Going Digital with the Pander Bros.

A comics interview article by: Jason Sacks

As soon as you see the art of Arnold and Jacob Pander, it sticks in your mind. Angular, futuristic and sexy as hell, the Panders' art is a kinetic mishmash of styles, approaches and characters that always adds up to an awesomely unique thrill ride. Jason Sacks ran into the brothers at this year's Emerald City Comicon, and they graciously agreed to be interviewed for CB about their long career and the promise of digital comics for them. As you can see, the brothers talk with the same sort of excitement that their work offers.

Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: When I think of your work, I think of sexy and tough female heroes. Tell us about Tamar from Tasty Bullet.

Arnold Pander: We have created a number of female protagonists in our comic book career. Tamar is unique in that, on the exterior, she is a symbol of the ideal modern woman with her values of health, celebrity and youthful energy, while on the inside, Tamar is ultimately a lonely young woman who's in search of herself. I should mention that Tasty Bullet was co-created and co-authored with Jon Vankin. Jacob has been a big part of the publishing side of the project and the Transmedia components that have been produced for Tasty Bullet, including the webisodic series you can watch in conjunction with the digital releases at www.tastybullet.com.

Jacob Pander: We have often incorporated multimedia into our projects, mixing comic book releases with music videos, CDs, live events, and other media.  So the transmedia conversation has been a natural progression for us. With Tasty Bullet taking on a life as an online release, that's created an exciting opportunity to expand the story beyond the pages of the graphic novel and mine the conspiracy of the original Tasty Girls in different and unexpected ways.

CB: Why is she in battle against Bullet Corp, and what does she have against energy drinks?

Arnold: She loves energy drinks! That's the problem! [Laughter] Tamar, the Tasty Bullet Girl, was a test subject for the Tasty Bullet secret formula. She became the ideal result of their adrenalin-based formula, giving her enhanced energy and strength when she gulps down a can of Tasty Bullet. Bullet Corp. has glorified Tamar as the icon of their wildly popular energy drink, forcing her to do death-defying stunts on behalf of the company. She's sort of a female Popeye meets Evel Knievel. [Laughter]  After nearly meeting a tragic fate shooting a commercial spot, she discovers that Tasty Bullet is causing a worldwide health crisis and Tamar is caught in the middle.

Pander Bros. InterviewCB: I love the kinetic, manga-influenced style of this story. That seems like a bit of a change from your previous work.

Arnold: I think we always had some Japanese influences from early on, but they initially stemmed from fashion illustration and Japanese design. The first manga I was exposed to was Robotech which really didn't do much for me at the time. It seemed primitive and oriented to kids. I think it was Akira that really opened my eyes to the brilliance of anime and manga. Also, the whole the over-the top themes of Tasty Bullet fit with Japanese advertising and pop-consumerism. I really just leaned into a more manga-centric look to enhance the world of Tasty Bullet.

CB: Why do you say "don't drink pink?"

Arnold: "Drink pink!" is the catchy slogan for Tasty Bullet that has become the moniker of the Tasty Bullet Girl. When Jon and I came up with the story, we wanted to go deep into the conspiracy of product testing and explore the underbelly of popular culture and what goes into the products we consume and glorify. As part of the conspiracy, we created the character of Zak, aka Patient Zero. He was the first failed test subject of the Tasty Bullet secret formula.

Jacob: Now his sole mission in life is to expose Bullet Corp. and reveal the dark secret behind the drink's popularity. He's created his own website devoted to the revealing the conspiracy: www.dontdrinkpink.org.

CB: This comic is being released digitally first. Why did you make the decision to release it in digital form before print form?

Arnold: Tasty Bullet was originally released as a graphic novel through Image's Shadowline imprint. It's nearly out of print, so we felt it would be exciting to release Tasty Bullet as our flagship book on PanderBrosComics.com, powered by Graphicly. The digital version has been "hacked" by Patient Zero. He believes that we're somehow involved in the introduction of an actual Tasty Bullet drink into the States as an actual product. Naturally, this is ridiculous.

Jacob: We can neither confirm nor deny these strange accusations.

Pander Bros. InterviewCB: When we ran into each other at ECCC, you mentioned that you saw this as your return to comics. Where have you been for the last few years?

Arnold: Our last significant collaboration in comics as the Pander Bros. was in 2004 with Batman: City of Light for DC Comics. With many of our books now out-of-print or hard to find in collected form, we decided to take matters into our own hands and launch our own digital comics publishing venture.

Jacob: Our goal is to make much of our existing work available to fans that might have originally missed out on our comics. We also want introduce our latest comics projects in a fresh way, with a transmedia approach, where our other media projects can be accessed in connection with the comics releases.

Arnold: A good example is Secret Broadcast, due out July 2012. Originally, it was available with a soundtrack CD. Now, with the digital release, we will have new music available on iTunes and other extras linked to the story.

Jacob: After reaching many of our creative goals in comics, we turned our attention to screenwriting and movie-making. This culminated in our first feature film, an identity theft thriller called, Selfless, starring Mo Gallini.

Arnold: The story revolves around an architect named Dylan Gray. After sketching an unflattering picture of a stranger in an airport who turns out to be a master identity thief, Gray's life is turned upside down when he is set up for murder. You can check out the trailer at www.selflessthemovie.com. We have since written two new screenplays and are currently adapting one of our comic series for the screen.

CB: How is the world of independent film these days?

Arnold: We made Selfless in the heart of the storm of the indie film "crash" of 2008, when indie movie distributors and the studio specialty divisions were folding in droves, making it a much tougher climate sell a "Hollywood style" psychological thriller like Selfless. The indie film markets no longer had the lower-budget industry avenues for legitimate distribution.

Jacob: Since then, new attitudes and methods of self-distribution on the web have come about. Many of them are still being worked out, but the climate is slowly reinventing itself. The whole landscape has changed the way we think about making and distributing an independent film.

CB: Your site is full of all kinds of multimedia candy for any fan to chew on. Is there a medium that you enjoy creating in the most?

Arnold: Since making our feature, we have been doing a lot of directing for commercials, branded entertainment and other transmedia projects. We have always brought our comic book style to the media work we do, so hopefully that will continue to grow as we make more movies and create new comics.

CB: You've worked for all kinds of publishers. How do you enjoy self-publishing, and how does it compare to working for a standard publisher?

Arnold: It takes a lot of discipline and focus to be a publisher and creator. We felt like there was really no other choice than to empower ourselves with the tools that are available to creators. We see the industry changing around us, and it's extremely competitive and dense with content. Our hope is to compress our releases so we can get our stories out there more often and constantly.

CB: I have to ask about one of my all-time favorite series, Grendel. How did you get that gig?

Arnold: It was a stroke of luck, really. I had worked at a comic book store during high school and had some of my drawings up on consignment as well as a series of short stories we had illustrated called Paradise Plus. The work caught the eye of Matt Wagner who was on a book signing tour for his cult series, Mage. We were asked to try out for the gig to pencil the book and soon found ourselves at the heart of the indie comics revolution that was getting into full swing.

Pander Bros. Interview

CB: I had such a crush on Christine Spar for years. How did you approach drawing her?

Arnold: I had created a femme fatale character in high school called Karla that was really the prototype for what would become Christine Spar. With Christine, I wanted her to feel very much [like she was] out of that 80's era with the fashion-forward look, angular hair and sharp features. The sort of raven beauty that stops you cold in your tracks when she walks down the street.

CB: What were your inspirations for the flashy artistic vision of the future that you brought to that series?

Jacob: As young creators at the time, we were steeped in the aesthetics and future forward attitude of the 80's. We were living the look and style of our characters, and it blended seamlessly with the art on the pages of Grendel. Weaned on films like Star Wars and Blade Runner, we were enthralled with the visions of flying cars, deco-noir architecture and a paradoxical mash-up of utopian optimism against the foreboding backdrop of the last days of the Cold War. I think this all gave rise to a very passionate style that had an idealized futurism in its design and an undercurrent of noir tension that saw expression in the pages of Grendel.

Pander Bros. Interview

CB: What can we expect to see next from Pander Bros. Comics?

Arnold: The next series will be Jack Zero -- Crackerjackshot. Co-written by New York performance artist Joel Blumsach and illustrated by myself, the story revolves around a sharpshooter who becomes a Wild West hero from his fiction reputation in pulp fiction novels of the late 19th century. Jack is eventually forced to choose between his real or fictional persona. The five-chapter series of short stories originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents in black-and-white. For the re-release, I have colored the book and we have added some historical images that were influences to this tale of a misunderstood Wild West renaissance hero. Jack Zero also has all new color covers for each chapter

Jacob: After that, you can expect to see the re-mastered Secret Broadcast in July. There are also some new projects that will be announced later this year, so stay tuned because it will be epic!

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