For decades, comic artists and pulp fiction storytellers have entertained and shaped our culture. Readers young and old have enjoyed adventures and the imagined worlds of fictional characters through comic books. Mark Schultz of Clarks Summit may be unknown to you, but chances are you’ve seen his work.
Schultz is an illustrator and comic book writer who has worked on publications such as DC Comics’ “Superman” series, Dark Horse Comics’ “SubHuman,” an underwater adventure series, and other projects including “Star Wars,” “Aliens,” “Predator” and Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” stories. He recently wrote the “Prince Valiant” comic strip.
“I grew up loving comics and movies,” Schultz said.
He graduated from Kutstown University with an art degree in 1977. It was there he met his wife, Denise Prowell, an established children’s book illustrator.
At first, Schultz worked for advertising and publishing companies. During the 1980s Schultz drew up a sample story that would grow to be the “Xenozoic Tales.” The pulp fiction adventure story is about characters who fight to survive in a post-apocalyptic world full of strange creatures and dinosaurs.
“Xenozoic Tales” was published during a time in the comic industry where there was a lot of growth and opportunity. It developed into an animated show on CBS in 1993 under the name “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.”
Schultz found work as a comic illustrator and writer and never looked back.
He and his wife are established artists. Working remotely using curriers, they were able to live anywhere. In early 1993 they chose to relocate and make their home in the Abingtons.
“My parents are originally from this area. I love it here and it’s worked well for us,” Schultz said.
Denise has been a sounding board for Mark. They are able to bounce ideas off one another and offer critiques of each other’s work.
“She has skills I don’t have,” Mark shared. “Denise does the lettering for me. She’s a very good calligrapher. All the lettering is hand done by her.”
Schultz begins with a drawing of his concept. His work has layers. Many illustrations begin as blue pencil sketches. Once confident of his sketch, he illustrates using ink, graphite, or carbon pencil over water colors to bring his art to life.
Schultz’ work is detailed, taking patience and time. “It’s the difference between illustration and cartooning,” he explained.
Schultz is clearly an illustrator. Studying his work, the eye is drawn to anatomy, expression, shape and shadow. He is able to create a story with or without words.
Schultz is also a writer and partners with others to develop stories with their illustrations. He designs strong characters and creates worlds his readers want to visit.
Flex Publications wrote that over four decades “Mark Schultz rises to the challenge, showing significant growth in his exploration of technique, subject matter and story elements… he continues to strive toward a goal of better realizing and communicating with a largely unknown and always exciting universe.”
Schultz has produced many art books, “Various Drawings” volumes 1-5, “Carbon1” and “Carbon2” as well as an illustrated novella, “Storms at Sea”; all published by Flesk Publications.
A limited edition hardcover volume of illustrations and drawings, titled “Carbon3,” is set for release in late August. This work will give comic and art lovers a glimpse of Schultz’ artistic process along with a collection of illustrations.
Schultz’ love of science influences his writing. He partnered with comic illustrators Zander and Kevin Cannon to write “The Stuff of Life,” a comic book about genetics and DNA. He also enjoys teaching and has taught in the MFA program at Marywood and the Savannah College of Art and Design. Schultz has been recognized in the industry and has multiple awards, including the famed Eisner and Harvey Awards.
He is in the process of creating a second volume of “Xenozoic Tales.”
When working on both writing the story and illustration, Mark said the process is “back and forth.”
“Sometimes I have the visual idea, and I get that down and figure out how to work with the necessary text,” he said. “Sometimes it’s information that has to be transmitted through words, through text.”
Schultz admits he is a traditional adventure writer.
“Three acts, with a resolution at the end,” he said. “That’s the structure I enjoy and the type of stories I gravitate toward. I want to entertain people and hopefully I communicate my subtext in there, something that is important to me.”
Art is best when there are layers. Often that is found in the subtext laying beneath the obvious. Schultz does this beautifully. His art and writing have thoughtful subtext throughout. One of those is his concern for the environment. His characters’ interaction with their surroundings enrich the story.
Schultz also shared that he loves to show duality and equality between male and female characters. The female isn’t always weaker or always the one needing to be rescued. “It’s an equal thing back and forth,” Schultz said. “They take care of each other.”
Schultz’ stories are dynamic, dramatic and direct with detailed illustrations that are full of action and expression.
After decades of accomplishments and publications to his credit, Schultz stays grounded and continues to push himself.
“You don’t ever want to stop and say ‘This is good enough.’ If you are really committed to what you are doing, if you are going to excel, you’ll never feel like you know what you are doing and you will always be hard on yourself,” he said. “That bitter misery is part of the process. It’s what makes someone excellent at what they do. The best artists I know are always humble.”
He shared he feels blessed to be able to do what he loves.
“It’s the best job in the world,” he said. “I get to write, I get to draw comics, I get to illustrate. I am never bored with it. It’s always changing.”
Follow Mark Schultz on Facebook for information on the release of “Carbon3” and news about the next volume of his “Xenozoic Tales.” View his work online at bit.ly/2yUkBjU or Amazon.com or locally at Comics on the Green in Scranton.