INTERVIEW: Andy Kavanagh and Saoirse Ní Chiaragáin
Having started on ICN about a month ago, I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to interview someone. I’ve had practice with ‘Ferguson’s 7 Questions With…’ (more to come hopefully), but this was my first proper, interactive, full length type thing. My first victims are writer Andy Kavanagh and artist Saoirse Ní Chiaragáin, whose first book ‘Angels’ debuts this week at Arcade Con. The following is my attempt to give people an idea what the book is about and let know something about the creator’s influences. Trust me, they did all the heavy lifting.
This is your first comic, right? How have you found the process of creating it?
Andy: Yeah it’s our first one. It’s been a lot of fun but also a lot of work. It was an interesting learning process, and still is as we’re still figuring things out about the logistics of it all. When we started out we just had this really cool idea and we were really excited. I don’t think either of us actually thought about panelling or layout at all, let alone how exactly we were gonna get it printed and published. We were originally gonna do it as 3 big graphic novels, in volumes, but you know, best laid plans etc. plus releasing in smaller issues cuts our costs which is important.
Saoirse: The process has been pretty interesting for me. I was always keen to undertake a project like this, and when I was younger I’d toyed around with a couple of comics of my own, but nothing ever came of them. The medium was new to me, and I guess I was intimidated. But when Andy approached me with the idea for ‘Angels’, I was really excited to try to make it work. It’s a very cinematic story, and when he outlined it to me it was really easy to envisage how it would play out panel-by-panel. It’s been a long time coming, so it’s hugely exciting for me to see everything come together.
What made you want to do this kind of story?
Andy: Originally it was just this really cool idea, I hadn’t really thought about it past the surface; these bad ass assassins just running around being cool. After a few conversations with Saoirse it kind of became clear that our characters were more interesting than I’d originally thought. Soon we realized we had all this stuff about the importance of family and the nature of morality and ethics. So the most interesting part of the story for me was the fact that even though you’ll definitely empathize with certain characters, there really aren’t any good guys or bad guys in Angels, and that kind of came out of nowhere for me. It wasn’t intentional but I’m glad it happened because it gave us a lot of ideas to work with for the next few issues.
Saoirse: For me I always liked the idea of comic narratives that dealt with vigilante anti-heroes, rather than all-out good guys. What drew me to ‘Angels’ was that no one is explicitly likable. They’re all achingly flawed, and despite the dynamic nature of the story, I thought they all felt really human. Artistically, I was totally game to dig into something seedy. I pretty much lose my mind for the sort of towering cityscapes you get in ‘Metropolis’ or ‘Blade Runner’, and Angel City just seemed like a really attractive setting. Plus, when Andy described how he wanted his characters to look, they really appealed to me. There’s a nice mixture of Film Noir classiness and ’80s sleaze I think, so I was pretty much sold.
Who would you say your influences were when comes to writing/drawing?
Andy: Well in terms of visuals, I’m sure Saoirse will have more to contribute there than I would because she handles all the artwork, but the idea kind of came about from a lot of our favourite material across a bunch of mediums. Very early on one phrase that was thrown around a lot was ‘gritty, westernized manga’ which I think kind of rings true when you see it. I wanted it to have elements of Kaori Yuki’s manga work but to kind of mix that with that pop-art modern comic book look. I hope when people see the final product they’ll see how well Saoirse has managed to bring those styles together. As for writing, I wanted to see if I could write it like a TV show, they’re both visual mediums after all so why not? The TV influence helped with the dialog at times too, for instance the character of Dexter Gray in ANGELS is kind of modeled on Hugh Laurie in House MD, so if there was a point where I wasn’t sure how he’d react to something I will admit I asked myself, ‘what would House do here?’ and that usually helped. I didn’t want it to sound like comic book dialog if that makes sense, nothing against comic book dialog, but I wanted to try have it read more like a teleplay or something, and let Saoirse’s artwork bridge that gap.
Saoirse: I’d say our influences were pretty varied. First and foremost we’re big film fans, so I think we drew inspiration from cinema more so than from other comics. Artistically I wanted the illustrations to lean more towards the stylized than anything approaching realistic. Andy’s scripts were really dynamic and evocative, and especially a lot of the violence reminded me of scenes from Takashi Miike and Tarantino films, which I love. Beyond that, a lot of the characters started off as aesthetic archetypes and were subsequently warped into something a bit more extravagant. Celeste, for instance, is a typical 40s Femme Fatale, but with only one arm and a disturbing masochistic impulse. That was a lot of fun for me – taking recognizable character styles and messing with them a bit.
Any final words on the project?
Andy: I just really can’t wait for people to see it. We’ve spent a really long time trying to get this together, life just kept getting in the way. So to get to a point where people are going to get to know these characters the way we know them is very exciting. You never know how well you’re gonna be received in something like this, but I do think we have a pretty great story to tell so I hope people enjoy this first issue enough to stick with it.
Saoirse: I just hope it’s apparent in the final product just how much fun we’ve had making it. We’ve been trying to for this for the longest time, but we’ve had so much fun throughout every step of the way. If people read it and can pick up on that sense of fun, I’ll consider it a success.
Where can people follow you or catch up on your stuff?
Andy: We just set up our facebook page the other day, we’re still in production so we’re trying to update it as much as we can. It can be found at facebook.com/angelcityireland.
Arcade Con takes place in the Ballsbridge Hotel from Thursday July 4th to Sunday July 7th.