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The Head Lopper talks Chop

Andrew Maclean

Interviewed by Chris Auman

Published 2019

Andrew MacLean, Head Lopper Comics Artist

Andrew Maclean’s Head Lopper comic is an epic series (Image Comics) which follows mighty Nordic warrior Norgal and his trusty sidekick, Agatha the Blue Witch, who happens to be a severed head. In fact, many heads (and limbs and torsos) are lopped in this comic—but in a really fantastic way!

When he's not drawing, which is always, Andrew runs the lifestyle brand, Laser Wolf Attack, with his wife, Erin. Recently, Andrew was gracious enough to give Reglar Wiglar some time to answer a few questions about his daily loppings.

Norgal, Head Lopper

RW: Head Lopper was originally created for a sketch blog you were contributing to where you had weekly themes, which one week was Vikings. So, Norgal is presumably a Viking of sorts. Have you had the chance to visit any of the Nordic countries for inspiration? I’m sure you might be able to write it off as a business expense.

ANDREW: That’s right, that’s what inspired the original drawing. At the time I took it as creative license to go ahead and draw something really metal. I can’t say there has been any effort to make Norgal or his universe actually Nordic in any way, but I did get the chance to spend six weeks in Sweden on an artist residency program a couple years ago. It was a really amazing experience where I got to meet really amazing people.

RW: Laser Wolf Attack is the lifestyle brand created by you and your wife, Erin, how did that idea come about?

ANDREW: Erin and I have always worked very closely together. She’s been a huge help in creating the books and attending conventions. I love making things. All sorts of things. So from the very beginning I was designing t-shirts and odds and ends to produce. We started by self-publishing our comics. So, at some point, when Erin was really hating her day job, we talked about starting a business. We looked into a handful of ideas that we thought could be fun. But inevitably, and maybe obviously, its super expensive to start most businesses. So, around the time we started moving away from the idea of having a brick-and-mortar business and more towards an online business, we had printed a new t-shirt that we called Strawberry Shitstorm. And it did really well. So, it seemed to us at the time, that expanding that aspect of our comics business into a lifestyle brand seemed to have the least amount of risk. It’s a ton of work but we’ve been at it “officially” for almost three years now.

Head Lopper no. 2

RW: How many conventions do you do in an average year?

ANDREW: Too many! Last year, because Head Lopper Volume 2 came out in the early spring, Erin and I decided to hit the conventions hard. We did somewhere between 20-30. It was nuts. I’m still tired, haha. I don’t think I need to do so many again. That said, this year and next are upwards of 15 or so.

RW: These things must keep you busy. What is your favorite part of the business and what is your least favorite?

ANDREW: My favorite part is the creative freedom. Where I currently write the comics I draw, I get ultimate control over what it is I have to draw day in and day out. I always feel like if I am drawing something that doesn’t satisfy me creatively, then its my fault. I have no excuse. And for that, I do feel creatively satisfied, and in a way that probably no other job could offer. I get to create an entire universe anyway I want. It’s fun.

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My least favorite part is probably the schedule. The drawing alone is more than a full-time job, so when you add in the conventions, all the Laser Wolf Attack stuff, and the endless emails to write and read pertaining to each aspect of the business, it can easily become too much. Both Erin and I are total workaholics, enablers even.

RW: How many hours a day are you chained to the drawing table?

ANDREW: On a sort of comfortable day, I draw for about ten hours at five to six days a week. When the schedule gets tight and deadlines are looming, it becomes twelve to fourteen hour days at six to seven days a week.

Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower #4

RW: How does your day start and how does it end?

ANDREW: My day always starts by walking the dog, which is pretty dang nice. Without a reason to get out and walk around my neighborhood I really don’t think I’d get to know my neighbors so well. Then breakfast and coffee with Erin and then we both head to the office to get started—which is maybe 10-15 feet from breakfast.

We try to work a semi-normal work schedule, but we always get started late and end a little late. So we usually have to use dinner time as our stopping point, which is probably 7:30 or so. Then more dog walks and TV on the couch before bed. I just described the most normal day possible, haha.

RW: Do you listen to music while you draw, or podcasts, or tv shows, movies, and if so what?

ANDREW: Oh yeah, I burn through a ton of content while drawing. I rotate through music, podcasts, TV, movies, all of it! I listen to a lot of power metal, particularly while working on Head Lopper. Some of my go-to bands are Blind Guardian, Symphony X and Tyr.

For podcasts I listen to a lot of Radiolab and Harmontown. I watch a lot of Netflix while drawing. A lot of documentaries. I’ll go through phases, true-crime for awhile, then science, then social stuff, art, whatever they’ve got going. And then I’ll watch whatever TV and movies that I think Erin won’t care so much about, and save the things she digs to watch together. I’ve almost always got something going. It’s very atypical for our apartment to be quiet.

RW: Have you ever had the opportunity to do any album art? Who would be your dream band to do cover art for?

ANDREW: No. Not really. I do think it would be fun and an honor. As great as it would be to work with any of the bands above, I also really admire the art Mastodon gets for all their albums and tours. They get some seriously talented folks. It would be rad as hell to be included on that list.

RW: What kind of work are you doing in animation or collaborative work outside of Head Lopper?

ANDREW: I don’t have a ton of time to do work outside of Head Lopper but I have gotten to do some character design work for animation studios working on a handful of really fun licensed properties. Nothing I can mention by name. But usually it’s character design stuff.

RW: When did you first start drawing and what was the first thing you remember drawing a lot of?

ANDREW: I have drawn for about as long as I can remember. I think I just enjoyed it from a very young age. I remember being very young and asking my dad to draw a car. It was the smallest simplest thing imaginable, but not without some skill. And I was amazed. I thought to myself that I wanted to be able to do that someday. Later, I would draw a lot of my own characters. Usually ripoffs of some other mainstream character. I remember making up Bart Simpson ripoffs and Hulk ripoffs. Later, teen or preteen, once I was trying to actually improve my drawing, I would draw Spider-Man over and over and over. I loved the character, I loved the design, and I loved twisting him into all sorts of poses.

Head Lopper #3

RW: What were you favorite comics, cartoons, or books as a kid or teenager? What are your favorites now?

ANDREW: I didn’t have access to a ton of comics but from the collection I had my favorites were Spider-Man, X-Men, later it was Spawn, by college it was Hellboy and Umbrella Academy. I also loved the cartoons of the 90s like Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Power-Rangers, and later, Dragon Ball Z. Now I’m kind of all over the map. I don’t follow characters as much as creators. My favorites currently are Moebius, Hayao Miyazaki, Junji Ito, Jaime Hernandez, Jack Kirby, Phillips Druillet. I’m always just searching for exciting things, be it new or old.

RW: Are you now or have you ever been a player of Dungeons and Dragons specifically or RPGs generally?

ANDREW: NO! But I would love to. There is a great place to play right down the street and really the only thing stopping me is time. Hopefully, I can get my work schedule wrangled a little bit and join a campaign at some point.

RW: Favorite drawing implement?

ANDREW: Probably a brush, specifically the Raphael Kosinsky 8408 size 2. I had to start with a size 00 and work my way to the bigger brush but it is a great, really reliable brush in any size. Inking is my favorite part of the process. Not only is it relaxing (all the heavy lifting being done with the pencil) but it is when you finally find out what it is you’re drawing. All your plans are finally right there in front of you.

RW: Are you going to finish that fish chowder?

ANDREW: This? No, I don’t think so. You want it? I’ve been to a lot of conventions and shaken a lot of hands. There’s a very good chance I’m contagious.

Reglar Wiglar

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