Interview: BITEMARK

Hi, Park here– today I’m bringing you an interview I did with Michael Stinson and Devan Muse, the respective writer and artist of the graphic novel BITEMARK, a tale involving werewolves and young women. BITEMARK is published by Lucha Comics (itself an imprint of The Shooting Star Press), which published and did the Kickstarter for Hungry Ghosts, which was written by Barbara and myself.

So, here’s me and writer Michael Stinson and artist Devan Muse, the creative team behind the werewolf manga BITEMARK:

Park Cooper (interviewer): Welp– Here I am… Y’all here?

Devan Muse (artist, BITEMARK): Howdy

Michael Stinson (writer, BITEMARK): Here!

PC:  Excellent. So, anything we need to talk about before we officially start?

MS: Nothing on my end

PC:  Okay then, let’s start– influences! What/whom are they, for each of you!?!

MS: Off the top of my head, my influences are comic author Jonathan Hickman, Clive Barker, Sui Ishida, and Sofia Coppola

DM: I’m a bit of a massive weeb, so most of my artistic influences come from anime and manga. The first manga I ever wound up collecting was Rurouni Kenshin from Shonen Jump. The art and story in that comic was fantastic, and really laid the groundwork for the kind of art I would wind up doing today. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of comic work, despite what an awful person the creator turned out to be.

Other than him would be Hirohiko Araki, of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fame. His work was an acquired taste, to be sure, but once you got the taste for it you just can’t stop. His work is so uniquely “him” and he owns it completely. I try to carry that kind of energy and “uniquely me” attitude into my own work.

And here’s a non-manga example: Stjepan Sejic’s “Sunstone.” Reading it in my late teens/early adulthood was kind of revelatory and reignited my dormant love of comics storytelling. He’s a master at layout out panels in such a way that the whole page becomes a piece of art.
(Forgive me for essaying over here)

PC: I, too, read Kenshin back in the day. …So I’d say this segues pretty well into what my next question was going to be anyway, namely: How’d you get your start?

DM: It was my late Uncle Tommy who got me into comics at a really young age. He had boxes of them in his house, along with wall to wall paraphernalia, merchandise, and general cool stuff. (If you look in the dedication of Bitemark, you’ll see I actually dedicated it to his name and memory)

But my first real time wanting to draw a comic kind of came from a more childish place. Back in first grade, one of my classmates (and future best friends) drew a short comic strip and showed the whole class. Everybody was impressed with him, but I thought “Hey, I can do that, too.” And so the first comic I ever drew was borne from a sense of petty oneupmanship, and I’ve been drawing ever since. I’ve since told this story to that friend of mine, and we shared a laugh over it.

As for my collaboration with Michael? A while back, when I was a few years out of college and having trouble holding down a “real” job, I was looking at online forums and subreddit trying to find any kind of paid work as a comic artist. Somehow, from my posting on there, Michael must have found me and my portfolio, and liked what he saw. He asked me to work with him on Bitemark and the rest is history.

MS: When I was young, I was introduced to comics by my grandpa. He says the first comic I ever purchased was a Batman comic. Anyway, sometime after that, when I was 6 or 7, my mom sat me down in front of TV with breakfast and I watched an episode of  the Ocean Dub group’s dub of DBZ.  I also grew up watching lots of mature movies for my age (then I was less than 10) like  the Terminator series, True Lies, Alien, X-Files, Millenium and a few others. Those events changed my life forever.  Through those experiences I developed an interest in storytelling. Although I attended college briefly, I’m mostly a self-taught writer who learned through reading and watching the works of others and then applying what I learned through my own voice.

Haha– The story of how Devan and I met is different depending on who you ask. I recall putting up a post on Reddit in which I was in search of an artist. He commented I liked his art, and here we are.

DM: Yeah, it was probably a direct reddit post from him that I applied to. All I know is that I was replying to everyone who was offering paid work XD

PC: All the questions, Barb came up with… I don’t think it’s inappropriate to ask this next one, in spite of all the info I’ve been given… Certainly the timing is, again, preternaturally apt– “What about each other made you decide to work together? I’m particularly talking in terms of style.”

MS: Devan has a style that’s very unique. It’s East meets West. I knew immediately upon seeing his portfolio that he was the one I wanted to work with.

DM: The stories that Michael tells are very conceptually interesting, and really fall in line with the kinds of stories I want to draw. Dark and violent on the surface, but truly human, insightful, and vulnerable underneath the gore. Plus the way he plays with classic horror setups (as can be seen in Bitemark) is just a blast to see.

PC: Now I know we’ve covered some of this, but I feel like continuing to go in the order that Barb thought these up: favorite anime/manga? comic? film?

MS: My favorite anime of all time is YuYu Hakusho. I’ve watched it as an adult and it aged like a fine wine. My favorite manga is either The Flowers of Evil by Shuzo Oshimi or Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida. Comic– Deadly Class or The Dark Knight Returns. Film– Easy! Lost in Translation.

DM: Counting the ones I’ve already listed as my influences? Anime/Manga: The Monogatari series, Lupin III, Chainsaw Man, 20th Century Boys. Comics: SAGA, Empowered, The Private Eye. Film: Kick Ass

PC: I left it up to you to count previous mentions or not. 😊 Anyway, Barb, catching up, says “Side note: there would be no HUNGRY GHOSTS if not for Kenshin. Sorry to hear that the creator’s problematic– Park had already heard but hadn’t wanted to break it to me.”

DM: Oof. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. (And for the record, yes, do count my influences as some of my favorites)

PC: Barb: “Oh and Vagabond. And Usagi Yojimbo.”

Next question: “Why horror?” (If Bitemark isn’t horror, what is it? …But it wouldn’t surprise me if it was horror–)

MS: For me, Horror is the vehicle through which very human stories can be told. If it’s not horror, It’s a coming-of-age story inspired by the movies of John Hughes.

DM: I agree with Michael on the “what is Bitemark if not horror” front; definitely a coming of age, ‘80s type movie, just with more dismemberment. And if you want to know what I like about drawing horror? Well, I’d say it gives me a lot of freedom to draw and design really cool, really violent, really creepy stuff. 

PC: What’s the next thing you want to work on?

MS: It’s funny that you ask, about an hour ago, Devan and I were messaging about our next collaboration. It’s a manga called Demivrge. Devan once described it as Evil Dead meets 36 Chambers of Shaolin.

DM: Yeah, I’m really excited to start work on that book  😊

PC: Just for Michael—Barb says– “I looked at this and said dang, why isn’t this a film? So tell me about you and your background as far as film.” (In the meantime: Barb agrees with all the stuff you have said about horror, human element, etc. etc.)

MS: (Thanks,Barb!) Although I was interested in writing, I began in film as an actor. I did some non-union college films for experience. Attended acting classes, and also appeared in a few films on the big screen. Eventually I decided to pursue writing fully. I attended the Digital Film Academy in NY. But before that I learned a lot from reading scripts, comics, and watching TV and movies.

PC: Okay now I am gonna go out of order with Barb’s questions: Fave horror film(s)?

MS: Raw by Julia Ducournau, and all of these:
28 weeks later
Drag me to hell
House of the Devil
The Ring
Demons 1 and 2
Fright Night

PC: …Which Fright Night? …For that matter, which The Ring?

MS: The one from the 80s. For sure. But I also enjoyed the remake with Colin Farrell. This might be blasphemy, but I’ve watched every version of The Ring, and the U.S. adaptation is superior. I’m willing to die on this hill haha–

DM: Ooo, some hot takes coming out in this interview  XD    I’ll be honest with you, I’ve not actually watched that much horror. I was always too much of a coward to watch them. I think the closest thing I’ve ever watched to a horror movie is (don’t laugh) Willie’s Wonderland, that Five Nights at Freddy parody with Nicholas Cage.

PC: Back to Bitemark– Where’d the initial idea for Bitemark come from

MS: For years, I’ve wanted to tell a story about werewolves. But one that was about something more than that. At the time, I was reading Tokyo Ghoul and I had just watched Raw by Julia Ducurnau. Both projects mixed daily coping with human emotions and realistic issues with the practice of eating human flesh, and although a gruesome concept, this inspiration fused with my interest in werewolf lore.

PC: Last Bitemark question: Who is your target audience for Bitemark?

MS: I’d say the target audience is people coming of age. And those who reminisce about those days.

DM: Michael put it better than I could. I’d have just said “older teens/adults who are fans of manga and cool stuff”

PC: Okay, last question: You can have one superpower. What’ll it be?

MS: Hmmm, I’d like the power to control time. Going backwards, forward, and pausing at my leisure.

DM: Wow, same here, though I’d settle for just STOPPING time. Sleep however long you want without guilt, meet all your deadlines, getting to LARP as DIO with throwing knives…

PC: Barb’s, like Cypher from the New Mutants, is omni-language…

DM: Oh, that’s a good one too….

PC: Me, I’m a force-field man. Sue Storm has an incredible power, much more than most people think about. Teleportation’s delightful, but more problematic. I’ll take the force fields.

MS: Yeah, that’s cool… I’ve always heard that she’s more powerful than we know…

PC: Any last comments?

MS: Thanks for this opportunity! I had a great time.

DM: Thanks for the interview. It was a blast talking with you. –And if I had something to say to the people reading the interview/potentially reading Bitemark, I’d say “I hope you like what you see.”

MS: Ditto!

PC: Cool cool. Then as we say in this part of the world, I’mm’a let y’all go now.  😊