June 2003

Michael Farrelly

features

An Interview with Andi Watson

Andi Watson is a singular talent with a multitude of projects to his credit. From work for hire gigs writing for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic to creator-owned works like Geisha and Skeleton Key. His six-issue mini-series Breakfast After Noon was nominated for the prestigious Eisner award and is collected by Oni Press. Watson's latest Mini-series Love Fights is a romance set in a world populated with superheroes.

He took some time to answer some questions from Bookslut.

This series (Love Fights) has some surface similarities to other books out there about real people in a superhero world (Astro City, Powers). Love Fights seems to focus more on the wake of the heroes than on the heroes themselves. What different sort of story are you hoping to tell with Love Fights?

I haven't read those books and don't tend to read that kind of stuff anyway, so I wasn't worried about stepping on anyone's toes. The "real people" in a superhero world goes way back anyway...Jimmy Olson and Lois Lane had their own books back in the day. LF is pretty tightly focused on a romance between "real" people and the superheroes themselves are mostly Off Panel. It's the consequences of the heroes actions that tend to ripple out and affect Jack and Nora. That was what struck me as fun about the book, ridiculous overblown genre stuff contrasted with the everyday lives of my characters.

The pacing and story of the book reminded me a bit of the bedroom comedy films of the 1960's (now resurrected in the new film "Down with Love") was there any cinema influence on the book?

I've not seen many Doris Day movies although I'm not adverse to that camp, pastel coloured approach. My rom-com touchstones are firmly in the Hepburn/Tracey/Grant films from the Thirties. There was often the added complication of their work lives interfering with their characters, Adam's Rib and His Girl Friday are a couple of my favourite movies. I've always been interested in work and how central it is to our lives and I explore that from a different angle in LF.

An interesting take in the book is the idea of the "super-hero media". Is this a take-off of the culture of celebrity?

It's not the central focus but considering the characters professions it is an important part of the story. Jack is a comic book artist and Nora is a hero gossip rag journalist, one is building up the hero myth, the other is tearing it down. But they both make heir living from hero exploits. There's no escaping the culture of celebrity we live in in the real world, it even infects comic books where cults of personality develop around creators that are out of proportion to the talents of the creators. Artists are hot for a while then they disappear, they're Top Ten lists etc, it's all very ephemeral...but fun to poke fun at.

Your work has a very distinctive narrative/artistic style. Who are some of your influences?

I guess talking comics it started with manga and Love and Rockets, further down the line I got into Palooka-ville and Monsieur Jean all of whom made me look at the medium in different ways in terms of what you could do and the different ways to do it. Outside of that I'm always looking at "fine art", design, movies, novels and TV, oh and real life of course. I've spent the last couple of years drawing 400 pages from the world around me. Being a creative type you're never off duty, you're constantly filing stuff away and making mental notes. I think Martin Amis described the writers life as a kind of vampirism, constantly on the look out for sustenance.

Which style of publication do you feel better suits your work, graphic novel or single issues?

I do write and think in terms of the complete story, or arc to use the jargon. But I break it down into issues. It's the same story but presented in a series of "chapters". In theory my approach might change if it was to be put out as an [graphic novel] from the start, there's always a structural discipline in working within 24-32 page blocks. It keeps you sharp because, for me, that's not much space to work in. Comics is all about being concise. My favourite novelists are Henry James and Thackeray they worked in "numbers" and it never harmed them ;)

You've done work for hire in the past with Buffy, how would your contrast that experience with working on your own material?

It's totally different. It's a job, you work for a boss, you have to please other people and meet their criteria, no matter how distant it is from your own, for what they consider to be a good script. You work within parameters, you're using other peoples property, characters, situations, often other people's stories laid out for you. You have to respect that, it's not yours. You have little control over the final book, stuff gets changed all the time...it's rarely "my" script, a collaboration, an amalgamation of personal, company and editorial ideas. It's cool I get paid.

With my own work economic considerations don't come into it. I have an idea I'm really excited about and I HAVE to express it. It might be considered "alternative" like [Breakfast After Noon] or it might be considered more mainstream like [Love Fights]. Ideas are ideas, they don't come to you with that kind of baggage, the point is to enjoy telling that particular story.

If you had to pick one of your comics to hand people first which one would it be and why?

Probably [Breakfast After Noon]. It's about work and love and pretty much everyone has experience of that.

What's the most frequent sketch request that you get?

Mostly it's "whatever you want". After that Kitty or Tamsin from [Skeleton Key]. People seem to share my long standing affection for those characters. More often than before people want sketches of Wolverine or something...which I kinda enjoy because it's not something I would ever usually draw.

Your work spans from the fantastic (Geisha) to the more solidly realistic (Dumped) do you think the medium of comics is better suited to one or the other?

Comics is a narrative medium that can tell all kinds of stories. Like movies or novels, the boundaries of the medium are limited only by the ambition of the people who work within it.

There's the cliche that comics have no "budget" so they should be all wide screen epic destruction because you can't afford to do that in movies. Following that logic Independance Day is a better film than anything by Bergman and colour comics tell better stories than those in black and white.

What was the first comic you ever read?

Probably something in the newspaper my parents had delivered...Disney, Peanuts, Andy Cap.

What are some comic titles you never miss or graphic novels you can't be without?

I don't have a regular comic habit but the books I've enjoyed most of late are: The Road to America by Baru, Epileptic by David B and Wrong for all the Right Reasons by Glenn Dakin.

With all the hype around superhero movies (X2, Spiderman, Hulk) do you think that comics outside of that genre will benefit as well? A sort of "Rising tide moves all boats" idea?

I'm not even sure the mainstream has benefited. Have sales on the X or Spidey books significantly increased, are thousands of fans of the movies streaming into comic shops?

The biggest boost of late has been girls going into book stores for TokyoPop manga. The mainstream has been telling us for years that girls don't buy comics. Wrong! They don't buy the narrow range of stuff on offer through the direct market. Superheros are a minority interest.