Strata: Mike Madrid

A San Francisco native, Mike Madrid has never abandoned his childhood love of comic books. He collects them, creates intricately detailed models of his favorite characters, and has plenty to say about the cultural history of the genre as well. The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines is Mike’s first book. (You can see more of his work here.) As one might imagine, a writer who is so drawn to powerful visual storytelling has a pretty cool office, too. It’s hard not to be envious of that WWII propaganda poster. Read on…

What does your desk—the bare desk itself—look like, and how did you acquire it?

It’s an old wooden and metal drafting table that I’ve had for about 20 years. It’s roughly five feet wide, and it was my desk at my first advertising job. When the company “upgraded” to modern office furniture, I snagged my beloved desk. It’s a handsome piece of furniture, and reminds me of the idealistic early days of my career in advertising.

What’s on your desk?

Other than my computer and an external hard drive, it’s all rather low-tech. I still use a Rolodex, and I have an old heavy rotary phone nearby. Living in San Francisco, you need to have at least one old style phone around, in case of an earthquake. Our power was out for almost a week after the 1989 quake, and the fancy push button I had at the time wouldn’t work without electricity.

A vintage 50’s lamp for when I work in the evenings.

A metal cup that a friend brought back from Pakistan, that I keep filled with pens.

My Wonder Woman pint glass. To remind me to drink more water while I’m working.

An assortment of notepads—one for to-do lists, another for jotting down ideas, and another for design concepts. I love the notepads from the Japanese store MUJI.

An ever-present pile of reference books and magazines.

Statuettes that I made of four of my favorite comic book heroines—Supergirl, Ms. Marvel, Black Angel, and Shadow Lass.

What do you wish wasn’t on your desk?

An excessive number of power cords. Old paperwork that needs to be recycled. One or two coffee mugs that need to be taken down to the kitchen. Dust.

Are there artifacts in your office that relate to your current project?

Some things that I found on my last trip to Europe that I’m using as inspiration—antique photos and some old children’s books that I picked up at the Berlin flea market, postcards from the Byzantine churches in Northern Italy.

Some 1960’s Betty and Veronica comic books that I’m reading for a possible new book idea.

Are there living things in your office (besides yourself)?

No, I’m a lone wolf.

What else surrounds you?

I’m lucky to be able to look up from my desk and have a great view of downtown San Francisco outside my window.

A lot of bookshelves with too many books.

A scanner, and a printer that I have a tumultuous relationship with.

A large globe of the world.

Back issues of magazines, filed in chronological order. I’m a big fan of The Container Store.

My comic book collection. I’m pleading the fifth on how large the collection is. All filed chronologically, by title.

What’s on the walls?

A calendar.

A WWII propaganda poster that I found at a flea market. It’s so stark, and its black/white and red composition reminded me of Barbara Kruger’s work.

A large bulletin board to pin things up on, to keep them off of the desk.

Framed sheets of United States post office stamps featuring famous newspaper comic strip characters and superheroes.

An autographed photo of Ronnie Spector of the ’60s girl group The Ronettes, inscribed, “Mike, be my baby.” With a lipstick print.

What have you lost in your office that you really wish you could find?

Besides countless hours, right now it’s an old set of Viewmaster of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that I’ve had since I was a kid. It will turn up eventually.

What tools do you write with?

My Mac. I’m a big fan of Apple products. I’m a native Californian, it’s practically our duty.

A notepad, and a pen. Mostly used to scribble down notes and ideas, and to draw out indecipherable outlines.

My memory.

Is anyone allowed to come in and clean?

No. I take care of wrangling the dust bunnies myself.

T. Myers is a writer who is threatening to clean her office.  Really.


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