Arnold Pander Talks "Tasty Bullet"

Arnold Pander is best known for the many comics projects he's worked on with his brother Jacob collectively as The Pander Brothers. The two illustrated the classic Christine Spar story in Matt Wagner's "Grendel" series, now collected by Dark Horse as "Grendel: Devil's Legacy." They also collaborated with novelist Richard Kadrey on the miniseries "Accelerate" from Vertigo, now available in a collection from Image.

The Pander Brothers also have a long list of projects they've written and illustrated themselves, including "XXX" from Dark Horse (which should not be confused with the Vin Diesel movie); the experimental miniseries "Exquisite Corpse," also from Dark Horse; "Secret Broadcast" from Oni Press; and "Batman: City of Light" from DC.

In addition to a lengthy resume that includes visual art, multimedia projects, music videos, the Panders have also collaborated on the recent feature film "Selfless," which they wrote together and Jacob directed.

Next month, Arnold Pander has a new graphic novel from Image, "Tasty Bullet," which he worked on with writer Jonathan Vankin and illustrated himself. Pander describes "Tasty Bullet" as "a high-velocity dramatic story of Energy Drink Icon, Tamar, the 'Tasty Girl'. After her a near death experience from a publicity stunt for the energy drink Tasty Bullet, she decides to step off her roller coaster lifestyle and discover what led her to become the adrenaline driven Tasty Girl. The truth is a dark reality that she must face head on if she is to enact her revenge upon Bullet Corp."

'Tasty Bullet" has its own distinctive look and style, but is very much a part of the body of work Arnold Pander's already produced. The writer-artist took some time out to talk with CBR about the project.

CBR: Are you or is someone you know an energy drink addict? Is this where "Tasty Bullet" came from?

ARNOLD PANDER: It's based loosely on an energy drink that I came across while in Amsterdam in the '90s that had some kanji writing on it and cured my jet lag in a hurry. Jon [Vankin] and I compared stories and thought it may have been a drink that came out of Japan around that time that had a cute spokesmodel that did wacky publicity stunts for the ads. The supposed drink's name translated to "Tasty." We thought, hey, there's a twisted story in there somewhere! We've packed the story full of conspiracies of what really happened to the Tasty Girl. It's pure speculation and any resemblances are purely coincidental. [laughs]

A lot of your stories can be viewed as coming-of-age tales where a growing political awareness is key to that growth and "Tasty Bullet" seems to fall into that category as well. What is it that makes this such an effective storytelling tool and how do you think it plays to your strengths as a writer?

I think the stories that Jacob and I explored as the Pander Bros. have always dealt with characters that go through some type of larger than life experience to address an inner conflict. In "XXX," it was facing the fear of persecution. With "Secret Broadcast," making a choice between the people in your life or your vision. This story has at its core the idea of finding out who you are in a world where there is no time for self analysis. Its just go, go, go. Better, stronger, faster, skinnier, prettier, etc! When Tamar makes up her mind to search for her true self, its sort of a personal liberation but as you may expect it comes at a price. In Tamar's world, she is the property of Bullet Corp. It's not as easy as she thinks to just walk away. In the process of her trying to escape the life she's known, she ends up living out an adventure she could never had imagined. Art and life begin to blend. Hopefully that comes through in a way that leaves the reader wondering what's real and what's fantasy and in a way what's the difference? As long as you're determining your own destiny, live it all!

Most people know you as one half of the Pander Bros. but unless I'm mistaken "Tasty Bullet" is the first major comics project you've done as a pro without your brother Jacob. Why and how do you think that affected how you worked on the book?

It's actually my second. The first being a Western called "Jack Zero" that appeared in "Dark Horse Presents." However, it's true that most of the published work has been under the Pander Bros. moniker. After the success of "Grendel," we really saw it as an opportunity to showcase our abilities as a creative team. We've created quite a number of solo media projects outside of comics so I never really felt I needed to prove myself in any way. I recall a major comics company asking me once to submit art samples to see if I could do a book on my own. That was the first time I thought, wow! For real? It was very humbling and it seemed an absurd request to me. It's easy for people to see you as one half of a whole but we have always pushed ourselves to be creative individuals not a co-dependant entity.

When "Tasty Bullet" came about, I was living in LA and wanted to get a new project going. I felt it needed a carefree style that I could do in my own way. At the time, Jacob and I were already collaborating on "Batman: City of Light" so "Tasty Bullet" would be a chance for me to show my stuff as both artist and chief writer, having scripted the book well after the early co-plotting with Jon.

"Tasty Bullet" looks different in some ways from your previous work and your style has changed over the years, but were you consciously trying to emulate manga layout and design for this book?

Oh, yeah. It's true that the art styles have always changed depending on the story. "Grendel" was truly of its time with the '80s fashions and its sleek pulp treatment. "Exquisite Corpse" explored German Expressionism for its dark effect. "XXX" was very post-punk with its political agitation theme. It too lead into an edgier style. By the time the new century was kicking in, with "Accelerate" we took a technocratic approach where the artwork almost looks like pure data to match the cyber storyline.

With "Tasty Bullet," the whole idea was to capture the over the top energy of manga with a lot of creative license. Obviously I am not a strict manga artist but I wanted to allow myself the ability to explore my own technique in the genre while paying homage to the things I love most about manga. It's really just me having fun, to tell you the truth.

How do you know Jonathan Vankin and how did the two of you come to collaborate on the book?

Jon and I met at a San Diego Comic-Con around 2000. We were both doing Vertigo books and thought it might be a good time to collaborate on something for that company. In the end they passed on the project but we pitched the story to a few other companies in its plot form. In the end, Jon became a fulltime editor at Vertigo and the project reverted to me. I decided to stop pitching it and do the heavy lifting of self-producing the entire book. It's been four years of writing drawing and the final production this year. It's the hardest I've ever worked on a book since "XXX."

Image/Shadowline put out a collection of the Vertigo series "Accelerate" you and Jacob drew a couple years back, and now they're publishing "Tasty Bullet." What has your relationship with them been like?

So far so good. I've chosen to work with Image so we can maintain the rights to our intellectual properties. Since the beginning, we've been filmmakers as well as artist/writers, so our dream is to see our comics translated into cinema with as little resistance as possible.

Do you prefer working in black and white or does it depend on the project?

I guess it sort of depends. "XXX" was originally meant to be color. It still needs colors for us to feel that it's truly complete. "Accelerate" was originally colored but we felt it was done poorly. When we went to do the reprint we were satisfied to just allow the line art to speak for itself. If there had been a real budget for "Tasty Bullet" there would be only one color throughout - pink. That is the branded color of the project. Since only the cover will be in color, as you can see, it's very pink.

A lot of people may not be aware but you co-wrote the recent film "Selfless" with your brother Jacob, who also directed it. What's the film's status right now and have you found a distributor yet?

"Selfless" is our first feature-length movie. We have done a number of music videos and some shorts but it was really time to push ourselves further to make it happen. Selfless stars Mo Gallini ("2 Fast 2 Furious" "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," "24") as a brazen identity thief who meets a Dylan a somewhat self-absorbed architect. The two have a confrontation in an airport that leads to Dylan's identity and pretty much his whole life being ripped out from under him. Dylan must confront his true self if he's to have a chance at getting back his identity.

The movie has been touring festivals around the country and won Best Feature, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Mo Gallini) at the Bend Film Festival. "Selfless" plays on Sunday June 7 at the Seattle True Indie Film Festival. Come see it if you live in the area. As for a distribution deal, were working on it now with our sales agent so stay tuned. Hopefully "Selfless" will be available to purchase or download by the fall. You can keep posted on it and view the trailer at: www.selflessthemovie.com

One of my personal favorite projects of yours is "Secret Broadcast" that you did at Oni. Are there any plans to do more with it?

Cool you would ask. We had an earlier screenplay adaptation that I have since done a rewrite on. We're focused on another original screenplay at the moment but we're hoping to position "Secret Broadcast" as our first movie based on one of our comics. Keep checking our website for info on our upcoming media projects in film, comics and more at: www.panderbros.com

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