Monday, March 16, 2009

Michigander Monday: Dan Mishkin

What a pleasure to welcome Dan Mishkin to Michigander Monday! I met Dan last fall at a bookstore event and was glad to make his acquaintance. I'm now very much looking forward to the Kids Read Comics convention this spring that he's helping organize. For more on that, and much more, read on!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Dan: I’m an aging baby boomer who’s looking forward to becoming a drain on young, productive workers in my dotage; a father of three (all out of the house now); and husband of one. I was born on Long Island, outside of New York City, and came to college at Michigan State in 1970. After living in several other places, we wound up in East Lansing again just before our first child was born. I started writing comic books professionally in the late 70s, with my most productive period lasting into the early 90s. During that time I wrote many, many comics, primarily for DC Comics, and I was the co-creator of the superhero series Blue Devil and the girls’ fantasy adventure Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. I’ve also written educational materials on pain and end-of-life issues for patients, families and physicians, working with my wife who’s a palliative care physician at MSU -- I’m especially proud on the work we did on a website called Completing a Life. I started writing prose fiction a few years ago when a small comics publisher I’d worked with decided to branch out into illustrated short novels for young readers. They published my book The Forest King: Woodlark’s Shadow.

Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your latest book.

Dan: Unfortunately, my latest book is not the sequel to Woodlark’s Shadow, which told the story of a boy recently moved to a small New England town who begins to suspect that something evil is lurking in the surrounding forest. Although Woodlark’s Winter and Woodlark’s Dawn are roughly plotted, the publisher is in a holding pattern right now and it’s unclear when and if those books will see the light of day. But the first book can be read as a complete adventure, especially if you skip the foreboding epilogue.

Debbie: Other books and projects on the horizon?

Dan: I’m about a quarter of the way through a young adult novel that will be more substantial than my previous book, which was meant to be a fast-paced quick read. The new one is called Analogue, and it’s about a sixteen-year-old girl who discovers that she’s actually an artificial person and not flesh and blood. I’ve also got a comics project currently being represented to mainstream book (not comic book) publishers -- it’s set in a world that is just like ours except for the fact that dinosaurs never completely died out and instead have lived alongside us for all of human history; but they’re now in danger of extinction. My teenaged hero fights to protect the dinosaurs that are left. It’s kind of a combination of Jonny Quest, Crocodile Hunter and Jurassic Park.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Dan: I’m not promoting anything of my own right now, but I’m helping to organize the Kids Read Comics Convention that will be held at the Chelsea District Library next June 12 and 13. Our goal is to promote comics for kids, give kids and parents a chance to meet artists and writers, and provide workshops and other hands-on experiences for kids who’d like to learn how to make comics. We’ll have a bunch of Michigan and Midwestern talent there, so it should be blast!

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Dan: Friends of ours have a beautiful house on Lake Michigan near South Haven, and I love it there. But my absolute favorite spot might be the hill on Old State Road that descends into the village of Central Lake, which I’ve taken on my bicycle at 45 miles an hour (after a significant climb from Torch Lake). The best part is passing the SPEED LIMIT 25 sign as the road starts to level off, and looking for a cop to memorialize the event with a ticket. For bike riding beauty, not just speed, there’s the Tunnel of Trees on M-119 between Harbor Springs and Cross Village.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening

Dan: DALMAC -- the Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinac bike ride (which is how I came to be riding through the northern Lower Peninsula). It’s held on Labor Day Weekend every year, with four- and five-day rides on different routes, and I’ve done it most years since 1996. Riding a bike is one of the best ways to see the state; I love the fact that over the course of a day at bicycle speed you can take in your surroundings (as opposed to driving in a car) but still get somewhere distant (as opposed to walking).

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Dan: People might not know how many comic book creators come from Michigan. The Detroit area especially has been a hotbed of fan and creative activity for years. Artists Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom, Arvell Jones, and Keith Pollard are from Detroit, as is the comics and animation writer, and creator of Static Shock, Dwayne McDuffie. Geoff Johns, who seems to be writing half the books coming out from DC Comics right now, is from Clarkston. There’s also Mark Crilley, the creator of Akiko, and William Messner-Loebs, who did the wonderful series Journey, which was set in the Michigan Wilderness in 1812. Newspaper cartoonists Jef Mallett and Dave Coverly live in Michigan as well.

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Dan: They will not be allowed to take our Great Lakes water when their unnatural desert cities begin to run dry.

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Dan: I’m a Michiganian...and a Spartan (my son would never forgive me if I didn’t include that).

Debbie: Dan, it's been wonderful having you here today. And my kids and I are looking forward to seeing you at the Kids Read Comics convention in June!

To learn how to help spread the word about the Kids Read Comics convention, click here.


EJ said...

Thank You, Deb. I enjoyed that immensely.

And Dan, I too am against the expansion of unnatural desert cities, as they will be wanting our water to water their golf courses - in the middle of the desert - where grass doesn't grow.

kidjutsu said...

Debbie, thanks a lot for doing this interview with Dan. I otherwise wouldn't have found out about the Kids Read Comics convention.

Dan, it's really great to have venues like this for creators and publishers to show off their work to kids.

To help spread awareness, I wrote a blog post at my site Kidjutsu about all the kids comics conventions happening this year.