted a comedy version of sex and Blake for the BBC.
And so I got to know him back then. This is almost 20 years ago now, I think. But yeah, he, he is hit the quality of his work. Nobody can beat Dirk in audio. He’s in a super league of his [00:49:00] own. He’s in a premier ship of one and it’s him. And and the work that he’s done on some man for audible, just unbelievable.
Mark Askwith: So you mentioned, you mentioned more Coq and this is where our lives kind of Eddy and circle. So I went to you CAC over person who the gravity, mostly because I wanted to interview Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, the British artists, and this some guy called Alan Nuer. And so I went over to do that interview and Alan’s interview was on the Wednesday, which was going to be the last day.
And then I was going to fly out on the Thursday, but we discovered at a flyer at the forbidden planet that there was going to be a launch of this magazine, new worlds rewatching with Brian Aldis and Michael Moorcock. So we changed our flights and the the brilliant Greg thurlbeck, who is the director.
And we did a lot of the interviews in that season. And me, we stayed and I interviewed Brian oldest and Michael Moorcock and the Michael Moore cock. [00:50:00] Like for somebody who at the age of 12 was reading, you know, Elric of, I mean, Elrick changed my life. I mean, it’s funny. And then Neil wrote that Neil Gaiman wrote that story, the comic about how, you know, being influenced by more cock.
And I had to laugh because I thought that’s every, every kid in that period, Michael Moorcock was,
Andrew Sumner: you know, he’s undoubtedly demand and the guy’s a genius. He’s a self-facing genius. You has the best stories. So I don’t know if you know this mate or have you checked it out. But one of the things that that’s part of Hardegree is I do an irregular series with Mike Moore, cock.
It’s called Michael Mohawks multiverse, which is him, is him delivering stories from his life. And it’s cause we chatted for a whole bunch of. Well, I didn’t live with a whole bunch of time projects. Cause one of the things we’ve done at time comics is we’ve collected all of his graphic novel work in one consistent library [00:51:00] edition, which is beautiful by the way, you know?
So it’s, it’s his NP Craig Russell’s hour. It’s a bunch of other great stuff. We’re very proud of it. And Nick Lando is big, big Michael Moorcock fan has known him for years as well. But in the course of us, you know, talking about these various projects we, we, we realize that we’ve got on pretty well.
So, you know, he’s quite one of the things that we wanted to do is just lay down some of these amazing anecdotes he’s got from this incredibly varied career he’s got, because he’s not just an author, you know, he’s a screenwriter. He scripted the land that time forgot. He’s a musician. He will. The blue oyster cult, you know, just unbelievable.
And he has the most amazing stories, you know, and he’s, he’s completely candid. So I know, I know you’re a fellow fellow marketing lover, but you should check that strand out, mate. I think you’d enjoy it. Yeah. Well,
Mark Askwith: he is two of my favorite anecdote. Well, three, actually my favorite things that happen on prisons at gravity one, I asked him, tell me about the multi-verse.
And he looked at me and he goes, [00:52:00] it’s my brain. I thought, okay, that’s great answer. And then I was doing an episode on dreams cause I’d gotten these fantastic, you know, fantastic interviews about dreams and dreaming and dreams for effecting people. So I’ve got Michael Laura Cox, so I’ve got to ask him. So I said, you know, what do you dream of?
How, how have your dreams influenced you? And he looked at me, he goes, oh, well I have the most boring dream. I go to Tesco and I buy cheese
because of course, if you know his work, he’s living in the dreaming. And then the other thing that was cool is so we’re, we’re doing it at the launch of new worlds and we’re in the back room of Titan. I mean, I think like literally the backward and somebody must’ve waved through a door and Michael Moorcock in the middle of the interview said, excuse me.
And he got up and walked out and he’s wired up and everything. And he walks out. And so we turned off the audio cause so give him [00:53:00] some privacy and I’m thinking, they’re going, like, what am I going to do? Like he just walked out. Is he going to come back? And he spoke a minute later to his credit. He came and sat down and we ran the whole time because you know, you want that moment.
And I got back to Toronto. And we were working on a show and I went, you know, the show would be perfectly structured if I had Michael Moore cock at the beginning of it. And then Michael, Laura cock at the end, because he sets the idea up and then he finishes it brilliantly. And then I went, oh my God. Oh my God, I have it.
So I’ve got my host, Rick green asking him a question and Michael says, excuse me, I have to go. And he gets up. And as a producer, then I put in all the other interviews. And then all of a sudden, then we cut to Michael Moorcock coming back and sitting back in the chair. And Rick begins, you know, the interview that we’ll end the show.
And I just remember thinking he has no way, like, he’s so brilliant that he gave me a gift that at the time neither of [00:54:00] us knew was a gift. I just think. Like Michael mortar caucus, the man, these just he’s tied into a whole other frequency that we can only occasionally hear. And he’s tuned in 24 7.
Andrew Sumner: Oh, that’s a hard degree from me, mate.
And you and I are both 100% on the same page. Yeah. I could not agree more. And you know, it’s very rare that somebody you admire the genius turns out to be so genial and pleasant, such a great person to hang out with and is exactly what he is. And you know, he’s, you know, he’s just written a new, new Elric, which is publishing next year.
Can’t wait for it mates, but let’s, let’s close out on talking about, I believe we burned off an ally. I knew this would happen. I absolutely knew this would happen. Let let’s, let’s close out on a great sort of mutual love of us. The, the, the, the ITC pantheons. This is a, this is a, it’s an audio podcast.
So what you can’t see [00:55:00] during our conversation is I’m in, I’m sitting in front of John steeds, a bowler hat on umbrella, ma mark is sitting in front of the penny farthing from the prisoner. So you don’t get much more ICC than that. Although it technically, I guess I’ve enjoyed not really United sea show book mate.
So something that we’re very proud of publishing at Titan is a graphic novel called shattered visage and, and shattered visage is a graphic novel tied around the classic prisoner TV series created by and starring Patrick McGovern and the co-writer of that excellent graphic novel, which are proud to publish is mark Asquith.
So mate, how did that, what does the prisoner mean to you and how did that project come from?
Mark Askwith: That’s a complicated, really complicated question. I, wow. I don’t even know how to [00:56:00] answer that. And I’ve been asked that a number of times, but I was fascinated by spies growing up and I was really interested in them.
And I later found after the death of my father that he was in Canadian intelligence, but I didn’t know that at the time, but one day he used to take me to James Bond movies, and then we started watching the prisoner together. And I remember the first episode and it was good. It was fine. But I remember the next episode, the chimes, a big band.
And I just thought it was the greatest thing on television I had ever seen. I just thought this is it. What a great show. And I would watch them with my dad whenever I could. And then we watched the last two together and I think, I think it’s weird. The the, the British got the show and then Canada got it very shortly after you, but then there was a lag, I don’t think Americans got the show, but
Andrew Sumner: I think that’s right.
That’s right, mate. So often the case of British TV in Canada, isn’t it, [00:57:00] it’s very close to absolutely.
Mark Askwith: Monty Python is the same thing. Yeah. But I remember at the end of that show, my dad said, what’s going on? Like, what do you think happened? And we had this long discussion about what we thought happened and who is number one and was, you know, all that stuff.
And, but for me, it was very tied to my father and watching the show with my dad. Cause we didn’t really, you know, we watched the Montreal Canadian hockey games, but this was one of the few TV shows that we watched together. So anyway, cut to. The probably a 89 just before, maybe 88. And I start no, maybe seven and I start writing a spy graphic novel with Rick Taylor called silencers.
And we, I wrote it and I was four issues and plotted everything out. And I had written it and then Rick green was sorry, Rick Taylor was going to dry. And in that period, the mater who was a [00:58:00] regular at the silver snail and, you know, just a great guy and Dean and I, you know, we talk a lot and we would jam on things like Mr X, which was a Canadian comic book at the time with the
Yes, wonderful book and great posters and all that kind of stuff. And we would go to a local restaurant called the Rivoli and we would hash stuff out. And I was just there as a sidekick or, you know, just a guy on the sidelines. And there was another great guy in the sidelines. Ken, Stacey, a lot of people were supporting this project and then it all kind of changed.
And the Hernandez brothers did the first four issues and it didn’t kind of, it was it became their thing for a time being, however, in that period with Mr. X getting so much buzz Dean was approached by DC and they said, we want you to create something for us, right. He said to me, well, if you had any dream project, what would it be?
And I said, well, you know, probably green lantern, I love green lantern. And [00:59:00] he goes, no, I’m not interested in that. And I said, well, you know, Batman, you know, we can there’s some cool Batman stories. I’d love to do a two-phase story. I’d love to do a story about how the bat, the bat cave gets built. And he goes, no.
And I went, well, I mean, obviously, I mean, if you’re talking dream projects, like it’ll never happen, but it would be to do the ad, you know, kind of a sequel to the prisoner TV show. And Dean just lit up. He was like, oh, what a great idea. And then we started bouncing around ideas. But at that point, I just thought, well, I’m just a friend of Dean’s, he’s going to go.
He’s going to pitch six things to DC. Something will happen. You’ll probably end up working with, you know, grant Morrison on something, because he was known as an artist and, you know, whatever. And then he came back from New York and he goes, you’re not going to believe it, but they went for the prisoner idea.
So we had to write it up formally. We did the whole thing and then Dean said, okay, we’ll cope. And then you could write the dialogue and [01:00:00] I’ll draw it well, okay. And still not really believing it because this is my favorite television show of all time. And I still can’t believe that it’s going to happen.
And I kept thinking, because I am a practical man. Well, wait a minute, you got to get the rights to Patrick McGoohan cause I want to do it with Patrick McGoohan you have to get the rights to Leo. McKern that’s never going to happen. You’ll probably have to work a rights deal with IDC or whoever owns the rights.
We don’t even know that you have to probably work out with the other, you know, I mean, it’s just a nightmare, but yeah. You know, I have the DNA of a producer, so I was looking at this going, it will never happen because these are all the hurdles that have to happen. So, and we brought up the proposal and and then it took about a year and then Shantelle Dennis, who’s the brilliant at the time.
It’s the brilliant lawyer for DC came back and said, okay, this is what you can do. This is what you can’t do. But we have the licenses to use Patrick McGoohan and Leo McKern, which was like [01:01:00] angels were singing. And I just thought, God like that’s.
Andrew Sumner: I mean, because I thought at the time, cause I bought it in its original format is for press these issues.
At the time, I thought it was amazing that DC had got the licenses to those.
Mark Askwith: It, it was crazy. And, and to me it would only work if you got them. And then the other thing that was sort of radical was he’s not going to be Lee, be like Patrick McGoohan is not going to be the center of the story. He’s going to be more like Sandman.
He’s this weird character who is the most important character, but really. It’s happening around him. This other relationship is happening. And Dean and I wanted to do a strong female character. And we, you know, we really had this idea of what we wanted to do, but it would be somebody coming into that world.
But I remember my favorite moment about the whole thing was Dean and I plotting it out. And at some point I said, you know, cause we both agreed. We want it to be in the village. We love port Marian. I loved, I knew that being an I R design nerd. So I knew we were [01:02:00] going to be doing all the design stuff. And I said, you know, we can build the bicycle on the back covers.
We can do all this stuff. You know, we knew it, the font was, it was so exciting. And then I suddenly realized, well, we have a major problem. We want to set it in the village, but there’s no way the prisoner is going to be in the village. Like it doesn’t make any sense. He’d be in the real world. He’d be in London.
It doesn’t make any sense. So the core idea, the core visual idea. We’re done. Like it’s not going to work. And I said that to Dean. I said, look, I just, from, just from being the designated asshole on this team, this doesn’t work, this doesn’t work. And this is why. And he was very patient and he said, yeah, but easy, you know, you’ll figure it out.
So, because it’s my dream project that has to happen. And I, I had one of the images that he and I really agreed on and we were both. So I went to the Marvel offices and I got to see the Jack Kirby artwork, the [01:03:00] original artwork for that, which blew my
Andrew Sumner: mind, which would sassy. As you may also know, we publish the archive edition.
Mark Askwith: Very much so. And you did the right thing and you put it together with the Steve angle, heart Gil Kane issue, which when I went to see, when I was shown the original and I, my mind was blown and they said, oh yeah. And here’s this one. So in the same half hour, this is how, you know, again, gods were singing and I just thought, oh my God, Rangels were singing.
This is fated. Like, how does this happen? That a guy from, you know, a guy who fell in love with the prisoner as a kid in Ottawa is now seeing the original pages from Steve Englehart and Gil Kane and Jack Kirby. And like, this is nuts, but Kirby, Kirby had dropped. I kind of statue in the Jensen port Marian, and I said, we have to do that is stressed to village.
And I want to see the, one of the big images in my head was a statue with the camera in the eye. And Dean of course, got [01:04:00] that immediately. He knew it. That was, were both Marshall McLuhan guys. We both studied him and I studied, I mean, McLuhan was one of my teachers, so we kind of had that whole background, but then what do you do?
And I remember working on it for about a week and I was at my wit’s end and I went for a walk. There you go. I went for a walk and he’s talking to me, the number six is talking to me and number two, and I decided I’ll do a monologue. I’ll just have number two, talk. So number two, I wrote for two days, just him telling me about being a number two.
And then I said, okay, now we’ll do number six. And I was there and I, I said, you know, why are you in the village? And number six, right? I was free to go. So I was free to stay and I was rocked. I was completely like, I’m like, oh my God, like this character is amazing that he, all of a sudden, he’s such an ordinary crotchety, [01:05:00] you know, countered guy.
That that makes perfect sense. I was free to go. So I stayed. So I thought, well, that’s it. Now you’ve got your setting. Now you’ll do it. And I called up, well, Dean and I would visit every week and we would go to the trunk, what we, the Duncan street grill, which we call the drunken street girl and we would get together and plot it out.
And I came to him and my eyes must’ve been this vague. And I said, Dean, I know how it can be in the village. And he’s like, really? And I gave him the sheet. And he just went, oh my God, that’s it. And then we knew we knew we had it. And I, I guess I should have known we had it when I was holding the original pages by cocaine and Jack Kirby, because that was a sign like that is a sign.
And, you know, it was, it was a real, you know, I felt well, this, a launch by career, this is, you know, I’m going to get into comics. This is going to be great. And because of that, we toured the prisoner in the UK in [01:06:00] 1988. And that’s where I met, you know, a lot of the British creators. But at the end of the day, I ended up getting a job in TV, which was at just when I could have moved, you know, in the writing comics direction, TV calls.
And I was like, wow. I love comics, but I don’t know what I should do. And it was friends who basically said, we need an evangelist. You’ve already proved that you’re an evangelist. Go be an evangelist. And after a year I resigned because I thought, well, I’ve done my thing and I can go and I’ll go to comics.
And then a number of my friends and colleagues, particularly the comic book, people were like, no, you have a unique platform. You have a giant bull horn, you have a half-hour television. So on TV, you can’t stop. And so that became five years of that. And then that became, you know, that became my career. So the whole thing is so weird.
Andrew, I can’t tell [01:07:00] you all of it’s been from love. I mean, I was an evangelist for the prisoner and evangelist for comics. And, you know, I’ve just, I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been. I’m really what I can’t believe is how supportive the community is because when someone like Richard Bruning realizes, this is your dream project, he helped makes it happen.
You know, people at the CBC and at TVO and its space, all recognized my passion. They all let me to do, I wanted to do. And it’s cause you know, I, I used to teach students and the students and the interns would all say, well, how do you get from managing a comic book store to creating a television show? And I’m, that’s the part of my career.
I don’t understand, like that’s the black box. Like, and you must have the same kind of thing. Like how do you get from this guy to the guy? Like what happens? And I don’t know, it’s like a vapor it’s I literally don’t know what happened, except that people reached down hands, grabbed me and pulled me up the ladder.
And I [01:08:00] spent the last 20 years of my career. Reaching down and pulling people up because that’s what happened to me. And I knew that it would change my life. So I hope that it would change the lives of others.
Andrew Sumner: I think that’s very well said, mate. Of course, for me, it’s, it’s the, it’s the hardest degree of all.
And here’s why, because I think that the situation that you’re in that beautiful alchemy of how that came about for you, which is almost impossible to explain there, the sequence of causal links cause that to happen. I think one of the things that sits at the heart of it, some in Cairo often, too, Is is pop culture evangelism because like yourself, it’s been a primary interest of mine throughout my sentence, waking life, you know, since you know, and it’s something I’ve been super conscious of since the fact, since I was three years old, I mean, I can remember, I can remember organizing a petition to bring the Adam West Batman show on to, on to [01:09:00] Granada TV when I was seven in primary school, you know, to me.
And that is one of men. I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody that I’ve ever done that for the people I would have done it with will know that long forgotten, but I, but, but actually he did it. And, and it’s, it’s like with your self-made I think the alchemy of how that has come about as comer comes as a result of your, your natural evangelism, your belief in the media.
You know, not as young medium, and you believed in that since day one, but also the fact that you you’re genuinely devoted to it. And you’re a tremendous positivist and it’s an expression of positivism. I think that when things fall together in ways that you can’t anticipate or predict, some of it is the ripple effect of how you treat people over a 30 year span and things just come back like a boomerang, you can never expect and doors get opened.
And a part of your story that really spoke to me was you talking about. [01:10:00] People going along to space and its early incarnation and go, Hey look man, I know mark Asquith, right? Or why are they saying that? That’s because they’ve all had a positive experience with mark Asquith and that’s the work of decades, mate.
You don’t do that. And so the reason it’s hard to, and I know a couple of people are in this boat. The reason it’s hard in a classical sense, it’s not like being a solicitor or a famous like trial lawyer where you’ve gone to law school. I want to practice law. I want to be the best. I want to be the best trial lawyer.
And it it’s, it it’s a distinct career path. Your career has happened through, through alchemy and it’s glorious marriage with. Positivity as well. And I think that it’s come out of you. You’ve self-actualized because you are a believer, you’re an evangelist, but you’re also a good bloke. People like you and, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s the tale of our friendship over the last decade, right?
The reason we know each other and instinct and, you know, we have so much to talk about. We probably speak once a year, but it’s an endless conversation, [01:11:00] you know what I mean? Because you’re a fellow traveler mate, and I really recognize in you your belief and the fact that you have such a positive effect upon people.
And I think that’s I I’m, you’re far from the end of your life, but it’s a wonderful epitaph to have.
Mark Askwith: Well, thank you. And I, you know, I feel the same thing with you and I, it’s funny early in my career, I began to see people who had kind of echo chamber careers and and the people you think, oh, maybe they would have gone one way, but they were seduced by whatever it is.
They were seduced by. And to me, It was comics and I, my daughter is in her mid twenties and for her it’s musical theater. And I remember saying to her that I didn’t like musicals and well dad, which ones have you seen? I said, well, I’ve seen cats and I’ve seen this and that because of dad, you haven’t seen the right ones.
And she’s just as evangelist about musicals because I am about comics and we went and saw a fun home, the brilliant, brilliant production adaptation, [01:12:00] musical graphic novel. And I was a huge, you know, magnifying, you know, boomer, whatever you want to call it, guy on a, on a soap box for that graphic novel, which I thought was brilliant.
And we’re sitting this, watching this. And at the end of the day, I w I, I was having dinner with my wife and daughter, and I turned to my daughter and I said, I think it’s a better musical, better. It is a graphic novel. And she practically fell off her chair, but she had made an evangelist like her evangelism affected me.
And that was for the first time in my life. Oh, this is the effect that I had other on other people. And I have a friend who said, oh yeah, you telling me to read a book as like 10 other people telling me to write a book, you know, or read a book. And I’m like, oh, and I just feel like we’re very lucky. And I still don’t understand how it happens.
I got on it. I mean, this is I’m being honest. I, and how does it happen for you? How does it happen for me? And [01:13:00] you know, so many people that are mutual friends of ours and you look at them and you go, it just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, our jobs, your job, Andrew, and my job did not exist when we were growing up.
The idea that we could do what we’re doing, literally had no place in popular culture and had no place in the workplace. And you know, for me in the early eighties to say, I’m going to devote myself to this. It didn’t make any like it literally, unless you worked for Marvel and DC, There was no way to have.
In fact, those would have limited our careers and the careers that you and I have had were kind of like, that great comic book, character, the in between her, or, you know, kind of, you know, we, we are between worlds and I w somebody that I feel is a fellow traveler who I barely know, I’ve only met a few times, is Paul Gravette.
Andrew Sumner: Oh yeah. He wanted a percentage. That’s a very good Charmaine.
Mark Askwith: He’s one of us. Like, I, the moment I [01:14:00] met him and I’m like, oh my God, he’s like the British version of me. And you know, early on peoples in the eighties Neil Gaiman had written a book called don’t panic, and I read that. And then Lando and, and Mike Blake made me read this literally a Xerox of violent cases.
And I knew right away, you know, Neil is another one. I mean, I didn’t know what he would be, but I knew that he was part of the Paul group. You know, Dawn Melia, mark Asquith, and you Andrew Sumner. And I-CAR gold kind of, you know, and know most of it. I mean, even for me, I’m not an on-air host, so most people don’t know who I am.
You, you have a higher profile, but for the most part, my career is invested. I am the iceberg. Like, whatever you see, whenever I get mentioned by somebody it’s this weird little glitchy thing, but then, you know, you suddenly realize, cause I’ve had people buy it. One of my hosts, Teddy Wilson said, oh my God, have you seen your Wikipedia?
I’m like, I don’t know how, like [01:15:00] literally, I don’t know, I’ll read it. And I went, oh my God, it’s riddled with errors. And it goes, she must have written it. I said, I did not write this. I don’t know how, but he goes, look at what you’ve done. Like, look at this what you’ve done. And I, I have no sense of what I down because I knit my parachute on the way down.
I just, I knew where I wanted to land. I wanted to land in the heart of popular culture and I just aimed towards that. And if I could do it in radio, I would have appreciated that if I could do it as a writer, but the pathway was too. And I found it toxic and difficult and horrible and many things. It’s just not a life for a human being.
And yet 30 years of my life has making television pop culture, but yeah, you know, and growing to love the people and the industry and the kind of the, the whole in casement of, of that kind of culture, working with editors and cameraman, I learned more from my interns [01:16:00] and from my cameraman and from my editors that I ever learned in school you know, brilliant, brilliant people because they were all storytellers and they all gravitated toward storytelling.
And the medium that was vibrant was television. And so that’s where they all ended up and I’m old enough where the vibrant medium was radio. So of course I would be drawn there, but then the curtain had already closed on that medium and the medium that was opening. Was television. And, you know, I didn’t really, because of my age, I didn’t really understand the power of television quite the way other people did, you know?
Cause that’s a few years later. Yeah. But then, yeah, it’s weird. It’s just weird. And now it’s weird because here we are and you can do hard degree and you can call up anybody you want, pretty much everybody is going to say yes. And we all say yes, because we’re all part of, you know, we’re all part of team higher degree.
Andrew Sumner: No, no, I I’m. We’re all parts of that universe. And you know, it’s, you’re proud. It’s [01:17:00] the, it’s the, it’s the opposite of the Groucho Marx syndrome, right? I’m not a joiner, but I’m very much proud to be a part of of this ecosystem of comic book culture, people. It’s always draw. Because I had like yourself, I, I had a very mainstream publishing career, you know, work.
I worked on health service magazines to begin with. Then I wrote for unpublished mainstream, mainstream magazines, where even within the mainstream media of mans and music, my absolute devotion to comics was considered to be. Quite extreme and eccentric. And then I published a bunch of of celebrity magazines, which by the way, I absolutely wasn’t interested in at all.
And then I, I ran KD cinema in France, Rob, which is the antithesis of the kind of culture we’re talking about. Right. And I, but I always felt like an outsider within mainstream media. And the minute that my, I had the chance to align my actual [01:18:00] career with my personal media interests, it was just like walking through a portal into a whole other world.
And it was like, oh man, I really am at home. It’s like being given the keys to the bank.
Mark Askwith: Yeah, well, I, it took me five years to call myself a television producer. Cause I thought, well, I’m not, I’m a comic book guy who does comic book things on a show. That’s about comics inside. Like I’m a nerd. Like I, I am not a television producer.
I don’t smoke cigars. I don’t, you know, I don’t look that way. Let’s do this. I stopped me. And, and you know, I th the joy of the job was meeting Michael mark Hawk and interacting with them. And then, you know, my, you know, it’s so many, like thousands of people, and at the end of the day, very few of them become friends.
I mean, most of them just become people that you’ve interviewed. Clearly they affected you and you affected them at some level. And I don’t know how that happens. I think gets the great privilege of being a journalist. And it’s funny because somebody asked me a [01:19:00] while ago about, you know, where did your career come from and what was your interest in comics?
And the first comic I fell in love with was at the age of four and it was tat by energy. And I realized everything. He is, he’s a journalist who travels the world and it’s comic books. And that’s my life. My life is tan, tan. I am fantastic. I wanted to be him at the age of four. I got to be him. Not quite exactly the same way.
I didn’t get to go inside of a submarine that looked like a shark. Yeah. You can go
Andrew Sumner: look for red Rackham’s treasure.
Mark Askwith: Yeah. You never got to look for the treasurer. I never got to go to the moon, but I met people who went to the moon. I met, I met people like, you know, who went under the water in submersibles, like Phil Newton.
I met, you know, James Cameron, you know, like I look back and I go, you know, and what, what separates all of us who were into this is at the heart of it. We love storytelling and we want to be a part of that tradition. So we tell the [01:20:00] stories and we let storytellers tell their story.
Andrew Sumner: Well said, brother well said.
And I, I, I, I really love the way you expressed all of that. I, and two things that you’ve said within this closing section of the show that I’ve really responded to very strongly was a, the the analogy between yourself. Tanta Emmylou or Tintin’s now, you know, it’s such a, I’ve never thought of it that way before, but of course he’s a journalist.
He travels the world within the comic book, medium. I’m going to use that myself. And it’s one of two things you’ve said, I’m going to use myself because I’m going to say for a well, to you as mark Asquith asked with my friend writer producer, I’m the man who knitted his own parachute on the way down, which I think is such a wonderful expression, such a wonderful expression.
I’m amazed. I haven’t stolen it from somebody else before now, but I’m going to use it from now on because that is as you know, [01:21:00] it’s also how I feel. And and I think your expression of that has been fascinating and it’s just been such a great deal of fun as it always is chatting with you.
Mark Askwith: I mean to you.
Thank you so much. This is a real honor. So glad to be part of this and that we must do it again.
Andrew Sumner: W we will do it again because there’s a whole, there’s, there’s, there’s a whole avalanche of topics that we haven’t even touched upon. Wonderful.
Mark Askwith: Got to go take
Andrew Sumner: care of her. The love you too.