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Jordan Thomas, Shaky Kane introduce us to 'The Man From Maybe'

Comic Books

Jordan Thomas, Shaky Kane introduce us to ‘The Man From Maybe’

The new Oni Press series rides into town on October 18.

Earlier this summer, writer Jordan Thomas and artist Shaky Kane joined their peculiar energies and sensibilities together to create Weird Work. (This intergalactic cop story was described as “LA Confidential mixed with Futurama” and delivered on that promise.) Now, the duo are teaming up for yet another weird and wonderful book in The Man From Maybe.

Published by Oni Press, The Man From Maybe takes place in the “dry and dead future that’s coming soon.” This “postmodern, post apocalyptic epic of Western-infused action” focuses on a race to acquire a “crashed spacecraft’s cargo,” effectively pitting the “Oppenheimer-obsessed billionaire Harvard Denny” and “a masked bandit and the cold iron of his laser rifle.” It’s certainly a slice of hyper-stylized sci-fi — like Mad Max meets Shane — and while there’s dope explosions and hijinks galore, it’s also everything poignant and heartfelt about a proper western tale.

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Issue #1 of The Man From Maybe is due out October 18. (The FOC for this double-sized, 48-page issue is Monday, September 25.) In the lead up, both Thomas and Kane were kind enough to answer a few of our questions, tackling their collaborative partnership, the heroes and villains of this book, and why westerns still matter, among other topics.

AIPT: What was it like working with Shaky Kane again? Does this book connect at all with Weird Work?

Jordan Thomas: It’s always great working with Shaky. He’s very professional and you know that he’s just going to inject the world with his unique brand of fun and strangeness, which this story is all about.

But there aren’t any direct connections with our Weird Work series, although I did spot a character who looks remarkably like a version of Detective Ovra Sawce if he went into the marines rather than the Stellar City police department.

Shaky Kane: This is the third strip I’ve drawn that Jordan’s penned. And you know what? He just seems to get better.

I wouldn’t say that The Man From Maybe directly ties-in with Weird Work. WW was very much Jordan’s thing, but Maybe was a true collaboration. It certainly takes place within what I like to think of as the Shakyverse!

Jordan Thomas, Shaky Kane introduce us to 'The Man From Maybe'

Main cover by Shaky Kane. Courtesy of Oni Press.

AIPT: I think you mentioned in some announcement that you wanted to keep working with Kane because of things he wanted to draw. How much does this specific collaboration and his style inform the decisions you made and the things you’re willing to tackle?

JT: I always prefer to write specifically for the artist as opposed to getting scripts done and then going and looking for someone to take on the project. I also think that the book is more fun when the artist is getting to draw things that really excite them, and — well — Shaky told me he wanted to draw some big dinosaurs wearing space suits, so who am I to argue? And of course the opposite is true as well, I wouldn’t write a very down to earth, chatty story and give it to Shaky, it would be a waste of his many talents.

SK: For the time being, I can’t imagine wanting to work with anyone else, Jordan nails it.

AIPT: This book made me think of The Manhattan Projects from Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra (in terms of its tone and feel). Does that reference work at all? Are there any other specific influences/homages here?

SK: At one stage, I actually drew a Manhattan Project pin-up for Nick.

Our book plays on similar themes regarding the innate madness of The Bomb, but there’s little else in common.

With Maybe we’re reinventing genre. Dino-nauts, puppet headed megalomaniacs, Flying Saucers, radioactive mutants, and a neat looking gas mask wearing vigilante. To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything quite like it out there.

Jordan Thomas, Shaky Kane introduce us to 'The Man From Maybe'

Variant cover by Nick Cagnetti. Courtesy of Oni Press.

JT: I love The Manhattan Projects! Such a fun book. The first version of this story I was initially working on after Oni told us they wanted us to make a series there was much more like Nick and Jonathan’s story with hidden cabal’s and events spanning centuries but I couldn’t get it to work like I wanted it to in 88 pages so ditched it and just retained the dinosaurs and the helmeted, megalomaniac villain.

I wasn’t especially conscious of other influences when I was writing it. As I just said this was my second attempt and I went into a bit of a panicked, fugue state writing the whole 44-page opening issue in less than 48 hours after realizing the initial pitch wasn’t working. But looking at it now it seems like a mash up of Mad Max, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, and Raiders Of The Lost Ark. In general the western genre is the main influence, that’s where most of the story beats come from.

AIPT: The titular Man from Maybe makes a rather larger impact. Why is the masked hero type always so dang compelling? Do you see him as a traditional hero operating in a totally bonkers space?

SK: I know exactly what you mean. Shades of The Lone Ranger. Even the sinister masked riders from Dave Hine and my Cowboys and Insects book. I’ve always been a sucker for this sort of thing. The Man From Maybe isn’t such a bad guy, he’s got a lot in common with Clint Eastwood’s High Plain Drifter character.

JT: I guess it’s just a very cool visual. When you see him on that first cover of Shaky’s he really grabs your attention and you immediately have a whole heap of questions.

The Man From Maybe

Courtesy of Oni Press.

Is he a traditional hero? Well, in the western you often get the classic ‘man with no name type’ that Clint Eastwood is so associated with and that was something Shaky and I discussed when we talked about doing a western. But that type of character is normally one of few words and once I started writing Maybe I found that he is a pretty nice, friendly guy. He speaks to the kids he meets. He shares jokes with his partner, Gopher. He definitely isn’t someone out there looking to be friends with everyone he meets but when he comes across life’s vulnerable creatures he feels a natural pull to help them.

AIPT: Harvard Denny is also another decidedly vivid figure, the billionaire who is running the whole dang show. Why is he so important or compelling? Is it because he feels like such a robust contrast to The Man?

JT: He’s my favorite character to write! He’s got so much going on under that face-encompassing helmet and very little of it is ever very nice. He is the opposite of Maybe because he doesn’t care about trampling over the vulnerable, they don’t really exist to him.

I think, and this isn’t some original thought, that a story is only as good as its villain, and I think that Harvard Denny is the best villain I’ve written since The Pig in Frank At Home On The Farm.

AIPT: How much is this book a commentary on the dangers of genius (or perceived genius)? There’s the Oppenheimer connotations but also some real Elon Musk undertones to our billionaire entrepreneur.

SK: To me there’s certainly an element of Elon Musk in Harvard Denny. We never really get to see either Elon or Harvard’s “real” faces. Illusion is everything.

JT: Well, Oppenheimer and Elon Musk are quite different figures. Oppenheimer, for better or worse, was a genius. I don’t know that Musk is, his genius certainly doesn’t extend to competently running a social media platform anyway.

The Man From Maybe

Courtesy of Oni Press.

Harvard is someone who wants to be an Oppenheimer but is really more of a Musk — petulant, spoilt, egotistical. He believes that everything belongs to him and is frustrated when he has to deal with things that push against this world view of just getting everything he wants all the time. The problem is that he has a lot of power, so when he throws his toys out of the pram, destruction normally follows as other people just don’t register for him.

AIPT: What are the challenges of doing a 48-page issue? What about the opportunities?

JT: It’s all opportunities! I think that double-sized issues to kick off a series is the way to go. It means you can take your time but also leave the reader feeling like they have had a real chunky piece of story. Especially with a book like ours where you have a lot of balls to get rolling, having those extra pages is really important. I would have had to restructure the whole story if we had a standard 22-page opening chapter.

SK: There’s something compelling in giving the readers a big chunk of comic book. I’ve always felt slightly let down by what a fleeting read most single issues are. But then I only buy comic books to look at the pictures! Obviously there are limitations to what you can turn out under a deadline but I think it pays off.

AIPT: I was thinking about westerns, and how they’re removed enough from our times to feel distant but still timely enough that we get what they represent. Is there something that draws you to repurposing that beloved genre?

SK: Jordan steered the yarn into that particular direction. The Wild West is something I’ve always had a fondness for. It’s got it all. It’s tinged with romanticism, it’s heroic, it’s about manifesting destiny and it’s quintessentially American. Something I’ve always celebrated in everything I draw.

Jordan Thomas, Shaky Kane introduce us to 'The Man From Maybe'

Courtesy of Oni Press.

JT: I’m a big fan of westerns, especially the ones where you really stack the odds against the hero. I also think they bring with them a lot of gray area as the ‘good guys’ are rarely squeaky clean, they’ve normally always done some terrible stuff that weighs on their conscience. Also, that lawlessness that they portray is a very fun place to play, like sure, there are rules, there are lawmen, but really it just comes down to who is quickest on the draw.

AIPT: Similarly, why is space and the wild west so compatible? It can’t just be that they’re both about blazing new trails, right?

JT: Well, certainly the whole “new frontier’”concept they both share of people going out into the unknown to try and find a better life makes them easy bedfellows. I also think that the outfits and design styles go well together. Everything on Tatooine in Star Wars has a real western vibe, and that kind of dusty sci-fi is just very cool.

SK: I think, in a way, you’ve summed it up in the question. I’m glad that SPACE is right back in the news. Things are happening at a staggering rate, It’s a great time to be alive.

AIPT: Do you feel like this book casts the future in a positive or negative light? I can honestly see kind of both, which feels refreshing (even if I’m dead wrong).

JT: I’m glad that comes across. We wanted it to be a fun series. Sure loads of things are a bit crappy for the people in the world but they still enjoy life, make jokes, get excited about seeing amazing things. I’ve had my fill for the time being of the really grim post-apocalypse stories. The Man From Maybe, like Weird Work and another series I’m just getting started on, are all future-set stories that have dark moments but are meant to be entertaining, with larger than life characters, adventure, humor and bright, bizarre worlds filled with wacky stuff. There is enough suffering in the real world right now.

SK: When you start to dissect things, you usually come up with the same answers.

Human nature, be it good or bad, prevails. I can’t imagine that’s very likely to change.

Jordan Thomas, Shaky Kane introduce us to 'The Man From Maybe'

Courtesy of Oni Press.

AIPT: What sort of set pieces and other tidbits can you tease from across this book (feel free to be as spoiler-y as you want)?

SK: There’s some great action scenes in store. Some pretty wild human fatalities. All flavored with pure comic book dynamics. I can’t imagine anyone being upset by the events that unfold, it’s more of a fun ride.

JT: Well, in issue two we get to visit the dino-nauts world, which is pretty trippy and Shaky has delivered some incredible visuals there. Issue two also has Winnet Gator’s Warwagon in action, which is essentially a small country’s arsenal on wheels. And of course before the end Maybe, the evil dino-naut Naak and Harvard have to come face-to-face. It’s by far the most action packed script I’ve ever written but I hope that readers come away really loving the characters.

AIPT: Could we see yet another Thomas-Kane production in the near future after The Man From Maybe ?

JT: I hope so! As long as Shaky keeps wanting to work with me I’ll keep writing the scripts and he told me that he has, “never turned down a gig” so that bodes well!

Jokes aside, Shaky has already thrown a few potential concepts at me for our next series based on the things he enjoyed most so far about working on The Man From Maybe, so I expect we’ll have something equally crazy arriving in 2024.

SK: I’m betting on it — I’ve got a whole folder full of ideas I’d like Jordan to play with. Real fun stuff. I really like the dinosaur characters in Man From Maybe. How does N.Y.B.C. sound? Big Dino-cops cruising in a Stone Age Flintstone-style paddy wagon! G.I. Giant, 25ft Commando, dropped behind enemy lines. America’s secret weapon! Or what about The Savage Sword of The Mermaid! Now, that title alone has smash hit written all over it!

I’m pretty sure we can cook something up between us.

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