Debuting Wednesday, June 27th from Lion Forge Comics‘ imprint Roar Comics is volume one of MAE by writer/artist Gene Ha. Gene Ha is a legendary name in the comic book industry. With an art style crafted from years of working for some of the biggest companies and some of the biggest names, Gene is taking the world by storm. He has hitched his wagon to Lion Forge Comics for the second run of his hit, creator-owned series Mae. It’s a world of adventure, wonder, excitement and thrills!
PopCultHQ had the honor of interviewing Gene about this upcoming project. Take a look at Gene talking about his career in comics, how the idea for Mae came about, and what fans can expect from the next round of adventures from Mae.
MAE Vol. 1
Mae’s beloved older sister, Abbie, has been missing for years. Mae has her theories about where Abbie might be. But nowhere in her wildest imagination do those theories encompass a fantasy world full of terrifying monsters, power-hungry nobles, and nefarious scientists. That is, until Abbie suddenly reappears in Mae’s world. And not alone.
PopCultHQ’s Interview w/ Gene Ha
Writer/Artist of Roar Comics’ MAE Vol. 1
PopCultHQ: You’ve been working in the industry for a long time and been a part of some very amazing projects. Your series with Alan Moore, Top 10, will have its 19th anniversary this year in September. What are your thoughts on being a part of that series all these years later?
Gene: Honestly, a bit stunned that so much time has passed! And I’m grateful that my simple plan worked: work with great writers so that my work will still be worth reading years later.
I’m often asked which character I’d most want to draw. I love drawing the classic Marvel and DC superheroes, but early on I realized the writer is more important than the character. And the writer needs the freedom to tell a great story.
For a while, DC Comics gave Wildstorm’s America’s Best Comics line the freedom to go wherever Alan pleased. I feel very lucky I got that chance. I’m a pretty creative thinker, but Alan Moore is the only creator where I couldn’t keep up with him. The few times I gave Alan a story idea over the phone, he rode it off in directions I’d never have dreamed of.
The most obvious example is my suggestion that the superpowered police of Precinct 10 arrest a drunken Superman with supervomit as explosive as his superbreath. He liked that, but immediately made it a drunk and vomiting Godzilla, which was so much funnier.
PopCultHQ: Having developed an art style and now storytelling style that is seminal with you and you alone, how does it feel each time you are at a convention or event and people come up to say hello or talk to you or get one of your famous free sketches?
Gene: I love it, as long as they understand that I can only do so many! That’s one of my strategies to get new readers into comics.
I started doing free sketches in the early 1990s, when con crowds were almost all grizzled men and teen boys excited about Image superhero teams. A lot of the women and children were following a guy and bored stiff. I wanted to give them at least one good experience at the con, so I’d make them drawings.
That’s not a problem today! Cons are fun for everyone. But I still make my free sketches to get people excited about comics.
PopCultHQ: Mae was your first ever work where you did both the writing and the artwork. What inspired you to want to undertake such a project and crowdfund it?
Gene: There was my 12 page Iron Fist story in Marvel Knights Double Shot #4 (2002). My editor, Stuart Moore, had to guide me through 5 drafts and point out issues that needed to be fix. Had I thought through the villains perspective? Iron Fist is a highly moral hero, does that line make sense for him? He taught me a lot, and showed my how much I still had to learn.
It was 8 years before I felt ready to try again! I’d been doodling ideas for Ani and Mae since the late 1990s. It started off as a space opera fanfic of Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn. In 2010, I made a new doodle of Ani in a Revolutionary War-era long coat, and the setting changed. It became a story of modern day sisters adventuring in a world of 19th-century mad science. A few sketches later, I realized the tiny action hero Ani wasn’t the main character. The nerdy younger sister Mae was the hero.
Watching Alan Moore’s battles with DC reminded me of the dangers of letting a company own your dream project. And honestly, DC is very generous compared to most other comics companies!
I chose Kickstarter so I could own Mae, and make sure no company could keep me from telling the story the way I wanted to. I’m so grateful to all of my Kickstarter backers!
PopCultHQ: A stand-out feature of your YA+up, labor of love ‘Mae’ is it features 3 strong female characters. How do your characters, and by association you, reach the younger audience either new to comic books or those seeking a female lead to follow?
Gene: There’s a simple trick that I learned from Looney Tunes cartoons, that I still use today. It’s a trick used by almost every great superhero writer. Tell two tales at once. A classic Bugs Bunny cartoon is full of frantic action and slapstick. There’s always something exciting happening on screen. But on the side, Bugs is aware he’s in a cartoon and slyly talking to the adults and making jokes that small children won’t understand.
I do something very similar in Mae. There’s plenty of flashy conflict in Mae, as they face off against mad scientists and monsters. This makes it a fun quick read for readers young and old.
At a deeper level, big questions confront my heroes. Are they making the right choice? Who should lead? Will this fight help save their dad, or just lead to another useless fight? There isn’t an obvious answer, for the heroes or for readers. That’s what makes it worth a second read by an older reader. And a second read by a younger reader after they get a bit older.
PopCultHQ: To follow up on that, with the first series being published by Dark Horse, was there a motivating factor that lead to bring it over to Lion Forge?
Gene: Dark Horse is a great company but they’re laser focused on Direct Market comic shops. I want to bring Mae to a wider audience. Lion Forge has staff with experience in comic shops but also bookstores, schools, and libraries. That makes them a better fit for Mae.
PopCultHQ: Is there something you can hint at for fans to look forward to with the second series?
Gene: Everything gets bigger! They meet bigger villains and giants and way more barbarian warrior cats! We also find out why Abbie left Cimrterén, and what happened to Mae and Abbie’s parents. And Mae’s best friend joins the adventure.
I also have two guest writers, Mark Waid on Mae #8 (Vol 2 #2) and Molly Jane Kremer on Mae #9 (Vol 2 #3). I asked them to write stories in the Mae world I couldn’t write. They surprised me and did just that. It’s huge fun reading and drawing their stories!
PopCultHQ: Where do you see Mae going moving forward? Perhaps into other media like animated shows/films or even video games?
Gene: I’m open to licensing Mae to other media, but that’s never been part of my plans for the story. I made Mae as a comic book story and my aim is to tell the best comic book story that I can.
PopCultHQ: In an interview with Newsarama you mention editor Andrea Colvin specifically. What exactly are you excited about achieving working with her and adding her “to the Mae creative team”?
Gene: Stuart Moore isn’t the only editor that’s mentored me. Andrea Colvin works hard to make me a better writer. I’m so grateful that she’s there for me!
Special thanks to Gene Ha for taking the time to speak with PopCultHQ. Be sure to follow Gene online (links below), check out our spoiler-free review of Gene’s upcoming TPB release, and pick up MAE Vol. 1 when it goes on sale June 27th alongside the debut issue of Vol. 2! And if you are in or around the Denver, Colorado area, be sure to meet Gene in person at Denver Comic Con from Friday, June 15th through Sunday, June 17th!
Writer/Artist – Gene Ha
Publisher – Roar Comics
Publisher – Lion Forge Comics
**images courtesy of GeneHa.com