A Few of My Favourite Things: An Interview with “Skeleton Key” and “Gum Girl” creator Andi Watson

Andi Watson

Andi Watson

 

Andi Watson is the author of the wonderful graphic novel Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, which is in on sale this week from US publishers First Second, who have very kindly given us permission to re-present their recent interview with this fine British talent here on downthetubes…

Andi is a British cartoonist and illustrator best known for the graphic novels Breakfast After Noon, Slow News Day and his series Skeleton Key and Love Fights, published by Oni Press and Slave Labor Graphics. He’s also worked for more mainstream US comic publishers including DC Comics, written a twelve-issue limited series at Marvel Comics, several series for Dark Horse Comics, and Image Comics.

He is currently writing and drawing children’s books, notably the “Gum Girl” series.

In his latest book, Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, Princess Decomposia is overworked and under appreciated This princess of the underworld is always running behind and always buried under a ton of paperwork. Oh, and her father (the king) just fired the chef, so now she has to hire a new cook as well. Luckily for Princess Decomposia, she makes a good hire in Count Spatula, the vampire chef with a sweet tooth. He’s a charming go-getter of a blood-sucker, and pretty soon the two young ghouls become friends. Princess Decomposia has to sort out her life, and with Count Spatula at her side, you can be sure she’ll succeed. Andi brings his signature gothy-cute sensibility to this very sweet and mildly spooky tale of friendship, family, and management training for the undead…

 

Princess Decomposia & Count Spatula Graphic Novel

 

First Second: What’s your protagonist’s favourite flavour of ice cream and why? What’s your own favourite flavour of ice cream?

Andi Watson: I would guess that Count Spatula would prefer to make his own ice cream and create something like the Buttercream Blizzard. It isn’t served in a cone but blows in from the north in the shape of a funnel. You don’t eat it so much as wear it.

My own favourite ice cream is the humble 99. In England a 99 is a wafer cone with a swirl of vanilla ice cream and a chocolate flake stuck in the top. It harks back to childhood and the sound of the chime of the ice cream van. The art to eating a 99 involves pushing the flake down into the base of the cone so that when the ice cream is finished you then have the extra treat of the chocolate/wafer combo. On the first hot day of the year a walk in the park isn’t complete without a 99.

Princess Decomposia by Andi Watson

Princess Decomposia by Andi Watson

First Second: Which literary character would you fall in love with if they existed outside of the pages of books?

I do have a weakness for Lizzie Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. I find her mix of warmth, quick wit and impudence irresistible. Not to spread my affections too far, but I could easily fall for Flora Poste of Cold Comfort Farm. She is eminently pragmatic, has a distaste for dramatic scenes and is incredibly bossy. As in real life I can’t help but be won over by intelligence, a sense of humour and self confidence.

First Second: What book would you take with you to a desert island?

That’s a tough one as it presents an awful dilemma: take an old favourite I know I’ll never tire of or something I’ve always meant to read but never got around to. On the one hand Pride and Prejudice or the other War and Peace. I’d probably cheat and plump for the complete works of an author: Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh or The Complete Uncle by J.P. Martin. The thought of having only one book is rather depressing but Uncle the oligarch elephant would be good company as I struggled to survive on a desert island.

First Second: Flight or invisibility?

Being the introverted creative type, invisibility. The habit of eavesdropping and observing would be that much easier. I could also sketch people in coffee shops without them or me feeling self-conscious.

First Second: What was your favourite book as a kid?

I didn’t have a single favourite but a few that quickly followed on each other at junior school and made me a lifelong reader. The book that absolutely gripped me wasn’t one I initially read. It was read aloud to the whole class in the ‘comfy corner’ at school. The teacher read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner and I was transported to the children’s escape through the caves under the hill. The words absolutely brought the feelings of claustrophobia and excitement to life. It was like magic.

That same year I picked The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White off the school library shelves and was again transported to another time and place. I still love The Once and Future King cycle and Alan Garner is a wonderful writer for a reader of any age.

First Second: What was the last book you read?

My reading is usually directed by what I find in the local second hand bookshops. I’ve just finished The Man Who Went Up In Smoke by Per Wahloo and Maj SjowallIt’s the second in the Martin Beck series of crime novels from the 1960s and 70s. I like the clarity of the prose (the authors were journalists) and the low key nature of the plots and procedural details. It makes police work sound like a grind and a slog and not at all glamourous. I’ve not read a whole lot of crime fiction but I was turned on to the books by the brilliant Radio 4 dramatisations from a year or so ago.

First Second: What food goes perfectly with your novel?

A slice of cake is essential, I would say. Or maybe an entire cake? There must be cake.

First Second: What’s your favourite word?

Gallimaufry. It means a mess or collection of things, but the definition is secondary to how it sounds. I even used the word for my Tumblr account: http://gallimaufry-of-girls.tumblr.com

First Second: What literary character should your readers use as a basis for their mental picture of you?

I would think I’d be a hopeless literary character as my life is quite uneventful. Outside of my family I’m either drawing or writing or thinking about drawing and writing. I’m lucky to not have experienced any personal disasters, existential crises or serious illnesses. Lets hope I’m not run over by a bus before this is posted.

First Second: You have one chance to convert someone into a book lover. What book do you give them?

The sensible answer is that it depends on the person and that it’s an unfair to expect a single book to make every individual into a book lover. However, I might plump for Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse (Something New in the US) and hope the reader has a sense of humour, an appreciation for the absurd and a beating heart. After that, Dear Reader, you’re on your own.

First Second: What literary character is your favorite Halloween costume?

Tock from the Phantom Tollbooth. I’d have to make this one myself, perhaps out of a novelty onesie and a kitchen clock.

What’s your favourite part of a book?

It’s not the start as there’s normally a period of adjustment, a changing of gears from the previous author, that takes some time to get used to. I just went from the Martin Beck to a Philip K. Dick and it’s taking a chapter or two to adapt. My favorite part is when I find I love a book and decide that the writer is now my Brand New Favourite Author and know that this writer has written a bunch of other books that I can enjoy. I had that feeling when I first read Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford and Uncle by J.P. Martin. It’s also a little bit heartbreaking when I re-read a gem like Grimble by Clement Freud and discover that there aren’t another six Grimble books.

First Second: What animal would your daemon (or patronus) be?

A capybara. Capybaras resemble overgrown guinea pigs and always look content. My back up plan would be a Long-tailed Tit as they’re cute and I often get to see them in the garden.

First Second: What’s the first book you remember reading?

It was probably a Janet and John book as they were how I learned to read. They did the job teaching the mechanics of reading but weren’t exactly full of narrative drive. They typically went something along the lines of, “John, see the aeroplanes. One, two, three aeroplanes. I can see three aeroplanes.” I expect I was reading the comics in the daily newspaper before I could understand the words. I was a slow starter as there weren’t many books around at home and my brain reads images quicker than prose.

First Second: If you and your main character went on an adventure together, where would you go? Would it be fun?

We’d likely go climb Big Rock Candy Mountain or root around in the Sherbert Mines. It’d be scary but I’d be interested in taking a tour of the Underworld. See the sights like the river Lethe, the caves of Hypnos, the Styx, Blasted Heath, the Palace Dungeons and other attractions. I imagine it’d be quite damp and dusty so would have to take my asthma inhaler.

First Second: What would a reading tree house designed just for you look like?

The look is secondary to comfort. Firstly it should be warm, so have one of those large iron Edwardian radiators used to blast heat into a drafty room. Secondly a good view. So a picture window looking down on a busy street scene in a city (in which case sound proofing is essential) or on a picturesque bit of countryside, a bend in the river with lots of bird life. Even better the window could look out on different views, like the door in Howl’s Moving Castle. Thirdly a comfortable window seat. Window seats are made for reading in. Lastly, tea-making facilities within reaching distance with milk, teapot and loose tea (not tea bags).

First Second: Who’s your favourite author?

The wonderful thing about reading is that there are so many authors with so many experiences, perceptions, observations and points of view. That is what makes reading special, so it’s hard to choose one. But if I had to plump for a single author who will always delight and entertain and be good company, I’d go for Jane Austen. Her novels have wit, insight, social comedy, wry observation and romance.

First Second: If you could meet one now-deceased author or illustrator, who would it be?

The hardest thing would be choosing just one. Drinking with Dorothy Parker, dinner with Henry James, travelling with Samuel Johnson would all be fascinating. I think I’d like to meet Laurence Sterne. He was a clergyman, satirist and novelist with a unique voice. I’d be interested to know if his body actually was dug up by resurrection men and sold to anatomists before being put back in an unknown plot. That sounds like something out of Tristram Shandy and he’d make a good story of it.

• Read the interview On the First Second web site and find out more about First Second’s fantastic range of books 

• Andi Watson’s official site is at: http://andiwatson.info

• First Second also published Above the Dreamless Dead last year, a much-praised but it seems missed by many collection of World War One poetry and art, whose contributor include Hannah Berry, Stephen R. Bissette, Eddie Campbell, Lilli Carré, Liesbeth De Stercke, Hunt Emerson, Garth Ennis, Simon Gane, Sarah Glidden, Isabel Greenberg, Sammy Harkham, David Hitchcock, Kevin Huizenga, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Peter Kuper, James Lloyd, Pat Mills, Anders Nilsen, Danica Novgorodoff, Luke Pearson, George Pratt, Carol Tyler and Phil Winslade. Edited by Chris Duffy, there’s more information here

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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