Sunday, 23 February 2014

Interview Part 1

Recently I decided to do a Q & A of sorts, featuring some of the more common questions that I've been asked in the time since I've started making comic books but that idea changed after Vito Delsante, a fellow comic writer, and someone who I greatly respect as a creator and as a person, offered to conduct an interview, instead. I've split the interview up into two parts as it's a little long due to my rambling. It was a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy hearing more about the books.  

1. Andrew, give me the highlights of who you are. Where were you born, family...all the fluffy stuff.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, grew up in the country about a twenty minute drive from the city. More or less an only child, I have a half-sister (though I've never thought of her as "half") but she never lived with us. I have two sons, Xavier and Nate, who are two of my biggest supporters, along with my parents and my wonderful girlfriend, Cassandra.

2. What was your first comic? What attracted you to it?

The first comic book that I ever remember reading/being read to me was an Uncle Scrooge comic when I was about four years old. I can recall a fair bit of the one story but not the whole book. My first superhero comic book was Web of Spider-Man #4. It was the first thing I ever bought with my "own money". I would've been six when it came out. It was lost when my basement flooded at one point (along with all my other Spider-Man, Batman and Superman comics) but I managed to track a copy down at a comic con a couple years after that. What attracted me to it? Spider-Man. I was big into the 60s Spider-Man cartoon and he was easily my favorite superhero back then.

3. Did you study art or writing in high school? College?

I've never FORMALLY studied writing beyond high school and reading dozens of articles and one or two books that I came across on the topic of comic book writing. I have nearly a dozen "How To Write" books that I never got past the first chapter of. I've found the adage of "the best way to learn is to DO" to be very true. I enrolled in every English course that they offered in high school and usually did well in them (when I did the assignments) and had some really great teachers that are to blame for me thinking I might be a half-decent story-teller.

3B. Do you feel that "learning on the job" is a better experience or do you wish you took some creative writing or screenwriting courses?  

Learning on the job was probably the best way for me- obviously it's different for everyone- and there's never anything wrong with learning new things, I'm always looking for ways to expand my knowledge in the field, though a formal learning course has yet to happen. I've managed to meet a lot of writers who have been willing to share their insights and that has been great.

4. What was the moment you decided that this was something you wanted to pursue? Was it a comic you read? A movie you watched?

Writing comic books has been something I have wanted to do since I started doing any kind of writing back in junior high school. It was always one of those "man that'd be cool to do one day" sort of things. Something that you think or dream about but don't really expect to ever DO. For anyone who doesn't know how hard it can be to get into the "industry"- you have a better chance of making money playing the lottery professionally than you do breaking into comics.

What made me finally venture into it myself were two things. The first was a local author, A.P Fuchs, who wrote a series of novels featuring Axiom-man, a Winnipeg-based superhero that he self-published. The other influence was Charlie McElvy who, when he was unable to do a comic book featuring the characters he created, opted to take a different path and created a role-playing game book entitled The WatchGuard Sourcebook. He would later go on to run a successful Kickstarter to get his comic books with those same characters funded.

The two of them made me see that if you had an idea that you believed in, and were willing to do the work and put it out there, that you could make it work in your own terms, WITHOUT having to rely on an outside force or publisher to get it done. If you wanted it bad enough, you could make it happen. That there are no excuses. You want to do it? MAKE it happen.

4B. But why comics, specifically? You acknowledge how hard it is to break in, but still you were attracted to...what, exactly?

I simply love comics. To me it's the ultimate art form- nothing else combines two of the greatest creative endeavors (the written word and the drawn/painted picture) in such a perfect synthesis.

5. What do you do on your books? How did you learn to do this? Did you teach yourself?

For the books, I do all the writing: the script and the dialogue are all me- the fantastic art that graces the pages of LEGACY and New Guard and make my OK ideas look fabulous are all up to the great group of artists that I work with. In the script I let the artist know what's going on for that page, most of the time breaking it down into the panels for them, though lately, as I've worked more and more with Kenan and Andre (my primary artists), I've even started leaving that part of it up to them on some pages. Especially any big action-y pages. As long as the page starts and ends the way I need it to, how we get there I leave in their capable hands.

Other than reading a bunch of scripts that I found online (or any Director's Cut books that DC or Marvel put out) and a once through on DC'S  Guide to Writing Comics, everything I did was trial and error. It really is the only way to do it. My scripts, and the books as a result, have VASTLY improved with each outing. One thing I'd like to mention is that New Guard #2 will be the first time that I'm CO-WRITING a book, in this case with Christine Steendam, a local author that I've gotten to know over the last year or so. Christine has come on to help bring an authentic feel to a certain sub-plot and I'm very excited to work with her on it.

6. What was the primary influence that resulted in Legacy?

LEGACY came from three sources. Starman by James Robinson from DC Comics was a big influence, a little known one-shot book put out by DC entitled The Legacy of Superman (I had to go through my back issues to find the name of it- I seriously had no idea until I found it again that it had "legacy" in its title) and, in a non-comic book influence, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.

All of those books are what you might call "generational stories" that take part over years that, though they contain smaller arcs, also have a greater overall story to it. I've always been fond of that type of story as a reader. They are also all remarkable in the fact that they concentrate on more than just the "main" character. Starman isn't JUST about Jack Knight in the same way that Foundation isn't just Hari Seldon's story and the Legacy of Superman occurs after his death at the hands of Doomsday. He doesn't even appear in it except in flashbacks. I like that you can have a story full of action and adventure with swashbuckling heroes but still have those character moments that only "real" people can bring to a narrative.

6B. Asimov is an interesting influence, in that he is more known for sci-fi than for comics. Is that an indication of where LEGACY is headed?

Asimov was heavily influenced by "pulps" in his youth- essentially the forerunner for comic books- and many of today's superheroes have SF style origins, thanks to Stan Lee and Julius Schwartz, so it's not much of a stretch to have a science fiction feel to parts of LEGACY. We will be seeing some of the future of Legacy and its citizens in a few up-coming issues and there's definitely going to be some cool super science/tech stuff that Andre and Kenan will be drawing.

7. What is Legacy about?

LEGACY is a story of a city, named Legacy, which has seen better days. It's a city that has lost faith in itself. Not unlike many cities around the world. Look at Detroit, a city once held up as THE standard of industry and that has since declared bankruptcy. More and more white collar crime drags down people's spirits, while crimes on the streets endanger people's physical well-being. LEGACY is a place that too many people can relate to. Legacy needs some hope. And they may have found it in a certain masked vigilante who seems to be using his superhuman powers to fight crime. Not everyone is convinced though. Would you be? How often have we raised people up on pedestals to only find out later that they were not quite as heroic as they thought?

7B. Do you find it hard to base a fictional construct (a superhero) in such a real setting?

I think that if you set a superhero in a real setting like a city, then to keep it believable you have to add some realism to the story. I know, how do you make a guy that can leap city blocks and bench-press a truck seem real? I find that having lasting consequences and honest reactions from characters go a long way. If a building gets knocked down in one book, it shouldn't be totally fine in the next- fixing it would take time. People see a guy shoot fire from their hands; they're going to be a little leery about getting near a guy like that. Or they'll be far too close and taking a video of it on their smart phone.

7C. You mention that the people of Legacy (the city) are skeptical and possibly hesitant to accept Paragon's help. Is that how you (a Canadian) view Americans? The world?

I think that everyone, unfortunately, is a little skeptical these days of things that seem "too good to be true". A masked vigilante would be hard to fully trust- not only is he hiding who he is, but he's technically working outside of the law. I wouldn't blame folks for being a little worried by someone like that.  

8. You changed artists between issue 1 and issue 2. Was that intentional? Were you dissatisfied with the original artist?

Mike Campeau was the artist on LEGACY #1 and I can never find enough words to thank him for working with me on that book. I wouldn't say I was COMPLETELY clueless as to what exactly I was doing but the learning curve was much steeper than I had expected and he walked me through it every step of the way. Mike is a truly classy guy who overcame some pretty serious health issues during the production of the book and I am forever in his debt. The reason for the switch was pretty simple- Mike has his own book that he does, Krimzon Kaine, and he had put off working on the second issue while he was working on LEGACY #1 and wanted to get back to it. Luckily, I found Andre and he was able to jump on to #2.


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