A few weeks ago, Mia in Year 6 read and reviewed Baggage; a great new graphic novel by The Etherington Brothers. Another of Mia’s great reviews, with a lot of thought and a lot of work put into it.
The Etheringtons were impressed as well, and gladly agreed to being interviewed, not just by Mia but by Owen as well, who’d read, but not yet reviewed Baggage. Thanks very much to Mia and Owen for the questions, Lauren at Random House for setting up the interview and of course, thanks to Robin and Lorenzo Etherington for taking the time to answer the questions!
Mia: How do you come up with your ideas?
Robin: Lorenzo and I enter a boxing ring and hit each other over the head with large inflatable carrots until we knock a good idea out of our ears and onto the page. Okay, so that’s not strictly true, but it sounds like fun! The original idea for any of our stories usually takes a long time to shape, with all sorts of complicated considerations influencing our decision-making process (Is it going to be funny? Is it going to be REALLY funny? No, seriously, is it REEEEEEEEEEALLY funny?). Actually, that’s about it! Until we find an idea that we both agree is amusing, Lorenzo won’t draw a thing!
Mia: Did you always want to be a comic writer and comic artist?
Robin: We always loved comics but it took a few years before we discovered that it was actually the perfect creative home for our stories and art. Now we couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
Mia: What is your favourite book (that you’ve made)?
Robin: As with any other creator, the temptation is to say your latest book (Baggage) but I’m actually going to say Long Gone Don (our new graphic novel, to be serialised in the weekly Phoenix comic, starting in January 2012). It’s so much fun to write and draw! Every new page gets us excited all over again.
(Long Gone Don – The Etherington Brothers’ new series starting in the new Phoenix Comic – first issue in January)
Mia: Do you enjoy writing and drawing the books or are they very frustrating to do?
Robin: Creating comic books is a LONG process. Each book usually takes about 8 months to create so you need a lot of patience to stay focused and enthusiastic. But after a while you realise that the slow build to a finished book is actually a lot of fun in itself. Watching it come together and take shape is brilliant.
Mia: What other books do you think I’d like?
Robin: In the world of comics there are MANY great titles to choose from – Bone, Mouse Guard and Asterix would be a superb start. Moving into illustrated novels, I’d keep my eyes peeled for our new series ‘Freaky Giblets’ coming soon. If you enjoy comedy, danger, mayhem and mystery then you’re in for a treat!
Mia:I like your books because you really pack the pages with fun and silly stuff, but with Baggage it seemed more controlled, as if you’d decided to concentrate more on Randall and his adventure than other things in the background – is this just me thinking this or did you deliberately do this?
Robin: That’s a brilliant observation! Yes, it was a purposeful decision. Monkey Nuts was created as a wacky comedy adventure strip, packed with madness at every turn (and book two continues this style) but we always wanted Baggage to focus more on the central adventure. Plus, there’s already enough nonsense going on around Randall without adding more – the pages might have burst into flames if we’d tried that!
(Just a little of the craziness going on in Baggage by The Etherington Brothers)
Owen: How long have you been writing and drawing books for?
Robin: We’ve been working together on adventure strips for about eight years, but we first started drawing and writing comics together when we were 6 and 9 years old!
Owen: How long did it take you to write Baggage? And how long did it take to draw the book?
Robin: The entire process took over a year (which is a long time, even for us!) from the first draft of the script through to finishing the cover. It’s hard to break down the art and words because we’re still tweaking the writing when we’re adding the words to the pages, but at a rough estimate, it took four months to write the script and eight months to draw every last panel!
Owen: As you are brothers does this mean you can work closer than other writers and artists or do you think you fall out more because you’re brothers?
Robin: Another brilliant question. This might sound crazy but we’ve never really fought with each other, even when we were younger. Personally, I think being brothers has helped us to forge a really close working partnership. We both understand each other’s thought processes and skills and know what we each love to write and draw the most. Before we begin creating we always spend a good length of time chatting about what we want to see on the page, and largely our ideas are the same. We’ve very lucky to work together in this way.
(Sid the Monkey and Rivet the robot from Monkey Nuts by The Etherington Brothers)
Owen: What or who inspired you to make comics?
Robin: The simple inspiration for the initial decision was a desire to work together, something we had previously tried with music and really enjoyed. Lorenzo had always drawn cartooony illustrations, but when we began creating together we started on a Children’s picture book, before realising that the format was too small to contain all our adventures. Lorenzo suggested moving to comics and I happily agreed.
Owen: And will there be anymore Baggage or Monkey Nuts comics?
Robin: Monkey Nuts 2 (BIGGER, BETTER, MORE MENTAL THAN EVER) is finished and awaiting a publishing date. The sequel to Baggage is plotted and planned and stored in my brain for possible use in the future, but until then all our energies will be piled into the epic comedy action adventure, Long Gone Don!
(The Phoenix Comic – starting in January and featuring The Etherington Brothers Long Gone Don)
Thank you again to all involved, especially Robin Etherington and our brilliant interviewers Mia and Owen.
You can read The Etherington Brothers’ Monkey Nuts and Baggage in the school library, and it’s available from all good bookshops, including Simply Books in Pocklington.