Mike Richardson is a well known publisher, writer and Emmy-winning producer. He has written numerous comics based on such properties as Aliens, Predator and Star Wars, as well as produced films like TImecop, Alien Vs. Predator and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Perhaps most importantly, for fans of comics, he founded Dark Horse Comics in 1986. Richardson took the time out of his very busy schedule to sit down with us to talk about his latest graphic novel Best Wishes–a collaboration between himself and Paul Chadwick–his views on the comic world today and his future projects.
AiPT!: Best Wishes is such a slice of life story. The characters are likable and New York is a great setting for the narrative. It feels real. What inspired you to write this story?
Mike Richardson: It was an idea that came to me years ago while traveling in Italy. I’ve worked off and on with the treatment for some time and finally decided it was time to go ahead and create the graphic novel. Luckily, Paul liked it and agreed to work on it with me.
AiPT!: Josh, Mary and Cal are so down to earth and have incredible character development. Are any of them or other characters in the story based off people you know?
Richardson: Not specifically, but a writer always borrows bits and pieces from the people they know. Paul did such a brilliant job of fleshing out the characters.
AiPT!: The fountain is one of two major symbols in Best Wishes. Cal and Mary toss their coins in, making their wish. Cal wanting to be realized as an artist, while Mary wants her quarterback boyfriend Josh to learn about true love. The second symbol is the simple design Mary creates on a whim, only to become the inspiration for New Yorkers everywhere. What made you settle on these two items as key symbolism for the story?
Richardson: Well, the symbol Mary inadvertently creates becomes the story’s McGuffin, bringing two somewhat desperate characters together. The story is designed to lead the reader to believe Cal and Mary have switched wishes, but in the end we see they end up in exactly the relationship they had hoped for, though not in the way they, or the reader, expected.
AiPT!: I noticed Mary’s design is scattered throughout the book. It gets blown up like it’s the next internet sensation. It also plays off of the meme craze. I tried to keep count on how many times it’s hidden within the pages. Do you know the total? The artist Paul Chadwick did an incredible job of adding them into the book as well as making the characters come to life.
Richardson: That’s a good question for Paul. I never thought of counting! Paul did a wonderful job of adding the design throughout the book.
AiPT!: I know that you write and produce films too. Best Wishes feels like it could be a date movie. Who would you cast as Cal, Mary and Josh?
Richardson: I have my own ideas as a writer and producer. I think I’d like to leave this up to the reader to imagine.
AiPT!: Out of all the characters in Best Wishes, who is your favorite? And who do you most identity with?
Richardson: I really don’t identify with any of the characters in that way. Of course, the attitudes and observations of the characters reflect my own, but in this case, Paul had a huge part in determining how they were portrayed. He added so many details and nuances.
AiPT!: You founded Dark Horse back in 1986. My first introduction to a Dark Horse comic was Aliens vs. Predator. I still have that series in my collection to this day. What is your view on the comic world today?
Richardson: The current comic world is very different than 1986. Our first publication was released during a comics boom. We were lucky to get noticed. We hoped to sell 10,000 copies of our first issue of Dark Horse Presents, and we sold 50,000 instead. Countless new “independent” publishers were springing up. One year later most of them were gone. Today’s market is not as dependent on the 32-page comic book. Bookstores have become more interested in graphic novels. Manga was a small part of the mix in ’86, now it’s a staple. Digital distribution was undreamed of. All in all, there was no internet, of course, and I remember when we bought our first fax machine. I’m going to really date myself and mention that it was really hard to give up my smart typewriter when computers became an option. It’s a very different world.
AiPT!: Are there any other graphic novels, stories or film projects that you are working on? What do we get to look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Richardson: All of the above. I’m writing a fresh version of an ancient Chinese legend. I also traveled to Toronto to visit the set of our Umbrella Academy series for Netflix.AiPT!: Thanks Mike for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. We look forward to checking out Umbrella Academy! And make sure you pick up your copy of Best Wishes.