Supermaker: Andrew Drilon Interview

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 17 - 2011

Andrew Drilon (“Pericos Tao“) is one of the most respected komiks creators in the country today. His latest mini-comic, “Supermaker” has garnered praise from creators such as Chris Roberson and Jeff Lemire. He talks about the inspiration for the comic here, but I still wanted to know more. I asked the always busy Andrew if he’d be willing to answer a few questions about “Supermaker” and he graciously agreed:


So… I take it you come from the “characters have a life of their own” school of thought?

 

Sometimes. Well, really, they’re all fictional constructs, but my feeling is that the act of creation is really a conversation with oneself, so some of the creator’s internal logic bleeds into the characters. You can play around with archetypes or create well-rounded personalities, but with each line/panel/image you set down, you’re building rules for them which have to be followed (or subverted with good reason). 

So yeah, I feel that once that “rule set” is established, you can extend it forwards and backwards with your imagination, giving the impression of a life outside the actual story, which allows for things like sequels and fan fiction. However I do like the thought that they exist somewhere in the second dimension, living lives outside our purview. It’s a romantic idea that I tend to obsess over.

You mentioned in your journal entry that “Supermaker” was originally a longer work, but you decided to make it shorter. How long was it, originally? What sort of cuts did you make?

It was originally designed to run in monthly 8-page installments for three years. The first “season” would have been a year, clocking in at around 96 pages, with the whole thing running to almost 300 pages. I had a ton of ideas for it–the overall stylistic theme being rampant references to (and reflections on) all the superhero comics I grew up reading—all anchored in this “real” cartoonist’s story. I wanted to do a “Supreme” or “End League”-style work, which usually starts out being derivative of other stories but evolves into own thing. I love Barth and Borges and Burroughs, and I think there are lots of ways to do metafiction comics that we haven’t seen before. In the end, though, I decided to just cut out the body and leave the heart of it–that sentiment expressed in those 8 pages, which I think is the most important aspect of the story.

I know you’re working on a longer work at the moment, but most of your other published work is short (but sweet). Is this because you prefer shorter stories, or because of external constraints?

I like the craft of short stories. In mainstream comics, there’s a heavy focus on serial, longform storytelling, which is very important when dealing with characters that are stuck in a perpetual Act 2. I like that, and obviously wonderful things can be done with it, but I also like the idea of getting to the point, saying your piece, then getting off the stage. It’s easier on today’s attention span and reads well on the web. A while back, Warren Ellis wrote about doing the comics equivalent of a pop single; a catchy, 3-minute blast of music that completes its own narrative within that short time period. That’s what I’ve tried to do with these. Most of the pieces I’ve done take about 3 minutes to read, each with a governing “sound” that crescendos toward a climax, which I hope people find satisfying. 

Practically speaking, doing short comics is a lot easier on my hands, my schedule and my wallet. I’m not the fastest artist out there and I’m not getting paid to make these, so the short form is really where I’m most comfortable. The best thing about it is that it allows me to explore a lot different styles and genres, giving me things to put into my bag of tricks, which I’m having to use a lot now that I’m working on a graphic novel.

How long did it take you to create “Supermaker”? 

After I had the idea, it took me about a week to do the research, make the outlines and work up the designs. It took me another three weeks to do the 8 pages, guerrilla-style, between paying gigs. The coloring itself was very particular–I had to learn to color in the shiny, mainstream “Hi-Fi”-style to contrast with the more somber, less precise “real world” colors. I’m not sure how long the covers and revisions took. They were done leisurely, I think, because I didn’t set any personal deadlines for those.
I know that the covers are riffs of specific popular DC event covers, but are there any other references / allusions / cameos / Easter eggs in the comic itself that readers may miss? 

The captions were rendered in the manner of Dan Turpin’s interior monologues in Final Crisis, and the superhero dialogue near the end has slight allusions to Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Flex Mentallo, with the “unnamed direction” and all that. There’s a lot of Morrison in this one, because he’s been one of my biggest influences growing up. Clearly the superheroes are all analogues of different characters—there’s a Swamp Thing, a Sailor Moon, a Punisher, a Flash Gordon, a Werewolf-by-Night (a tip of the hat the popularity of werewolves in Zudacomics), and more. Promethea, The Authority, Miracleman—there are a lot, even in those few pages. I didn’t have enough space for it, but even the main character was going to be kind of a Joe Matt or Lewis Trondheim-like“creator-as-character”. The references were there to add another layer of enjoyment to the piece, but I tried to make it so that you don’t need to get them in order to understand the main story.

 

The story is somewhat open ended. I know that you mentioned that you’ve intentionally made it shorter, but is there any possibility of a sequel at some point?

Well, I know what happens before and I know what happens next, so yes, I’d say there’s a possibility of a sequel in the future. I’m very focused on my graphic novel right now, but I wouldn’t dismiss a potential return to Supermaker, in the same way that I might potentially do another Caraboy story. I still have a folder full of Supermaker material I haven’t used. I’m quite happy with how it is right now, though—it starts in the middle and ends in the middle, leaving the reader to ponder the rest.
If you were in the position of the creator in the story, and you only had time to make one comic, do you have any idea what kind of story you’d want to tell? What genre, what tone, etc.? 

While I was making it, the answer to this question was Supermaker. Right now though, it’s the graphic novel I’m working on–Black Clouds. After that, who knows? I’ve always lived with a paranoid fear of dying-at-any-moment, so my current personal project will always have to be the comic I’d want to be remembered by.

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