Geiger Webskin

Kaare Kyle Andrews Owns Renato Jones: The One% [Interview]

IMAGE COMICS: The solicit gives us an idea of what RENATO JONES: THE ONE% #1 is about, but what's it ABOUT? What kind of themes and ideas are you exploring in this series?

KAARE ANDREWS: Going straight for the guts, huh? Like, "What's it all about? What's the reason? What's the point of it all?"

Let me start by saying what RENATO JONES is not.

RENATO JONES is NOT a 76-part event style, company-wide cross-over, created on some company retreat by a boardroom think tank and executed by half a dozen writers and three dozen artists and overseen by a group of editors all answering to corporate integration.

How do you make art like that?

You don't.

You make product.

And making product can be fun...and consuming that kind of product can be enjoyable, too. I liked the new Star Wars as much as anyone. But there is another way to make something.

RENATO JONES is the kind of thing that comes out of one person's head and onto paper by way of that same person's hand. I don't answer to a movie being developed and set for release three years from now. I don't answer to anyone. This is my comic. This world. This is my creation.

On the surface level, RENATO JONES is about wealth-fueled crime and restitution. About a man who hides amongst the super-rich to judge them for their super-rich crimes. But there is more to RENATO JONES than just luxury revenge. How boring would that be? That's simply the proscenium. So, what's it all about?

Picasso said he knows what to draw by drawing. And I feel the same way. I'm exploring what I'm exploring by exploring. Every page becomes a Rorschach test. Every word an admission. Every line a statement.

As a creator, I'm not interested in WHY or WHAT. I'm interested in NOW. HERE.

I simply knew Renato needed a kill mask, a suit, and a very large gun. These were the first images that came to mind and the kind of imagery I'm constantly trying to utilize.

I've always been interested in this idea that we put on masks to do a job or achieve a task, maybe win a sports game. We become the warrior within by putting on the face of a warrior. We become the jokester by painting our faces like clowns. We become sultry by the color of lipstick we wear. We become smarter by wearing glasses, more creative if they're thick plastic frames. Masks are transformative and powerful. And they're everywhere.

What makes Renato Jones unique is that he wears a mask all the time. And I'm not just talking about the "kill mask" he dons to hunt the ONEs. He wears the mask of privilege and decadence twenty-four hours a day. He lives his life as another person to pay off a debt. Because there is a cost to everything and at the end of the day, everyone has to pay—even himself.

But what's under this mask of Renato's? A mask of wealth and luxury? And has he become the mask? Has he lost the truth of himself?

IC: What kind of journey is Renato Jones on? Is he a moody vigilante, a psychopath, a guy doing the right thing?

ANDREWS: He's not any of those things. Renato is a person set on a path and given the tools to do a job. Every day he wakes up and looks into the mirror at the face of a stranger. Then he puts on a kill mask and hunts down the sort of evil that only he has the power to hunt. Those that hide behind wealth.

Because in today's world that's where evil can hide. The saying is, "Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank, but give a man a bank and he can rob the world."

A guy in leather and spandex chasing down some impoverished criminals trying to steal diamonds from an upper middle class jewelry store just doesn't interest me. Like, not in the slightest. When you boil that situation down, it's just a mess.

If you've read my run on Iron Fist, you can see the themes of Renato Jones start to emerge. In today's world, wealth is power. You can be Elon Musk and create new technologies or you can be the Affluenza teenager and kill people drunk driving and escape any kind of repercussions.

We celebrate wealth. We want it. It changes us when we get it. And if you have enough of it—you can do anything. No matter how evil.

Not anymore.

Renato Jones hides amongst the wealth, but he wasn't created in it. He's a one-man sleeper cell that targets people that do horrible, fucked up things. He's not the apex predator—he HUNTS the apex predators.

IC: "The Super-Rich Are Super-Fucked." Is this a political story, with a message about kindness and charity at its heart, or more of a rocking action comic?

ANDREWS: This book isn't a political story but it's not simply a rocking action comic either. It's fun. Violent. Emotional. And action-packed. But it's not fluff. It's more than that. At least to me. To me—this comic is dangerous. It's dangerous to create it, it's a dangerous time to do it, and I'm saying some dangerous things. And that's the best kind of fun.

IC: How long has the story of Renato Jones been percolating in your head?

ANDREWS: The stuff that Renato Jones is made of has been boiling away forever. There is this ocean of material that I generate, write down, and develop. And when I decided to do this book, I just started brainstorming all of the different images and ideas that I wanted to create. Again, Picasso has said, that he knows what to draw by drawing it, and I approach creating the same way. Like, get out of you head and just start doing.

In practice, what I do is to start filling a sketchbook of these random images and ideas—things I've thought about, written down, or remembered. And the process of both sketching and writing starts digging tunnels through the mountain. The more I dig, the further I find myself, until one day I've filled up that sketchbook and find myself through the mountain.

When I've reached that tipping point, built up that amount of bedrock, I just start plotting the book and racing to get it all out as fast as possible.

So it's both the catalog of ideas I keep with me as well as the flash of inspiration in that very moment I'm creating that catalyzes into the bedrock of my stories.

IC: The cover of RENATO JONES: THE ONE% #1 says "Created, written, drawn, colored, and owned by Kaare Kyle Andrews." Tell me about coming to creator-owned comics. You clearly have strong feelings about it—what prompted the shift? Is work-for-hire off the table for you now?

ANDREWS: I've never owned my own work before. Isn't that strange? I've been a freelancer for over a decade and a half—that means I've been working for myself for all that time and have never taken the time to actually create any work for myself. And the thing about comics is that it's one of the only creative industries where you can do that. So for me, this is special. Owning my work is special. It's finally coming to terms with the inherent power of being a freelancer.

Corporations hire you as a freelancer to save money. Let's be honest. There's no other reason. Maybe they try to tie you up with an "exclusive" contract or something, but they don't want to actually employ you. They don't want to give you vacation pay or overtime, they don't want to give you benefits or retirement plans. They treat your position as a way to hoard power.

But I want to let my peers know this: there is a greater power. As a freelancer, you have all of it. You don't like a situation—you walk away. At any time. You can choose who you work for, without restrictions. You can even choose to work for yourself.

I'm not against work-for-hire. I'm talking to Marvel and other companies right now. There are great people that work at those companies and they have some great characters to play with. Some of my favorite creators have done their best work there and some of my favorite stories have come from those companies.

But RIGHT NOW—RIGHT HERE—I'm working for me. I'm doing my thing. I'm creating characters and stories that will never be taken away from me. I will never have to ask to be part of more Renato Jones.

IC: Building on that—what do you get out of constructing a comic from soup to nuts on your own?

ANDREWS: When I do a thing, I have this need to wrap my whole hands around it. To deconstruct and understand every part of every process. I don't understand it. I just need it. Even in film and TV—I'm at a point where if I direct something, I'm also editing, I'm creating final VFX shots, I'm designing, I'm storyboarding. I just approach things holistically, not piecemeal. And comics are one of those art films where you can grab a hold of all of it.

IC: Finally, you work in film, too. What is it that keeps you coming back to comic books?

ANDREWS: I just have a true and genuine love for the medium of comicbooks. When I was attempting to break into the industry, it was at the height of its despair. Marvel had declared bankruptcy protection and every editor I'd meet liked my work but told me to find another job because there wouldn't be any comicbook companies around in five years. But I knew what I wanted to do and I set out and did the thing. I broke in and watched the whole damn industry rebuild itself.

Now I have a similar passion for directing. But they are different jobs. When I direct a movie, it's me leading a hundred people towards a single goal. And every day is a collaboration, a compromise, and a communication. When I'm on set, I sometimes long for the solitude of creating comics. But when I'm creating comics, I often find myself yearning for the adrenaline of film production. It's the back and forth of the two that's the thing. I love both.

Now film and TV pay better than comics. They treat you better than comics. And you get more respect from the average person than in comics. I don't come back to comics because of ego or a paycheck. I come back to comics because it's in my fucking blood. Like, if you cut me open, I bleed this stuff.

No matter what happens in my film career or anything else, I will be creating comics until I'm good and dead. It's not a choice, really. You may as well ask me to stop breathing. Impossible.

So if that's the case. I better make the best of it.

And RENATO JONES is the best work I've done. Period. Pick it up and see for yourself.

RENATO JONES: THE ONE% #1 is available now.