INTERVIEW: Behind the MAC Wonder Woman Makeup Collection with artist Mike Allred!
Above: One of the images of Wonder Woman drawn by Mike Allred and coloured by Laura Allred for the new MAC Wonder Woman Makeup Collection. Copyright DC Comics 2011.
The makeup aisle isn't usually the place you would expect to find a popular comics icon, but that's exactly what happened last week on Queen St in Auckland, when my attention was grabbed by a window display in Smith & Caugheys advertising the new MAC Wonder Woman Makeup Collection.
Above: The MAC Wonder Woman Makeup Collection. Copyright MAC Cosmetics/DC Comics.
The new makeup range fronted by the DC Comics heroine, launched worldwide on March 4th in all major beauty department stores. But what really caught my eye was the fantastic promotional artwork, provided by one of my all-time favourite comic artists: Mike Allred, creator of Madman and artist of the current Vertigo series iZombie.
One of comics most prolific creators, accompanied by his wife and colourist Laura Allred, who colours all his comics and the MAC campaign; he took some time out from his busy schedule to discuss his work on this high-profile project.
AK: I guess my first question is: how did you become involved in the project, and was Wonder Woman already the focus of the campaign when they approched you?
Mike Allred: I was first approached by someone from DC Comics who described the project, "A makeup campaign using Wonder Woman".
Turns out an art director from England who works for MAC Cosmetics liked my work and suggested me. Sounded like fun so I jumped in.
AK: How much freedom did you have in creating the artwork? Given this was advertising I'm guessing they were pretty specific when it came to the art direction?
MA: I had to come up with several scenarios that could tell a narrative in five illustrations. A big challenge.
Lee Swillingham, the art director, was a huge help in putting that together. Working with him through every step kept things nice and clear and specific, while allowing me to be playful at the same time. Once we got approval on the approach it was pretty easy to do the five illustrations.
They did get pretty picky with certain color elements. Strangely the "dot size" was something we went back and forth on the most. They really like those old school "dots", as you can tell from all the graphics.
AK: Oh, so you came up with the Medusa story? I thought that was a great touch, linking mythology and beauty in a story (and possibly the only way to resolve a plot with make-up!).
MA: To be fair, I think Lee suggested Medusa. I remember coming up with some plot ideas and Lee filling in the blanks. It's all one big whoosh in my brain now. It is really just five main illustrations. I'm amazed at what MAC Cosmetics has done with it all. The animation they made from it blew me away. They asked me to do some of the elements separate from the backgrounds, which makes a lot of sense to me now.
AK: With only five images to tell the story (and to be reproduced in multiple uses), how challenging is it to produce static 'master' images that can stand alone as apposed to regular sequential storytelling?
MA: Very challenging. It was a terrific exercise. It's a great way to practice storytelling and editing.
AK: This is probably more of a question for Laura: on the colouring, I take it the colour palette had to match the products? It looks like Wonder Woman was kept fairly natural and close to the 'classic look'.
MA: She was. Though they did use the extreme closeup and had makeup artists "re-color it" on their website with the makeup colors as demos.
Above: A window display of the MAC Wonder Woman Collection at Smith & Caugheys in Auckland.
AK: With the advertising going worldwide this week, what has the feedback been like? It must be refreshing to see your artwork out there in a non-comics environment for a change.
MA: The feedback as been stunning. We've lost track of all the photos we've received from the varying store displays. That's what has been the most impressive. The many differing uses for display.
Above: A sliding doorway featuring the MAC Wonder Woman Collection at Smith & Caugheys in Auckland.
AK: Now that you've dipped into the advertising waters, any chance you'd be temped to do it again or is comics still you're number one medium of expression?
MA: It's all about comic books for me. I could have gone the commercial route a loooong time ago. I don't know if something like this will come around again. But if so, it's too fun and easy to say no.
AK: Ok I think that wraps it up, thanks again for your time, Mike. Oh, and if you have a message for your NZ fans, I'm sure a shout out would be much appreciated! (Mike & Laura visited New Zealand last year as guests of the Christchurch and Wellington Armageddon Expos).
MA: Our best to everyone in NZ. Love you and your country big time. And our best hopes and wishes to everyone in Christchurch especially.
Once again a big thank you to Mike for taking the time out to talk, and be sure to check out his official website HERE, and his great new art blog for his latest updates HERE. And don't forget his latest comics releases, iZombie Vol.1: Dead to the World is out this week from Vertigo/DC Comics, and the new Madman Giant-Size Super-Ginchy Special is out April 6th.
Above: Me, posing for a photo with Mike & Laura Allred at Wellington Armageddon Expo 2010.