Talking to Andi Ewington (UPDATED with OVERRUN trailer!)
Andi, first of all, thanks for agreeing to do this. I think your name might ring a bell for a lot of people here at CBSI, especially those who are digging your work for 451 Media, but could you give us some information about your background?
Of course, I’ve been in the comic industry since 2010 with my first graphic novel ‘Forty-Five’. Since then I’ve gone on to write the Dark Souls 2 comic ‘Into the light’ and the Just Cause 3 comic ‘World on Fire'. Recently I’ve been working extensively with 451 Media on their flagship titles ‘Sunflower’, ‘Exmortis’, and ‘S6X’.
How did you get into comics?
Chance really, I was working as a designer in an agency with close ties to the indie publisher, Com.x. I was at a point in my life where I was desperate to get a novel published, yet without much success, Com.x offered me an alternative solution to publishing a novel; comics. Although it wasn’t an open and shut case of nepotism, I had to work twice as hard to prove to them my idea was worth publishing!
Just out of curiosity, what's your novel about?
Ha! That was a fun fantasy comedy about a halfman called ‘Limpit Muskin’, he encounters an adventurer mid-quest and all chaos ensues. Basically what would happen if someone mugged Frodo midpoint through ‘Lord of the Rings’. It was a fun romp that I co-wrote with my best friend, Dennis Johnson. We had some amazing and positive feedback from publishers/agents, but ultimately I think it was several books ahead of where I was at the time. I’ll revisit it one day for sure, there’s so much great material there to ignore it indefinitely.
Com.x were the publishers of both Forty-Five and BlueSpear and after that you worked on the Dark Souls 2 videogame tie-in digital comic with Rob Williams and Simon Coleby, both of them mainstays of the UK comic scene. I am really curious about how you went from that to 451 Media and working on scripts by George Pelecanos or Mark Mallouk?
What can I say, I’m twice lucky! 😀 I heard on the grapevine (via an artist friend) that there was a new comic publisher in New York looking for a writer. He introduced me to a contact at 451 and I sent in a few test scripts. They seemed to like it and commissioned me to adapt ‘Exmortis’. ‘Exmortis’ was a lot of fun to work on, and I added in a few scenes of my own which went down well. Several issues into ‘Exmortis’ I was offered the chance to work on both ‘Sunflower’ and ‘S6X’ with Mark and George respectively. These were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities which I wasn’t about to pass up on, I immediately expressed my interest and found myself thrown deep into both stories – It’s pretty much been non-stop since then.
Are you working from, for lack of a better word, screenplays or just concept descriptions?
Both, in most cases I have the screenplay to work from, but in others I’ve been there at the start shaping a story, characters and plot with the named talent. Adaptions are fun, it’s refreshing sometimes to step out of a conceptual space to one of a structural challenge, especially off the back of some heavy creative thinking.
With 451 Media behind them, you would expect these to do the rounds on Hollywood. Do you know if that's part of their plan?
I don’t have visibility to 451’s grand plan, but looking at the types of titles they are picking up, and the writers behind them, and the fact that Michael Bay is behind 451, I’d bet my bottom dollar they are primed for Hollywood in one fashion or another. If that happened I may even get to see my name in the credits which would be totally mind-blowing!
What's your relationship with comics? Are they something that have always been a part of your life?
Growing up I wasn’t really into comics as much as I should have been. I do remember before hitting my teens reading 2000AD regularly and maybe the odd X-Men or Alpha Flight issue. But after that I found myself drawn more into the Fighting Fantasy series and RPGs. It was also the dawn of computer games and comics really suffered because of it. The only real exposure to comics were through RPG specific games like Marvel Superheroes, TMNT or Judge Dredd. It wasn’t until 2010 when I found myself drawn back into the comic fold and the months leading up to my debut release of ‘Forty-Five’.
Do you follow any current series or are you more into graphic novels and trade paperbacks?
I don’t sadly, I just don’t have much time to dedicate to following a series month on month. I usually pick up trade paperbacks, so will be keeping an eye out for Death Sentence, Unfollow and Cry Havoc. That said, I do enjoy viewing new art and will often ask artists to mail me sample pages in case I can put them in touch with the likes of 451 Media.
Your new self-published series, Overrun, is coming out later this month and there are at least two very distinct things you are doing in regards to its distribution: the whole 4 issues are coming out at the same time and it's a very limited edition of 250 copies available only through two retailers (Forbidden Planet in the UK and Jetpack Comics in the US). Where did this idea come from?
Financially, on such a low run, we couldn’t run the risk of people dropping off the series after issue #1, we had to retain a strong fanbase and ensure people stayed with us to the end. I’m a big ‘Netflix' fan, and enjoy the immediacy of having a complete ‘Season' to watch rather than being forced to wait, also I liked the idea of giving everyone everything in one big ‘hit'. With so many other titles out there fighting for shelf space we needed to do something different, so the big drop idea seemed to resonate with me.
On the limited run side of things, I’m friends with Rob Pontefract at Forbidden Planet, he had been tracking Overrun since the Limited Edition Promo copy was put out in 2014. Rob and I talked across many months on how we could get this to market with his support – He's been amazing in the way he's championed our small indie title (I also have to shout out to Rich Emms of Limited Edition Comix who helped us put out the 2014 promo edition too).
It sounds like a nice experiment and something that should catch people's eye, especially considering the state of the industry. As you just mentioned, you published a Limited Edition Promo copy during London Super Comic Con two years ago. What was the response to that?
Amazing, we were long listed in the British Comic Awards that year -for a promo copy!? I mean, how insane is that?! I remember one fan posting how he had seen this new comic dominating shelf space in Midtown Comics, along side the big two of Marvel and DC. At the time, we had no publisher and were relatively unknown, yet here we were rubbing shoulders with giants. I occasionally hear from the odd fan who tells me they really loved the promo which is cool to hear. I think it’s still priced relatively high on eBay, which is usually a good sign.
What was your original pitch for the series?
You know, so much time has passed I’m not sure I can remember, I remember just talking to Matt (Woodley, co-writer of Overrun) about it and spilling out these ideas in one giant brain dump. Bleeding Cool pretty much summed it up with ‘Tron meets the Dawn of the Dead’. Matt has a better memory than me so probably could recount my pitch verbatim, along with what I was wearing at the time and what we had to drink too.
Do you have plans to come back to this universe or to adapt it to some other media?
Certainly, if there’s interest and budget then I’d love to revisit the universe with Detectives Norton and McAfee case files. We both feel a procedural detective spin off is the way forward, there’s a rich vein of plots and characters we can bring to the Overrun universe. All things going to plan we’ll probably start the series with a ‘Missing Files’ case.
The series features the art of Paul Green, whose work on Ardden Entertainment's Flash Gordon I personally enjoyed quite a bit. How did he join in and do you know what he has been doing lately?
Paul came via a recommendation from Harry Markos (Markosia), we had just lost Cosmo White to a run on Thundercats (published by Panini in Europe) and needed a replacement artist. Paul came highly recommended after I put a social shout out, we tested him and it just clicked. We were really lucky to have him invest so much time into the pages. I think he’s just finished putting together a Kickstarter comic called Earth Outlaws via Molly Schofield and Louis Pryor, from the sample pages I’ve seen it’s another winner.
Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
The one I’m really excited for is called Deadworld, Martin Simmonds (Death Sentence) kindly created an awesome splash piece for it (which you can see below). I’ve got exciting news about it which I can’t say too much about – but (hopefully) watch this space!