Recently ComicsVerse sat down with Skybound Comics editor-in-chief, Sean Mackiewicz. Skybound is the company behind the long-running comic, The Walking Dead, created by Robert Kirkman. Since the company’s founding, Skybound has developed properties in comics, gaming, television, film, and digital media series. Sean tells us his secret origins and about his role as editor-in-chief. We learned more about the inner workings of the multimedia company and how they create some of the most popular comic books of today!

ComicsVerse (CV): So, Sean, to start off can you tell me a little bit about where you started and how you ended up as Skybound’s Editor-in-Chief?

Sean Mackiewicz (SM): When I graduated college I worked in publishing. I used to work for a romance publisher called Harlequin.

CV: That’s quite a big name in the romance novel community, correct?

SM: Yeah [laughs] it’s basically the DC or Marvel Comics of romance. After that, I was applying to comic book jobs in New York, while living in Queens. I didn’t get a job with Marvel. Finally, I got a job with DC and I worked under Bob Harris in collected editions. Once Bob got promoted he recommended I join him and I knew it was a bit of a problematic atmosphere, but this was also during New 52 and it was pretty exciting. I worked there for about a year-and-a-half to almost two years.

Then at a point, I heard about the Skybound job through a friend and I just jumped on it. This was four and a half years ago, THE WALKING DEAD was just wrapping up its second season on TV, so it was a big television deal, but the Skybound lineup itself was small with only about six books. So it was my job to find new creators.

READ: Like THE WALKING DEAD? Here’s our review of issue #166!

CV: Are there any lessons that you took from DC that you feel made you more successful with Skybound?

SM: I learned a ton, I think it’s also how those companies are formed. DC is part of Time Warner, so it is a huge corporation. While working there, I had at least five levels of oversight working above me. Being able to enact a solid plan with creators was difficult at times because you have so many agendas. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was malicious intent, it’s just that with that many people above you, you’re going to disagree on a lot of stuff. And I was fairly inexperienced with how the industry worked. At Skybound, it was already setup with Robert’s [Kirkman] experiences at Marvel informing that. So I brought with me what I saw at DC and what I didn’t like about that situation. One thing that Robert always keeps in mind is that creators love being paid. We all work, we all want to get paid for what we work for, and a DC and Marvel the turnaround time for people getting paid was a lot longer.

With us, one thing that Robert always keeps in mind is that creators love being paid. We all work, we all want to get paid for that work, and DC’s turnaround time for people getting paid was a lot longer. With us, if the creator submits work on a Friday, they’ll get paid the following Friday. As long as you get your work done we can pay you quicker. I think some of our creators have worked with us just so they can get paid on time, but I think that’s a basic right as a Freelancer is to get paid on time. With DC at that time we were trying to manage, what? Fifty-Two books? At Skybound we can focus more on the story. That mentally, it’s solid.

The creator’s intent is there and readers can understand what’s happening. I mean listen, I used to work on six superhero books a month: now I’m working on three times that but they’re all different genres. Each one is invigorating and I don’t have to do 50 horror books.

Are there any of our titles you enjoy in particular?

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Image courtesy of Skybound Entertainment.

CV: Well we have a love for so many series new and old: THE WALKING DEAD, ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN, EXTREMITY, but since it’s now headed towards its finale, INVINCIBLE is definitely at the top of the must-reads.

SM: That’s good!

CV: For fans, this was a bit shattering but, in a way, it’s good that it is ending. I, for one, have always enjoyed INVINCIBLE because he is somewhat of an anti-superhero. Mark in the entire series would always go against the tide of what traditional superheroes would do. For example, many heroes you read about won’t kill, but Invincible knows sometimes it isn’t that simple.

SM: Right, and I would say he is more of the “anti-corporate hero.” Robert gets to do whatever the hell he wants, Ryan gets to do whatever the hell he wants, and yes, with death you can never step over that line with heroes like Batman or Superman. Robert has always been upfront about it being a singular universe in one title with a few exploratory spinoffs. It’s sad it is ending but 144 issues is a tremendous accomplishment and I think at that point people will be like, “Oh!? It has an end? I wanna get into it now!” So we will have three INVINCIBLE compendiums for those new fans. But yeah, maybe at some point down the road we can explore that universe again.

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Image courtesy of Skybound Entertainment.

CV: Since INVINCIBLE is your only Superhero (superhero-like) title, will you be actively looking for your next Mark Grayson? Or do you prefer Skybound to be spandex & capes free?

SM: When looking for new stories there are two things we tried to avoid. Number 1: zombies. I think our zombie quota is full. Number 2: Superheroes. I think readers are pretty well served by Marvel and DC in that respect. Unless we are given a fresh new take on superheroes, such as WATCHMEN or anything like those great runs — we would, of course, pursue it — but as of right now we don’t think it makes much sense. We are trying to give people comic book genres they aren’t usually exposed to. Coming from romance, I’d like to find the Skybound version of a romance. We are also talking about doing a sports comic book. I think there are a lot of genres that aren’t being tapped into. So to go back and do superheroes feels foolish, but I still read ’em [laughs].

CV: Just to clarify, with the end of INVINCIBLE on the horizon, will titles like TECH JACKET, WOLF-MAN, and THE BRIT be retired as well?

SM: We don’t have any plans to launch any new projects with them at the moment. However, we are soliciting right now an ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN COMPLETE COLLECTION. So all 25 issues, plus the INVINCIBLE tie-in [will be included]. Just something that Robert and Jason Howard truly wanted to do and there’s definitely a whole audience out there that have never heard of the book because it came out before SUPER DINOSAUR. I think they just want to put it out there and get extra exposure, too. It’s a fantastic book and we love the hell out of it. Jason, he’s an amazing artist. He does covers for us on a book called HORIZON, some of the best covers we’ve put out so far.

CV: What is it like working with Robert Kirkman? Is there a certain process you go through since he is doing so many titles?

SM: With all the titles I’m checking in daily, monitoring the process. Luckily with THE WALKING DEAD, Charlie Adlard is such an amazing talent that it runs well ahead of schedule. We just put out #166 and Charlie is wrapping up #168. Honestly, they just come in. Robert is busy, but he’s always making sure who needs a script has one. He’s been doing this for 15 years about, so he kinda knows what his process is.

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Image courtesy of Skybound Entertainment.

CV: So since you’re overseeing both INVINCIBLE and THE WALKING DEAD, do you find yourself struggling to put one ahead of the other since INVINCIBLE is heading into its last issues but THE WALKING DEAD is still your most well-known title?

SM: I’ve never been a part of ending a title this big before and this book (INVINCIBLE) existed way before I did. With this story and Robert, Ryan, and Corey’s work, I’m more the scheduler. While with other titles such as BIRTHRIGHT, I do a lot more story editing, more collaborative hands-on work. With Robert, usually he’ll tell me what he’s working on and usually it sounds good [laughs]. With the INVINCIBLE team, I’m just trying to make sure that they’re happy and have as little interruptions as possible while finishing the series.

CV: Not that I would ever ask you to pick a favorite title, but is there a particular one that you had more fun on than others?

SM: Each one is kind of and special in their own way. THE WALKING DEAD for one just because the fanbase is so large and the fans are just passionate. But other titles that come to mind are BIRTHRIGHT and MANIFEST DESTINY. Both have a special place for me. MANIFEST DESTINY was there before I joined, but BIRTHRIGHT I actually brought to Skybound. They really define what Skybound is when books aren’t done by Robert. It’s important for us that new creators have a platform. We just launched EXTREMITY by Daniel Warren Johnson who is both an amazing artist and writer. It’s the first book we’ve done with a writer/artist. It’s a different process but a lot of fun. So to answer your question it really depends on who I’m having dinner with that night.

READ: ComicsVerse interviews Daniel Warren Johson, creator of EXTREMITY!

CV: So, when looking for new titles, is there anything, in particular, you look for?

SM: At Skybound we are looking for new stories that don’t reinvent the wheel of that genre, but that it’s twisted enough to create something different while still being somewhat familiar, populated by rounded characters that you want to be invested in. I think a big part of why BIRTHRIGHT works is not just because of the amazing fantasy stuff or that Andrei Bressan draws the hell out of that book, but because you have this young boy who goes missing and you identify with the family who has to deal with that tragedy. But when the boy returns they aren’t getting back what they lost. It gives the reader something to relate to but with surprises and twists along the way. We really want people to be able to tell their passion projects.

We have a new book coming out by Donny Cates who created GOD COUNTRY which is a great book. There’s this huge amount of heart in this Texas family of vampires eating barbecue. We haven’t done a vampire book. I’m not particularly interested in vampires, but the emotional story he is coming from really locked in with us and we decided, “yeah that’s the right vampire story to do.”

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Image courtesy of Skybound Entertainment.

CV: That was a great answer, but it felt more like an umbrella for all of Skybound, my question is really what do you, Sean Mackiewicz, look for?

SM: Honestly I have been doing this job for almost five years so it’s become hard to separate between what I look for and what Skybound looks for. Over time it’s become a bit of a parallel, but what I’m looking for is something I haven’t read before and what isn’t a riff on something else. Something that stands on its own and for somebody who has never read comics before, for that to be their first comic, but [also] for somebody who has been reading comics for 20 years and then go, ‘I’ve never read anything like this before; why hasn’t this been a thing before?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I guess we’ve been waiting for this person to make it.’ I guess I just don’t want the same old, same old or a clone of what’s been done before. It also depends on the creator. Some people are new to the game and just wants to stretch their legs. Andrei Bressan, for example. I worked with him before on SUICIDE SQUAD and GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS. Barely anybody at DC heard of him, but you put him on a fantasy comic and he’s reinvigorated. This is what he wanted to draw. Having the right creators for the right books and giving them room to create.

READ: Love the less mainstream comics? Read our review on GODSHAPER #1!

CV: When finding a new project or getting a new script, what’s your process when teaming them up with an artist or vice versa? Is it based solely on Talent or is it their potential chemistry to form a strong team?

SM: Something that I have mentioned in the past is at Skybound has a no ass**** policy which is something that DC doesn’t have. We usually talk to everybody individually and then have them team up afterwards based on the strength of their work. That doesn’t mean that people haven’t broken our no ass**** policy. I think it’s the strength of the work that we predominately go for and the relationship the creators build over time. Chris and Matt Roberts’ relationship was kind of there from the beginning. I feel the longer the series, the stronger the relationship. Within our ongoing books right now there doesn’t seem to be any strained relationships. Everybody gets it and they get to do the book they wanted to. I think the fun and excitement from that fact plays out within the pages.

CV: You make Skybound sound like a great place to work and create for.

SM: No, it really is and I think I have one of the best editorial jobs in comics just because I have so much freedom to take the risk with new creators and Skybound has grown to be so much more than just a comic book company that hopefully our creators will engage in whatever media they want to. So anything else?

CV: No I think you nailed it! I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.

SM: Of course, it was great talking to you today.

If you enjoy Skybound titles as much as ComicsVerse or want to become a fan today make sure to check out their webpage HERE!

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