The comic book world of Dean Motter

By Ian Hartley |

In the world of comic books, the majority of writers or artists are often working with subject’s relation to fantasy. This is often for those who want to live in the world of imagination, as well as create conceptual ideas relating to worlds that couldn’t exist. In our current climate, comics still incite and inspire those to live in a world of their choosing, but also strive to live in a world that they see fit. Comics such as Mr. X, as also the basis for fantastic worlds of science and chaos, is still a world that is being written to this day by Dean Motter.

Born into the middle class background of Cleveland, Ohio, Motter’s life has always been based on comics. After moving to Toronto, he would eventually find his calling through comics after visiting a store that actually pursued his major interests such as graphic novels and movies, “I frequented a store in Toronto that sold old comic and movie memorabilia,” he said. The proprietor, George Henderson, encouraged me to pursue these interests and steered me towards the world of fanzines.” Motter’s watermark moment came when he pursued his interests in films and comics through the world of fanzines (Squa Tront, Witzend, RBCC), as well as learning comic book illustration. Much of this early period would begin towards his long successful career in the comics’ medium. His first job would be working for a Canadian tabloid magazine known as Media Five. His early training would be based on his major interests of writing and art. The magazine would also feature Motter’s college thesis and comic entitled, “Andromeda.”

After graduating, Motter would work on writing and art full time. This would also relate to his experience for working for Silver Snail Comics, and eventually acquire the name Andromeda. Andromeda would be based on creating work on publishing in the local area, and would serve as the spring board for many up and coming artists such as Ken Steacy, John Allison, Paul Rivoche and Robert MacIntyre. Motter would reflect on this experience as his early influence in the world of publishing, but also through the music industry. Motter’s work can be seen through the various album covers from bands such as The Nylons and Motorhead. “At that time I had become one of the busiest designers and art directors in the Canadian music industry,” he said. “That day-job not only allowed me to continue moonlighting (comics still didn’t quite pay the rent), but occasionally overlapped with and inspired my comics work.”

Dean’s hard work would eventually pay off. Business associate and friend Bill Marks, would approach Motter in the idea of producing new work for his up and comic magazine known as Vortex. This would eventually lead into the creation of Motter’s most valuable character known as Mr. X. A collaborative effort with graphic artist, Paul Rivoche, the comic would be the product of both Motter’s and Mark’s imaginative efforts into the world of science fiction, but also be based on the ideas of European comics such as Heavy Metal. “The Euro-comics had been difficult to find,” says Motter. “For a while they were our-‘best-kept secret’. But by this time there was an appetite for them.” Mr. X’s collaborative effort was based on two different type of work: storytelling and conceptual. Bill Mark’s would play a role in the graphic storytelling, while Dean Motter would be working with the conceptual.

Mr. X would be influential in its areas of both graphic storytelling, as well as artwork. Set in the dystopian future setting of Radiant City, Mr. X is created in the same interest of hard-boiled detective story and superhero comic. The comic would slowly create the main character Mr. X as a silent guardian of Radiant City. While the comic draws most of his influence through literature such as “The Maltese Falcon,” the majority of this comic’s influence can also be traced through comics such as Heavy Metal, but also through the world of film such as “Blade Runner” and “Mad Max.” Motter already notes his influences through dystopian future quality of the universe of Mr. X. “At the time there was no real ‘dystopian future’ niche as there is today,” he said. “The vision for Mr. X was really borne of my desire to see The Maltese Falcon as it might’ve taken place in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Really more than sci-fi. I continued to explore this in both Terminal City and Electropolis.

After Vortex comics, Mr. X would eventually be relaunched in 2009 by Dark Horse Comics. While the conceptual world of Motter is still being worked, his artistic pursuits still persist in the comic’s medium. There would be more time to talk about comics, but Motter is working on his next project.

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