We’ve been huge fans of Andrew MacLean’s Head Lopper since we first stumbled onto it almost a year ago, with it’s glorious artwork, brilliant mixture of black comedy and over the top violence – oh, and its and unashamedly “metal” tone and aesthetic.
So, when we heard that the first four oversized issues were being collected together into a massive 280-page graphic novel later this month, we thought this would be the perfect time to sit down and have a chat with its creator about the inspiration, evolution and – yes – the soundtrack of this awesome series.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Thanks for your time, Andrew. Now before we get started, for any of our readers who may not be familiar with Head Lopper (although the clue’s kind of in the title) can you give us a quick summary of just what the series is all about?
ANDREW MACLEAN: Head Lopper, the legendary hero who’d rather go by Norgal, and the nagging severed head of Agatha Blue Witch arrive on the Isle of Barra to find it overrun with beasts: minions of the Sorcerer of the Black Bog. When Queen Abigail hires Norgal and Agatha to slay the Sorcerer, our heroes trek across the island relieving the horrors of their heads—and playing right into the hands of a master manipulator.
BCP: One of the things that really hooked me on Head Lopper right from the start was its unique tone. It’s remarkably earnest at times, but also includes some brilliant comedy asides. Was it always your intention to have it feature such potentially conflicting styles?
AM: No – Actually it was meant to be a fun/simple adventure fantasy but also hopefully something really “metal,” but the comedy seemed kind of inherent in the characters and setting. At first I thought the jokes were just for me and I expected little to no laughs from readers. But as it turns out, they have as dark of a sense of humor as I do!
BCP: You adopted a fairly unusual approach in terms of releasing the issues – oversized issues every three months – what prompted that decision?
AM: I just prefer a longer book. The standard 22 page monthly doesn’t give me enough real estate to squeeze in all the things I want in each issue – and I learned from self-publishing I really enjoyed the 45ish page chunk of story and I would never be able to draw and write 45 pages in a month, so it only felt natural to go to a quarterly format. Luckily Image was on board 100%.
BCP: Is it important to you to have control of both the art and story in your projects? Would you consider working alongside another artist or writer, and if so, is there anyone in particular you’d like to collaborate with?
AM: I have worked with writers before – on several occasions. Its just I’ve always had ideas for stories, so when the time presented itself, I took the opportunity to tell them. I greatly enjoy working alone, you get everything you want with no compromise – but I am also a fan of comics so of course there are many creators I have a lot of respect for and I look forward to the chance to work with some of them.
BCP: On a similar note, some of the artist pin-ups that have been included in the first four issues have been absolutely amazing. If you could pick one “dream artist” to take a stab at a Head Lopper pin-up, who would it be?
AM: I have been very lucky. Many of my favorite artists have already drawn Norgal and Agatha either at my request or on their own, which is downright surreal. My dream artists would be Kirby and Moebius – but I’ll just have to keep dreaming.
BCP: Let’s talk character design. There’s some insanely fantastic monstrosities in this first volume, but how does Andrew MacLean go about making a monster? Are there specific inspirations you draw on? Movies? Album covers? Or do you just start doodling and see what you come up with?
AM: In Head Lopper I try to give it a sort of classic/timeless feel so I like to think on some of the classic monsters from old movies and mythology. But above all else I look at nature. The animals on this planet are insane. We have everything from the most beautiful to the most terrifying. I just take a few animals, squish them together, and add a little flare of fantasy. I think sometimes we forget monsters are in fact real.
BCP: There’s an unmistakably “metal” vibe to Head Lopper. If you could put together a recommended soundtrack for people to listen to while reading it, what bands would be on it?
AM: Haha. I would have some Mastodon, Blind Guardian, Symphony X, maybe some Red Fang and some King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizards – they all kind of fit the bill. But I would also throw in some Soilwork, Devin Townsend, Arch Enemy, Lamb of God, etc. because they are long time favorites and always get me on my feet.
BCP: You’ve also started branching out into some pretty sweet Head Lopper merch recently, including t-shirts and patches. How did that come about? Was is always something you had in the back of your mind?
AM: I like making stuff and my wife is super ambitious and business savvy so more and more as I come up with ideas for things she’ll trust my judgement and sort of run with it. We’ve really become business partners in all things. We each have our strengths and we compliment each other well.
BCP: What’s next for Andrew MacLean? More Head Lopper, or could we see something more akin to ApocalyptaGirl in the future?
AM: More HEAD LOPPER! Image and I both seem pretty excited about it and will be making HEAD LOPPER for the foreseeable future.
BCP: And finally, what would you say to someone who’s on the fence about picking up the first volume of Head Lopper to help convince them?
AM: Nothing really. When you go to a shop in October just take a look at the cover, read the back, crack it open to the middle and take a look at the art and characters, that’s what I do at shops. And if this book is for you, you’ll probably know.
BCP: Thanks again for your time, Andrew.
Head Lopper Volume 1: The Island or A Plague of Beasts TP is set to go on sale October 5th from Image Comics. In the meantime, you can get your fill of Head Lopping goodness by checking out the aforementioned “sweet merch” at the Head Lopper Storenvy site, and make sure to check out Andrew’s Tumblr and DeviantArt pages.
Oh, and if you still need more convincing, check out our reviews of three of the four singles issues below;