Comic Creator Interview
with Andrew MacLean
Name: Andrew MacLean
City: Salem, Massachusetts
Comics: Head Lopper, SNIP SNIP, Department O, Colonial Souls, etc.
Websites: andrewmaclean.tumblr.com, Twitter
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Andrew – I was young, too young to remember. But they weren’t easy to come by in my small town & I probably stopped reading them around the age of twelve, picked them up again for a spell in high school, put them down, & returned again towards the end of college.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Andrew – I can’t remember my ACTUAL first, but there were two that stick out to me as being special. One was some anniversary, oversized edition of Amazing Spider-Man. I remember the cover with a holographic green spider swinging towards you in a black & silver armored version of his suit. The other book was the final issue on Frank Miller & John Romita Jr’s Daredevil: Man without Fear. The pages were glossy & the art & story were just so bad ass. It was the first time I saw what comics COULD be. I remember wishing that Daredevil always wore that black sweat suit & black bandana over the eyes combo with Adidas kicks versus the actual superhero suit he wore. Also it was the first time I saw blood in a comic.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Andrew – It was after college & I went to college late, so I was probably 26.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Andrew – That’s tough. I’m still young & not extremely well read. Even today I’m not a HUGE comic consumer, but I would say I like the comics of today & more importantly, I feel I might REALLY like the comics of tomorrow. Are they the “greatest”? I don’t know. Probably not. But I’m not an academic.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Andrew – I’m a control freak I guess. I like being able to draw what I want to draw & I also have a bunch of stories I would like to tell with those characters & settings. I’m not sure I made a conscious decision about it though. I just love making the things.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Andrew – I think they can be either or both, of course. Some people seem to like the idea of mini-comics & indies as existing outside the “machine.” & that’s super cool & if that’s how you feel then they certainly exist as their own unique media. But I also believe, & have been told, that it’s also the best way to get into mainstream comics, if that is your goal of course. Nothing shows you are up to it more than ACTUALLY MAKING THEM. It shows you have the discipline to get it down & it shows clearly you are able to tell a story in the medium.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Andrew – The first comics I drew was a book called Meatspace with writer Josh Gorfain. Josh ran a Kickstarter to fund it & I can’t remember how many that print run was. The first book I wrote, drew, & self-published alone was Head Lopper #1 & we were broke at the time. We ordered only a 100 copies because it was all we could afford.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Andrew – I think it is totally fine for prices to be all over the place. We are a little stuck imagining comics as being a set page count & paper quality. We’re just telling stories, I see no reason why we can’t just tell them in whatever way we want. There is no reason to conform. Some would site that retailers have shelves that expect a certain sized book & they have a system for the way they store & display things. Frankly, I don’t care. I don’t care as a creator & I certainly don’t care as a consumer. If something is cool, it’s cool. & for me, my eye goes directly to the books that stand out as being different from everything else. It makes me curious. It makes me want to find out what’s inside. Personally, I’d pay more for something unique, gladly.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Andrew – As many QUALITY books as I can. At this very small-potatoes stage of the game, there are too many factors & players to even really know where my expectations should be. Last year I drew way more than came out, & as of writing this, they still aren’t out & I don’t know when they will be out.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Andrew – I like reading things as complete works, as I think many do. But serializing is such a large part of the culture it’s hard to imagine moving away from that.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Andrew – I’ve never done a strip, although I’d like to. But I think the major difference is punctuation. Meaning, in a strip you need some kind of closure or joke after 3 or 4 panels regardless of whether it relates chronologically to the last or next strip or not.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Andrew – So many variables when you’re small time. If I had a confident answer it would be nice to know myself.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Andrew – Everything. Everything. Everything….. Everything. Like sports or anything else, you get better with practice & learn from your mistakes.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Andrew – I do. I have to plan things out more than I’d even like. They are really messy, but the whole thing will come out better if I work out the compositions a little first.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Andrew – My pages are on 11x17s
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Andrew – For inking I use a brush. I prefer the Raphael Kolinksy 8408 size 0 watercolor brush, with Dr. P.H. Martins Black Bombay India Ink.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Andrew – I get pretty messy. I end up having piles of tools mixed in with piles of scraps on top of books of sketches & thumbnails on both sides of my table.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Andrew – I don’t work digitally until it comes to color typically. Until recently I even hand lettered on the originals, which was nice but REALLY time consuming.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Andrew – I think they are beneficial to the industry & inevitable. Although I prefer a tangible book it doesn’t mean all do. There is no reason for kids today to prefer tangible media. If they are growing up on iPads, they certainly can’t feel nostalgic about tangible media. So if digital gets more comics into more hands (not to mention way less overhead), then I welcome them. ALSO, with comics being so readily available digitally, readers can literally purchase them from their couch & read them instantly, you’re now making a comic something that can be an impulse buy. That’s new. Comics are now available to the curious. So much potential for new readers.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Andrew – I’m not very good at coloring so it is very time consuming for me, but when I draw I am drawing for color. It doesn’t feel complete for me until it is colored.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Andrew – How ever many it takes to compete all the tasks. You need a script, pencils, inks, color, letters, SFX, & in many case an editor.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Andrew – The internet. It has made comics SO much easier. Were it not for the internet it would be like trying to form a band, gathering a bunch of lackluster friends & strangers with different levels of talent, ambition, motivations, & different tastes & expecting them to get along & NOT actually get some work done. Good luck. I feel it’s probably because of the internet that indie books are on the rise. People of like-mind can finally find each other.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Andrew – It should only be as tight as it needs to be to tell the story accurately. The more rigid it is & the more married you are to it, the more you are handcuffing your artist. Hire an artist you love & let him/her do what he/she loves.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Andrew – Not sure.
Andrew – QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Andrew – Not too sure that very many have read any.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Andrew – I think they have their place & they are well & good, but I wish they didn’t DEFINE comics so much. Comics don’t equal superheroes as many (particularly non-readers) seem to think.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Andrew – I always enjoyed Marvel more, but I do really like Batman.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Andrew – Hellboy. There are many that I would enjoy, but only Hellboy would be a real dream come true.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Andrew – No. There is a lot of business in self-publishing that is taxing. Were it lucrative I’d probably say yes because the freedom is so nice, but the money, at this stage anyway, is nearly non-existent.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Andrew – As many as I can afford. The ones I hit are generally on the east coast because travel is easier. But I love them, I think they are exciting & I love seeing friends & making new ones.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Andrew – Whatever I can without breaking the bank & annoying all my friends & followers. I use social media mostly & when I’m lucky I get some press or an interview… like this. (Thanks!)
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Andrew – I don’t see any reason my books can’t be in shops. They are violent, but not intensely so, language isn’t usually too offensive, so unless they are complete shit I can’t see why not….
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Andrew – I am really inspired by movies, so it would be nice to see one made of my work. But that is more of a curiosity than anything. It’s certainly nothing to EXPECT & even if you were so lucky the likelihood of it coming out the way you would want it too is probably pretty slim.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Andrew – A little of both I guess. But I really don’t read or collect in large quantity.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Andrew – Well, a lot of things can & do change in ten years time, so I’m guessing by then newer technologies & systems will have been discovered & they will undoubtedly be mind-boggling. They themselves would seem like science fiction to us now. But I have to assume it would be something born out of this intangible digital generation we’re currently moving into.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Andrew – Well obviously the industry is a little behind on equality. Like “nerds” are uncomfortable with women creeping into their “He-Man Women Haters” sanctuary. Like they no longer feel safe. Like instead of sharing something they love with a group who seems pretty interested & open minded, they feel threatened. Otherwise, I do feel like comics has room to broaden its horizons a little. It really feels like there is room for creators to be inspired by things that exist OUTSIDE of the medium. Sometimes it feels like we cannibalize.
That said, I am extremely optimistic about what comes next. The horizons really do seem to be broadening, both in terms of who is coming to create new stories & what those stories hold for us.
QRD – Anything else?
Andrew – Just that I have a BUNCH of new stuff coming in 2014, an entirely complete mini-series called Colonial Souls, Department O #2 is on its way. Head Lopper #2 is on its way. I’m working on a new graphic novel & much more. Very busy year for me.
I also wanted to say thanks. Thank for asking so many nice questions. I can’t wait to see who else you guys talk to.