Q and A with Max BemisSeptember 13, 2013
Max Bemis is a very busy man. He is a husband, father, musician (4 bands), and now add comic book writer. Is there anything this man cannot do? Max currently lives in Tyler, TX and is constantly growing in his love of comic books. Throughout this year Max has been releasing his debut comic series Polarity through Boom! Studios, and fans everywhere are loving it! BareBones Ent got the honor of sitting down with Max; check out what he had to tell us about his comics.
BS: Why are comic books so important to you?
MB: Let me take a drink of water before I answer that one [laughs]…Well, part of it is because, it’s kind of like a chicken or the egg syndrome, where I was presented with comics at an early age. When I was a really little kid, I would watch the X-Men and Batman Animated Series, which led me to fall in love with the entire culture of that. Which led me to collecting comics as a kid. My parents were really supportive of it, and my mom would buy me comics so I would spend my meager allowance on comics. I would go to this store Golden Apple in LA, which is still there, and I started reading comics that I could literally probably barely understand at the time like “Sandman,” “Swamp Thing,” “Preacher,” and stuff like that way too messed up for someone of that age to be reading. I don’t think my mom really realized how messed up they really were or she’s pretty liberal and open minded so she didn’t really care. So I suppose you could say it could be because I’ve been reading them since I was probably 7 or 8 years old. It’s one of those habits you pick up when you’re young and it stands the test of time kind of getting embedded in you like music can be, but I think the reason that they are really important to me is I kept reading comics through high school. Around college I sort of bowed out and focused on music. I became consumed with listening to and creating music, which is also coincidentally when I got into drugs and chasing girls getting in unhealthy relationships. I replaced this completely healthy awesome stimulating hobby with all these unhealthy hobbies [laughs]. What happened is when I got cleaned up and sort of was working on tour I sort of stumbled into a comic store and basically almost on a dare to myself started picking up books again that was, I guess, like 8 or 7 years ago. From there they stepped into my life again and became this complete passion and I’m a little obsessive about it like many comic fans are, but it really is the thing that I can turn to that broadens my mind, entertains me, and something to do that is completely productive mentally and fun to do, so it kind of saved my life in that regard. Being a healthy outlet later on in my life, it could be for either one of those reasons.
BS: I know I’ve seen pictures of your library and you definitely have a nice collection.
MB: [Laughs] yeah, it’s pretty out of control at this point, but I’m going to keep going with it.
BS: How long have you wanted to write a comic book?
MB: I actually did create comics when I was a kid, very feeble rip offs of like Spawn that I created with my friend at like 10 years old. I was obsessed with working on them in class and drawing them all the time. In the real sense probably, maybe 3 years ago I got it into my head that why can I not do this. I like to think I am a pretty creative person, and so I don’t inhibit myself from doing anything I want whether it do with music or stuff like that. So I was like why am I inhibiting myself from writing comics? It was kind of like a battle cause it’s the art form I take the most seriously at this point. So letting myself do it, I wasn’t going to let myself do anything but like what I felt was my best so there was a while where I felt I wasn’t prepared to give, where I felt I was half assing it. It got to the point where I was like, “Dude you want to do this, so you need to get serious about it and put as much heart into this as you would a Say Anything album,” so that’s when I had a relationship with Boom so I reached out to them and I was like I really want to get serious about this so lets talk, and that’s what led to Polarity.
BS: What was it about Polarity that made you want to write that comic specifically?
MB: I feel like an artist’s first work in any field should be really vital and not overthought it should be something very close to your heart, because that is the first impression that you are giving. So if you’re reaching to write something cool, super experimental, or out of your box that’s cool; that’s good, but at the same time like I think establishing a foundation that’s really true to yourself is ultimately what the most important thing to do for your first work in any media, and what could be more personal than something that was based on my own experiences to some degree. So I was like I could almost write this without thinking about it, so the idea has kind of been kicking around in my head since I recorded Is a Real Boy. I almost wanted to make a musical out of it, I had worked with a friend about making a movie out of it, and the final thing that occurred to me was why not make it a comic, since comics are my favorite thing. So that’s how it kind of came together.
BS: Why did you decide to go through Boom to publish your comic?
MB: Well I had several meetings, it’s funny when I was taking meetings for doing comics, I didn’t really have my shit together as much as I would like to have when I had my first few meetings, they went great but it was around the time pre-The Avengers, post-Iron Man and The Dark Knight where comics and Geek culture were so much the zeitgeist where everyone in Hollywood was looking to buy comics for the next big thing. I felt like a lot of the first few meetings that I had with a lot of people were almost not interested in anything very heavy or cerebral because it was more of a long shot to make it into a Hollywood blockbuster. So a couple of the first few meetings people straight up told me if there cannot be like a video game we’re not like going to publish it, and that’s a problem with me because I am purely dedicated to the art form and my ideas tend to be more cerebral and weird. Boom where the only meeting I had and we had met years where I had completely bonded with the owner of the company and I loved him. So I just reached out to him again, and told him, “Dude I’m getting serious about this now, so lets talk.” And from the beginning it was very transparent and clear that I felt like I was talking to people that are closer to the type of person I am. Like just comic nerds that are nice people and business savvy and that’s what I wanted to work with; people that were really interested in making amazing comics. If they happened to gain a lot of success financially that’s great but that’s not the initial goal and that’s what Boom had to offer. They were like we totally get that this is going to be a cool comic that doesn’t have to necessarily be a property that like Michael Bay can buy up and turn into a movie.
BS: Polarity does definitely dive into some of your own life experiences that were hard for you and you’ve touched on it before with different albums. What were the challenges for you in bringing that to a printed form for the readers?
MB: You know in terms of everyone seeing my struggle, insecurities, and like my inner-battle I’m so use to that at this point. This was almost less awkward for me than singing certain Say Anything songs and I don’t even feel awkward singing those. So this felt, especially since Tim is not me, as much as he is based on my experience there is a lot that separates me from this like adventure story, this larger than life superhero book. As much as myself went into the story I actually found it really easy and just fun. I really just had a lot of fun, even in the more difficult moments like when Tim is losing his mind and experiencing Bi-Polar like I just had fun with. At this point I’ve talked about it, and been so open about it for so long it was just kind of like entertaining and funny. Plus it’s been a really long time since I’ve experienced anything like that, like I’ve been in a really good place for so long that it was like wow this is really interesting and fun writing about this, it didn’t feel painful, it felt cathartic and fun.
BS: What does it mean to you when fans come up to you and tell you how you sharing your story and what you’ve been through helped them get through a similar situation?
MB: Its surreal, you know what I mean? It’s been going on for a while. I mean high school was a little different because we were playing for our peers and friends in local shows and stuff like that but once we started to get exposed on a national level and Is a Real Boy., which is almost 10 years old at this point, and now because it did deal with such dark aspects of the condition those were the first reactions we had from people like, wow this music helps me sort of battle my demons, you know? When the bi-polar thing kind of reared its head and I became open about that that was another thing that we immediately started hearing from people that it helped them, and that kind of blew me away. Now in a way I’ve kind of accepted that that is what we do or what I do and more than anything is give people something to relate to and then a sense of hope. And if I’m not good at that, I’m not really that good at the other aspects. I don’t really think I am a hit songwriter, there are people that sing a lot better than me, and people who play guitar a million times better than me [laughs] but definitely dig in to what is really going on with me and I share it. So when I really do share what’s going on and people respond to it that is like the biggest compliment I can receive. So at this point it’s kind of like it happened a lot and it almost enters a surreal state, where I can’t believe I am used to hearing it but I am. It’s not like it doesn’t affect me it definitely just makes me feel great.
BS: Through your music and everything you definitely do a great job of showing the dark side that people can go through and then also showing them there is a way to get through it and reach a happy point in your life.
MB: Thank you!
BS: How have people responded to Polarity since the series completed?
MB: So far it’s all been really good, surprisingly good. I was surprised at the amount of true comic fans that may have never heard of my band or knew about my band peripherally that got behind my book and comic creators that got behind my book. It sold pretty well as well. Like I really didn’t expect anything from my first series. Any of the creators I look up to had to bust their balls for years to get even to that stage. To be honest I have been a little spoiled because we have the automatic fan base of Say Anything to help expose it, so sometimes I even get a little bit of guilt when I think of Brian Bendis in the ‘90s [laughs], like starving artists that are a million times better than me, and I just sort of stumble into this. But you know I am not taking it for granted you know the situation is you know what it is, and I am grateful. My only hope is that in the future I continue to put out work that doesn’t seem like some musician trying to half ass their way into the comic industry. Like I am glad I got this kind of immediate opportunity right off the bat, and I want to capitalize on it and continue to build my portfolio of being a real comic writer rather than somebody who’s dabbling.
BS: We really enjoyed it and in our review we gave it a perfect score. It is a great comic.
MB: Aw thank you!
BS: For now is there anything else you’d like to say to readers right now?
MB: Just thank you, and I can’t talk in specifics but I have an issue with Marvel coming out in November, very much in the same vein as polarity, and then I have something that is actually completely different than Polarity that I am working on as well that we will probably announce later on this year. So definitely if people enjoyed Polarity, keep your eyes peeled.
Order Polarity Here
Connect with Max Bemis: Twitter