From Mad Max to Star Wars, the extensive storyboarding career of Mark Sexton is a delicious wonder, considering his formative years without tv or cinema, growing up on the isolated Norfolk Island. While most kids grew up going to comic shops and enjoying the popularity of superheroes, Mark’s introduction came through Asterix comics shipped in by his Dad, obscure kids book ‘Ant and Bee’ by Angela Banner, and Pink Floyd’s ‘Muddle’ from his mum. It was these items that helped form the character ‘Bug’, and cemented his career in the comic arts – if you were ever looking for his horcruxes…. I caught his ‘Art of Mark Sexton’ panel at the Australian Comic Arts Festival in Canberra and tried to transcribe some of his extraordinary career..
The first time I went to the cinema was to see Sinbad, I was 10, when I saw priests on fire…. Skeletons! I bolted out of there! The next movie I saw was Empire Strikes Back, then I was hooked.
First started drawing.
I have always been drawing, since I was creating dinosaurs when I was 3. It is my belief that everyone can draw, all children start drawing but at some point they stop and they lose those artistic muscles which are really hard to get back and build up when you get older.
First comic. I drew my first comic when I was 7. It was 4 pages long and called ‘Bug Goes Camping’. The panels were: Bug waking up. Driving in a jeep to the country. Sitting in the tent. Shooting Germans in a tree. Because my dad had Alistair MacLean novels with interesting covers. Later when I was studying at Monash university, I picked up their newspaper, thought it was rubbish with a terrible comic strip so sat down and wrote a comic page about Bug, which then sat on the editors desk for 3 months, then they ran it. A big lesson I learnt early in my career, that is a very important thing, is that if you don’t do anything then nothing will happen. I didn’t have to do it, but wanted to and wanted to see if anyone would like it. It turned into a self-published comic. Self publishing in the 90s was a lot easier than it is today, but it was still a lot of work, although the printing costs were not as high, and distribution to newsagents was doable. We used our savings for the first print run which was 6000 copies and it was absolutely terrible as I was still learning how to use inks and brushes but the story had enough enthheausiam and fun that it would translate to readers. Gordon and Gotch distributed 5000 copies to newsagents for us, and we stayed with them for 9 issues for 3 years which was one issue every 3 months. We only missed one as John got married. It was a crap load of fun, and we won a few Oz con awards.
The Deal with that TISM comic.
TISM approached Dillon Naylor who passed the job on to myself and John Petropoulos. The first comic was supposed to be a 6 page press release for their Machiavelli and the Four Seasons album which turned into a 21 page comic. It sold well with 2 printings, one of 11,000 and the next 3000. That was pretty good so we wanted to make another one. However, the lead singers of TISM wanted to write it, and while they were smart bastards they seemed to try to sabotage every chance they had at success. They wrote an anti-drug story that was not very well disguised as a pro-drug comic. (For example on page 3 there was a panel with a TISM band member speaking through the 4th wall to the audience, injecting himself in the neck with heroin saying ‘ Take drugs kids, did me no harm’). The regional manager at Gordon and Gotch picked it up, and 10,000 copies were nationally withdrawn 24 hours after its release, although they had been given copies to proof before distribution. Our wrists were heavily slapped and we lost 90% of our distribution, meaning we could stand to lose money if we continued. By that point I had quit my PhD in genetics to peruse career in comics, so luckily a week later I was approached to do the storyboards for ‘Dark City’.’
What happened between then and Mad Max:Fury Road. At this point, I didn’t realise that you could make money in storyboarding for films so when a friend asked me to work on this project I said yes, and proceeded to make a number of classic mistakes a comic book artist makes when transitioning to storyboarding. Although that is why comic book artists are hired for this job, because they think of the things that cannot be done. So I jumped in the deep end, didn’t learn anything, was unaware of film language, and wasn’t very film savvy as I had not grown up around film or tv. With comics you can go back and read the last panel, page or issue, you can’t do that with film and that has to translate into the storyboard panels.
I learnt everything I know about storyboarding from George Miller on Babe: Pig in the City, but it was a let down when I went to the cinema on opening night to see it and I was the only person there. This is attributed to its darker nature and some negative press in the US about it being scary (possibly mostly compared to the delicate farmyard nature of first Babe). Also worked on Australia (Baz Luhurman was all wrong for that film), Wolf Creek 2, Komodo (which was released in 1 Tokyo cinema for 4 days as a financial offset), and a number of others (which were skipped over faster than could be typed about!).
The time Mark met George Lucas.George Lucas doesn’t have conversations, he makes statements and expects you to say yes. So after 3 months of working with him, the one time I had a chance to ask him a question he had nothing to say. I asked ‘with him being such a central figure in film technology since the 70’s, where did he see himself in 10 years’? He replied and said, ‘In a small room, by myself, putting people like you out of a job’. That’s why you don’t have conversations…. But I got to draw a lot of spaceships!
To be continued with MAD MAX: FURY ROAD FILM & COMICS, JUDGE DREDD, & ADVICE soon…