A bald, drug addicted architect cum mad scientist returns to the futuristic city he helped build to save its people from the misapplied “psychetecture” he designed. That’s the basic plot of Mister X, a comic series by Dean Motter and various artists first published in the 1984 by Vortex Comics. Motter, a graphic designer by trade, crafted the entire visual presentation of the series – going so far to create a new logo for every issue. The graphic influence of
Dark Horse recently published The Mister X Archives, a complete collection of Motter’s run on Mister X. Klint Finley catches up with Motter to talk about the behind-the-scenes history of Mister X, and Motter’s future projects – including an all new Mister X series, Mister X: Condemned from Dark Horse.
Technoccult: How did Mister X come about? Did you pitch it to Vortex, or did they ask you to do something for them?
Dean Motter: It was a combination of both. Vortex was publishing black and white comics and was looking to do a color title. We all worked in the rather small but vibrant comic book community in Toronto. When they got wind of a project that original collaborator Paul Rivoche and I were developing to shop around they pulled it together.
T: What comics did you do before Mister X?
D: I had edited and contributed to an independent comic call Andromeda, which was the Canadian counterpart to Star Reach, which I also contributed to. I had also collaborated with Ken Steacy in Epic Illustrated for Marvel. I was mostly working in the music and entertainment industry at the time doing design work for LP covers, music promotion and book cover and magazine work.
T: Had you worked with Paul Rivoche before? How did you meet?
D: Paul and I shared a studio (with a number of other artists and illustrators in Toronto) for years. We met when he moved to Toronto.
T: How did you get hooked up with the Hernendez brothers for that project?
D: Back in ’84, when it became apparent that Paul and I had reached a creative impasse, the publisher (Vortex Comics) approached the the brothers to jump-start the already-delayed series. They came aboard, and took my outline and story notes and crafted the first four issues. Paul lettered and colored them the art while I oversaw the production, art direction, design and editorial chores.
T: Why, after all these years, did you decide to do a new Mister X series?
D: The time just seemed right. Diana Schutz at Dark Horse asked me if I’d like to do it. I’d worked with Diana (the first Grendel: Black, White and Red) and for Dark Horse on some Star Wars stories, and the 9/11 book.
T: Who owns the rights to Mister X now?
D: Vortex Comics still owns the rights. They no longer publish but basically run the franchise. Dark Horse is publishing the new archival edition plus the new reboot series.
T: Why did you leave Mister X?
D: It was largely financial. DC was offering me The Prisoner, and I was kind of burnt out on the project. I’d been working on it pretty intensely for years. Both in development and in the actual run.
T: Why did you re-release the final issue? How does it differ from the original version?
D: I was very unhappy with my final issue. My script was lacking. It was missing many elements I wanted to explore. Plus, it had no closure. No resolution to the whole story arc. Combined with what I felt was very poor artwork when compared with most of the series. When IBooks decided to collect the series I took the opportunity to redo it myself and address these issues in they manner I envisioned originally.
T: You say that the second volume of Mister X (and I presume also the third volume, from Caliber) shouldn’t be considered part of the same continuity as the first volume. Are Terminal City and Electropolis, in your mind, part of the same continuity as the original Mister X series? What about the new Mister X series coming in December?
D: Terminal City and Electropolis can be read as part of the original continuity. But I took care so that a reader did not need to have read the original Mister X to get into the story. The second volume and the Caliber series are ‘new’ takes. Differing from the original in the same manner as DC has told and retold the mythos of Superman. The new series is the equivalent of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. It retells and relaunches the Mister X mythos.
T: With all the praise that’s been heaped on creators like Alan Moore and Frank Miller, especially recently, do you ever feel like your work hasn’t received the appreciation it deserves?
D: Occasionally… But the work has a loyal following. (BTW I’d add Mignola to that list. ) But their oeuvre was much more consistent.
T: One thing Mister X is remembered for is bringing graphic design sensibilities to comic books. Did you make a conscious decision to bring your design sensibilities to the comic, or did it just happen?
D: As I said, I was working as art director/designer and occasionally as illustrator in the entertainment business at the time. I wanted to elevate the design of comics to that of the music industry, since they appealed to similar demographics.
T: Any chance that Mister X will ever be made into a movie?
D: There are discussions ongoing with both Mister X and Terminal City.
T: Have you read Warren Ellis’s Doktor Sleepless? It’s obviously heavily influenced by Mister X.
D: Indeed. That’s one reason Warren was asked to write the intro to the Archives.
T: Do you have any other projects in the works?
D: Original collaborator Paul Rivoche and I have an issue of The Spirit in the works. I am working on a Dominic Fortune series for Marvel, set in 1937. I have other pitches in the pipeline I can’t discuss just yet.
Dark Horse’s Mister X Archives site, including a 3 page preview
Correction: The article originally stated that Mister X contained the first published work of Los Brother Hernendez. This is incorrect. The entire sentence, which also stated that Mister X contained the first work of Dave McKean and Seth, has been removed.