Interview with Mark McKenna on ‘Banana Tail and The Checkerboard Jungle’

Cover Art for 'Banana Tail and The Checkerboard Jungle’ by Mark McKenna

Banana Tail is a children’s series about the adventures of a unique little monkey and his friends on Oops-N-Ouch island, created by comic book veteran Mark McKenna.

In this special feature, we got to interview comic book veteran, Mark McKenna, creator of the beloved ‘Banana Tail’ children’s series.

Mark is a longstanding comic book veteran, whose 35-year career in both Marvel and DC, has included works on such titles as Batman, X-Men, Iron Man, Punisher, Doctor Fate, and Doctor Strange. He’s been accredited in the production of a staggering 600 different comic book issues, with well over 12,000 pages of inking accredited to his name.

I was able to talk with Mark about his latest Kickstarter campaign for ‘Banana Tail and The Checkerboard Jungle’, as we talked a bit more about the series, and the upcoming exciting first meeting between Banana Tail and his good friend Tic Tac, the Plaid Zebra.

You can read our chat below.

For those unfamiliar with your series, I’d like to ask: Who is Banana Tail and what is this series about? What can readers expect from this newest adventure?

MARK: So.. Banana tail was originally done as a pitch tool to try and get published by a brand publisher of kids books like Scholastic, Golden Books or Simon and Schuster. My dad came up with the concept of a monkey who had a “banana for a tail” I tried it out but the imagery kinda looked bizarre so I opted to give him a yellow tail that he initially doesn’t realize is his tail, he starts out thinking its a snake in the tree with him. The series is basically the adventures of Banana Tail and his BFFs Reena the mood-color changing female rhino and Tic Tac who’s a plaid zebra on the unique Oops-N’-Ouch Island. The new book completes the trio of storybooks I had planned spotlighting on the three best friends. Banana Tail and the Checkerboard Jungle focuses on the first meeting between Banana Tail and Tic Tac all the while trying to stay away from the hunting team of Snap and Snare the alligator and snake, hunting team.

You’ve been making Banana Tail for years. From children’s book, to Halloween special, to children’s computer-generated hardcover. Could you share about what inspired you to create this series and talk a bit about Banana Tail’s different mediums over the years?

MARK: When my daughter Erin was 4 years old, she had to get a cyst removed from her throat and it was a difficult time for us, despite it being a low-risk procedure, the last thing you want to see is your child going under the knife. As soon as she was released from the hospital we took her to now-defunct Toys R Us and I told her she could pick anything in the toy store she wanted. At that same moment, I thought to myself, “Hmmm, Id like to see what its like on the creating end of the spectrum” vs being a consumer. As far as other mediums, the BTail Halloween comic is a step beyond the picture book phase and I treated it like if you were a young child who liked BTail and had fond memories of it, but outgrew it now you can be a bit older and read a comic book with short stories focused on now, young readers vs having the picture books read to you.

You have a Kickstarter for Banana Tail and The Checkerboard Jungle. Can you tell us a bit about your history with crowdfunding and using Kickstarter? Maybe talk about some of the latest offers you’ve put out for ‘The Checkerboard Jungle’

MARK: Since the rise of crowdfunding has become so popular coinciding with me getting older and significantly less busy as a mainstream comic artist it felt like a natural progression to step into that arena and try it out. I have to say, the fan base that follows me was with me while I self-published my own projects right from the start. I’ve published 6 comic books and 2 Banana Tail books with their support and have always managed to make funding. I’m finding the current Kickstarter project, Banana Tail and the Checkerboard Jungle to be an exercise in patience and also awareness of where we are during this pandemic of CoVid 19. People are afraid.. many people don’t have funds for entertainment and I would think because the new book isn’t ready for immediate shipping, it’s not an immediate fix for people who aren’t quite sure where they’ll be 3 months from now… and I get it. I can’t quit though and I’m floating my A-game at the project in the hopes that I get to the finish line and move forward with the project. My A game being, as much new art as I can get done, Banana Tail coffee mugs, tee shirts, art portfolios, new art by some recognizable comic artist friends to name some rewards.

Times are hard with everything happening right now. Many children are indefinitely off from school and so are reading more than ever. Could you tell us a bit about the importance of children’s stories and some lessons you think parents could learn from the Banana Tail series?

MARK: That’s the thing WITH Banana Tail, I do create moral settings with the characters to find their way through.. The first book is about being different and being OK with it. The second is about friendship and the issues of value of friendship vs material things, the third book touches on bullying but none of the books are staunch in the morals, but theyre there…

Do you have any happy thoughts or words of advice for any parents or children or fans?

MARK: My happy thought about this book is, it will get published at some point.. Anybody who helps me by pledging, whether I make goal or not, all the rewards that I can create and ship I will with the exception of the new book orders. I will save all the income from these rewards in a fund and when our planet gets healthy again, I will Kickstart the book again, minusing the amount Ive accrued from the previous rewards Ive handled and will need less to fund the book printing.

KICKSTARTER

And that was it. I’d like to thank the wonderfully talented Mark McKenna for his time and if you’d like to support Banana Tail you can click on the Kickstarter page below.

About Christian Angeles

Christian Angeles is a screenwriter who likes sharing stories and getting to meet people. He also listens to words on the page via audible and tries to write in ways that make people feel things. All on a laptop. Sometimes from an app on his phone.

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