Almost a year ago, we interviewed Art Thibert about his graphic novel Chrono Mechanics (co-written with Rich Birdsall). The book detailed the first adventure for a group of four very different characters (human and otherwise), brought together to fix time, wherever or whenever it’s “broken.” Well, the Hack Shack boys are back with a new Chrono adventure entitled Chrono Mechanics Silver, slated for a November release through Alias Comics.
Thibert has been a mainstay in the industry for years, working on titles for DC and Marvel alike. In the early / mid ’90s, he began publishing his own characters in the title Black and White for Image. More recently, he’s done some cover and interior work on DC’s Flash, JSA, and Outsiders. Sequart’s Mike Phillips sat down with Thibert and Birdsall to get the skinny on this colorful follow up.
MIKE PHILLIPS: Well, it’s been almost a year since we spoke. Art, Rich, how has the last year treated you guys?
ART THIBERT: Why? What have you heard? Who have you been talking to? Answer me!
No, but seriously, we’ve kept ourselves busy this last year. A lot of great things have been happening; publishing creator owned books, working on animated TV shows and I’m back at DC comics. I don’t mind insane deadlines, but Rich is looking a little weak. He’s fairly new to these killer deadlines and I’m not sure he’s gonna make it. I think the most time consuming part of my day, though, is just getting the word out about Chrono Mechanics Silver.
RICH BIRDSALL: Yeah, what he said. And all the conventions we’ve had the pleasure to attend have been nothing but good experiences for us. We’ve been surrounded by such supportive and vocal people, that you can’t help but feel encouraged to do your best work on every project! We’ve gotten a huge response to Chrono Mechanics and to our ever growing website, hackshackstudios.com.
PHILLIPS: Cool, I’m glad things are going well for you guys. OK, let’s jump right into it. There are some obvious differences between Chrono Mechanics and the new Silver. The first CM was done in black and white and Silver is fully colored. Was that a matter of mood or was money a factor?
THIBERT: To be honest, a little of both. Luckily, Chrono Mechanics has a unique look colored or black and white (although I am partial to black and white since the inked line remains more visible), but this time around I wanted things to be bigger and better and I felt the specific story told in Chrono Mechanics Silver would really benefit from being colored. Aesthetically, the color really helped things pop while adding a new dimension of visual enjoyment. Also, the different coloring styles we used in the book were essential storytelling devices between my style and the style of the other artist on the book, Chris Chua. It gave the book a look I’ve never seen done before. I was fortunate enough to find a great colorist in Stefani Rennee, who really went above and beyond on the pages he colored. I was so taken with Renee’s colors on the book, that we’ll probably be re-releasing the first Chrono Mechanics graphic novel, with his coloring magic, that we have renamed, Chrono Mechanics Gold. I was also extremely pleased to find that Chris had some seriously dangerous coloring chops! The man’s an animal!
BIRDSALL: A really sexy animal. Grrrr…
THIBERT: Uh, right, but really, they’re a great one two punch!
PHILLIPS: Art, in a portion of Silver you switch to a radically different art style. Was it hard to do? Explain how you did it.
THIBERT: It was not hard at all! Luckily, working with Chris Chua was the opposite of difficult. I penciled and inked the first part of the story, and he provided the artwork for the second part of the story. Some of the more intense pages combine elements of both our artwork. In fact this whole story came about after meeting Chris at the New York Con, I had brought back some of his amazing work to the Studio to show to Rich. He loved his style as much as I did, and for months I wracked my brain trying to think of a project we could collaborate on. When the opportunity to put out another Chrono Mechanics book through Alias Comics arose, Rich and I immediately brainstormed a story that would utilize Chris’s totally unique style. Not to give too much away, but the stark contrast of our styles is a key element to the storytelling within the pages of Chrono Mechanics Silver. Chris delivered on every level more than I ever could have asked for, and the book benefited immensely because of it! Given the consistent amount of communication we had to maintain to ensure a coherent story was being expressed, and while there were a few bumps in the road, it would have been near impossible with any other artist. Thanks Chris!
PHILLIPS: I mentioned above that there are obvious differences between the first Chrono Mechanics and Silver. Are there any subtle differences / changes that you’d like to bring to light?
THIBERT: One of the more important changes was to the designs of the main characters themselves. I felt that I needed to strengthen the connection between their alter egos and their mechanic form, so with the strategic additions of a flaming red mullet to Doug, a set of massive muttonchops to Oot, some carefully styled male-pattern baldness to Caravaggio, and some economy sized ears to Zyn, their mechanic forms now retain a stronger resemblance to their alter ego. And a happy byproduct of those additions was the fact that they are now just plain more funny to look at!
BIRDSALL: All that and we kept intact the fun lunacy that has come to be associated with Chrono Mechanics. If you really keep your eyes open every time you re-read this book, you’ll notice there’s always something new to make you laugh. Art and Chris really raised the bar with this book.
PHILLIPS: Smart move, things like mullets and pattern baldness need to be just right. In our last interview we asked you about what else you had cookin’ over at Hack Shack Studios. Do you have any updates for us?
THIBERT: As a matter of fact, we’re almost finished writing up a plot for our next project, HIT, that Chris will be penciling, and we hope to have that out soon. I’m also in talks with multiple publishers about releasing a Tenth Anniversary edition of my creator owned, Black and White. I decided to put it out after all the positive feedback I received from a Black and White poster I had put together for conventions. There’s going to be a ton of sketches, as many extras as I can fit, and will include a bonus story that leads into the revamped Black and White series that I am working on right now! I hope everybody likes it!
BIRDSALL: Hope!?! The new Black and White series is going to blow everyone away! We’re also developing some new projects called Rock ‘N’ Roll Botz, Kid Everything, and The Nightmare Files for comics and television. And we love to hear feedback, so please check our website, hackshackstudios.com, and let us know what you think! There’s no rest for the Hack Shack, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
PHILLIPS: It’ll definitely be good to see Black and White again and I’m looking forward to the revamp. Art, do you have any upcoming projects for Marvel or DC? How are your relationships with the Big Two?
THIBERT: Good! I spoke with Joe Quesada at the San Diego Convention this year about possibly doing some work there, but right now I’m very happy at DC; it feels like coming home. I’ve had a blast inking projects for DC this past year, working with Matthew Clark, Barry Kitson, and various other extremely talented artists. My editors, Joan Hilty and Stephen Wacker, have made it a pleasure to come back to DC. I’ve also been penciling and inking covers for theFlash as of late, and I am very excited to be doing cover work again! (Thanks for the work, Wacker! I’m ready for more!) There are a few projects in the works with DC right now that I can’t get into detail about, but you’ll know soon enough!