We are the sum of our total experiences. Drawing and creating are prime examples of that. We all have some basic resource that had us move that pencil for the first time. Right in my prime influential period, I was lucky enough to witness true masters of the comics medium during their "hot" streaks.
Seeing how I was born too late to witness Kirby, Romita Sr. and the myriad innovators of the art form in their "hot streaks" these modern (at the time) masters put their mark on how I see and judge comics. Frank Miller, John Byrne, Matt Wagner, Denny O'Neil and John Ostrander were early influences that I would carry with me through the years.
And by following them, I was able to see where they came from. It was through Frank Miller that I was introduced to the genius that is Will Eisner. Once discovered, it was so glaring the fact of where Miller took most of his influences in story telling and tone. Through his influence with Eisner, Frank went on and made his own legend.
Of course, similarities of my MAN IN THE MASK and THE SPIRIT are, on the surface, hard to miss. But in truth, he's simply meant to be a turn on the plain clothes masked man which I was initially introduced to in my early teens. Within the pages of Denny O'Neil's "THE QUESTION I met my first plain clothes mystery man before I even knew what THE SPIRIT was.
I went from doodling super heroes on the sides of my school work notebook paper, to drawing suits. Ties, suspenders and trenchcoats became my obsession for awhile. And then I'd add that all important mask. My hero would then be complete.
As I started to develop my MAN IN THE MASK in the mid 90s, I wanted it to be a true love letter to the comics that quite frankly were my best friends. While working out the legacy portion of the story, I knew my original character that would encompass my world's golden age, would be a plain clothes character. It made sense. Add that to the fact my grandfather was a clothes horse himself, it was a perfect fit. He never left the house without his tie and hat, even if it was just a trip to McDonalds. It's due to my respect to both Eisner and THE SPIRIT that my character doesn't wear a hat or coat, even though they were an important part of my Pop's wardrobe.
My hope is that while my influences can be seen within the pages of my book, perhaps I can carve out my own voice. In attempting to actualize this very long in the works passion, maybe I can create something that stands on it's own.
Who knows? But I'm enjoying the trip to find out.
A lifelong comics fan, Mike W. Belcher is the writer/artist of MAN IN THE MASK. A story he's had with him for over 20 years.