4 Questions With Andrew MacLean [Interview]
September 10, 2015
IMAGE COMICS: Andrew...what the heck is HEAD LOPPER?
ANDREW MACLEAN: HEAD LOPPER is about a nomadic nordic warrior named Norgal and his traveling mate, the severed head of a Blue Witch named Agatha. They hate each other. They bicker constantly, disagree on every topic, but when they aren't at each other's throats they are killing things. Beasts, monsters, men, whatever or whomever stands in front of Norgal, or as some call him, Head Lopper, gets its head cut off.
In this tale, the unlikely duo have found themselves on the isle of Barra, where a sorcerer/demigod has been imprisoned within their "Black Bog." What little influence the sorcerer does have he uses in attempts to free himself from his bondage, getting the plentiful beasts that inhabit the island to do his bidding. Norgal plans on killing them all.
IC: The first issue is the size of four regular-length comics, but the book is on a quarterly schedule. Why'd you choose to release it this way, instead of in 22-page chapters?
AM: Before Image had interest in publishing HEAD LOPPER, I self-published a couple stories about these characters. The first issue I wrote for 23 pages and wasn't able to cover as much story as I wanted to cover. When I did the second issue I just wrote it to be paced the way I wanted and let it end wherever it naturally felt like it should end. That second story was about 45 pages of story and that length felt really great. I was able to have long fight scenes, I could have short plots that concluded within the issue, while also moving some of the background characters along their long-plot paths to where we could be lead into more issues. When Image decided to run the series I really wanted to continue doing those longer issues like that. To me they felt like the perfect length story for HEAD LOPPER, and Image said just go for it then.
But that many pages every month is just too much for one person to pull off so we decided to bump it out to quarterly releases. The decision was based solely on trying to make the best quality comic I can. If it doesn't fit the current paradigm...so be it. It's more important to have a book be the best quality book I can make it.
As for issue number one—this issue is ESPECIALLY large. It's 96 pages (but still the same price point). We did this because the issues I mention above that were self-published play a major part of where the story goes, so we really NEEDED to include them in the Image series. That said, I didn't want any readers who were kind enough to hop on board back when I self-published to be purchasing stories they already have. SO, to get everyone on board—and happy—right off the bat, issue one has the two stories I previously published as well as a third all-new one. That way, new readers are caught up to returning readers, and returning readers are getting something new.
IC: What kind of artists and comics are you influenced by? Who do you enjoy reading?
AM: The artists who have had the largest impact on my work over the years are probably Mike Mignola, Gabriel Bá, Jack Kirby, Rafael Grampá, Toby Cypress, James Harren, etc. More recently I've enjoyed the work of Taiyo Matsumoto, Sam Bosma, Bastien Vives, Loic Locatelli, Katsuhiro Otomo, Natalie Andrewson, Richie Pope, and of course a bunch of my friends who are absurdly talented: Aaron Conley, Alexis Ziritt, Chris Visions, Nathan Fox, Paul Maubury, Ming Doyle, etc. I'm leaving out a half a billion people.
I read the stuff of everyone above. I also love Becky Cloonan's self-published stories. Currently reading Tony Sandoval's Doomboy and Jillian Tamaki's SuperMutant Magic Academy and loving both of those. Other current reads I've enjoyed are Space Riders, The Wrenchies, Afrodisiac, Blades and Lasers, RUMBLE, etc.
The majority of my reading is probably novels these days though. The last year or so has been the Song of Ice and Fire series, Robert E. Howard's Conan stuff, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, some Lovecraft. Looking at this list, I've had a pretty good run lately.
IC: Tell me about the Isle of Barra and Norgal, our titular head lopper. What kind of place is the isle, and what kind of person is Norgal?
AM: The Isle of Barra is loosely based on a real place. The actual isle of Barra is Scottish and though all of the HEAD LOPPER landscapes and even the "architecture" is based on—or at least inspired by—actual places and things in Scotland, it doesn't all necessarily exist on the actual Isle of Barra or any specific time period. It's all very much fictional, but I think Scotland is very beautiful, so it's something I love drawing and looking at photos of.
Norgal (and Agatha) are characters designed to be something I felt I could have fun drawing forever. Norgal is the very image of heavy metal music and all things badass. He is the quintessential stoic warrior. He's neither good nor evil. He just is. He does the things he does, and whether his motivations are based on self interest or for the good of others, it's never really made clear. He was built for one job, and that job is removing the heads of all manner of creatures.