Mad Max: Fury Road won big at the Oscars last night, taking home six of the statues it was nominated for: Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. The wins are well deserved—Fury Road was a landmark in blockbuster storytelling, transporting us to a cutthroat world on the brink of collapse where danger reigns supreme. If you haven’t yet seen it, you should. It’s easily one of best action films of the decade. But it’s not actually the whole story…
Mad Max: Fury Road introduces us to a group of characters who have already been established, giving us bare glimpses of where they were prior to the film’s start. For greater understanding, you should read Vertigo’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD comic series, which fills in some of the characters’ backstories and gives readers a better grasp of their motivations in the film. It’s also about as true to the movie as you can get. It was co-written by a team of Fury Road contributors including director George Miller, co-writer Nico Lathouris and storyboard and concept artist Mark Sexton.
Below, Sexton explains how the film came together, and why the comic is essential reading for fans.
Cover art by Tommy Lee Edwards
Back in the dim, distant past—well, late 1982—I was a guest at a twelve-year old birthday party in a small flat somewhere in Adelaide (yes, I was twelve too, I’m not that old). Sugared-up and full of red cordial, we bounced off the walls and each other, generally causing chaos but not too much property damage. The flat was a nice one, and under the television it sported a VCR (remember those?) and a small library of video cassettes in their clunky black plastic covers. In the midst of the hyperglycemic activity, one brave kid found a title with "R-rated” splashed across the spine, and in a thrill of illicit excitement, he stuck it in the VCR and pressed play.
It was Mad Max 2. You folks in the US of A know it as The Road Warrior.
And when the sound of that shrieking blower filled the air, and the camera pulled out of the darkness to begin 90 minutes of nitro-fuelled violence and nihilism, every single kid sat down in front of the television and didn’t move until the credits rolled. God knows where the adults were...
Suffice to say, I’d never seen anything like it. I was hooked.
Interior art by Mark Sexton
Fast forward seventeen years—1999. I was in my third year of a career as a storyboard artist working in Sydney. I got a call to come in to the production company of George Miller to talk about a film he wanted to do, something about a dancing penguin… I had heard on the grapevine of dark rumours that something else was happening in the building… That after 24 years, the director of the Mad Max films was secretly working on a sequel. A dancing penguin didn’t seem like quite the same thing, and I figured that it was just that: rumour.
So I went into the magnificent old Art Deco theatre and was directed up to the big room in the centre of the building that George used as his office. I wandered in through the glass doors and stopped dead in my tracks.
On a big electroboard in black ink was a logo. Harsh, jagged, bold and arresting. Four words.
Mad Max: Fury Road.
And art! There was art. Crazy, bonkers stuff. Wild vehicles, combinations of classic cars with airplane tails and shopping trolleys, spiked metal and harpoon cannons, crossbows and carnage. My heart nearly stopped. The rumours were true!
Interior art by Leandro Fernandez
I did end up working on the dancing penguin movie, Happy Feet, following the animated adventures of Mumble and spending five years designing the white and blue world of a digital Antarctica. But before that eventuated, I spent two glorious years sitting in that big room with George, co-writer Brendan McCarthy and vehicle designer Peter Pound and we boarded the crap out of a wild, totally insane story that the world is just discovering now.
Peter and Brendan moved on to other jobs and other projects, and at the end of 2001 it was just George and I who finished the boards. Two years! But I wanted to stay in that world…
“George? Have you ever considered doing Mad Max comics?”
George looked thoughtful. “Oh. Let’s see… Hmmm. I’ll think about it.”
Fast forward another thirteen years—2014. Fury Road had achieved the impossible and had actually been shot and was in the throes of post-production. It was thrilling to know the insane project had actually happened, but bittersweet having not had anything more to do with it. Ah, well. Then my phone rang—it was George.
“Hi Mark. About those Mad Max comics? I think it’s a good idea…”
Interior art by Riccardo Burchielli
And so these four stories—prequels of some of the key characters of Fury Road—are finally realised. These are not just mere ephemera—not just cynically produced stories that have been hacked out to tie into a summer movie. These are legitimately authentic tales that were dreamed up by George during the production of the film and were told to the actors themselves—tales that gave the characters they played depth and history. The tales of Nux and Immortan Joe. How Furiosa came to meet the Wives. And Max, making his way through the twisted and poisoned wasteland. All stories that flesh out these richly layered and fascinating people, and how they came to be what they are at the beginning of Fury Road. Stories taken from the mind of George Miller... Given flesh by one of the co-writers of the Fury Road screenplay, Nico Lathouris, and myself. Illustrated and colored with enthusiasm and care by talented artists scattered over the globe. Every detail pored over and considered, altered and beaten into shape by the creators through the prism of years of immersion in the world of Mad Max. Stories that will give those folks who enjoyed the brilliant film a greater appreciation of the world and its history.
These are tales from the Fury Road.
So strap in, flick the kill switches, kick the engine over—and enjoy.
Mark Sexton worked as storyboard artist and concept artist on Mad Max: Fury Road. He is also the co-writer, along with George Miller and Nico Lathouris, and co-artist of the Mad Max: Fury Road comic series. The collected edition, featuring all four comics plus a bonus story only available in the collection, is now available in print and as a digital download.