True North Strong And Free: The Canadian Corps, An Interview With Andrew Lorenz

I love me a good Kickstarter campaign and the Canadian Corps is one I’ve been following with interest.

I’ve been reading comics as long as I’ve been reading, and have had a soft spot for another group of Canadian heroes named Alpha Flight for a lot of that time. Which meant I am stoked to see what Canadian Corps does with our national archetypes.

Big thanks to Andrew Lorenz, writer of Canadian Corps for agreeing to answer a few questions.

CG: What’s the first comic you remember buying?

AL: The first comic book I remember buying is Web of Spider-Man #4. Picked it up from the campground shop at White Lake in the Whiteshell. I recall it very clearly because I had to make a choice between that or a Batman/Superman Brave and the Bold issue. Spider-Man was always my first choice back then because of the 60s cartoon I used to watch reruns of on TV as a kid. Superman was runner-up.

CG: When did you decide you wanted to make comics?

AL: I think pretty much anyone who’s ever read comics has at one point thought about making them. I remember coming up with stories when I was in elementary school and writing some short stories in junior high that were comic book-like. For so long though it never seemed a viable option- you really only had DC and Marvel until the last 15 years and getting into those companies pretty much required knowing someone or living where they were located.

The Internet changed all that.

Suddenly you were able to talk to other creators from all over the world. You were able to find different avenues to showcase and sell and distribute your work. You could self-publish. That was something I had never even considered until I saw the work done by people like A.P Fuchs, a local writer whose Axiom-man books were a big influence on me. As was Charlie McElvy’s WatchGuard Sourcebook- in him I saw another creator who’d come up with a bunch of characters and stories that finally took the step and did something with them.

But really it was running into some super supportive co-workers when I’d picked up a part time gas jockey job to help out the manager (who’s a friend of mine) that needed some reliable help and a chance at some easy extra money. Somehow or another it came out that I had come up with these characters and had these stories and the three of them- Michael, Mike T. and Cassandra (who is now my lovely lady friend) were ridiculously encouraging and excited about the ideas I had. To the point that they would let me work on developing characters and storylines while on-shift and they’d pick up the bulk of the work if I was “in the zone”. I can’t thank them enough for their support and nagging at me until I did something with it. Michael was actually the one who put us over the funded amount for the Canadian Corps Kickstarter; that’s how awesome they are.

CG: What is the appeal of superhero comics for you?

AL: What ISN’T the appeal? Action, adventure, drama, quiet character moments, cool costumes, evil villains, awesome powers and the fact that you can tell ANY genre of story WITH superheroes! You can tell horror stories, sci fi, set stuff in the 1930s, whenever wherever.

A lot of people have knocked superhero comics over the years but I just point out the success of TV shows like Flash or cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series as proof that you can tell a great superhero story and people will love it.

CG: How’d you assemble the creative team for the book?

AL: Magic.

Hahaha! Sometimes it certainly feels that way, anyhow. I’ve said it several times but I really could not have asked fro a better group to work with on this book. I met Justin at Winnipeg’s C4 Comic Con- I was familiar with his work doing the covers of Axiom-man and when I saw some more of his work I knew I wanted to work with him. The plan had always been to do an all-Canadian superhero book with all-Canadian creators.

There are a TON of talented Canadian comic book creators out there but you never really hear of their citizenship; which is sort of how Canadians are in general- we don’t advertise it unless we’re talking hockey. I wanted something that embraced that. We’re awesome people, we’ve got a cool country- you can go all over the world and find people that think well of us, so why can’t we buy into that ourselves? But I digress.

I’d met Rod the following spring after running across HIS Kickstarter for Death At Your Door, an awesome web-comic and got the chance to meet him at a small con not long after. Rod was a super great guy but at the time I hadn’t thought about working with him on anything- he had his stuff and I had mine.

Donovan was someone who Justin introduced me to- they’d known each other for some time and Justin was convinced he was the guy who should colour the book. It took me probably about 5 minutes of finally sitting down for some one-on-one with Donovan to know he was the guy.

So we had pencils, inks and colour down. Only lettering was left and I KNEW it had to be Rod. I didn’t even know if he’d be interested in doing that kind of work, or even if his services were for hire, but I’d made up my mind. Luckily, Rod, like Justin and Donovan, was too nice to say no.

CG: What’s the secret origin of the Canadian Corps? Why this book, and why now?

AL: I’ve always wanted to do a Canada-based comic book and I’m a big fan of team books as a reader. Also as a writer- it’s much easier having a group of characters to riff of each other than a solo book. I’ve been working on LEGACY for a couple years and last year I introduced a second S17 title, New Guard. My plan when I started was to bring in a new title every year- this is Canadian Corps’ year.

When I did my first Free Comic Book Day tabling, I realized that I really needed to get out something that would appeal to the varied groups that were coming in and checking out the comics. Before it became a bandwagon thing, I really believed that comics should be for everyone- I don’t understand how people DON’T like comics but I can see how it can be hard for everyone to find something they like. Hopefully this will fill that spot for some people.

Originally it wasn’t going to be an all-ages sort of book but with all of the creative team having kids, I understood how much it meant to them to have something they could show and share with them. To that end I tried to tone down the language without dumbing it down- not that my books have a bunch of swearing but I always believed that dialogue should reflect how people really talk. And not dumbing it down was important to me- I’ve never talked down to my kids and I honestly believe that if you talk to kids like they’re just short adults, you get further and they respect that. No one wants to be looked down on. Not to mention I wanted it to be fun for adults to read.

CG: What aspect of the book are you most proud of?

AL: The response from people. From the creative team to the people who have checked out the Facebook page or stopped by our tables at the various cons we’ve previewed stuff at. And we haven’t really showed that much but the response has been hands-down the best I’ve ever had for a book. Justin and Donovan have said the same. People are thrilled about the characters- from Warrant’s mustache to their being a First Nations/Native American member to how cool and powerful Shieldmaiden looks. When I got together with Donovan and Justin a month or so back they all said the same thing I had been thinking- Why didn’t we do this book sooner?

CG: Is Canadian Corps part of a larger, shared universe?

AL: It is indeed. All of the September17 Productions (S17) books take place in a shared universe- LEGACY, New Guard or the up-coming Troubleshooters (with Eryck Webb) or The Sentries (with Andre Siregar of LEGACY #2-4), they’re all in the same world. That being said, you do not NEED to read all the books (but you should! they’re great!) to follow what’s going on but if you DO, they are some neat Easter Eggs that carry through them; guest appearances too! I’ve always enjoyed stuff that was linked together despite separate stories- whether Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of novels or the shared univereses of DC and Marvel.

CG: What makes a Canadian superhero different from the superheroes south of the border?

AL: They fight cybernetically enhanced polar bears armed with hockey sticks and fueled by double doubles from Tim Hortons?

Traditionally Canadian heroes in comics have been kind of a joke compared to American superheroes, or at least have generally been perceived as such. With Canadian Corps I wanted to change that.

It might sound kind of weird, because I SHOULD say they’re COMPLETELY different but at the end of the day they kind of are NOT. Which was one of things I wanted to go for. Don’t get me wrong- there’s TONS of Canadian flavor in here (because I want to celebrate what makes Canada great) but I wanted to make them just as good as any other heroes from anywhere else. Too often Canadian superheroes end up being the butt of a lot of jokes (What do you fight cyber-polar bears with hockey sticks or something? Seriously I may write this now…) and I wanted to make it clear that Canadians kick ass as much as any other country, if not more.

Having a Canadian flavor was something that was important though- the first book takes us from the streets of Calgary to the far north of Nunavut. Further volumes will have stories involving Canadian cities and ideas that reflect the various cultures and histories that make up our fine country.

CG: What’s next for September17 Productions?

AL: Some days it feels like what ISN’T next for us! Haha!

Canadian Corps #2 (the second half of the collected edition) is up next for the art crew when they wrap up a couple of their own projects. New Guard #2 has been completed for pencils, inks and lettering- colouring is 2/3 done. After that Kenan will be heading straight into LEGACY #7 (#6 comes out at the end of this month!) after he’s done.

The Sentries (#1-3) is my big summer blockbuster story that will really open up the universe of S17 and introduce even more aspects of the world that we are creating through the books. Sentries #1 comes straight out of LEGACY #6 but, as with all the other books, it has a story that is its own thing. The high concept might be something like Avengers meets Pacific Rim meets Star Wars. But different. And better.

Troubleshooters is a book I’m doing with Eryck Webb, an artist I’ve been wanting to work with for a couple years now- I had originally approached HIM to do New Guard but luckily he was too busy at the time and I found Kenan. If he’d been able to do the book I would’ve missed out on working with Kenan and that would’ve sucked because he’s a great collaborator.  That being said, I wasn’t about to give up on doing a book with Eryck and I’m stoked to have him on Troubleshooters. Much like The Sentries, Troubleshooters will open up more aspects of the S17 Universe while still being its own creature. If you liked the TV show Fringe or the comic book series The Authority/Stormwatch, this book will be your kind of thing.

Character handbooks are slowly in the works- I had wanted to do something along the lines of Marvel’s Handbooks but I’ve started leaning towards a complete S17 Universe Encyclopedia, but we’ll see. Still plenty of work to be done there- over 300 characters to write-up. Also we’re looking at turning those write-ups into a role-playing game sourcebook so there will be that to do as well. Luckily I have a gaming expert to help me out there in the form of DT Butchino who regularly releases his own wicked characters in a series called Acts of Villainy for the Mutants and Masterminds system. There are few, if any, systems he isn’t familiar with though- like I said, he’s an expert.

Besides all the comic book stuff I’m also working on a few novels in my spare time and will be looking to put in a bunch of time on those in the new year. My game plan is to write the next year’s worth of S17 comic book scripts by December so I can concentrate on the novels next year. The novels I’m working on are: Return to Grenfell (my first stab at a Fantasy novel), Formerly Known As the Indestructible Kid (about a former teen superhero sidekick turned private detective) and Innocents Lost (planned to be the first of the Steven Kincaid mystery series). At some point I’ll be doing a novel adaptation of the LEGACY #10-12 story arc and that will be called LEGACY: The Storm.

I’ve got a few other things that I’d like to do as well but it’s a matter of fleshing the ideas out a bit more and finding the time.

And that’s that! Thanks again for doing this, sir!

CG: You’re very welcome, good luck with the rest of your Kickstarter!

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C4 Lit Fest Roundup

C4 Lit Fest was a blast. For a first year festival, it ran very smoothly.

Odin love G.M.B. Chomichuk, when he introduced himself at the Opening Ceremonies, he told the attendees that if they were going to buy only one book on the weekend, they should by Thunder Road. I tried to return the favour when ever I saw someone linger by his table (not that he needs my help, check out his art, Raygun Gothic is AMAZING).

Author alley was a lot of fun, as our tables were in close proximity, and I had the pleasure of being next to awesome Winnipeg YA author, Samantha Beiko  and directly across from awesome Winnipeg urban fantasy author, Sierra Dean. Fun was had. Great to see other familiar faces, G.M.B. Chomichuk, Ronald Hore, Rhiannon Paille, Craig Russell and Susan Rocan. It was also great to meet Jodi Carmichael, The Chapter by Chapter book bloggers: MaryAnn and Gabby, A.P. Fuchs, Gabrielle Goldstone, and Shaylinn Wilbon.

My first panel of the day was Plotting versus Pantsing, with Guest of Honour, Kelley Armstrong and fellow local authors A.P. Fuchs and Ronald Hore. Most of us tended to write on the seat of our pants, but Kelley ably held up the plotting end of the spectrum.

Sadly, How Can I Support My Local Authors (with Samantha Beiko) had the lowest attendance of any of my panels, not that it wasn’t expected. Making people care about the writers in their home town is always tricky. I think that the group that did attend got something out of what Samantha and I had to offer.

We were paired together again on a panel about the Traditional Publishing Process. Sam brought reams of experience as Managing Editor at ChiZine Publications and Marketing/Promotions diva for Signature Editions and I chimed in from the bookseller/book buyer side. Good turn out and good questions.

Sunday got off to a rough start as I woke up to more snow. However, by the end of the day the sun was out and looking back now and seeing grass (dead, brown, snow-mould encrusted grass, but grass all the same) I’m able to forgive that.

My first panel of the day was Fairytales, Folklore and Myths, Oh My! which I shared with Kelley Armstrong and local YA author, Susan Rocan (who was kind enough to interview me, and to review Thunder Road when the book first came out). This was a packed house. We talked about Werewolves, Vampires, Norse Myth (Kelley’s got a Middle Grade novel, Loki’s Wolves, co-authored with Melissa Marr, coming out that looks amazing), Aboriginal spirituality, the dangers of cultural appropriation, and a bit on avoiding inherent sexism and racism in modern takes on the tales. When the audience ran out of questions, I started picking on them and asking questions of them (Sorry, Perry and Craig). Tons of fun.

My final panel of the festival was What is a Beta Reader? with C4 Lit Fest organizer, Rhiannon Paille, and Ronald Hore. As with most panels on publishing or writing advice this quickly veered into territory of every writer is different and everyone’s path is different. I think we covered a lot of the bases on critique groups, first readers and beta readers, though.

Big thanks to Rhiannon and all the volunteers who made C4 Lit Fest such a great experience! I met a bunch of great people–I even sold some books! I’m very happy to hear that C4 Lit Fest will be back again next year.