Just one look at Paul Mason and it’s clear to see that his life imitates his art.
The comic artist and former martial arts champion has turned his life-long love of superheroes into a burgeoning career, recently celebrating the release of the fourth issue in his distinctively Australian series “The Soldier Legacy.”
Raised on the Gold Coast, Queensland and the Central Coast of New South Wales, Paul says it was a copy of Stan Lee’s book “How to draw comics the Marvel way” given to him by his parents for his 13th birthday that sparked his creative talent.
From there his taste for the medium grew into a fully-fledged love affair, further inspired by the works of American comic book artist Jack Kirby – the man widely regarded as one of the most influential and innovative figures in comic history, responsible for such co-creations as Captain America, Thor, the X-Men, Hulk and the Fantastic Four.
“His working class background and experience serving in World War II made his characters so real and exciting – they exploded off the page,” he recalls.
“It was this that made me consider the need for a uniquely Australian counterpart – a character that would touch on our own history and culture."
And so ‘The Soldier’ was born during Paul’s Honours year. The project then spun into “The Soldier Legacy,” a complete series which was quickly snapped up and signed by Australian publisher Black House Comics.
The poignant comic tells the story of a Digger, serving in New Guinea WW2, who is inspired by the actions of a young soldier who threw himself on a live grenade to save him. The series also made an impression on Youi Insurance, who featured the character and his story as part of their recent national television commercial campaign.
Better still, Paul recently had the chance to meet Stan Lee at the Australian Comic-Con in Melbourne in July and present him with a copy of his latest work.“Being able to meet one of the main inspirations for my career, shake his hand and hear directly from the man himself that my work was ‘fantastic’ was beyond belief!” he says.
Paul’s goals now rest overseas amidst the likes of Marvel and DC Comics and he is already making inroads with some serious industry heavyweights. He has just returned from his second Comic-Con International event in San Diego where he again got to rub shoulders with the world’s best comic artists, writers and editors.
“Having the chance to not only meet some of my life-long idols but to achieve validity of my own art practice within that framework is fantastic,” he says.
“Hearing feedback directly from this level of artist is absolutely amazing.”
While he admits to the occasional “editor stalking” while in the United States, his connections have already led to meetings and discussions with some of his all-time idols such as Walter Simonson.
Fortunately, his Australian accent coupled with his physical presence means he is not easily forgotten. He even has a loyal fan base steadily building who have presented him with hand-crafted gifts including an authentic metal shield complete with bullet dents in a throw-back to his admiration for the Captain America and his creator Kirby.
While you’d certainly never know it to look at him, Paul says his weight was a contentious issue when he was a child and meant he was often overlooked when it came to sports like football. It was this, united with his awe for superheros that prompted him to consider martial arts as a release instead.
He then spent years learning Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Karate, Kick Boxing and eventually went into competition fighting in 2002, attended three world championships (where he won bronze) and ran his own martial arts school.
“As well as the obvious fitness to be achieved there is a genuine discipline required and the ability to utilise mind and body to overcome adversity, which really appealed to my sensibilities,” he says.
“It’s this aspect that I also like to weave into my work – a true sense of inner strength is important for any character.”
Paul completed a Bachelor of Animation with Honours at the Griffith Film School and is now undertaking a Doctor of Visual Arts degree.
He will take part in a panel discussion on Sunday 2 September as part of the Griffith Film School’s 25th anniversary of Animation Graduates celebration and his work will also feature in the exhibition running from 28 August to 8 September in the Queensland College of Art Webb Gallery in South Brisbane. The school remains one of the only institutions in Australia to offer a purely animation focused degree.
Issue five of "The Soldier Legacy" is due out in November to coincide with the Supernova Pop Culture Expo in Brisbane, Australia.
Source: Griffith University