Andrew Maxwell is an independent comics creator who has used Kickstarter to publish his last two projects, Aldous Sparks and Rum Row. Both books scored very highly on this site and are absolutely fantastic adventure comics. Josh recently got the chance to talk to Andrew about his comics and some of the exciting projects he has ahead. You can read the full interview below, and check out his latest Kickstarter for Rum Row here.
We The Nerdy (WTN): How would you sell your comic in as few words as possible?
Andrew Maxwell (AM): Normally I would say “Dirigible speakeasies” or “Jules Vern meets The Untouchables”, which usually catches peoples attention at conventions. Then expand from there.
But the whole concept of Rum Row is based on actual historic events, where rum runners would wait just outside the maritime limit off the coasts of the US during prohibition. Then run their speedboats in to deliver booze. If other gangsters or the coastguard got in the way, who’s to say what happened next? After reading about that, how could I not make a comic about it? That would make a great tv show on its own, let alone a comic. I figured let’s take that whole concept and throw it in the air!
Finding Michele to make this a reality was sort of blind luck. He’s the real reason this has turned out as well as it has.
WTN: Your comics manage to be very fast paced with very little exposition in regards to world building. Are there any specific principles you stick to to achieving this?
AM: Well being an indie creator, I feel like people are always looking for any reason to put your book down. There are a million books out there, big two or otherwise. Not to mention all the fantastic stuff coming out of Kickstarter. I myself am constantly backing things, and have a huge stock pile to catch up on. The amount of fantastic books being produced is insane. Skies of Fire, Merrick: The Sensational Elephantman, and books like Silence are all titles that I can’t get enough of. I can’t believe they don’t have publishing deals frankly.
I try to make anything I work on as fast paced and interesting as possible, to leave readers wanting more. I can’t say I always accomplish that, and my co-creators are a majority of the reason readers stop to take notice. But I do my best to make unique books that hopefully stand out.
WTN: What draws you to using period settings?
AM: That’s a good question. It’s definitely not on purpose. It’s just kind of worked out that way in what I’ve released so far. The next story in production is a sci-fi story, with a dramatically different art style.
I love history, and constantly read nonfiction to influence and give me ideas. There’s assumptions we have about people and attitudes during certain time periods, and a lot of times they’re true. But I’m always fascinated in finding examples that show us the complete opposite. Individuals or movements that managed to thrive or make a splash in the midst of all the chaos.
I read an interview with the Cohen Brothers a while back (not that I’m comparing my dumbass to them), but they were asked a similar question and their answer stuck out to me. They said, “The past has a kind of exoticism. Setting a story in the past is a a way of further fictionalizing it. It’s not about reminiscence, because our movies are about a past we have never experienced. It’s more about imagination.” And I can’t argue with that. There’s so much fertile ground to play with.
WTN: Do you usually plan your characters or their worlds first? Are there any characters you’ve created you’d like to appear in one of your other works?
AM: It’s a bit of both. Rum Row evolved after I read about the original Row, but it didn’t come to me fully realized. I was making an anthology of five-page stories (one of which I did with Michele, and is in the first issue), and the idea of the floating city came to life. A few of my friends read it and thought the concept had potential, but five pages wasn’t nearly enough. I then went on and made a story around that, which came to be Rum Row. That was an example of the world first.
For Aldous Spark though, I grew up obsessed with reruns of the 60’s Wild West show. It would come on TV Land after Saturday cartoons, and there was this character the evil villain Dr. Loveless. I figured what if he was a good guy instead, and Aldous sort of grew from there. Aldous Spark was actually going to be a western at first.
Those are just examples of the two project I have out. But both come from different angles. So I guess that’s my rambling way of saying it varies.
WTN: The look of your books are usually very unique and stylized. How does collaborating with the artists affect this? Do you usually have a clear idea how the book should look, has an artist ever caused you to rethink elements of your script?
AM: I always tell my collaborators that nothing is set in stone. If you have a valid reason to change things, show me why and I’m flexible. For the sci-fi book I mentioned earlier, I reached out to him because I loved his art style I found posted on Twitter. After he read my script and pitched me some character concepts; it was completely different than what I had pictured. A complete 180. But after I saw it, it made perfect sense. That was the way we had to go.
For Rum Row and Spark, there wasn’t a whole lot of change from the initial concepts. Both Michele and Mauricio hit the ground running, and myself and my writing partner for Spark, Peter Miriani, never really looked back. I’ve just been extremely lucky to work with talents that are way above my pay grade.
WTN: Given the very 19th century sci-fi feel (particularly writers like Jules Verne) are there any books that stand out as big influences, or that you’d recommend to fans of your stuff?
AM: Yeah, I’m definitely a fan of Jules Verne. I remember seeing the movie for 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea as a kid, and being mesmerized. Then I had to read the book, which I also loved. I’ve read a handful of his other books, Robur the Conqueror coming to mind. It’s not his greatest, but it’s definitely bananas, and full of great dirigible action. I could look at those old illustrations for his earlier printings forever. The vehicles and gadgets in those definitely had a huge influence on Rum Row and Aldous Spark.
Peter O’Donnel’s Modesty Blaise was another inspiration for the characters of Anne and Smiley. The novels and the comics. If you haven’t already checked those out, definitely do. They’re a lot of fun.
Lastly, go watch Howard Hughes’s film Hell’s Angels. It came out in 1930, and all the dirigibles and bi-plane stuff is real. People actually died making that movie. It’s insane to watch. Even with all the special effects and CGI we see today, knowing that what you’re watching is real, definitely has an impact.
WTN: How has Kickstarter helped or altered your creative process?
AM: I don’t know if it’s altered my creative process, but it’s definitely a great motivator. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel for completed projects. I haven’t pitched any of these books to publishers, so I’m not sure what their reactions would be. But I know that through the funding of my campaigns, I can get my books printed and out to readers regardless.
Not to mention, it allows me to get my books out to readers globally. I’ve sent books to Singapore, Budapest, and Sweden! I’d never have imagined that I would be doing that. It’s great.
WTN: Any last words for fans/potential creators?
AM: Finish things. I’ve heard it a million times from other creators, but that’s because it’s true. Start small. Little five-page stories, or one shots, not giant epics. It took me a year and half to make the first issue of Rum Row, and that book is only 24 pages. Especially at an indie level, “real life” tends to get in the way. I’ve been writing comics for seven years at this point, and I only now feel like I’m starting to find my rhythm. Spark Vol. 2 is in mid production, Rum Row is Kickstarting, and my other sci-fi project is entering the early stages.
I would also say, don’t waste time and money trying to pitch your stories to publishers at first. Get good at making comics first. Complete your projects, and do that consistently. Plus, once you finally see that finished comic, and can hold it in your hand, there’s nothing else like it. At this point, I’m addicted.
That’s all for today, if you’d like to know more about Andrew Maxwell or his work you can check out his Kickstarter for the next issue of Rum Row