Interview: Time Stealers and Death Dealers in 'Mark of Death'
May 03, 2023
Interview by Nicki Faust
After the deaths of everyone he's ever loved, Mark Thompson tries to end his life only to discover he can't die. Confronted by an Eternal Order of sociopathic anti-heroes and their serial killer companions, Mark is thrust headfirst into a battle between the forces of life and death. This is Mark of Death from Bliss on Tap.
PREVIEWSworld got a chance to talk with creators Elle León Nostas and Andrew Penczner to find out more about this graphic novel.
PREVIEWSworld: Elle León and Andrew, congratulations on the upcoming release of your comic book series, Mark Of Death. Can you tell us how the initial concept for the story came to be?
Elle León: Amid the shared experiences brought forth by the pandemic, Andrew and I were compelled to investigate the universal concept of death from a unique angle, specifically through the lens of a character who can't die. In creating Mark, the series' protagonist, we sought to embody the questions we all grapple with: why does the world seem so unjust, and why must good people suffer and die? The answers to these questions are inherently complex, and we chose to represent this complexity through a cast of supernatural anti-heroes who maintain the delicate balance of time. While serving a vital purpose in maintaining order in our world, these characters also happen to be sociopathic killers. (laughs) This duality allowed us to craft a story that is thought-provoking and offers a thrilling, hilarious, action-packed ride for our readers. And this is just the first volume!
Andrew: I remember telling Elle León that I just had this feeling like we’re all walking around with clocks over our heads, blissfully unaware of our tragically limited time on this earth. At that moment, we exchanged a look and started riffing: What if someone could actually see those clocks? What if they even had the power to change them? How would that shape the world we live in? With those questions in mind, we embarked on this creative journey together. As screenwriters and producers, Elle León and I ultimately decided on the comic book medium for this story because it provides an unrestricted platform to convey the profound ideas we wanted to explore visually. This artistic avenue enabled us to green-light a narrative we so desperately wanted to see without waiting for what could take years to get to the screen.
PREVIEWSworld: Mark of Death masterfully balances action, humor, and drama throughout its narrative. Given the unique nature of comic book storytelling, how did you both tackle the scriptwriting and storyboarding process to effectively convey this engaging mix of elements in Mark Of Death?
Elle León: Venturing into the realm of comics for the first time was a transformative learning experience for us as creators. Unlike the film industry, where budget and scope often impose limitations, comics offer a boundless space for creation, constrained solely by one's imagination. Our initial approach was to treat the script as we would for any pilot or film and then adapt it to the comic format.
Andrew: Indeed, the commonality between film and comics lies in the necessity for each shot or frame to contribute to the progression of the narrative. This shared principle made the transition between the two mediums feel remarkably natural and allowed us to connect the storytelling techniques inherent to both worlds seamlessly. So the real secret is focusing on details. Every composition, every character, every prop, word, and action – all of it is meticulously crafted to make the most of each precious frame.
Elle León: But I think it's safe to say that we owe a considerable part of the storyboarding process to one of the most incredible humans on the planet, Steven E. Gordon.
PREVIEWSworld: I was about to say. Working with renowned Illustrator Seven E. Gordon must have been an exciting experience. How did this collaboration come about, and how did their distinctive art style contribute to the overall tone and atmosphere of the series?
Elle León: There aren’t enough words to describe the legend that is Steven Gordon. He is truly a genius, and I believe that every email exchange we have begins with that very sentiment. Working with him is an incredibly smooth and enjoyable process, as he is always open to experimenting and delving into new ideas. We were introduced to Steven by one of my closest friends, Tony Anselmo, a fantastic animator and the official voice of Donald Duck who had worked with Steven in Disney Feature Animation. From the moment we met Steven, there was an instant rapport, and after he read the script, he was like: “Yeah, let’s do this.”
Andrew: Steve is prolific. I have admired his work since his involvement in X-Men: Evolution, so collaborating with him on this project was an absolute delight. What we respect most about Steve is his exceptional ability to transform written descriptions of scenes and characters into vivid, lifelike visuals. Our story grapples with numerous complex ideas – timecodes, magical serial killers, frozen time, and more – which are undoubtedly challenging to illustrate. Yet, Steve consistently captured our vision on the page with remarkable precision and finesse.
PREVIEWSworld: Can you give us some insights into the main characters of Mark Of Death? What makes them compelling, and why do you think audiences will connect with them?
Andrew: The majority of the characters in our story can be characterized as deeply flawed individuals driven by a desire for vengeance. It's a universally acknowledged truth that "the world isn't fair." However, what makes our characters particularly compelling is their shared belief in their ability to change this reality. Mark desperately wants to take down The Twelve, these time-stealing mobsters who stole his wife's time and gave it to him, and he thinks that killing them, no matter the cost, will bring him peace. This desire for vengeance pushes Mark to embrace the world's chaos, making him a loose canon in the eyes of The Order – the group responsible for maintaining the balance of time.
Elle León: Quin, Mark's partner, is also on her quest for vengeance, but she adheres to a strict code of ethics and rules established by The Order – she thinks that order is the only antidote to chaos. This presents two contrasting approaches stemming from vastly different perspectives, and witnessing these characters collide is incredibly refreshing. Readers will be challenged to determine who is in the right when the story concludes. Are the antagonists the true heroes? Finding an answer is no easy task when dealing with the powers of life and death. We all wish we could make the world better if we were just given the power, but when such power is finally in our possession, how do we yield it? This thought-provoking question lies at the heart of our series, and with each issue, our characters will grapple with the consequences of their decisions. Even now, I find myself torn between sides.
PREVIEWSworld: The Mark Of Death series is set to release on June 7th. What can fans expect from the first issue, and how do you plan to keep them engaged throughout the series?
Andrew: What starts as a small mystery - “Why can’t Mark die?” - soon sends Mark headfirst into a war between the forces of life and death. As Mark dives deeper into this world, he’ll meet new allies, hunt down the Twelve, and unlock increasingly complex powers for his magical cell phone. We don’t take our foot off the gas in this series. It’s a high-octane thrill ride from start to finish.
Elle León: This first issue is exploding with heart, laughs, and glorious carnage. Yet, all these elements are built upon a foundation of a genuinely captivating narrative, featuring unforgettable characters and mind-bending world mechanics that are sure to keep readers flipping pages, always curious to see what thrilling twists and turns await them next. At least, that’s our hope. (laughs)
PREVIEWSworld: There's already buzz around the possibility of adapting Mark Of Death for television. How do you feel about this prospect, and what elements of the comic do you think would translate well to the small screen?
Elle León: We are incredibly enthusiastic about the possibility of Mark Of Death being adapted into a television series. The story's wealth of action and visual effects provides a fantastic opportunity to push the boundaries of what can be achieved on-screen. We believe that the comic will translate seamlessly to a live-action medium, offering viewers a truly visceral, visually opulent, and adrenaline-fueled odyssey.
Andrew: It’s no secret that comic books are proving grounds for ideas that make it to the screen, and this project is no exception. While we love working in the comic book world and intend to release this story volume by volume, we are also excited about the prospect of turning it into something bigger. Personally, I’d love to see Hiroyuki Sanada as Yuto.
Elle León: And Gemma Chan as Quin!
PREVIEWSworld: Finally, what message or takeaway do you hope readers will get from the Mark Of Death series, and how do you envision the future of this hilarious, action-packed world that you've created?
Andrew: This is a series about tortured souls who are given an opportunity to serve justice. But like all wish-fulfilling tales, as the monkey paw curls, the outcome is anything but just. This is the heart of Mark’s transformative odyssey; the burden of judging what in life is fair only to realize that no choice is the “right” choice.
Elle León: In the end we hope that readers find characters and a world they never want to part with. We want them to laugh and get excited for what’s to come. In a world of endless powers, time-stealers, and serial killers you can summon like Pokémon, what’s there not to love?
Nicki Faust's heart is as cold as concrete in the Chicago winter. When not writing for PREVIEWSworld, Nicki is busy playing Limbo on Twitch, writing about the great robot uprising on Medium, and completing the untitled follow-up to the 2012 best-seller, Sue Storm: A Nude Photobook.