BRUCE DICKINSON On His 12-Episode Comic Book 'The Mandrake Project': 'This Is My Life For The Next Three Years When I'm Not Singing'

March 27, 2024

IRON MAIDEN frontman Bruce Dickinson recently went on Side Jams With Bryan Reesman to talk about the evolution of his "The Mandrake Project" comic book, his love for "Watchmen" and his favorite American, British, and French comics from childhood, including "The Beano", "The Eagle" and "Metal Hurlant".

The singer's favorite American superheroes growing up were Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer and the Human Torch. Dickinson explained: "As an adolescent, the Silver Surfer is just pissed off about everything in general, but always permanently. And that was me, you know? And then Dr. Strange, he can control everything. And as an adolescent, I can control nothing. So I was, like, 'I want to be him.' And then I didn't know anything about girls, but the Human Torch can set fire to himself. He could fly. And all the girls were, like, 'Yeah, I want to jump his bones.' I'm, like, 'I want to be him too.' Those were my three comic go-tos."

Bruce said he bought up a lot of back issues of "Doctor Strange" and "Silver Surfer" at a comic book shop in Chicago before he began working on the new series a decade ago.

"By the time I went to Z2, who were already working with MAIDEN on the 'Piece Of Mind' comic, I said, 'Look, I've got this crazy idea. You're probably going to throw me out because you've got too much on your plate. But how do you fancy doing a 'Watchmen'-style comic?'" Dickinson told "Side Jam". "And I think they thought it was just going to be like one page. When I gave them 20 or 30 pages of synopsis and script and character sketches and backstory and world, they were' like, 'This is really cool.' That's when they put me in touch with Tony Lee. I was doing the story for 'Revelations', and Tony and I did the script together. I realized then [that a] comic script is not like any other kind of script I've ever written. This is a whole different world, a whole different regime, even the dialogue. Now I could do dialogue that would maybe work in a screenplay, and sometimes it would work in a comic. But other times it wouldn't work in a comic. I would never have written something like that. I would have done something more wordy. It's getting the feel of where dialogue's going and getting the feel of where the frame sits on the page."

Dickinson is thrilled about the first issue of "The Mandrake Project" and its forthcoming second issue. "We've got this great team," he said. "It's very exciting. I love it. I mean, this is my life for the next three years [when] I'm not singing."

As previously reported, Bruce will make his first appearance at a U.S. comic convention on Saturday, March 30 at WonderCon in Anaheim, California for a panel discussion on his debut comic book series.

For the last decade, Dickinson has been developing the story of "The Mandrake Project", his saga about the century-long battle for the human control of immortality. Coinciding with the release of the second issue in the series and his solo album of the same name, Bruce will be joined at the Anaheim Convention Center by Bill Sienkiewicz (Eisner Award-winning comic artist),Rantz Hoseley (Eisner Award-winning editor),Josh Bernstein (Ringo Award-winning editor),and moderator Ryan J. Downey (MTV News) to talk about the creation of this exciting quarterly series.

Be sure to visit the Z2 Comics booth (#1500) and get your hands on a few graphic novels.

"The Mandrake Project" album was released on March 1 via BMG. Bruce and his long-term co-writer and producer Roy "Z" Ramirez recorded the LP largely at Los Angeles's Doom Room, with Roy Z doubling up as both guitarist and bassist. The recording lineup for "The Mandrake Project" was rounded out by keyboard maestro Mistheria and drummer Dave Moreno, both of whom also featured on Bruce's previous solo studio album, "Tyranny Of Souls", in 2005.

Last November, Bruce told Brazil's Omelete about the lyrical concept for "The Mandrake Project": "So 'The Mandrake Project' is, one, is an album. It's the name of the album. The comic is a 12-episode graphic novel, kind of adult. There's lots of stuff in it — there's lots of sex and drugs and violence and all kinds of stuff. But it's basically a story about a guy who is looking for his identity, Dr. Necropolis. He's an orphan, he's a genius, and he hates it, and he hates life, but he's involved in The Mandrake Project. And The Mandrake Project aims to take the human soul at the point of death, capture it, store it and put it back in something else. And the guy that's running the project, Professor Lazarus, he has one vision of what's gonna happen with this technology, and Necropolis has other ideas. And on we go with the story."

Asked how he came up with the idea to mash together music and comics, Bruce said: "Well, I think they do kind of go together. They really do. Music and games, music and comics, comics and games, they're all related."

He continued: "Years ago, IRON MAIDEN, we were doing some cover art, and I said, 'Why don't we do a comic?', like the comics that I used to read when I was a kid… When I suggested doing some covers, comic covers, we did some single artwork for IRON MAIDEN, and I thought, 'You know what? This is kind of cool.' Then later, MAIDEN had a video game called 'Legacy Of The Beast'; we still do. But what came with a video game, somebody produced a series of comics. And I thought they looked fantastic, but they lacked a story. And that got me thinking, what if you had an album that had a story that could be turned into a comic and the two things would work together? As it happened, they've actually grown apart. So, the [original] album, in 2014, was gonna be one comic with the album — that's it. Then, COVID happened, other things happened, seven years went by, and I had a 12-episode graphic novel. And I went, 'I don't wanna restrict the album to being like a script for this.' These two things exist separately, but they inform each other. So you can look at the album and go, 'Oh, yeah, that's kind of related to the comic.' And you look at the comic and go, 'Oh, I see that might be a little bit related to the album,' but they're not dependent on each other. So you can buy the comic or you can buy the album — or both."

"The Mandrake Project" is a dark, adult story of power, abuse and a struggle for identity, set against the backdrop of scientific and occult genius. Created by Dickinson, the comic series is scripted by Tony Lee and stunningly illustrated by Staz Johnson for Z2 Comics, released as 12 quarterly issues that will be collected into three annual graphic novels.

Dickinson made his recording debut with IRON MAIDEN on the "Number Of The Beast" album in 1982. He quit the band in 1993 in order to pursue his solo career and was replaced by Blaze Bayley, who had previously been the lead singer of the metal band WOLFSBANE. After releasing two traditional metal albums with former MAIDEN guitarist Adrian Smith, Dickinson rejoined the band in 1999 along with Smith.

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