Heroes, caught with their pants down | Mark Scicluna

Fresh from launching the first issue of superhero parody comic – The League of Extraordinary Underpants – which he co-created with his wife Moira Zahra, illustrator and MaltaToday cartoonist Mark Scicluna gives us the skinny on this new project, and the challenges of going the self-publishing route 

Mark Scicluna • Photo by Ray Attard
Mark Scicluna • Photo by Ray Attard

In a nutshell, could you tell us what this comic is about?

The comic is about an aging superhero team called The League of Extraordinary Underpants. The team has been famous for a number of years but their material is getting a bit stale. In this first episode we are taken through the team’s story on- and off-set, as we see them filming their latest film, but things soon start going a bit awry.

What led you to go for this particular format? And why did you go for it at this particular point in time?

We had the characters, then we had a story and we wanted to get it off our chest. A comic seemed to be the most feasible way to do so because it is one of the simplest and quickest ways to tell a story. Unlike films or animation, it doesn’t require actors, a film crew, a film set, animators or any other expensive resources. All we needed was pens, paper, a computer, drawing skills and plenty of imagination.

Superheroes are an obvious choice of subject for a comic book, but you are obviously taking a more parodic tack to the ever-popular genre. What led you to this stylistic choice?

I have been interested in satire and parody every since I started drawing, when I first came up with the characters, Moira and I were at the Malta Comic Con and we noticed that most of the artists were drawing superheroes. I actually like superheroes but the League was my remedy for the overdose of superheroes that we were seeing at the time and that we still experience now.

I convinced Moira to write a story for my characters, but her dislike for superheroes and the parodic nature of the characters resulted in some sort of indie/superhero mashup rather than a classic superhero story.

What are some of the challenges of self-publishing in this way?

Getting the work done, especially when you’re a freelancer, is actually quite challenging because it is temping to put the project aside and work on projects that will actually pay.

Self-publishing means having no guarantee whatsoever that you will sell any of the comics. Distribution is also a problem so we would really like to thank the Malta Comic Con for hosting the event, otherwise selling a self-published comic would be much harder.

Promotion is also a challenge. Having a good quality comic is great but promoting it is equally important and this requires a lot of planning and work at a time when an artist is usually overtired from finishing a project. We like to dedicate at least a few weeks to promotion.

Character designs for The League of Extraordinary Underpants by Mark Scicluna
Character designs for The League of Extraordinary Underpants by Mark Scicluna

What’s your long-term plan for this comic?

We have the story of the League all planned out so we aim on having the whole story published as a comic eventually. Since the response for the first issue has been fantastic, this has encouraged us to start working on the second issue.

For more information, log on to: http://www.markscicluna.com/