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An Interview with Andi Watson

-by Andrew Goletz

Andi Watson hasn’t been in the comics industry that long, but he’s already left his mark. The creator of the acclaimed Skeleton Key recently completed a six issue ‘slice of life’ mini-series for Oni Press called ‘Breakfast After Noon’, which he wrote and illustrated. BAN is arguably, the best mini series of the past year, and I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Andi about the road to Oni and life beyond ‘Breakfast After Noon’.

GHM:  How did you break into the industry?

AW: I did 3 issues of a mini-comic called Samurai Jam that I started at college. I sent them to all the publishers I could find and eventually Slave labor got back to me and offered to publish new SJ material.

GHM:  What were you doing before you started creating comics?

AW: I was studying for a BA Hons degree in Graphic design/illustration in Liverpool. I'd always been interested in narrative...using words and pictures. At the time I was very interested in fairy tales and Angela Carter's books...both ripe with visual symbols.

GHM:  What inspired you to want to do comics rather than get into animation or some other type of creative medium?

AW: I created my very first comic as the final project for my degree. I was interested in print making, and pamphlets containing stories and that naturally evolved into comic books. Comics are something you can create with a minimum of resources...just pens, paper and access to a photocopier. You don't have to rely on someone else to let you get at the "means of production" so you have creative freedom. Animation relies on money and collaboration whereas comics are about personal expression.

GHM:  Were you always a big comic fan?

AW: I read comics and books voraciously as a kid. The comics fell away in my early teens but I got back into them in my late teens. I was never into super heroes not in comic form anyway...the animated shows I was.

GHM: Who were some of your early artistic influences?

AW: How early? As a kid I don't know, I was fairly picky about art styles...in the Star Wars comic I didn't like Carmine Infantino but did like Michael Golden. As a teen I adored all the flashy stuff, McKean and Sienkiewicz, and then art school opened my eyes to the world of and history of art. I've always been drawn to graphic styles and drawing.

GHM:  Will you ever revisit those stories and characters, or are you looking instead to move past that?

AW: If I have the right story then I'll go back and work with those characters...I do like them but don't want to just go thru the motions. All along the way I've tried to move forward and improve, which you can do in the context of an ongoing series. It can test the patience of the audience (Samurai Jam is a good example of that.) .

GHM: What was the inspiration for Breakfast After Noon?

AW: Parts of my life and what's going on in the "developed" world right now. A move away from manufacturing industry to "information technology" and how that affects people and their place in the world. The area local to me has traditionally relied heavily on manufacturing and has suffered accordingly.

GHM: Did you know the complete story before writing it or did you make some spur of the moment changes?

AW: I had all the important moments mapped out before I started drawing, especially the ending. It's important to know where the story is going from the start because then you can add elements as you go along and they fit within the overall pattern.

GHM: Why do you feel the ending works the way it does?

AW: I'm don't want to spell it out; I think it's pretty clear if you've followed the run of the book. There is a hint of ambiguity and I don't want to spoil that for new readers.

GHM: How has the reaction on the book been so far?

AW: Very good, I've been bowled over. I never expected it to strike a chord with so many people. I'm very happy because I wasn't confident I could make it work when I started.

GHM: Why do you think people have been so enamored with this book?

AW: I don't know. Maybe it's because they recognize themselves or the world around them on the pages? When I started I was researching specifically about the Pottery industry and the history and techniques of ceramics. As I developed the idea those elements faded more into the background as the characters and their travails came to the fore.

GHM: You mention how there were ups and downs with Rob and Louise before we meet them in BAN #1 and there will continue to be afterwards. Any plans to write a prequel or follow up using them?

AW: There's definitely a story about having the baby in there. At some point, who knows? ;)

GHM: Who was easier to write, Rob or Louise?

AW: Both were difficult. Rob was difficult because he was reacting in a way that was screwing up his life yet he couldn't stop. Louise was tough because she had to be sympathetic and bemused by Rob's direction. If they didn't love each other then there was no story: they split up, who cares. I had to make them care enough to stay together and make things work even though it's difficult.

GHM:  How would you define BAN to a new reader?

AW: It's about love and work. How unemployment affects people differently. About a young couple and how they cope.

GHM: What's your experience with Oni Press been like?

AW: All good. I've got a good relationship with Joe, James, Jamie and Steve the designer. I get on really well with Jamie, my editor, and the whole crew surpassed themselves in getting BAN out there to people.

GHM: Your next project is called 'Hold the Back Page'...what can you tell us about it, when's it coming out, etc?

AW: It's since been re-titled "Slow News Day" just to add to the confusion ;) It's six issues, bi-monthly, starting in July and published by Slave Labor Graphics. It's about an American woman who comes to England to work on a small provincial newspaper. She doesn't intend to stay because it's not a large London based paper but events lead to her sticking around. I get to touch on the differences/similarities between the UK and US.

GHM:  What other projects are you working on?

AW: I just finished colouring a Star Wars short story (that I wrote and drew) for the SW Tales anthology. I've drawn an Atom story for the DC Bizarro World anthology and a story for Grendel BW&R. Comics wise we're hoping to get BAN out in French this year and I have plenty of work ahead of me on Slow News Day.

GHM:  Are there any books or characters you'd like to take a stab at?

AW: It'd be nice to work on a female superhero book. I've a soft spot for Batgirl.

GHM:  If you weren't in the comics industry, what would you be doing?

AW: Illustrator...which I do also.

GHM:  What comics/creators do you follow?

AW: Jaime Hernandez, Trondheim, Mitsuru Adachi, Seizo Watase, Dupuy-Berberian, Baru, Avril, Phoenix/Carney, Ilya, Blutch, Serge Clerc, John Porcellino, Bruce Timm, J-P Peyraud

GHM: Do you have any interest in writing a different type of genre like sci-fi or horror?

AW: I've scripted Buffy and Aliens Vs Predator. I have genre-oriented ideas as a writer and hopefully I'll get to collaborate with an artist on them some day.

GHM:  Who or what will save the comics industry?

AW: Very simple...a wider audience. It's attracting the audience that's the problem...

GHM:  The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

AW: Beach Boys.

For more information about ‘Breakfast After Noon’ and Andi’s other works, visit the Oni Press web site at www.onipress.com.

Copyright©2001 Andrew Goletz