SAGINAW ARTIST SEES HIMSELF IN PICTURES
THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2012
Recently I went to my mailbox, hoping to find a check, misplaced valuable, or at least a note from a secret admirer. But I had no such luck. Not only was my mailbox completely empty of any valuables or correspondence, as I opened the door, a lone moth fluttered out. Suddenly I felt as though I had become a cartoon. I was a little concerned that a cat might drop an anvil on my head.
Then I met someone whose life actually has become a cartoon. Sean Mack is a young man who has been drawing pretty much as long as he could hold a pencil, drawing on paper, the walls – whatever was available. “My parents are still trying to figure out where this ability came from. Neither of them are really artistic,” said Sean. His parents were apparently happy to provide paper, and spare the walls.
Sean, along with his friend of several years, Brandon Howard, created the serial comic strip, The Revolutionary Times. As Sean explains it, the basic storyline of the strip started off with two kids who run an activist newspaper. However, it expanded as the years went by and the newspaper aspect has faded into the background. The characters are based upon Sean and Brandon and basically reflect their personalities. “Brandon is more so the leader, head strong type whereas my character is more laid back, somewhat lazy, not really one to take any situation really seriously,” said Sean. The other characters in the comic are Sebastian, Brandon’s baby cousin, Jesus (pronounced HAY-zeus), a tech guy who works at Best Buy who basically looks like Jesus (yeah, the original one), and one of their enemies named Agent Diggs, an FBI “cleaner” type of operative that basically looks like the actor Taye Diggs.
Even though Sean and Brandon both lived in Saginaw, Brandon moved to North Carolina before the strip was created. He called Sean to discuss it originally in 2008. They now collaborate long distance, with Brandon writing the strip, and Sean illustrating. Before that time, Sean had been creating a comic strip of his own, called The Smack Chronicles, which was more autobiographic and not as political and pop culture based as The Revolutionary Times.
One of the things apparent from his drawing style is the influence of Japanese anime on Sean’s work. However, he has combined this style with other more traditional forms of illustration, and created a distinct look of his own. Sean expresses an appreciation of the Japanese anime style, he was also influenced by The Iron Giant, the comic strip The Boondocks, and more directly for this strip, Calvin and Hobbes. Sean said, “I really liked the message between the lines (for Calvin and Hobbes). I got the laugh but it still made you think.” That is the type of thing Sean and Brandon are striving to do with The Revolutionary Times. They want to have a mixture of fun and a message. “The main point is to expand minds and see a topic in a new light,” said Sean.
While Sean has been drawing his whole life, he also found use for some formal training with this talent. He attended Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy, and “really got serious then” as the school prepared him for the next stage of his education at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. “CCS gave me good basics for proceeding in my career,” said Sean. “They still help me a lot.”
Besides the comic strip, Sean has expanded his illustration work into quite a few areas. Among other things, he produces designs for a line of clothing called Identical Variant Clothing, and has also designed several album covers and logos. He even finds time to teach art at New Millennium Academy in Saginaw. “I enjoy teaching kids a lot,” he said. “We focused on basics at first, then technical things like perspective, and how to draw people. I’m teaching them how to draw their own strip.”
You can follow The Revolutionary Times on Facebook or on Twitter. With all that he does, Sean is making a difference in the world, by creating thoughtful and entertaining comics, as well as having a positive influence on the kids he is teaching. It’s good to see a young Michigan man being able to use his talent and do what he loves, to the benefit of those around him. May his mailbox always be void of moths.