You better start practicing your sword thrusts: HEAD LOPPER, by writer and artist extraordinaire Andrew MacLean, is back on the shelves March 15th, 2017 from Image Comics. ComicVerse had the utmost pleasure in getting to talk the creative mind behind our favorite barbarian warrior Norgal, the Head Lopper.

READ: Our staff picks for Image’s 25th Anniversary!

ComicsVerse: How did you get your start in comics?

Andrew MacLean: I self-published and worked with others who were doing the same. I had short stories in a handful of anthologies, eventually one in Dark Horse Presents; then I did APOCALYPTIGIRL with Dark Horse, a graphic novel; then I brought (partially self-published) HEAD LOPPER over to Image.

CV: What’s your process in creating?

AM: Pretty standard really. I write a full script, then pencil, then inks. On HEAD LOPPER, I work with a colorist, Jordie Bellaire currently, then I do the letters and design and it’s off to the printer.

CV: What was the initial inspiration behind HEAD LOPPER?

AM: I just wanted to do something fun, something I’d enjoy drawing again and again. I also wanted to try to make a comic that was very metal but had nothing to do with music.

CV: On both your books (HEAD LOPPER and APOCALYPTIGIRL) you’ve done the writing and art. What’s the biggest challenge in that method?

AM: I actually find it easier than working with a writer. With a writer, I always feel like I’m playing catch-up. It feels like there is this world inside the writer’s head that I only get to see in snapshots, panel by panel, and I feel like I’m at a disadvantage trying to guess what he or she sees. When I write it myself, everything is there, and I get to choose the pieces that will most clearly tell the story and omit the excess.

CV: The violence and persona of Norgal remind me a little of SAMURAI JACK. What do you find drives Norgal? How did you want to sculpt the world around him?

AM: I’ve seen a little SAMURAI JACK but not until I had done HEAD LOPPER. That said, I am a huge fan of classic samurai and kung fu movies and comics — so we might be drawing from the same well.

With Norgal, I try to create the quintessential warrior. I figure him out as I go, but what drives him most recently is this idea of “strength,” and what does it mean beyond physicality? What does it mean to Norgal to be a “warrior?” Those questions seem to be guiding his decisions. He can also be a bit stubborn at times.

Andrew MacLean / Head Lopper

LISTEN: NAILBITER is a hell of a read, hear our thought on it!

CV: How do you distinguish when to draw a detailed expressive face versus the more abstract/cartoony faces you employ?

AM: The first factor is simply how big I’m drawing the character. Close-ups get finer details than long shots. But there are exceptions because, second, I just sort of listen to my gut and try not to get too repetitive.

CV: HEAD LOPPER books also have long sequences of action, followed by scenes of heavy dialogue usually by supporting characters. Which type of sequences do you enjoy creating more and which do you find more challenging?

AM: Mostly I don’t like to feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again, so regardless of action or plot moving, by the end of a scene, I am very much ready to have a change of scenery. But I would probably say the quiet stuff is more difficult to draw. Drawing the Queen of Barra sitting on a throne is tough! But drawing Norgal leaping through the air and drawing his sword comes pretty naturally. Who can say why? Maybe because when we’re kids we only draw action poses so we’ve just had more practice with that.

CV: HEAD LOPPER was originally planned to be a four-part series. What gave you the drive or spark to continue Norgal’s adventures?

I always wanted to do it ongoing, but getting hooked up with Image was surprisingly easy and organic. When Eric Stephensen asked how many issues I wanted to do, I had only planned the first four and so that was my answer. I always wanted to do more, but I hadn’t counted my chickens and plotted 10 years worth of material yet. Luckily, when we saw the book was sustaining itself I asked Image if I could keep at it, and they seemed happy I wanted to make more.

CV: What can we expect in these new journeys?

AM: In issue 3, we met a warrior named Zhaania Kota Ka. She mentions being on her own quest. In HEAD LOPPER and THE CRIMSON TOWER — Norgal accompanies her on that quest. While it is chronological to HEAD LOPPER and THE ISLAND, it is an all-new adventure. So new readers can feel comfortable giving it a shot, and returning readers will be happy to see some familiar faces.

CV: Do you have any advice for people creating comics that take on almost the whole process by themselves, or any words of wisdom for creators in general?

AM: I would just recommend doing something you think would be fun. Try not to judge your own work against the work that is already out there. Trust me, there was no market research suggesting a quarterly fantasy comic about a barbarian and a severed head would be a sound time investment. But here it is, and I’m grateful people took a chance on something that might have seemed a little odd at first glance.

Andrew MacLean / Head Lopper

For more of Andrew MacLean’s work visit his website: here!

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