Strip Talk with Andi Ewington of Forty-Five

forty-five-195x300Andi Ewington wrote Forty-Five, a graphic novel in which a fictional James Stanley’s unborn child may have the Super-S gene which grants super powers. Mr. Stanley decides to interview forty five supers to answer the question of what is in store for the child, the parents and the family. It appears to have been more than he first imagined.

Despite a number of other interviews he’s done, I have some unanswered questions for Andi himself. He has graciously offered to answer them.

You’ve said that Fort-Five took about seven months to complete the transcript for the book. How long (as an average) did it take the artists to choose their page to illustrate?

Each artist took on average a week or two to choose a page that resonated with them. Some obviously took a touch longer but, on the whole, the response was pretty quick (I was reminding them that it was a first-come first-served situation, so if they wanted to work on a particular interview it was in their interest to get in quick!). As for the art itself, I’d say around a month for each artist to complete their pages, again this varied wildly from those that had the time to turn it around in a couple of weeks to those that took three months or more.

What direction did they typically ask for?

I was quick to state at the beginning that there were no predetermined thoughts on my part, so directionally they had a free rein. In fact I went further to say that the more creative the thinking behind the page the better. Also I supplied a style guide for the interviewer (James Stanley) when I briefed in the page so they had everything they pretty much needed straight off the bat.

Did anything need to be adjusted in the transcript based on the artist’s interpretations?

A couple of things, generally small little touches that I had overlooked. Simon Coleby for example added a meaty Claymore to his superhero interview, something I had overlooked – so it was enjoyable adding that little detail into the transcript. Also Jock had used jigsaw pieces as a theme for his page, something that gave me the inspiration to go back and adjust that particular scene.

Each artist did one page of art for each interview – some are splash pages and some are sequentials. How were the splash pages and sequentials decided upon?

It all started with John Higgins – as he was pretty much the first to work on his page. From that I decided the pages before and after should be splash pages where possible, and from there I tried my best to alternate the pages accordingly. That’s not to say that’s wholly possible all the way through the book, in some instances the artists changed their minds and went for a splash rather than a sequential or visa-versa, but I was fine so long as there wasn’t too long a run of splash page after splash page or sequential pages following one another.

45page_blogHow much did the initial artist rendition of James Stanley differ from your mental image of the interviewer?

Ha! I said to the artists at the beginning, think of it like a cross between me and Ewan McGregor and you’ve pretty much got it. I’m relieved nobody paid attention to that!

Any good supers book will have sub plots and evil organizations. With just a page for each interview, how tough was it to work those things in?

I’d say ‘interesting’ rather than tough. I always had in mind to introduce XoDOS as the main antagonist, and I found it was easy to weave them subtly into conversations. Cropping up to offer their ‘help’ to interviewees for example meant that sub-plots presented themselves nicely as the story progressed. I’d like to think there are plenty of little tasty morsels for expansion at a later date.

You described where the artists were chosen from with some being recommended and others found online. Any advice for other writers seeking artists?

I’d probably say research and see as many portfolios as possible. Try and get yourself off to one of the many cons out there and meet as many artists as you can. And don’t just go for the big names (generally they are locked into exclusive contracts or are on long lead times) there are plenty of often overlooked artists that deserve consideration. Oh, and be honest with them with timings, costs and commitment!

How about artists seeking writers? What could an artist have done in order to stand out to you?

That’s a difficult one to answer as all art is subjective so what works for me might not work for another writer, however I’d say the more ‘finished’ the piece the better – I love sketches and scamps but what generally seals the deal for me is seeing what the page could potentially look like all done and dusted. If an artist’s portfolio has a few full colour images scattered through it I have a better handle on their work and, more importantly, if it will suit my project.

45Based on your experience working with these high caliber artists, what do you now feel capable of that you wouldn’t have felt capable of before? Different kinds of stories, more epic tales or difficult-to-show-visually subject matter?

I think overall it’s the confidence to carry on with the ‘next’ thing. I’ve been fortunate that ‘Forty-Five’ has put me in touch with probably over sixty top artists, inkers and colourists, all of them receptive to the odd email from me. That’s an amazing position to be in, it means I can get an idea in front of these guys and see if they want to attach themselves to it very easily.

You’ve mentioned a couple of different related Forty-Five books that you’d like to produce. It might be a little early to ask but is there any further news at this point?

Well, funnily enough I was chatting to Com.x a few weeks back about developing one of the characters from ‘Forty-Five’, and I can say that I’ve just signed a contract for my second book! I’m working on a 40 page one-shot and it’ll be co-written with Eddie Deighton from Com.x (I had a blast with him on the edit), the artist is from the original pool of talent on ‘Forty-Five’ and we’ll be announcing more soon. It’s slated for a late 2010, early 2011 finish and I’m really excited, this time round it’ll be what I would call a ‘traditional’ comic format.

Congratulations! Finally, what facet of 45 are you most proud of?

I think that it’s that I ‘finished’ it. When the printed version is in my hands, I think it’ll finally hit home that I’ve achieved my dream to be published and have inspiration to give to my son. Mission-almost-complete.:-)

forty-five-195x300Thanks for answering these questions, Andi.

Forty-Five was spotlighted in the October 2009 Diamond Previews catalog (under DCD#OCT090823 for retailers). For more news about Forty-Five, please visit the Forty-Five comic blog and Com.x.


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