Over the Emerald City Comic Con weekend, Andrew MacLean was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to chat with Comics Beat about his new graphic novel, Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the Endtimes.
Comics Beat: So give us the rundown on your book. What can readers expect?
Andrew MacLean: Sure, but I’m terrible at talking about it! Basically we follow this girl Aria and her cat, and they’re on a mission to find this ancient relic that used to be a power source for the world before it kind of collapsed. So now the world is city ruins covered in trees and undergrowth and all that stuff, and the humans of the area are all really savage. So while Aria is searching for this, she’s constantly hindered by the savages, and then other groups come in… It’s tough to talk about it without spoiling anything, but that’s the jist of it. Robot fights and savage fights.
CB: So what gave you the idea for this story?
AM: Most of the things I do usually start out with a single drawing. I did a drawing as a sort of collaboration with my buddy Toby Cypress, and we did a print. It was just a girl sitting on a motorcycle with a spiked bat and a bunch of cats. So I have a character and then I wonder what world they’re in, and it starts coming to me. Once I realized what kind of world she was in, I kind of tapped into my love for Akira and Tekkon Kinkreet and the manga style.
CB: The art is beautiful – full of texture and grain. Did you use traditional tools for this?
AM: Yeah, I used ink and black watercolor for tones, on watercolor paper and then simple colors underneath that are digital. It was my first time coloring a book, so I did a lot of trial runs.
CB: You’ve crafted a pretty interesting mythos here. Were you influenced by anything in particular?
AM: I started out with a couple things I wanted this character to do, a string of events and stuff. It’s hard to say because the pieces just fall into place on their own. I like contrasting ideas, so it’s the future, but it’s a collapsed world, so I kind of wanted the old residents to feel savage. The characters kind of tell me what to do.
CB: The story is very heavy on narrative and light on dialogue. Is that just symptomatic of having a main character with only a cat to talk to, or do you naturally gravitate to the narrative style?
AM: I’m kind of like an artist who writes rather than a writer who draws. I have a lot of respect for people than can carry a story with minimal dialogue, and so I like to attempt that. I don’t even have the cat meow that much, so it’s really just Aria carrying the story – thoughts she has or just talking to the cat. It’s more the nature of the solitude of the character than anything else.
CB: There are these striking panels littered throughout the comic that are just eyes, colored with blues and reds. It sort of reminded me of the eyes in The Great Gatsby, which in the book is a pretty dismal symbol. Anything meaning in those panels?
AM: It’s not so much The Great Gatsby… The savage boy in the comic – there wasn’t really enough dialogue in the book for me to name him – but to me he was always “Little Dead Eyes,” so the idea was that you look at him and think he’s a little nuts, even before you see his actions. So I like that Aria only had to see him once and she was kind of already haunted by him, and so his eyes always come up again and again. The two characters are head to head, so it seems only right that we could see that through her eyes meeting his on the page. It’s a little more subtle than my other stuff.
CB: There’s definitely a musical undercurrent to this work. Could you tell us a little more about your choice to have Aria sing opera throughout the book?
AM: Mostly I just chose them so I could have something that was public domain, first and foremost. The songs I wanted to sing were more like Three Stooges songs, because that’s more in line with the personality. I went to college for music, so I just have an affinity for it. I didn’t go into it thinking I wanted to use music, but the dots just kind of connect on these things. I don’t have a map. There’s no rhyme or reason to half the stuff I do, haha.
Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the Endtimes will be released by Dark Horse Comics on June 2, 2015.