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Indy Hunter Interview: Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine of The Middleman Fame!

Written by J.M. Hunter on Thursday, October 31 2013 and posted in ZineSmiths

Indy Hunter Interview: Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine of The Middleman Fame!

Indy Hunter interviews the Dynamic Duo of the fan-favorite comic and ABC Family Television Cult Hit, The Middleman! Back with a new book and a new Indiegogo Campaign!




I'm a fan of the Middleman. Yes That's right. I heart The Middleman you heard me. It's not just because my old friend Les McClaine draws the comic and is one of the not mentioned enough bad ass cartoonists of our generation. Nope.  It's not because Les can draw anything with his own inspired look that knocks you senselss,( i.e. check out his Mayhem at the Manor piece if you don't believe me.


It's also not just because writer Javier Grillio-Mauxauch wowed me early on with his work on Lost and knows how to write fresh characters and has sack lunch bags of wit ready on a zip line at his beckon call. Nope. It's not just because of those things mentioned above and more.

It's because The Middleman in both it's original graphic novel form and later the T.V. show speak to me as a fan of multi-genre themes and quirky original concepts. It's execution from both of it's creators and the cast for the t.v. show instantly struck a chord with not only myself but also like-minded fans instantly making it a cult hit. Now thankfully after a long hiatus both of the original creators of The Middle man, Javi and Les are back to bring us new material, answer some questions that left everyone in suspense and talk about what's to come! So enough of my prattling let's kick the door down Monkey-Gangster style!

Javi. Before we get into the return of the Middleman, for those that are new to the club, can you take us back to when you came up with the concept?

The Middleman started out as a pilot script I wrote for kicks back in 1998... As early as 1996 I had been toying with the idea of a show about a guy fighting monsters and aliens and things for an organization so secret that even he doesn't know who they are, but the show didn't really gel for me until '98.  I wanted to write a monster-of-the week show that was both pop-culturally savvy, but also optimistic.  At the time I wrote the script - and to this day - superhero stories tend to be about how awful it is to be a hero, and how much sacrifice one must undertake in order to do the right thing... I wanted to give an opposite perspective, while cramming the thing with as many Star Trek references as possible.
 Les when your involvement started, what was your initial reaction?
Probably my initial reaction was "why is this TV big shot emailing me?" As soon as I read the script I knew I definitely wanted to draw it-- pretty girls and monsters? I'm in. 
Javi. Was this your first time scripting a comic book? Your background is in film/television, was comics a genre you had always wanted to break into?  
It was -- but, much to my surprise, it led to work with DC, Marvel and Dynamite!
Les. Prior to The Middleman you created Highway 13, Life w/ Leslie.  Was that your first time working off of someone else's script?
In terms of professional work, yes. I did some comics for fun in high school and college that were scripted by other people, but this was the first time I'd done one for actual publication.
Input wise, how much did you weigh in on the first three volumes?
My input was mostly in the execution-- but I like to drop some fun stuff in the backgrounds or to fill space that Javi can work into later stories, like the bear on the motorcycle in the first volume.
So, fast forward a bit, the Middleman gets its own TV show on ABC Family (available now on DVD), One of the things I as a fan of both the graphic novel AND the show liked was the different directions you could play with certain aspects.
Javi. Now as we see with your current Indi-go go, Crowd funding campaign, not only is the comic making a comeback but you're also merging the two universes!
Yup!  Les and I did a convention about two years ago, and he drew a print featuring the TV and comic book Wendy and The Middleman, and I thought... now that would be a way to bring all of this kit and kaboodle back without leaving anyone out in the cold... I truly feel that our new book "The Pan-Universal Parental Reconciliation" will satisfy fans of both continuities while tying together a lot of loose ends that were left hanging from both.
How did this next adventure come about? Les. Your response when Javi calls and says, "Let’s do it again?"
My response was "yes, please!" At the time I was looking for a new project and more Middleman is always at the top of my list of things I like to do. 
The Crowd funding goal was met, now we're in sight of the stretch goals. Can you tell our audience and would be readers what some of those stretch goals include?
The first stretch goal -- which is to 60,000 -- is to make the new book in color.  While "The Middleman" comics were always defiantly independent and in black and white, this one deals with the TV characters and we thought it would be a cool thing to do the parts of the book that take place in the comic universe in Les's traditional line/zip-a-tone presentation, then go to color in the TV universe... kinda like "The Wizard of Oz," but with more Ida.
Our next stretch goal will be to do more middleman books -- hopefully we can fund a 2015 book if we meet our color goal!
To both of you, how was the feeling to see your campaign meet its initial funding quickly before the dreaded deadline?
I honestly thought we'd limp our way to the deadline -- I dropped our goal from 40,000 to 37,000 and extended the length of the drive to forty days to give us more cover... I can't begin to express how grateful I am for the support we've gotten -- honestly, this kind of thing is extremely rare and validating for people in my business, and I am absolutely bowled over.
It feels great! I thought we'd make goal, since we still have some pretty dedicated fans, but I had no inkling that we'd do it so fast! Stretch goals are starting to look a lot more doable at this point.
Can we compare the creative process between you two? Now from then?
It's pretty much the same -- I decided early to write in teleplay format because I assumed that Les is a better visual storyteller than I am and that he would do better at laying things out, so Les gets the teleplay, does a layout - we discuss it as he draws, and I give feedback here and there... but mostly, I stand back and marvel at Les being Les.
What's a regular production cycle like when you both work on The Middleman?
It's always been a side project for me between TV work or during it, and for Les - and the projects have always been limited scope (four issues, one graphic novel) so it's not like we have a controlled manufacturing process.  Also, les has the full script before he starts work, so my piece of it is usually done by the time he gets his mitts on it!  Mostly, he draws and I call him every day and gush over how much I like it.  The scripts are dense and highly described - so there really isn't a lot of second guessing on my part, i trust Les to interpret it, and, frankly, he is one of the most gifted "actors" in terms of his ability to draw the characters and their emotions that I know -- so I just try to stay out of the way.
 I’m probably venturing on a wait and see request here, but is there a chance we might see some fan favorite main characters make it back? Even from the "other side", with what happened at the end of the book three in the first run?
In a word, yes.  On both sides.  If you know the show, you will be very happy, and if you only know the graphic novels, you will NOT be confused!
For Les. How's your drawing hand compared to the first series? Did it take a while to get back in the swing of things again?
Well, I haven't stopped drawing. I would say I'm much better at it now than I was when I drew the last Middleman book, and I hope the readers will agree.
Do you still have to do the bear hand exercises?
I do! I grip my pen with the intensity of a man clinging to the wing of an airplane, so I need to stretch out my forearm regularly.
If we could talk about your other projects...
Javi, what else are you working on presently and is there anything you'd like to share that folks should check out?
I am co-executive producing a new series -- Helix -- on SyFy... it's produced by one Ronald D. Moore, whom fans may know... we go on the air in mid-January, and it is going to be epic!
I have a webpage at and on twitter at @OKBJGM!
Les.Same question, I know you've kept pretty busy, and besides The Middleman what else are you working on?  Anything else you'd like people to check out?
Yeah! For the last few years I was drawing the Tick: New Series for New England Comics. I did eleven issues with Benito Cereno over there that I'm real proud of. You should still be able to find them in shops or online.
Since April I've been working as a character designer for Fox's ADHD block, specifically on Axe Cop, with a little bit of work on other shows. Working in animation has been a great learning experience for me and the shows have been coming out great.
Lastly, Thank you fellas for speaking with us. I'm a fan of The Middleman and both of your guy's other works. Where can our readers find you on the internets?
I'm on Twitter and Tumblr as lesmcclaine and if I ever get the server error it's currently displaying fixed, at
Thanks guys, for more The Middleman keep your eye on their indiegogo campaign for the latest and greatest!


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About the Author - J.M. Hunter

J.M. Hunter is best expressed as an artist who enjoys working in many mediums. One of them is writing. In the guise of InDiY Hunter, J.M. Hunter’s focus is as an independent comics creator who interviews other Independent artists/creators and showcases their personal ideologies and stories. The “hits” and “almost-got’ems” of the creative collective that do their craft not because it’ll make them rich but because they love what they do, even when they don’t is a special kind of magic. This is the reward that keeps on giving and J.M. Hunter likes it. HE LIKES IT!


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