Being Human: An Interview With Stuart McCune

I’ve recently delved more properly into the work of Stuart McCune. One of recent Kickstarters included a pledge where you could get more of his older stuff so jumped on that. He has such a unique voice and art style too. I am just getting to Human Beings but I had to ask him about his work, his ideas and having 18 successful Kickstarters.

I think the first time I was able to read your stuff was the stuff you had on the ComiXology Submit platform. “Mack And Mondo” and “City War”. I really enjoyed “Mack And Mondo”. It kind of reminds me of John Wick, which actually came after it, though I’ve cast Bruce Willis as Mack in my head. What do you think of that story when you look back at it and the ComiXology process now?

I have no issues with the Comixology model. In its earlier days it was a great independent platform. The excellent work that is now created has led to a larger and heavier marketplace. When Mack&Mondo was created it was much easier to get your project before the eyes of a reader. At that time I was living in Ireland. I was exhibiting paintings but grew frustrated and decided to step back. As a tonic I returned to my first art love – comics. I had created independent work and sold it in London comic shops at the tail end of the 80s up until about 92 but since then although I still made comics for myself I had not done anything long form. Initially more as a writing exercise I kicked out Mack&Mondo but then it grew on me to the point where I decided to illustrate it. Its art is very naive, the writing stands up though, and one night after a little bourbon I put it on Comixology and forgot all about it. A few weeks later the acceptance notification came through and I thought ‘well I guess now I have to illustrate the rest of it’ and that’s how I got back into creating comics again.

Forgive me but I am probably going to jump around a bit but “City War” brings to mind the three “MBC Library” volumes you did. They are very nice looking books. I really enjoyed the introductions as they gave a little insight into your process. Who printed those and what was your thought process on collecting these three sets of stories?

The MBC Library is a way of collecting some of that earlier work that is out of print or in some cases work that was only available digitally, for example, the third volume features City War stories which had only previously been available on Comixology. The first MBC volume collects the Cold Colony books and the second Monologue both of which had been out of print for some time. Many people had asked about a collected version of Monologue so that’s what led me to collect and print some of the older material. The books tend to be very unique items with small print runs so like a library those volumes are the place to make things available and get a few more people reading.

If I had to pick a favourite of the MBC volumes, I’d go with volume one, “The Tina Käpplinger Mysteries”. I think that one, or “Mack And Mondo”, of all your stories stand by themselves and would be great for people unfamiliar with your work. It features two great science fiction stories. Can you tell us little bit about the two “Cold Colony” stories in the volume? Would you ever think of revisiting the character of Tina?  

That’s interesting because many think Monologue is a good place to begin but everything is connected so you can begin anywhere at any point and find your own way through the work. In terms of Tina she is a character I have to revisit so yes there will be a third Cold Colony. Tina will even appear before that in another book as well. The Cold Colony stories come from a love of childhood matinees of science fiction films such as Saturn 3 and Outland. I enjoyed the design rather than the content of those films and when Tina came to life it was these kinds of settings I could see her in. 

The other two volumes (“The Complete Monologue” and “City War: Desert Wars”) (sic) – Desert Stories -play around with the concept of time. What is it about that topic that brings you back to it?

Time, like the books, acts in a non-linear framework so in essence it is nonexistent and all is and can only be the moment with our brains simply collecting, processing, or experiencing these moments in ways we try to harness be it either for sanity or sentimentality. The comics do this for me too so it seems natural to approach this topic of time within them.

This topic brings to mind the unique quality to your writing (and art). I know it is an overused question but I would really like to know: who are your artistic influences? I have been reading some William S. Borough for the first time recently and was getting a similar vibe in your stories. Am I missing the mark?

I think your Burroughs association comes back to the non-linear time approach. Burroughs played around with a cut up technique where he would actually cut up the words on a page or on a tape recording and then present them in a different order. He found that this produced not only the same meanings but also hidden outcomes. I read many Burroughs books in my early twenties but today in the stories the back and forth of the narrative is influenced primarily by Joan Didion – in particular her novel Democracy and in general her eighties non-fiction and political pieces like Salvador or Miami.

You’re outside Ireland. Have you been paying attention to the Irish scene and, if so, what do you think of it?

I think we can all agree you’re never really outside Ireland. From the beginner to the weary professional Ireland remains a goldmine of comics’ talent. All the time we see people coming through onto the larger books who are exceptional. Personally I’ve always enjoyed the work of Leeann Hamilton, Sarah Bowie, & Debbie Jenkinson.

I know you’ve gotten involved with Sector 13 with that great cover for issue three. What was that process like and would you consider doing more work on other peoples’ characters? I think your art would really suit a Rogue Trooper story.

I know Peter Duncan who has been involved with Sector 13 from its conception. He is a terrific person and a great creator to work with so anything I can do with him I try to accept. There are indeed many 2000ad characters I would love to take a turn at – Harlem Heroes/Inferno, RoboHunter, Rogue Trooper, Halo Jones, Anderson, and of course my own City War would not have existed without Block Mania.

You’ve been very successful with Kickstarter. It is actually how I got a bunch of your older stories to catch up on. How is it working on those Kickstarter projects and what do you think makes them so successful for you?

People like yourself make it successful. I just think of the books. It is the returning comics buyers who get the books actually made. Without them I would be digital. I have done 18 Kickstarters, all successful, all modest runs, and all unique campaigns. No two Kickstarter experiences are alike. I know with a larger push I could extend the audience but I genuinely am grateful that readers choose any of my books amidst today’s varied and competitive market. It also makes them extremely rare items. Which I also like.

I’ve only just begun to start on Human Beings. The collection of Volume One To Three is another beautiful book by the way. Actually all of the books look great. Is it possible to nail down the concept of the series to pitch it to new readers?

The Human Beings is the series that unites/connects all the other books together. The universe was recently reviewed as “A maze of mystery, tense drama, romance and horror that will stay with you long after reading… Dark yet shockingly beautiful” -Tony Esmond – awesomcomicspodcast/neverironanything.blogspot

Anything coming up that you’d like to mention or maybe one book you’d like to give a mention to for new readers? 

New readers could try Epilogue or Actors. As a thank you to all the Irish support I have received at every point here is a link to a free digital copy of Actors: https://bit.ly/2u1ggtm

In terms of what is coming up 2020 begins with the print version of the OGN Walk In Like An Exorcist coming late January. This will be followed by MANifestation 1-5 which is already complete. Then The Human Beings 10 and the OGN When We Go South following in the summer. At some point I also hope to fit in a project I’m working on with Irish creator Martin Hayes and also a small piece for Peter and Sector 13. If anyone is curious about any of the books there is a bigcartel digital shop and you can find me on instagram sjmccunembc, twitter @StuartMcCune, or simply email MILLICENTBARNESCOMICS@GMAIL.COM if you would like any more info. I do a sporadic mailer too with general influences, studio stuff, offers etc.