Set in the new shared universe of AWA Upshots, brought about by a pandemic that gives the survivors superpowers, E-Ratic is a fun, frothy teen superhero title from writer, artist, film director (and more) Kaare Andrews. And, this blogger got the chance to talk to him about this energetic new book, his influences and more…
Olly MacNamee: First of all, congrats on the new comic book series, E-Ratic. I read the first issue and loved it. A great mix of humour, teenage wonderment as well as enough foreshadowing to keep readers guessing for a good while too. Everything you want from a new book. You must be pleased with the end results?
KA: As an artist, the moment you are pleased with the results is the moment you stop getting better. So, I’m rarely pleased with the results. And if I ever start feeling pride in the work, I know it’s a warning sign. Surrounding yourself with failure and consequence keeps you sharp, keeps you on course. A tightrope walk is meaningless unless the fall will kill you.
OM: As many of our readers will know, you have forged an alternative and successful career in films and movies for quite some time now, but comics keep on dragging you back. So, why E-Ratic, why this specific project, Kaare? And, where do you even find the time to write and illustrate it? Have they added an extra hour onto the day that I haven’t heard about?
KA: I think the most I’ve ever cut-off comics from my world for a film project is maybe a couple of months? I’m always write or drawing or doing a cover or something. It’s in my blood. It would be like asking me how I’m able to have two feet. I just wouldn’t know how to walk away from comics. It wouldn’t make sense.
OM: Reading the first issue and it becomes clearer that this series takes place in the bigger extended universe of J. Michael Straczynski and Mike Deodato’s The Resistance series. A world of survivors, some of which were ‘reborn’ with super powers. But, Ollie’s powers – cool first name by the way – are rather limited aren’t they?
KA: Ha! Thanks. Oliver Leif is actually a hybrid of my two sons’ middle names. I’m constantly writing characters with names of family or friends, not because I’m writing glyphs or versions of people I know, but because it makes me smile. In fact, the characters rarely have corresponding traits to the people I steal names from. “Kristin Smith” was actually the name of a girl I had a crush on in grade four. It gives me a flash of empathy or connection.
I’ve always felt that it was the limitations that defined the powers. A haiku is only a haiku because of the strict rule set; a poem of 17 syllables arranged in lines of five, seven and five. Limitations give you meaning and form and structure. And I thought it might be fun to limit Ollie’s powers to ten minutes a day.
OM: Miles Morale, Spider-Man, Ms Marvel, the Teen Titans; teen heroes are big business once again, but what makes E-Ratic’s story so unique?
KA: I’m constantly interested in “archetypes” as opposed to “tropes”. The thing that makes something universally true, as opposed to a copy of superficial traits. I’ve always loved Spider-Man because he was a great character, not because of any category he could fit in. That’s what I tried to do with E-Ratic. What is the essence of him, the thing that makes him true? That’s what I’m tangling with when I enter the ring to battle for story. Truth in a new form. I’m not always successful—but that’s the combatant. Something beyond me and orientated towards universal truth.
OM: Given it is set in a wider shared universe. How much freedom were you allowed with this new character? From where I’m sitting, it would seem quite a lot.
KA: The biggest restriction — and this seems like a little thing but it’s not — is that the origin of the character was pre-determined. Because the first question you always want to know about a character is the origin story. It’s that origin story tells you the theme of the character, whether it’s “with great power comes great responsibility” or vowing to battle the crime that killed your parents or being a refuge from an exploding planet. That was the biggest challenge for me. To start the story beyond the origin — but in a way, I cheated, and these first five issues became a second origin story. We see Ollie establish a new life, get his costume, learn about his powers and even get his namesake.
OM: It’s a great, solid first issue and does a wonderful job of introducing and establishing our cast of primary players. I was very intrigued to see you spotlighting the school’s staff so much, in the first issue. I suspect they – and one member in particular – will have a bigger part to play as the series unfolds?
KA: Oh, yeah. Any teenager has to be pitted against the system. In high school that system is the teacher-class. And I had a lot of fun looking at the teacher-class through a modern lens. There is a new style, a new flavor, to that same oppressive structure that shows up in everything from The Breakfast Club to Degrassi High. When you’re a kid, the adults are always the supervillains. Something to fight against, and define yourself through contrast. A teenager needs to rebel against something, to face the world on their own terms, or they’ll never grow up into anything usefull.
OM: There seems to be an awful lot going on just below the surface of this school. Not to mention Ollie’s home life. So much for a fresh start, eh?
KA: Every ending is a new beginning. And every beginning must end. It’s that spiral of life that makes it so much fun.
OM: Humour plays a big part in this books too, doesn’t it? It’s certainly tonally very different from The Resistance, isn’t it?
KA: The world needs a little humor right now. Part of the purpose of E-Ratic is to push out the tonal boundaries of what is possible in this new universe. To take a deadly pandemic and turn it into a poppy, fun, new superhero. And life is like that. We go through tragedy. We become overwhelmed by darkness. But we are don’t have to be defined by it. There is a way to live, to thrive, to have fun and family and friends in any situation— to wake up to the sun, no matter how dark the night– no matter what.
OM: Finally then, Kaare, what can we expect from future issues, without giving too much away, of course? And, if successful, will we be seeing more of E-Ractic and your involvement?
KA: Stay tuned!
E-Ratic #1 and #2 are available now from AWA Upshot.