Mark Andrews interview

Mark Andrews is a storyboard artist at Pixar and was story editor for The Incredibles. Image is making his graphic novel Colossus available to a wide audience. Westfield's Roger Ash recently spoke with Mark about the book.

Westfield: How did Colossus come about?

Mark Andrews: I actually created the character from a role-playing session. A friend of mine wanted to do this whole campaign where we played the monsters running around. The idea was in the challenge of "How do we cope with getting food and all that stuff if we're being hunted all the time?" That started me off thinking. An interesting story came out of that where I thought of this character who was this construct, a medieval robot of sorts, or a metal golem. What if a knight was stuck inside this thing and he still wanted to defend his kingdom from monsters and stuff like that, but he can't go walking around during the day? He can't go talking to people. He's going to be looked at and hunted as a monster. That's where the story spun out of. The contradiction of good and evil, a hero in the guise of a monster.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story?

Andrews: The story takes place during the Crusades and it transpires over 200 years. It's about this knight who's defending one of the Crusaders fortresses that's overrun. He gets caught and his soul, by magic, is put inside this metal construct. He's made into an assassin to kill the king in the east, in Europe, and therefore end the Crusades. His mission fails. Now, the knight is stuck inside this mental construct. He doesn't know whether he's going to become a man again or not. Or even if it's possible. 200 years pass and here comes another knight who's also a Crusader, the Crusades lasted several hundred years, this new knight is built for the same reason but he's not inside a metal construct, he has enchanted weapons and armor. He's supposed to do the same thing: kill the king. But his first act is to get rid of this construct that still exists (get rid of the mistake). So they're going to clash. That's the story. It's basically don't judge a book by its cover. What you think is evil may not be. What you think is good may not be.

Westfield: This premiered at San Diego in 2005. Is this the same book, or is it different?

Andrews: In 2000, I came out with the graphic novel and it was only 100 pages. It was received fairly well. The thing that was missing in it was there wasn't enough of the story in there. There was more story that I wanted to tell that I didn't have time to get to in the original publishing. So I re-published it for San Diego. I added another 120 pages to it, so I got to flesh out more of the main character's story. I got to flesh out more of the connection between the hero and the villain. I got to flesh out the other characters that are in this story. It was really fun for me to get back into the story that I thought was lacking something and really fill it out. Then Image saw it and said they wanted to do it.

Westfield: Is there anything new in this edition?

Andrews: No. Having it run through the Image powerhouse, it's going to be higher quality; the paper and coverstock, the quality of printing. I've gone back in and redone all the word balloons. I've got Sean Konot doing the lettering and he's just amazing. The back cover will be a more integrated design with the front cover. And the Image logo. Self-publishing, I could only afford so much so it goes out to such a limited audience. With Image now publishing it, it's going to be all over the world. So that's really fun.

Westfield: Are there any other characters in the book that you want to talk about aside from the hero and the villain?

Andrews: One character that I fleshed out quite a bit more was Maulore the wizard. In the story, he's the one that freed Colossus' will so that the knight's soul can take over the body again. His connection to the story and what he was about was interesting to flesh out. Since his encounter with this Colossus, he's been trying to figure out how the wizard from Arabia developed his magic to create this thing. He's been spending 200 years to reverse engineer that. The thing that I gave it, is I needed to put in more action. His little henchmen, that I call the forgemen, can turn into crows of different sizes; a regular crow or a giant crow. It makes for some more interesting action and gets some more magic in.

Westfield: Were you a comics fan before you had gotten into this?

Andrews: Oh, big time. Big time comics fan. Colossus only came about because of two people. Initially it came out because of Scott Morse. We went to school together at Cal Arts. I had done like four pages of Colossus like an experiment for me, just to practice stuff. To try comics and see how I'd do one. It was more just for fun. He had seen it and he said, "You should do this out into a whole book." "Really?" So I did. Colossus was born. Later, I became friends with Ronnie del Carmen and Ronnie said, "It's a year out from Comic Con. It would be great to see you republish Colossus." And I said, "Yeah, but I want to do it differently and do it this way." He basically inspired me into doing it. That's the reason we have a brand new Colossus out. Ronnie coerced me, or convinced me, to do it.

Westfield: What are some of your favorite comics or creators?

Andrews: Of the ones that I still have, and that I cherish and wrap in plastic and I covet, the Micronauts is a big one. Michael Golden was one of the most inspiring artists to me. I also have John Bolton who did Kull the Barbarian and Marada the She-Wolf. He was very influential. Then all the greats. You have Spider-Man, you've got Steve Ditko, you've got Jack Kirby, Buscema, Romita and Romita Jr., all those guys I grew up with. Jim Lee when he was doing the X-Men was just amazing and blew me away. All those comic book artists made me an artist when I was growing up. I learned from them.

Now I'm more into the Japanese comics, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Kenichi Sonoda who did Gunsmith Cats and Exaxxion. I like the guy who does Battle Angel Alita, he's fabulous. I'm also into some French comics now. There's such a wealth of comics that isn't just here in the states, that are all over the world. We don't get that stuff. Even now on the web where you can go out and find it, I can't read the Japanese, so ordering is difficult.

Westfield: Would you like to do more comics in the future?

Andrews: I would. I don't know if I can. I loved doing Colossus, but it was something that when I first did it I had a lot of time, spare time, to be able to do it. Now, in my career in film making and animation, I don't find I have a lot of time. This newest edition of Colossus was done at nights and on weekends, and I have a very understanding family. The weekends are their time. They were very wonderful, but I don't know if I could do that again at this stage. Who knows if I may have the time later. Or I'll wait till I retire then I can do comics full time.

Westfield: How did working on the comic compare with what you do in animation?

Andrews: It's pretty much the same. I'm a storyboard artist in animation. I'm telling stories visually. Comics have been around for a long time and it's basically the same thing I do at work every day. The thing about comics is that I have a variety of framing that I can use. I can use different panels in comics. When I'm doing storyboards, it's all the same ratio. You can have varied ratios in comic books which makes it fun. It also makes it even harder to do because I have so many options.

Westfield: Any closing comments you'd like to make about Colossus?

Andrews: It was a labor of love. It was something that I really, really wanted to do. The completion of it was inspired by friends who really liked it. So I got a response out of my work and I wanted to finish it off and get it out there so I could share the story with everybody else.