Will Andy Smith’s 1stMAN Become King of the World? (Interview)
Professional-turned-independent comic book creator Andy Smith recently launched his fourth Indiegogo campaign, this time for 1stMAN 2: Learning Curve, the sequel to the first 1stMAN (derp) book successfully crowdfunded earlier this year. We were fortunate enough to get a chance to discuss his 1stMAN 2 campaign, which is available to support here.
As always, the answers below are represented as closely to “as written” as possible with only minimal edits.
The Splintering: Let’s start off simple. The name. 1stMAN. I want to know if you’ve really thought it through. Since he obtained his abilities from A’Pollo, doesn’t that make him 2ndMAN, or at best, 2nd1stMAN? When 1stMAN gets married, is his wife 1stWOMAN, 1stLADY, or is she Mrs. 1stMAN?
Andy Smith: Hahaha, great question! He did get his powers from the Essence of A’Pollo that inhabited him however after what happened at the end of 1stMAN volume 1 Luke Henry takes the mantle as 1stMAN being the first man on earth that has these powers and is also now his own being without being inhabited by the Essence of A’Pollo anymore. Luke is a freshman in college and not that great with the ladies so I won’t have to deal with him getting married for a while!
TS: What can you tell us about the 1stMAN himself – Luke Henry – not just his powers and costume, but his personality? What makes him tick?
AS: Luke Henry is an only child that still lives at home with his mom and dad, the only other two people that know his secret of also being able to transform into 1stMAN and become a hero for Earth. I wouldn’t call it a costume as to me that means it’s something Luke can take on and off and he can’t. Luke physically transforms from his slight self to the seven-foot tall 270lbs. 1stMAN.
Luke’s parents did their best to raise a good son with strong moral values and his dad is very influential in his life to try and be a good man and do the right thing even if it means some self-sacrifice. Luke is a science nerd that likes comic books and is more of a loner and is fine with being in his own world with his parents. Now being a freshman in college at NYU he has to come out of his shell some and with having these new powers he has to learn through trial and error what it takes to be a hero and deal with the responsibility that comes with.
TS: The nemeses this time around are known as the “Fourth World Foundation.” What more can you tell us about them? What kind of threat are they in contrast to the first book’s villain, Monarch?
AS: They are a quartet of scientists that have built their foundation from government funding and various patents they hold. The government’s next task for them is to create the ultimate artificial intelligence being that can be used for fighting wars and such. If successful they could create more. Once they discover 1stMAN in NY they realize they might be able to use him and his power to help with their creation, Adonis. Their goal doesn’t have 1stMAN’s best interest at heart and some members of the quartet aren’t very cool with that as the story evolves. In volume 1, Monarch was a universal threat to not just earth, whereas in this volume with him not being a threat anymore and Luke/1stMAN back on earth he now has to deal with a more local threat to NY, the country. But to him it’s close to home with his family living there. This is a real test to see if Luke can be a true hero to the world.
TS: 1stMAN gets his power from the essences of creation. What does that mean, exactly? Is the book at all inspired by religion or mythology (other than Apollo/A’pollo, of course)?
AS: What is going to be revealed in volume 3 is who and what these Essences are, and that revelation is going to come out of the return of A’pollo to the storyline.
I have always regarded these Essences as being not dissimilar to the seven beings that occupy the pantheon of Captain Marvel’s powers, and whose names spell out the acronym SHAZAM. So, in the third issue, who and what the Essences are is going to be revealed when A’pollo returns to Earth looking for Luke Henry.
TS: On creation, Russian collective anarchist Mikhail Bakunin said, “…Trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life. The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too!” which is typically paraphrased as, “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.” Do you agree with his sentiment, and does 1stMAN play with this theme in any way?
AS: Well, this is a neat quote, but I’ve never heard of Mikhail Bakunin. Creation in destruction is a neat idea.
Of course, 1stMAN deals with the responsibilities that come with power; how do you wield these gifts and for whose benefit? In the first two issues, Luke’s transformation into 1st MAN occurs by virtue of him being granted these great abilities and learning to treat them seriously.
But this is still an evolving thing for Luke, because he has always associated his powers with the sacrifice made by A’pollo on his behalf. But in the third volume, Luke is going to have to grapple with that belief; his faith and understanding are going to be challenged. Things haven’t always been as they have appeared, and Luke is going to have to contend with more than just learning that A’pollo actually survived their initial fight with Monarch.
TS: That’s enough pretentious 19th century philosophy for one interview… What comic book or series had the most impact on you when developing your art style?
AS: Mike Zeck was the first artist I remember noticing and it was in a Captain America comic book I bought after school at my local 7-11. From there I discovered John Byrne and Alan Davis, out of those artists Alan Davis had a big impact on me and then when I attended the Kubert School, Joe Kubert’s art struck me really hard in regards to his story-telling style. Other artists I really admired were Neal Adams, Steve Rude, Jim Starlin and Gil Kane. Really the list of artists is huge but those are the first that come to mind. In my third year at the school, I met Bart Sears whose work I was a big fan of and he mentored me and really helped me out with my work and eventually let me tag along to DC Comics when he was dropping pages off so I could show my portfolio around. That led me to getting my first gig at DC in my senior year of the Kubert School in 1991.
TS: You’ve worked on a wide variety of books, including properties for DC, Marvel, and even superhero books for kids with Harper Collins. What kind of mental or procedural changes do you have to make when shifting between properties?
AS: There isn’t a big mental shift between DC and Marvel as even though I’ve experimented throughout my career with different styles when I would get hired for a job it was off of the previous job so I would just draw in that style. When I did the work for Harper Collins’ children’s books, I did have to make a distinctive change in style to something more simple and less detailed since these books were for younger readers and weren’t paneled pages but spot illustrations to go with the text of the story.
TS: You mentioned in a recent livestream that you are an aficionado of Titanic history. Why? Did this fascination start with the 1997 James Cameron film, or are you an OG Titanic enthusiast?
AS: I’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic since I first discovered the story of it as a kid. Something about the ocean and the tremendous depths of it at certain points are very intriguing to me. It could be because I’ve always loved Aquaman as a kid too! I loved the movie from 1997, more for the fantastic effects of the ship going down in the end. The story was okay. I would’ve been fine with a good documentary with that ending. Something about a ship that large at that time and being sunk by what is really a small amount of damage is interesting and that a lot of it is still on the ocean floor.
TS: You’re also a pro wrestling fan. Would you say that action or costume designs of wrestling have had any impact on your work?
AS: I watched pro wrestling since I was a kid and remember going to some live events with my dad really well! I liked the stories and the action and the wrestlers seemed like real life superheroes. I dropped out of watching it for a bit in the 90s but came back to it in the late 90s for a while and through that I met Al Snow and we became good friends. I even drew him as a character in the book The First for Cross Gen and we worked in his Head gimmick as well!
TS: 1stMAN 2 is actually your fourth crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. What lessons learned from your earlier campaigns are you applying to 1stMAN 2, both the campaign and the book itself?
AS: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is precampaign marketing through social media and building up my YouTube channel. Doing this stuff, it’s very important to connect directly with the fans as they are the ones supporting your work and that is the most important component to my being able to do the book. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business; you can’t rely on your name only. You have to communicate with the fans and build that trusted fan base.
TS: At the time of this interview, the 1stMAN 2 campaign is sitting at a healthy $21k, but I’m sure you have designs on even bigger bucks. Given that the likes of Ethan Van Sciver and Cecil have scored six-digit campaigns, have you considered getting really fat as a strategy to sell more books?
AS: You know, I just went on a diet to drop 20 or so pounds a couple years ago and have made that goal I’m proud to say. I love food and especially sweets! I’ll take a slice of pie over a beer any day of the week! If I thought plumping up would get me a six-figure campaign, I’d be at the buffet every day! On a serious note, it takes a lot of work to build to those numbers for a campaign and I’m going to keep working my butt off at getting there!
TS: Your enthusiastic narration on the 1stMAN 2 trailer has certainly garnered some attention. Have other creators approached you to write or voice the narration for their own trailers?
AS: Haha! When I was on Ethan’s stream and he asked me to do a voice over I had no idea, maybe he didn’t either, that it was going to be edited into the video! I love it. No one has approached me but I’d be glad to help anyone out if they wanted me too!
TS: Besides comics, in what other entertainment mediums do you see 1stMAN?
AS: I’d love to see a 1stMAN cartoon! I think it could work as a movie or tv series as well with the on-going stories and since Luke Henry is in college, we could easily follow him through school and grow. He would still be 1stMAN as an adult. It would be cool to see him get married and have to juggle that and being 1stMAN!
TS: A year from now, how would you describe success for the 1stMAN property?
AS: Ask me next year! I hope it’s an awesome success!
TS: What would you do with the power of the Beyonder?
AS: Eat as much sweet desert foods as I want and not gain weight or have it affect me in a bad way in regards to health!
We would like to once again thank Andy Smith for taking the time to answer our questions and to have some fun with us. You can visit the 1stMAN 2: Learning Curve Indiegogo page here. And of course…
Thanks for reading!
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