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The Alchemy of Art: David Mack

Movie Review Photo David Mack










The Alchemy of Art: David Mack is a 2007 documentary featuring in-depth interviews with artist and writer David Mack. Directed and edited by Greg Juris. (1 hr 11 min).

David Mack is an awarding winning comic book artist, best known for his creator owned comic book Kabuki and his work on Marvel’s Daredevil series. Mack has also stepped into the realm of children’s books. I have always consider Mack to be more of an artist than a comic book artist. You can’t label his work. He’s a master of many art forms and his writing is complex.

Mack’s Kabuki introduces readers to a not too distant futuristic Japan. A Big Brother society where there’s a thin line between crime and politics. Society is saturated by pop-culture and secret organizations are the puppet masters. Kabuki is a figurehead for the government’s propaganda machine, but secretly, she’s a part of an assassin group for The Noh.  An organization with it’s own agenda. The story line revolves around her dealing with the repercussions of the past and how she navigates through her own trauma. A masked individual who has physical and mental flaws.

Despite the storyline, most of the Kabuki series is very philosophical, exploring themes like transformation and identity. Mack’s art reflects the complexity of the story and this film explores his own life which influenced Kabuki.

“I hate to make a comparison, but really he’s the closest thing comics has to Picasso in that he’s prolific, he paints from the heart, and his paintings are very passionate, very distinctive. When you see a David Mack, you know it’s a David Mack right off the bat.” – Terry Moore (comic book artist/writer).

The stereotypical comic book rules don’t always exist in Kabuki. Mack pushes the limits of the sequential art form. Most of his pages from Kabuki are a collage of images, incorporating various mediums. Type and art can interact and become one. It’s a familiar site to see images metamorphosing into other images and his style to suddenly change into another style to help progress a plot. Hand-lettered words are commonly sprawled around images, giving images a distinct feel or meaning. If you’re unfamiliar with Mack’s art, this film will expose you to a large body of his work.

The Alchemy of Art is like a one on one conversation with Mack. You’ll learn how Mack became the artist that he is today and who inspired him. The film starts off with discussions about his childhood and how his Mother supported his creativity from an early age. Mack’s Mother was a 1st grade teacher who played a prominent role in his life, influencing his work on Kabuki. His fascination with comic book writers is also discussed and you’ll understand why he enjoys creating art and writing. The majority of film focuses on his creative process for Kabuki, side projects, and Daredevil. Art appears on the screen or Mack is holding his work during the conversation, providing the viewer with a lot of eye candy. His Brother, friends, and fans also share their own thoughts and insights throughout the film about Mack and his art.

The dvd gives you the option to watch the whole film or select certain chapters to view. The chapter options are a good way to revisit sections of the film that stand out to the viewer. The extras add more value to the film. There are three extras on the dvd. The Shy Creatures, Kabuki Commentary, and Visionaries & Voices.

The Shy Creatures segment (5 min) is named after Mack’s children’s book, which was published in 2007. The art is obviously influenced by Dr. Suess. A homage to one of the greatest creators of children’s books. Mack shows off the original black and white pages from the book, while he reads the story to the viewer.

The Kabuki Commentary (26 min) is an in-depth conversation about issue #4 from the Kabuki: The Alchemy series. The trade paperback that collected all nine issues of The Alchemy  was on the New York Times Best-Seller list in 2009. The commentary is an in-depth look at each page of one single issue. This extra is definitely the best one. The pages are stationary on a black background, and Mack discusses his thoughts about each page. I would have loved to have seen close-ups of the pages during the commentary. I would highly suggest that the viewer purchase a copy of the issue and follow the commentary with the printed comic. It’s a good interactive experience when you’re viewing this extra.

Visionaries & Voices is an art studio for people with disabilities in Cincinnati, OH. Mack works with this studio and discusses the benefits of allowing disabled individuals to become artists. This brief extra (3 min) provides an inside look into the studio, featuring interviews with the staff.
Overall, this is a great film for any David Mack fans and individuals who are interested in comics. Art lovers in general can appreciate it as well. Unfortunately, you can’t see the complexity of the art. Proper close-ups aren’t used enough in my opinion and the printed material is definitely the best way to view the art. I was also hoping that footage of Mack at work was present. Watching him paint a cover or page of Kabuki would have been a great extra. I’m definitely recommend this film to anyone who wants to get into the mind of a creative individual though.

To really appreciate Mack’s art, you should purchase Kabuki Reflections. It’s a prized possession in my collection.

“Collecting: the first five art books of Marvel’s REFLECTIONS series from multiple Eisner Award-nominated creator David Mack, this gorgeous volume includes cover paintings and step-by-step art techniques that show off Mack’s wok to full effect. This volume delivers with loads of extras–including never-before-seen art, new paintings, a cover gallery, figure studies, step-by-step art techniques and commentary, remastered pages, new design pages, a “Best of Letters” section and more!” – Barnes & Noble

To experience the world of Kabuki, The Kabuki: Metamorphosis graphic novel is a good jump on point. Mack has mastered the art of making his series accessible to new readers without making the reader purchase every graphic novel from the series. Of course I would recommend the whole series though.

The Alchemy of Art: David Mack can be purchased at http://www.herovideostore.com/alchemy.htm

Devon Lawrence

Devon Photo

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