By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
Kaare Andrews is a Canadian comicbook writer and artist known for jaw-droppingly gorgeous cover work, mainly for Marvel Comics but with a smattering of eye candy for DC too. The first recipient of The Shuster Award for Outstanding Artist in 2005 has also directed movies, with the last one being Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. His take on Marvel's Iron Fist was a critics' darling, but after that he's gone the way of Image Comics for his creator-owned book, the about-to-hit-newsstands Renato Jones: The One %, which he tells us in an interview has the most unusual protagonist we've met in a while. Herewith, are excerpts.
Abdulkareem Baba Aminu: How far along is Renato Jones: The One%?
Kaare Andrews: It's in catalogs now. It's 36 pages of story and chock-full of content, and in fact all pre-orders are due by April 11th. I've been told that the book will sell out, so if you want to get a copy you need to give your retailer the code: MAR160509 today!
It's been a bit of a learning curve, but creator-owned books really live or die by fans asking their comic stores to pre-order them. There's no big marketing machine in the creator-owned world, there are no events, no tie-in movies or Netflix series—it's almost entirely word of mouth. That's not a problem and it's kind of fun. But strangely, it makes the best way to support a new creator-owned book, not by buying a trade at a convention or even showing up at your store on new comics day—it's going down to the store and pre-ordering the book while it's still in the catalog.
As for how far along I am, I learned a great lesson on Iron Fist. By the time Iron Fist #1 hit the shelves, I had four issues completely in the can. I didn't have to worry about rushing issues to make deadlines or missing a ship date. So I'm taking those lessons to Renato Jones. And by the time the book hits the stands I'll be wrapping up #4 and maybe even into #5. Keep in mind, this first story is only 6 issues long. This makes it virtually impossible to miss any kind of deadline. That's really important for me. Come out when you say, bring your best work and keep bringing it every month.
The only real danger is that it's been so much fun to write this character, I have to constantly hold myself back from expanding his world from this first 6-issue story. It's not a bad problem to have, really. This book isn't really about social revolution or class warfare—I mean that's kind of the setting—but the book is a straight up action and adventure book, albeit with a twist—it's set in the world of the super rich. As I like to put it: Action! Adventure! Affluenza! And when you put next generation action fuelled by horribly evil villains with unlimited wealth, there are endless possibilities.
ABA: Speaking of affluenza, protagonist Renato Jones has been described as a man who hides among the rich, to make them pay for their crimes. What more can you tell us about him?
KA: Here's the big conceit of the series: As you said, it's about a man who hides amongst the super-rich and makes them pay for their super-rich crimes. But he doesn't just hide in that world, he lives in it. So I can have a great time drawing gold plated Lamborghinis and huge estates, while still being able to get some payback. The book isn't saying that all rich people are evil (remember, this is fiction), it's saying that there is a certain kind of evil that's untouchable because it hides behind wealth. To get at them, it's going to take one of their own.
What's interesting for me on a character level is that Renato isn't really who he appears to be. 'Renato' is Italian for 'Rebirth' and that plays a big part of his character. Who is he? Why is he doing this? It's not about revenge, but restitution. That's important to Renato. He's not getting even with the super-rich, he's making them pay.
By design the first issue is fairly self-contained and by issue 2, you'll see the world of the evil elite, The Ones, start expanding. By issue 3, Renato is no longer predator but prey.
ABA: What's your mindset when you're working on the book?
KA: It's been so much fun to write and draw this thing and I think it shows. I have all sorts of inside jokes peppered throughout the series. This book isn't driven by anger but there certainly is a rage of creativity.
ABA: Your now-famous – or now-infamous – dinner with a Marvel editor prompted you to set-up The One% at Image. How does working with Marvel compare to doing a book at Image?
KA: Let's just say that my infamous dinner may have been misinterpreted somewhat. I know, I know, it's not as juicy— but I still work with Marvel and have many friends over there. In fact, I just finished a trilogy of Darth Vader covers, as well as painting covers for everything from Deadpool to Inhumans. I'll be working with Marvel on and off for many years to come. What that really was all about, was the world reminding me that I was a freelancer not an employee. That I work for myself.
ABA: What took you so long to do creator-owned work, then?
KA: You see, before I ever was paid to draw a page of any comicbook, I promised myself that I would jump back and forth between creator-owned comicbooks and mainstream superheroes. It was the one promise I made to myself that I didn't actually come through with. But things came up. I started directing movies and now television, had a family and kids. There never seemed to be enough time to do the creator-owned thing. But it was a part of myself I had been neglecting. And it was waiting for the right moment to stage an assault.
The aforementioned dinner wasn't some horrible tragedy, it was a revelation. It didn't make me angry, it made me follow through. And I couldn't be happier about it. It was one of those very rare moments of clarity you experience as a creative person and a human being. And Renato Jones is the result.
ABA: Comicbooks-wise, what are your next plans?
KA: Like I said, I've just finished a whole whack of covers for Marvel. But I've also just finished my first DC cover, a Batman v. Superman variant for Superman #50. My first time getting paid to draw Batman! How cool is that? I owe my friends at Valiant a few covers and there are always offers to be doing this or that from every publisher. But now that I've opened the floodgates to creator-owned work, I have a literal backlog of characters all yelling at me to tell their stories. But the focus at this point is 100% on The One%.
ABA: What's your current – or next – feature film project?
KA: I'm still working away at feature films. But strangely, this year has become my year of television. I've never really chased the medium but opportunities came up and I'll have directed on three different series for three different major networks by the time the year is over. It's been great to build the knowledge base of how a show works mechanically. To see how to make one from the ground up. Who knows? Maybe that will come in useful some day. I'll keep you guys posted.
Abdulkareem Baba Aminu is a newspaper editor, award-winning journalist and comic book creator based in Nigeria. He has reviewed comics, novels, movies and music for a variety of platforms and is currently the Editor of the Saturday edition of the Daily Trust, one of the most influential newspapers in his country. You can follow him on Twitter: @KareemReal