MAYDAY is a spy thriller set in 1971 southern California during the Cold War and is published by Image Comics. The first issue originally made its debut in November 2016. The mini-series wrapped up in March 2017 with its fifth and final issue. Writer Alex de Campi and artist Tony Parker were gracious enough to take some of their time to talk about spies, music, the real depiction of the 1970s versus the idealized version, and the creative process behind MAYDAY.

Comicsverse (CV): How did your collaboration come about and how did Image Comics come into the picture to publish the story?

Tony Parker (TP): I think it was SDCC. I was just coming off THIS DAMNED BAND, and Alex approached me about it. She apologized that it was set in the early 70’s, but that it was necessary for the story, and it was worth it. She was absolutely right. She was wonderful about letting me play with it visually, only stepping in where I had strayed too far from the core story.

Alex de Campi (AC): I think it was actually Phoenix Comicon! We were both doing projects at Dark Horse at the time, and I saw some of Tony’s work on his and [writer] Paul Cornell’s THIS DAMNED BAND (Get it! It’s fab)… the magnificent expressionism and overpainting. And Tony was such a delight in the often frustratingly unprofessional world of comics- he treats art like a job, which… can be rare.

READ: New to the series? Our MAYDAY #1 review promises one dangerously funky ride! 

MAYDAY
Image is courtesy of Image Comics

CV: Can you guys summarize MAYDAY in a nutshell to anyone who is not familiar with the series and would be curious to check it out?

TP: Sexy Russian spies in 1971 southern California. Can you say “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll” in Russian? [writer’s note: the Russian equivalent is секс наркотики и рок-н-ролл]

AC: What if Dennis Hopper directed a Bond film? It’s a young couple on the run against The Man in early 1970s California. Except the young couple are Soviet agents. And as Tony says, there’s a lot of drugs, sex, and violence– and rock and roll. The book has its very own soundtrack.

CVAlex, in an interview with Comics Alliance last year, you mentioned that your parents worked for the CIA and the NSA in the 1960s. How did this shape the script?

AC: My parents’ brief and fairly un-exotic tenures at American security agencies didn’t so much shape the script as my father’s later work setting up joint ventures between DuPont and various Warsaw Pact governments. Hell, he spent a good chunk of my childhood in Romania. In the early 80s. As you do (And not in Bucharest; in Curtea de Argeș). There were always lots of people with accents coming over for dinner. And books of fairy tales from various Warsaw Pact countries lying around. Because of this early internationalism, I ended up spending a lot of time outside the US. So I know what it’s like, to not really speak the language, and be trying to cope in a very alien culture.

READ: We interviewed Alex de Campi at New York Comic Con 2015. She had plenty to say on her latest projects and more!

MAYDAY
Image is courtesy of Image Comics

CV: The 1970s was known for bright tie dye shirts and earthy colors. What was the process like working with Blond on the colors to get the 70s aesthetic right?

TP: It was actually pretty grungy at that time. Hippies were on their way out, and everything had gotten darker. The clothing had represented the angst and disillusionment the country was feeling, especially the youth counterculture. Blond is a consummate professional, nailing nearly everything on the first go. We’d give him some notes if we wanted something to go in a specific direction, but we’d mostly stay back, and let him work his magic.

AC: Heh. People think they know the early 1970s. That’s part of the reason we went with the terrible top-40s music mixed with early metal in the soundtrack. We wanted to show what was really going on right then, not what we’ve had filtered through pop culture’s later, distorting mirror.

CV: The late 60s/early 70s is the pinnacle of the hippie movement with the Vietnam War in the background. Tony, what kind of research did you do in order to get the feel of the early 1970s right?

TP: I tried to get my eyes on as many news photographs as possible. I avoided the entertainment media for reference, as that is all idealized versions of the era, including the media of the time. I would put in visual references to certain pop culture clothing items, but they would be worn as a specific reference to the character trying to live vicariously through wearing clothing of an idol. I would also change those specific clothes up just a bit. I tried to keep everything as grounded as possible. Very few of the things in the book were made in 1971, but anywhere from two to twenty years before the story takes place. It had to look like a lived-in world, or else it would have devolved into a parody of the story, not the story itself.

CV: Codename Felix and Codename Rose are opposite sides of a coin in a world that is literally lost in translation. How would you guys describe their relationship?

TP: Naive and desperate.

AC: Tony pretty much nailed it. They’re attracted to each other, fascinated and slightly repelled at the same time, but ultimately only one is likely to get out alive. And it’ll be by betraying the other one.

READ: Can’t get enough of Russians? We examined Russian representation in comics including superheroes!

MAYDAY
Image is courtesy of Image Comics

CV: I loved the use of music in the series, and when the panels called for it, I played the songs. Alex, how important was the role of music in establishing mood throughout the story? Tony, can you describe the process as you tied it together with the art?

AC: The story usually came first, though some of the diegetic music choices-“Peace Frog” [and] “Knock Three Times”- came along at the same time. For me, it helped set mood and place, and in some instances, pacing. It won’t escape your notice that a lot of the non-diegetic music chosen is instrumental. Also, I’m a big old music nerd, and I love making playlists.

There is a Spotify playlist for the miniseries here:

TP: I tried to use it as an active part of the script notes, and make the visuals fit the music. I love how Alex not only found wonderfully fitting music but how she lettered it all in so seamlessly. It’s not easy, although she made it look so.

CV: If you guys could work for any spy agency which would it be and why?

TP: The one that Austin Powers belongs to, [British Intelligence]. If nothing else, it would give me the greatest chance of sleeping well at night.

AC: The C.I.A. Though I’d be a terrible spy. I have no chill, and I’m shit at taking orders.

READ: Interested in more 1970s culture? Our article examines New York’s exploitation of filmmakers in the 1970s and 80s!

MAYDAY
Image is courtesy of Image Comics

CV: What advice do you guys have for aspiring writers/artists who might be too shy or insecure to share their work in public?

TP: First, drop aspiring. You’re a creator, but not pulling in a check yet. The term “aspiring” is a roadblock that allows and almost rewards failure and lack of growth. The mindset is a big part of it.

Do it. Put your stuff out there. You can’t succeed without failing, and so much of life is showing up. No one works full time in any entertainment industry by waiting for work to show up. Everyone who works professionally is constantly hustling. When you get rejected, learn from that rejection. Improve from the failure. Find the venues that work best for you. Stay online and post actively there if you have social anxiety. Create a persona to hide behind, but don’t be a dick. Never be a dick. Focus on the product, not yourself. Take care of yourself, but publicly the art (visual and prose) comes first. Do it with a group if you have social anxiety.

CV: Finally besides the MAYDAY trade paperback edition, what other projects do you guys have in the pipeline that you can share with our readers?

TP: Nothing that I can talk about yet. NEVER get ahead of an editorial announcement.

AC: I have my action miniseries BANKSHOT with Chris Cross on line art and Snakebite on color art coming from Dark Horse in June; the third NO MERCY trade is out from Image Comics at the same time as MAYDAY, and I’m writing the ASTONISHER title for Lion Forge. Plus about four other things that haven’t been announced yet.

CV: Thank you guys so much for your time! We really appreciate it and look forward to seeing more from this series in the future.

The MAYDAY TP hits comic book stores on May 24th and bookstores on May 30th. You can follow Alex on Twitter and check out her Tumblr where she occasionally posts lettering tutorials for comic book creators and muses about making comics. You can also follow Tony on Twitter and visit his personal website where you can see his portfolio, buy prints, and more.

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