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So Far Solely Creator-Owned: A NYCC Interview With Andrew MacLean

Written by Tim Midura on Tuesday, October 24 2017 and posted in News with Benefits

So Far Solely Creator-Owned: A NYCC Interview With Andrew MacLean

On publishing a quarterly comic, varying influences, and dreamcasting Norgal.

Source: New York Comic Con

Andrew MacLean is an American comic book writer and artist. His comics work includes Apocalyptigirl and Head Lopper.


Tim: Apocalyptigirl was your breakout graphic novel with Dark Horse. How did that come about?

Andrew: I had been pitching them a handful of things. I had this pitch kind of set in an organized fighting world. It was almost like extreme UFC with professional wrestling antics. It was kind of inspired by kung fu movies. That was a pitch that they looked at and they weren't in love with the story and/or they had something similar to that. I can't remember. But they like it enough to say "What else do you have?" So I pitched to them a handful of things. To test the waters, we did an eight-pager in Dark Horse Presents called Snip Snip. I wanted to do Snip Snip as a series but they thought we should do a 100-page graphic novel 6x9 format. They knew I was doing Head Lopper, so they were like "Do you think Head Lopper would be cool?" I had this other idea which was basically Apocalyptigirl.

I just knew it was a post-apocalypse thing and she had a motorcycle. Originally she had a bunch of cats, but I thought it would be sweeter relationship if there was just one. That was all I had so from there I could make sure it fit the 100 page format. I worked out the rest of the ideas to fit it. We worked together on some stuff and they were like "We could get this greenlit relatively fast if you go this format." So I made sure the project fit their guidelines.

Tim: Head Lopper is a quarterly series, something that is nearly unheard of in comics. How did you pitch that to Eric Stephenson [publisher of Image Comics]?

Andrew: I had started self-publishing Head Lopper before Apocalyptigirl. I wanted to get back into that story as soon as I was done and luckily someone had given Head Lopper to Eric Stephenson and he was like "Do you want to keep telling this story with us?" Which was great because I didn't know what the hell I was going to do after Apocalyptigirl. That was that.

After I was gearing up to do that, I hit him up and I was nervous because like you said it's an unheard of thing. So I said, "Look, when we were self-publishing I did one comic that was 22 pages and I thought it was really short." I wanted to get further. I didn't think it had enough time for action and plot and character development. The second comic we self-published, I had just written to the point where I felt it should stop. That just happened to be 45 pages. I was really in love with that length. It had action. It had plot development. It had jokes. I didn't have to have a cliffhanger or anything.

So when Eric asked how I wanted to do this, I said "Hey, I really like this 45 page count thing. Can I do one of these quarterly?" I figured he would say something like "MacLean, that's not comics. Do you want to do this or not?" But that's a testament to Image. They want you to make the version of it you want to make. He didn't even think twice about it. I love making it that way. The idea is that each one can standalone pretty firm.

Tim: So you've made your name solely on creator-owned projects. That's pretty unheard of too. How does that feel?

Andrew: It feels great. It wasn't by design. It's just the way it happened. Originally the early comics I made were with other writers. I knew that I wanted to write myself because I had some ideas for stories, but I had done a bunch of pitches with others and had them all turned down. It wasn't until I had a break in schedule on projects with Kickstarters on and writers on. A month showed up where I was expecting two scripts and neither showed up. I was unemployed. I couldn't find a job. That's why I had time to draw comics. It was actually a very scary time. In hindsight, it worked out. I had this month with nothing to do, so I started this Head Lopper idea. It was that initial Head Lopper comic that got attention from people. It was that comic that kind of got me in the door at Dark Horse and Image. It just happened. I was never opposed to it. I certainly enjoy it. I feel like a lot of creators have a small library of ideas in their head that if they live long enough maybe they'll get to these. I felt that way too. It's nice I got to start working on those.

Tim: Do you see yourself transitioning into monthly comics?

Andrew: It's tough. I feel spoiled now. I like the length. I'll at least leave Head Lopper that way. Also the idea of drawing a monthly comic is terrifying. If I fall behind on my quarterly schedule, I had some time to catch up a little bit. I can forego sleep a little bit. I can catch up. I'm not opposed to it. But I think in most cases at least these days, there's a fair amount of time to deal with that. If you're responsible enough you can make do. For the time being, I want Head Lopper to stay the same. I'm not opposed to anything really.

Tim: You're a writer and artist. Do you consider yourself one way or another?

Andrew: I consider myself more of an artist but only because like when I was a kid I wanted to be a comics artist. I never thought to myself that I wanted to be a comics writer. It was almost like I was writing comics before. Like on page one where it says Writer I was like Andrew.

I've heard other people say, maybe it was Jaime Hernandez who said you just feel like you're making a comic. You don't think of it as one way or the other. I always think of myself as an artist. I make comics. I can't help but see artist friends I like that I want to work with. I do want to get into writing stuff for other people. You can't have a project with just two artists. That's an art book. That's not a story.

Tim: So your art style seems to be drawing from a lot of different influences: adventure comics, manga, European sci-fi. Are your influences that varied?

Andrew: Yeah, and I think that they change. There's so much out there that I haven't seen so I'm always trying to see something new. I know there's a lot of classic comics and legendary artists I haven't spent much time with. So I'll sit down and be like "Well, I don't really get this guy, but everybody knows him or her from forever." By the end of it, you learn that I didn't get it because I didn't see the full picture. Sometimes I can't help but feel a shift. You're always learning. I try to let myself continue to learn. I think that with anyone their style will continue to change forever.

Tim: You don't want to stagnate.

Andrew: Yeah. I don't want to keep doing the same thing. I'm not actively trying to change, but when I feel it happening I don't stop it, I guess.

Tim: How did you get together with Skelton Crew?

Andrew: It was a mutual friend thing. Those folks live in Maine and like you know I'm from Massachusetts. We were at a Boston con and a mutual friend came over and was like "You know, you should do something with Skelton Crew." I was like "Yeah, of course I should." He did the same thing with Israel and he was like "Yeah, that's a good idea." At the show, Israel came over and said, "Do you want to make some stuff?" Him and Katherine are both super passionate about both making quality stuff and making things for projects they enjoy. And also things the creator feels good about. It's been so positive and a dream come true. The vinyl figure is about to come out for Norgal. I never thought I would have one of those.

Tim: When Hollywood comes knocking, who's your dream cast for Norgal?

Andrew: That's a really hard one. I don't know. He's hardly even human, in size and shape. I imagine he kind of has a cliché gruff voice. I don't know who it is. My wife doesn't like this idea, but whenever we watch Game Of Thrones, I really feel that Jorah Mormont has the right brow for it. I feel like Jorah would be really good for it. She's always like "No, not Jorah." But at the same time, the other Mormont on the wall, he would be a good one too. Most of his face is covered so anyone with a good brow and can put on a few pounds of muscle is probably pretty good.


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About the Author - Tim Midura

Born in the frozen tundra of Massachusetts, Tim Midura has long possessed a love for comic books and records. After stealing the beard of Zeus and inventing the pizza bagel, a much more heavily tattooed and bearded Tim Midura has finally settled in San Diego. He's the world's first comics journalist who doesn't want to become a comics writer. Find him on twitter, facebook or by email.

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