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If you found out your kid was possibly going to be born with super powers, you’d probably want to do a little research into what exactly that meant. For fictional journalist James Stanley, that means conducting 45 different interviews about super powers and how they’ve changed the lives of the people who have them.
This December Com.X is publishing an illustrated book that collects those 45 interviews called, naturally Forty-Five. Written by Andi Ewington, each interview includes an accompanying page of art illustrated by a different artist, with no “predetermined brief” given — just the written page as guidance. Artists for the project include Jock, Fiona Staples, Liam Sharp, Dan Brereton and many more.
My thanks to Andi, who was kind enough to share some additional details on the book.
JK: Could you provide a little bit of information on your background — previous comics works, etc.?
Andi: I don’t have any formal writing training nor a traditional writer’s background, if there is such a thing. I’m a graphic designer by trade and have been very ‘creative’ from an early age. My father was a photographer, so he gave me a great understanding of framing and composition. And I was raised loving comedy shows like Blackadder, Fawlty Towers and The Young Ones that were filled with witty dialogue and cutting sarcasm. I spent a lot of time when growing up playing role-playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons, which helped nurture an active imagination and, as a DM, helped me to structure stories and scenes. I moved on from the old dice and pencil games to the computer kind. It was after clocking up around 120 hours on one particular game that I came to the conclusion that I could have probably written a book in that time. So, I did! I wrote, in my opinion, a fantastic and funny novel called Limpit Muskin & Company with my best friend Dennis Johnson. Unfortunately, we never managed to get it published, but we did have some encouraging feedback from agents and publishers alike. That sparked something in me and I guess that Forty-Five is the fulfillment of a passion that had been burning in me for a long time.
JK: What inspired you to write the book as a series of interviews, vs. a straight-up comic?
Andi: The main influence for the ‘transcript’ style came after reading World War Z by Max Brooks. I really loved the way you could dip in and out of the story, choosing which interviews you wanted to read in any order. I also love writing dialogue so it made sense to approach Forty-Five in a similar way.
JK: I imagine finding 45 different artists to work with, what with varying schedules, etc. was pretty difficult. What were some of the challenges you encountered along the way?
Andi: The main challenge was, in some cases, simply getting an artist to commit to the page! Varying schedules meant I would have to wait until the artist in question became available, that could be anything up to a six month wait. Very nerve wracking when you take into consideration I had another 44 artists potentially in similar positions. Also some artists, understandably, don’t focus their lives around their emails, so I might not hear back for a couple of weeks, though usually it would be a couple of days. I think I’ve become the king of patience!
JK: I won’t ask you to pick a favorite from the work that came back from the various artists, but did any of them surprise you?
Andi: Nearly all of them did in one way or another. I had something in mind whenever I briefed in a particular interview, though I didn’t mention what I pictured to the artists. I left it open for them to interpret and I’d say nearly 99 percent of the time the result wasn’t what I envisaged — which is a fantastic thing, it meant every piece was a delight to receive.
JK: Of the interviews you wrote, though, I bet you have a favorite. Which one would that be?
Andi: Now you’re asking, there’s so many and I love each of them for different reasons. I do have a favourite but I’m keeping that to myself for the time being!
JK: Did you have any ideas for characters that didn’t make it into the book?
Andi: Certainly — I wanted to do a religious superhero, someone that saw his superpowers as a gift or sign from God to a greater calling. It would have been interesting to make him overly zealous, but you have to walk a fine line when it comes to religion, so in the end I decided against it; still there’s always book two, right?
JK: So we learn a lot about the heroes in this world you’ve created through the interviews, but there’s also a 46th character, if I’m not mistaken … James, the interviewer. Do we learn anything about him through his interviews?
Andi: Ah, well logically you would think that. However, I’ve been a little ‘creative’ with the last interview. It’s not strictly an interview at all. I don’t want to say too much about it. However, I will say that James finds that the whole interview journey comes full circle and very personal.
JK: What happens after Forty-Five — do you have plans for a sequel or continuation of the stories you introduce here?
Andi: Forty-Six? I jest. I’d love to return to the world and do a follow-on in a similar vein. Maybe set it a year or two later. As for a continuation of the stories, it’s certainly there as my next project – in fact I can reveal I’ve signed a contract with Com.x for a second book. I can’t say too much, but it is set in the Forty-Five universe and it will feature an already established character from it. It’ll be a 40-page one shot in a traditional comic format – and the artist is the same one that’s created the page that accompanies the interview. I’m also starting to formulate plans for books three and four. I think the world of ‘Forty-Five’ has huge scope and plenty of exciting subplots to explore.
JK: Other than Forty-Five, do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Andi: I’m so busy on Forty-Five right now I can’t see too far beyond that, however I have managed to write a couple of scripts that I’m hoping to show to the right people one day.