Andi Ewington is an excessively talented writer and designer of comic books and assorted other fictions, including many devious years in the gaming industry. His debut OGN 45 blew minds. His next big project OVERRUN will blow the lid off what’s left of the house until all the neighbors freak out and call the cops. It always ends with the cops involved. A bright, modest and humorous gentleman, Andi shared a thing or two about a thing or two with the LP…
Andi, are you a child of pop culture? What were some early favorites, from any medium, that really seemed to call out to you?
Completely and in some respects I guess I still am. Star Wars springs to mind, I’m currently introducing my 4 year old son, Zack, to the delights of ‘The Force’. We have a Saturday and Sunday afternoon ritual of playing Star Wars Miniatures Starship Battles, he’s even asked for a Tie-Interceptor from Father Christmas. My work is done!
SW aside, I’m still a huge Dungeons and Dragons player, I was completely swept up in the likes of Fighting Fantasy & Choose your own Adventure which were all the rage back then. Any Geek worth his salt knew that FF was the better of the two. I even managed to hook up with Ian Livingstone on his 30th Anniversary Edition (Blood of the Zombies). I helped him with the art on it by putting him in touch with the likes of Kev Crossley and Greg Staples, that earned me a special thanks inside which was a crowning moment for me.
I loved cartoons on TV and would regularly watch the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Dogtanian, Ulysses, Battle of the Planets, 80 Days around the World and Dangermouse. In fact TV in general played an enormous part in my life, shows such as The Young Ones, Blackadder, Sledge Hammer, Filthy Rich & Catflap, A-Team, Streethawk, Airwolf, The Equalizer, The Professionals -all brilliant shows and of a time when everybody watched without fail so they could discuss/recite/reenact in the playground the following day (don’t forget we only had a handful of TV Stations to choose from back then).
Music I was a bit of a strange one, I enjoyed Top of the Pops and whatever band with a tune I liked, but I seldom followed anyone pre-college days. Wasn’t until my teens that I discovered ‘The Smiths’ and even then I wouldn’t say it was a popular choice of the masses, only those with suicidal tendencies. I was aware of Hip Hop and tried to embrace it but ultimately I wasn’t cool enough to get away with it comfortably… the same could be said for my fashion sense!
When did the creative bug first get you? Was it something you entertained in school, or was it fostered by your family?
That’s a really difficult one to answer. The truth of the matter is I’ve always been creative in one way or another from as long as I can remember. Back in the 80s I was wrapped up in the Star Wars Universe (as previously mentioned) and I would spend hours drawing the battle of Yavin. Fast forward five years and I had embraced the dark arts of Dungeon and Dragons, which ultimately honed my ability to create characters and build worlds. I even remember trying to create my own pencil drawn comic at this stage of my life. I put 3 or 4 issues out at once, I think they lasted a day before the shopkeeper (who had taken pity on me) had to remove them from his shelf for fear of ridicule. Onwards into my teens and computer games had replaced my fantasy fetish, suddenly I was introduced to everything from the historical to the surreal. But computer games can really overtake you and I squandered time until my early 30s when I finally realized that I needed to stop playing computer games and start being more proactive. My first novel was ‘Limpit Muskin & Company’ which I wrote with my best friend Dennis Johnson, it was a good attempt but probably a book too far. Unfazed, I set about developing other ideas until finally in 2009/10 I found success with ‘Forty-Five’.
I’ve always wondered why I have been so creative, a large part of me puts it down to being an only child. When you have no other siblings to play with you have to spend a great deal of time inventing games and things to do on your own, so on one hand I missed out on a brother or sister but on the other I don’t think I would have half the imagination I do today.
But then you dived into a wealth of collaborators with 45, which was indeed a very very big deal. Now that the book has been on the shelves for a couple of years and all is said and done, what do you think is the greatest accomplishment of that story?
Wow, there’s a few things I could pick but I think I have to ultimately go with the collaborative nature of the project. I owe a huge debt of thanks to the likes of Eddie and Ben of Com.x and the editors involved including Jon Sloan, Jay Mistry and of course my best friend Dennis who sat for three days solid, he was a legend! I’m also indebted to all the artists who came along for the ride and who were all brilliant to work with, they made the year-long quest to fill the pages so much easier than it could have been. I also have to thank two very special people for helped me make the book what it is today, firstly my wife Natasha who while heavily pregnant often found herself fending for things on her own while I wrote, and secondly to Zack who was the inspiration for the story. Forty-Five sits on my shelf today and I see it as a triumphant reminder of the hard work everyone put into it.
Does it still amuse you that 45 yet holds so many secrets that most folks haven’t squared away? I mean for myself, even after a few readings the layers to the story continue to come forth in surprising ways. The BlueSpear follow up/spinoff was a tasty treat, but economy aside do you still hope to explore the world more, or are you sick and tired of it all by now?
There’s a wealth of secrets that I have planned and would love to explore further if there weren’t the usual restraints of time and budget. Obviously the BlueSpear trinity series is top of that list of things I want to square away. Beyond that, I would love the opportunity to go into more back stories and flesh out some of those threads that were purposefully left open. I don’t think I’m the kind to tire of the world I’ve created. Sure some times it’s nice to take a break from it and write something else -but I liken that to going on holiday, it’s nice being away but it’s even better coming home.
Writing something else, like OVERRUN? How did the original nuggets for that premise hit you? Because it is a very original thing that many folks are eagerly anticipating, and your collaborators, as usual, are all brilliant as well.
Overrun has been building for a long time. Even before Forty-Five it had been rolling around in the old grey matter for what has seemed an age. As you may or may not know I’ve worked in the Computer Game sphere for over 20 years. In that time I’ve helped shape hundreds of titles, and it made sense to draw from that experience and passion and turn it into a really cool idea. I love trying to spin popular themes on their heads, it worked for me with Forty-Five and I thought I’d do the same with Overrun. I started with trying to define a look for the world, and how file types would look. Tron had already defined a universally accepted tone for a world inside a computer so I needed to do something different, something a little more obvious without being obvious, an ‘I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that’ reaction. So file types were designed by what they were, JPEGS wore their images as T-shirts, Music files had headphones and dressed in the style of music they contained, XLS files had checkered shirts that matched their spreadsheets. It was once I had the look of the world nailed that Overrun was born. Once I had all the pieces fleshed out I pitched a loose story to my close friend and computer game veteran, Matt Woodley. Matt has even more computer game experience than me, having worked from an early age at Domark alongside the legendary Ian Livingstone. I knew Matt would bring an authenticity and passion that would only serve to deepen the story, and I was really lucky to have him onboard from the get-go. Paul Green was a diamond find, after Cosmo White had to step away due to a prior commitment, Paul set about forging his own look for the story and both Matt and I have been delighted with the results. I’ve got no idea how Overrun will be received by the fans, but I do promise that it will be a beautifully crafted book that has a lot of love and attention poured into it from Matt, Paul and myself for well over a year!
Without revealing spoilers, in this stage of the production do you have a favorite Overrun character yet? What’s the deal on them?
That’s a real tricky one as there’s so many cool characters to choose from, but if I HAD to pick one I think I would go with Lucy Carter. She’s inspired by the Tomb Raider generation but has perhaps seen the best years fall away behind her, her abilities aren’t as sharp as they once were and she’s a little more embittered because of it. A perfect anti-heroine that has to roll back the years in order to help save the day, and who I think went to the Han Solo school of charm, so you have to love her just for that!
You’ve been busy this year with a number of smaller projects as well. I think 2012 has been a strange but evolutionary year for everyone. Big things have happened, foretelling bigger things yet to pass. Old megaliths standing tall for the future, if you will. What were your thoughts on the Disney acquisition of the Star Wars franchise? Should we be very afraid? And what about the continuations of the James Bond franchise and the Lords of the Rings franchise- is this an exciting time to be in a creative industry, or is it daunting, competing against such said megaliths?
I think truth is a bit of both. I find the industry in a strange state of flux at the moment, nobody wants to take a risk -and perhaps understandably so considering the current financial circumstances. I’m noticing a trend of reinventing popular successful IPs, and extensions of story arcs in order to tap into a faithful fan-base. That in itself can be incredibly frustrating to the point of doubting your own abilities, even questioning the strength of your ideas. However, I think it also can make you refocus your energies and reaffirm that your idea can be taken as seriously as some of the big hitters. I’m loving what they are doing with the James Bond franchise, omitting the slight wobble with Quantum of Solace, I think it’s been a resounding success and SkyFall was simply awesome. I’m a huge LOTR’s fan so three more years of Hobbit fun is probably three years too short for me so I’m going to REALLY enjoy the Extended Director’s Cut :-) That just leaves the Star Wars/Disney acquisition… I’m probably too much of a purist to answer that fairly, for me they should have stopped after ROTJ. But I’ll be fair and I shall reserve judgement… for now.
Do you think there’s a limit to cross-branding? Everything seems to be increasingly universal, with toys and movies and comics and cartoon shows and clothing lines all hitting in unison. Is the concept of “source material” becoming archaic in the maelstrom, or is pop culture itself hitting a nexus point of even further growth and redefinition?
I think anyone who wants to get the most out of their stories have to accept that artist compromises need to be made. It’s simply not enough to have a great comic idea, publishers are only interested in minimum risk ventures where they are sure of maximum gains, and that usually means cross-branding the ass of whatever your idea is. It’s hard not to be a little cynical of this when you are on the outside, but when it actually happens to you I’m pretty sure everyone will have their ‘price’ for selling out. Will this cross-branding plateau out? Is there a limit to what the next IP branded item is to be rolled out by the marketing department? Will consumers care for ‘Forty-Five’ branded pipe and slipper set? I don’t honestly know, but if it happens to me I don’t think I’ll have a care what is produced as long as it funds the ‘next’ idea I have rolling around in my head. I’m not financially stable enough to push back and demand that the source material remains faithful to my vision, ask me again after I’ve had a movie made.
What blew my mind the most about 45 wasn’t the premise or story or art, but really more in how defined your voice was- especially for it being your first real work. Your style can be at once bright and humorous, and comes across as a far more earnest version of Paul Cornell at his best, I think. What is the actual process like for you? Are you the sort to keep fistfuls of paper scraps covered in notes, or do you type up multiple revisions ala a perfectionism unchained? Is there a particular environment that suits your writing efforts best?
Wow, that’s a hefty compliment there! It’s hard sometimes to recognize your own writing style, especially when you are so close to it. I liken it to accents, when it’s your own voice you don’t believe you hear anything different to anyone else, you only really notice it when you start talking to someone from another region, and I guess that’s how it is in writing too.
My writing process changes from project to project. What usually happens is that I’ll have a spark of an idea that I’ll spend weeks and months, even years thinking about. Then eventually it’ll bug me so much I have to start writing it down. That could happen in two ways, the correct way is that I’ll beat out an outline and plot points and gradually over the months begin writing while making sure I hit all the key milestones I’ve set out. The other way is a touch more organic and chaotic, I’ll have the idea of where I want to go with it but I won’t really make any notes or outlines. I’ll simply attack it one day at a time not really knowing what is going to happen. It makes it a touch more rough in places but the payoff from that could be some amazing things can open up for you that you didn’t expect. I’m writing something at the moment called ‘The 12′ this way, it allows me to write reactive prose that both the characters and myself have to find ways to deal with. It’s chaotic… but strangely addictive. With two kids and a full time job the only environment I can ever write in is one on the commute. My office currently is an overground train and then the tube, I find about an hour and a half a day to write. There’s no scraps of paper, just generally 3 files, an idea dump file for all my little sparks that I want to develop, an outline/beatsheet/note file for any particular idea that I use for critical information that spring to mind, and the working file itself. I wish I could be a bit messier with notes everywhere, but with the ankle biters running about it would be lost in an instant at home.
What would be some dream projects for you, or dream collaborations? Who are some other creators whose work just floors you hard right now?
I’m really close to one right now, which is working with Ian Livingstone (Fighting Fantasy) and Simon Coleby on a Deathtrap Dungeon comic, the script is done bar an edit but now we just have to find a publisher willing to invest in it. As for others, I’d love to have a go at a Dredd piece, having seen the movie earlier in the year I’ve found myself thinking about it more and more. On the co-writer front I’d have to pick Rob Williams, he’s producing some top drawer stuff at the moment, I get on well with him and I’d feel we’d work well together. As for artists, there are soooo many to choose from, Simon Coleby as mentioned, Leigh Gallagher, Matt Timson, Tim Bradstreet, Ben Oliver, Kev Crossley, Cosmo White and Calum Alexander Watt are just for starters…
If you could travel back in time and take credit for any comic book or film character, who would it be? And what would you do different with them?
I’d love to have taken credit for creating Neo (The Matrix), I love the film but it falls flat the moment they decided to push the second and third films out of the franchise. If left up to me, I’d have made sure after the ‘Superman’ exit from the original that he wouldn’t be coming back.
Who would win in a broken beer bottle fight, the ghost of Jack Kirby or Alan Moore’s beard?
I’m going with Alan Moore’s beard, not even the undead can take on the might of the hairy one, it’s Kirby’s kryptonite!
Wise words. Andi, thank you so much for speaking with the LP. We look forward to seeing what you do next, always!
Thanks Richard, always a pleasure to talk to the LP. I think 2013 is going to be a fab year with many different things all bubbling away. Expect more news on Overrun, Statik and the 12 soon!
For more Ewington genius, follow him on twitter, and check out his 45 blog and the OVERRUN production website. And be forewarned he may or may not currently be doing a super top secret Deathtrap Dungeon and/or Freeway Fighter spinoff with Ian Livingstone…