Where You Are Now: A Conversation With Kaare Andrews
Kaare Andrews is a comic book veteran. Not only did he create some classic Incredible Hulk covers for Marvel, but he also did a lengthy solo run on Iron First that many consider essential. Kaare was cool enough to take some time off from his busy schedule to give us a call here at Monkeys Fighting Robots, to talk about his new career, his filmmaking, and of course his creator-owned book, Renato Jones: The One%, which was just released in its first collected edition from Image Comics.
Monkeys Fighting Robots: Well first of all, just want to say I had actually read Renato Jones as it came out in individual issues. But my editor sent me a review copy of the trade, so I actually just re-read the whole thing in one sitting before you called. It’s so unlike anything I’ve read in a long time. What inspired this comic book?
Kaare Andrews: Whenever I create something, man, I have files. Everything from ideas, to log lines, to one pager’s to plots, fully realized scripts. One of my favorite things is creating concepts. And one of my plans was always to jump between big, mainstream books and creator owned books. But what happened instead is I sorta developed this directing career. And so instead I jumped back and forth between a mainstream superhero book and directing a film or writing a screenplay or pitching TV. My creator-owned work kind of became my film work. I had just finished Iron Fist The Living Weapon where I wrote, penciled, inked and colored a 12 issue run.
No one had done that at Marvel, right?
Yeah, never. No one had ever done it before for whatever reason. It WAS a lot of work.[laughs] It took me about a year and a half to do. I felt like I had really achieved something, climbed a mountain top. And then I realized I had just run out of excuses NOT to do a creator-owned book. So at the point, it was “Well, what do I want to do?” And as a comic book creator, it’s kind of hard. There’s a lot of pressure. Like “What’s YOUR Hellboy?” or, you know Ninja Turtles [laughs] or Walking Dead or whatever that thing that people get known for is.
The one thing you might be associated with for the rest of your career.
Right. You want to think what that would be but immediately you have to stop thinking about it. Because you can’t fabricate those circumstances. So then it became what do I WANT to now? What would be exciting now. So what happens is you have a backlog of concepts and ideas and they are all kind of tangent into one another. I’ve had versions of this character [Renato Jones] in screenplays and other comic book series. And then you just take where you are now. There’s this thing that Quentin Tarantino says that when he writes a script however he’s feeling when he writes that script is allowed to become part of that script. It’s the same with acting. If you show up to set in a horrible mood that day, well don’t try to fight it. Try to integrate it. Incorporate it. So looking around at the world today, what would I want to do. I live in Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities to live in. Housing is so crazy and so outrageous. The costs of living are so high. We have all this foreign investment. The “ghost corporations” which are these illegal money laundering from foreign nations buying up property and housing. It’s a crazy city and you really feel a divide happening quickly and rapidly between who can buy a house and who will never be able to buy a house. So I sat down with this idea and a sketch book. So I just write down ideas and draw and kind of free flow plots, ideas, quotes, concepts, dialog whatever and I fill the sketchbook. And usually at the end I have enough fuel and drive to just GO. And so what happened is I was like “Who would my villain be?” for this character I want to do and I realized very quickly that in today’s world we don’t really have a “bank robber.” They don’t really exist. Who is a REAL world villain that I would love to roll out some restitution to? It was going to be either corporations, dictators, nation-states, possibly terrorists or super rich people. [laughs] Those are our real world villains. So the terrorism thing, that’s been done a lot and done well. Corporations I think would be great but it’s just less satisfying to punch Coke in the face than a person. [laughs]
I loved that you sort of took this vigilante trope but gave him this new target. Like you said, a true real life world villain. Not a super villain. But I guess in a sense they are supervillains. [laughs] Some of these people do have the ability to do anything they want.
Yeah. I think one of our real world super powers is super wealth. It is a “superpower” that some people have. And you can use that for good or hide behind it and do horrible things. So when I knew that was going to be my antagonist, this evil that hides behind wealth, it informed the whole process. Everything then just kind of came together. Actually, I tell people I have a wealth trilogy. Because there was Iron Fist. I just came off Iron Fist and that was a story about a billionaire, super rich guy.
Oh man, right. That’s totally true. Danny Rand IS rich. [laughs]
And then I also have a creator owned project coming out through Dark Horse Presents. It’s short and quick, something fun I did with friends. That’s also about a billionaire. He’s more of a sociopathic billionaire though. [laughs] And then I have Renato Jones. So I call all this my Super Wealth Trilogy. [laughs] I do want people to know it’s not a political book. It wasn’t intended to be. Wealth kind of became politicized because of the election. But for me, [the book] is just a reflection of the world around me and a way to create a new character that fits that world of today. I really worked hard to experiment with the medium. Comics are a medium, not a genre.
That’s perfect. That’s great. It’s funny how ideas gestate like that. I guess it can’t help but happen with the way things are in the real world today. And I love that you’re doing something through Dark Horse Presents. So glad they brought that book back. But with Renato Jones, was that something you wanted to do with Image specifically? I love Image. I think they are doing some of the best books on the market right now.
Oh yeah. I knew I wanted to do something with Image. I decided I wanted to do a creator-owned book, so I got in contact with Eric [Stephenson] and then we were off to the races. And I do think Image is the best company out there for creator-owned material. I mean every company has things they do well. But yeah I didn’t take it to anyone else. And I think the first trade is like less than ten dollars. So why not pick it up? [laughs] Pick it up! [laughs]
How did Dark Horse Presents happen?
They way the Dark Horse thing came about, just a good friend of mine, Troy Nixey also a comic book artist and film director, he has a strong relationship with Dark Horse and he wanted to do something with them so he said “Hey write something for me” and I said sure. And we brought in this other good friend of mine Dave McCaig who is a colorist. For a while, we all used to live in Vancouver together. We used to go out drinking together, hang out all the time. So it’s been a fun time doing that. I love Dark Horse Presents also. I think it’s a cool format. It’s on sale now. Episode 6, our last episode, our last chapter, comes out. And then they are going to collect it into a small trade. It’s about 50 pages of content altogether. With sketches, I think it’s like 60.
I notice that about you. You like to include sketches and supplements. You mentioned before keeping a lot of sketches and ideas. Have you always liked sharing that kind of stuff?
I’ve always loved behind the scene stuff. I’m a bit of a process junkie. I think part of the reason I do different jobs is I love to learn how to do them. I love to learn how to color. I love to learn how to paint. I love to learn how to direct, edit, do visual effects. I just love learning how to do things. I’ve always also loved reading how people do their thing. Like I love the behind the scenes material on DVDs and Blu-Rays. I watch that stuff more than the movies themselves. [laughs] So with Renato Jones I tried to stuff as much of that kind of stuff with the pages I had left over because it was already a hefty trade.
I gotta say the first thing that jumped out at me when I saw Renato Jones in the stands was the art. It’s so distinct. In fact in a way you have like three different art styles going. And even in my second read through I noticed these great details like the “texture” to the panels in the flashbacks. They look worn. It’s a beautiful touch.
Thanks. Well, I am a strange beast in comics. I always knew breaking into comics it would be important to develop a style. Develop an audience. It’s easier to sell a brand name to people. If you love Jim Lee you’re going to read everything he does, you’re going to recognize it immediately. It’s smart to develop a style. But unfortunately, KNOWING what’s smart and DOING what’s smart is different. [laughs] I like to draw in different styles all the time. Every project I do has a bit of a different look. Sometimes it’s extremely different, and sometimes just a bit. I like to jump around. It’s just what I do. I do try for each project, to keep it consistent.
The rules I gave myself for Renato Jones were to stick to a kind of old school classic line art look, even though I was drawing it on a computer. I wanted a specific look for the present day and a specific look for flashbacks, where I treated it with half-tone coloring, the creases, the faded pages. Just to use the language of old back issues; folded up, folded away paper. Telling people we’re in a memory. I don’t have to have “Fifteen years later” in a caption every time. I’ve done this a couple of times. I did it in my Iron Fist run. First time I ever tried it was in a Wolverine Origins Annual back in the day. And I just really enjoyed it. And then I wanted to give myself permission to lose the color, to accent dramatic moments. Just those kind of straight black and white and gray scenes. And of course those fake ads I created.
Those perfume ads were great.
All that became the look of Renato Jones.
Are you planning anything else with this character?
I’m actually working on season two right now. At this very moment, I’m penciling issue two. If season one was about raising questions, season two is about answering them.
I wanted to ask you about being a filmmaker. I know you directed Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, and a segment in The ABC’s Of Death.
Yeah, my first feature film I directed was a Twilight Zone-esque thing called Altitude. Last year for the first time I started directing television. I found I really liked it.
So I’m going to continue doing some TV this year. Also working towards getting my next feature into production. I try to balance it. I can juggle comics and film pretty well. I love to do both. It’s all fun!