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Interview with Arnold Pander of Pander Brothers
May 2, 2006
Arnold Pander is a bit of a renaissance man.  While the work I’m most familiar with is his comic book career, he also does work with film, music, & fine art.  You can find out more about him at panderbros.com.  So anyway, I discovered the Pander Brothers back in the 1980’s when they were working on Grendel & 20 years later, the style of the work is still striking & unique.
QRD – How did you come to work on Grendel in the 1980’s?  It seems like Comico was mainly using east coast talent at the time & you were in Portland, Oregon?

Arnold – Matt Wagner was doing a signing tour with Mage at the time.  He saw some of my art on display at Future Dreams comic shop in Portland, Oregon.  My brother and I were doing graphic design and getting more into our film work at the time.  I was a year out of high school when they asked us to do the book so it was a big career defining moment.

QRD – Was there a particular reason you stopped working on Grendel?  Was it to work on Ginger Fox?

Arnold – Well, Matt killed off Christine Spar who was our part of the story.  Ginger Fox was Comico’s way of getting something out with us soon after.  The story was a bit rushed but we took the opportunity to bend the medium even further than what we’d done with Grendel.  We had a lot of fun with Ginger Fox, but were ready to move back to grittier subject matter after the series.

QRD – How did it feel to return to the Grendel character for Black, White, & Red?

Arnold – It was cool.  I’ve felt our collaboration with Matt was always a perfect fit.  He’s such a confident writer with a real respect for the artist’s interpretation.  It was like falling right back into that zone we had with the original series.
QRD – Your book XXX deals a bit with the underground press & political revolution.  Do you wish more underground culture was politically involved & aware or do you think art & politics don’t mix together too well?

Arnold – XXX was really our response to the world around us.  The politics of the time that still have relevance today.  Our youth and the exploration we were taking by living in Amsterdam where we were born.  Also our ability to write a story and express all our creative inspirations.  I think of XXX as sort of a thesis piece.  We learned a lot doing it.  As for art and politics, I think there’s always room to express political feelings through creative means.  The danger is creating straight up propaganda.  It’s a fine line when dealing with topics that reflect our political culture.

QRD – A lot of comic artists seem to work pretty constantly, but you seem to do comics only once in a long while.  What makes you decide to do a project?

Arnold – We divide our time with media projects so it tends to be like a pendulum swinging between mediums.  I spent some time in LA pitching our properties to various studios as well as writing two screenplays and a host of other treatments.  We actually have quite a lot of material to adapt to comics and/or film.  Getting a company to back it is another story.  We’re focused heavily right now upon getting a feature film made, but there are other comics projects in progress as well.

QRD – How tight of a script do you like to be delivered for a comic?

Arnold – It sort of depends on the story.  I just did a single issue of Nightmask and was happy to have the script as detailed as it was.  The story was very complex and easy to misinterpret.  With longer stories I prefer to have a bit of flexibility.  Sometimes just the plot outline.  It makes for an easy feel to the pacing and dramatic flow.

QRD – The art you do is highly stylized & angular, who were your influences when your style was developing & who influences you now?

Arnold – The angular thing is only one style.  It has a kind of economy to it and a strong graphic feel when reduced to print size.  We’ve explored a more organic style with books like Exquisite Corpse and even XXX.  Currently I’m working with an even looser approach just to break out of the rigidity of the panel framework that the comics medium can lock one into.  As for influences, Comics: Kirby, Tuska, Kane, Colan, Golden, Miller, - Foreign comics: Jost Swarte, Daniel Torres, Ever Muelen, - Fine Art: Picasso, Van Gogh, George Gross, Monet, Otto Dix, Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger. 

QRD – Do you like the collaborative nature of story telling & inking & coloring in comics or would you feel more satisfied doing everything yourself?

Arnold – Much of my work has been collaboration so I’m very used to the process and find it helpful to the finished product being effective.  Quality is key and I’ve learned that its best to have a great inspired team rather than to try to prove that you can do it all yourself.  Outside of my brother, I’ve had great collaborations with writers such as Jonathin Vankin, and Mark Pannicia.  Oddly both have become comics editors so watch out, I may turn you into one. 

QRD – How do you & your brother work together on your art?  Does one do the foregrounds & the other the backgrounds?

Arnold – This is the question we get the most and it’s always the hardest to answer.  For the sake of simplifying it, I tend to lean toward the more organic elements and Jacob the inanimate.  That said, the real collaboration is in devising the layouts and story dynamics.  We have also become even more symbiotic as far as who does what just to make it tougher to describe.
QRD – With comic books just being one element of your artistic output, how aware do you think fans of your paintings, music, films, & comics are to your other art?

Arnold – This is something were working on.  There is a bit of a disconnect and we are creating projects that will help to illuminate the scope of our work and hopefully show the continuity between them.  Were currently adapting our short story for Oni Double Feature #1 into a live action film.  The comic was called “Secret Broadcast” and the film will be titled FREQ.  It’s still in a development phase.  We are also creating a new website: www.panderbroscreative.com, which will feature not only our work in comics but our many music videos, commercials, art shows, as well as other media events we’re doing at any given time.  They will be updated every month so people can check out the latest stuff.  We’ll also be featuring sneak previews of the newest comics project.  You can also check out www.panderbros.com or www.pandermedia.com

QRD – What art form would you like to be recognized as your legacy?

Arnold – It’s funny, but I haven’t given it too much thought.  I like to think we’ve still got some legacy to create.  To answer the question though, I think I can speak for us both that we hope to have inspired others to push the boundaries of whatever medium and not be afraid to take chances.  I think that’s been our M.O. and we’re sticking to it.
QRD – Your comic Exquisite Corpse was written as a three part series where reading the issues in different order altered the storyline.  In what order did you actually work on the issues?

Arnold – Exquisite was a great challenge that we were ready for on so many levels.  Not just structure, but the content as well.  We basically drew it all at once like one massive graphic novel.  It’s been awhile, but I think we would work on the various story elements in sections depending on what period of life the character Frank was experiencing.  This way it was impossible for a reader to be able to peg a “first” issue by it’s art style.

QRD – Was it a big deal for you to get to do a Batman book?  Are there any characters you’d particularly like to work on?

Arnold – Sure, it’s Batman!  We were extremely excited when we got the City of Light series sold to DC.  Jacob was a big Batman head as a kid so this was big deal for him too.  Plus it was a bit of redemption in a way, having had an erratic fan base because we haven’t taken the easy route by creating an obvious franchise character to build a fan base around.  So our hats are off to Bob Schreck and the editorial department for taking a chance with such a high concept series.  I feel that it’s important to step out of the comfort zone of a familiar character and make him vulnerable and ugly and turn his world upside down as well as the viewer’s perception of the fictional “reality” within the continuity of a series.  It was a controversial series that follows our own continuity to push things further and hopefully create a new way of looking at the character, in this case Batman and the potential of comics’ subject matter as a whole.  I’d like to work on some Marvel characters since that’s really what influenced my creativity as a kid.  Maybe Iron Man or Spider-Man.  I’m not too picky.

QRD – How do you feel about the current price point of comics?

Arnold – It’s a drag for kids who have to choose what to buy carefully.  It puts a lot of pressure on everybody in the editorial and creative process and can ultimately influence content.

QRD – Were you a fan of the New Universe comic Nightmask that you recently worked on the revival of?

Arnold – Nightmask was about the only one that stood out to me as being interesting.  I was busy drawing Grendel at the time so wasn’t paying too much attention to what else was coming out.  Ironically it was the independent comics revolution we helped spark that helped seal the fate of the Marvel New Universe.  Now 20 years later I’m the one drawing the finale.  There’s some karmic payback there somewhere.

QRD – What’s coming up next for you?

Arnold – Currently working on a graphic novel called “Tasty Bullet” that I wrote with Jon Vankin.  It’s an action Manga inspired tale about the spokes model for an energy drink that causes a worldwide epidemic.  We’ll have sneak previews of it this summer along with other film, art and media projects at www.panderbroscreative.com (launches June 1st 2006).

QRD – Anything else?

Arnold – Thanks to all those who have supported our diverse range of projects.  Keep an eye out for the Pander Brothers as we’ve only just begun!