An interview with Andie Tong
Beginning his career in 2000, comic book artist Andie Tong has worked on pieces ranging from original artworks to ones brought to you by comic book giants such as Marvel and DC comics.
During his residence in London, UK, he became a popular addition to artist galleries at conventions, offering artworks and commissions to fans and convention goers alike. Even though he has moved back to the East with his family, he still continues to contribute towards the fantastic world of comics, currently working on Disney’s ‘Zodiac’, created by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore, which is due for release in early 2015. So just what makes such a great comic book artist tick? Well, Andie has been kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule in order to allow me to interview him:
What inspired you to become a comic book artist?
From a young age I loved to draw but I didn’t particularly enjoy the conventional forms of art. Then I discovered comics. I love drawing people and the characters in Comics were drawn in the most dynamic forms possible. Add bright colours, awesome costumes, compelling characters and unique heroic storylines, Comics has been the kind of art form I was looking for. Compared to all the other creative jobs out there, being a comic book artist was the most appealing. I also grew up to love cartoons and pop culture. I don’t think there’s any other job that allows you to draw characters like He-man, Snake Eyes and Spider-man all day, every day.
- What is the inspiration behind your works?
Everything around me. Artists, books, pop culture, manga, anime, comics, movies, people and all the world has to offer. I look at artists’ work and it inspires me to draw, to see if I can reach that level that they’ve achieved or even surpass it. I read books and it inspires me to draw the sceneries I’ve imagined in my head. I look at pop culture or read comics and it inspires me to draw fanart based on that, to see how I can interpret it with my own twist. I read manga or watch anime and it inspires me to draw to see if I can convey that level of dynamism and action in my pieces. I watch movies and it inspires me to draw to see how I can tackle a panel at a different angle, to frame it (like the movies do) so that it can hopefully appeal to readers. I people watch and it inspires me to draw all the different facets of humanity, to ground my artwork in reality. I watch the world, nature, creation and it inspires me to just draw, draw, draw.
- Do you have any idols that are also in the comic industry?
Yes a lot of idols. Or no specific idols, lol, because I have countless artists that inspire me, not only in the comic industry. From Legends to contemporary; Western artists to the Eastern creators. I admire artists such as Kim jung Gi, Masamune Shirow, Chris Bachalo, Arthur Adams, John romita Snr, John Romita Junior, Stuart Immonen, Adam Hughes, Marko Djurdjevic, Joe Madureira, Mike Wieringo, Todd Mcfarlane, Hyung-Tae Kim, Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo, Hiromu Arakawa, Yasuhiro Nightow, Jimmy Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Steve McNiven, Ed McGuinness, Skottie Young, Mahmud Asrar, Sean Murphy, just to name some from a very, very, very, ridiculously, long list!
Every artist has their own unique thing that they do which attracts my eye.
- Who’s your favourite superhero / heroine?
I grew up reading a lot of Spider-man. I’ve been reading Spidey comics since kindergarten. My parents bought me my very first comics and among those was a Spider-man comic. Once I could afford to collect on my own, I couldn’t stop. I had a whole cupboard collection of Spidey comics, from “Spectacular Spider-man” to “Web of Spider-man” and anything in-between.
- If you could be any superhero (male or female), who would you be?
Well, I grew up on Spider-man. I could relate to the character growing up. I love the way he taunts and talks trash just before he takes out his villains. Although he can climb walls, lift a car and dodge bullets, he is a geeky nerd outside of his mask with human problems that we can relate to. I remember rather vaguely that when I was young, I would imagine climbing up walls and saving damsels in distress.
- Do you have a particular favourite character that you like to draw?
I guess questions 4. 5 and 6 all lead to one answer. Spider-man! I love the way I get to draw Spidey in a twisted, contorting, dynamic way that I imagine, only his body can achieve. I love time spent researching on acrobatics and parkour runners and how they manoeuvre for a jump, climb, swing, vault or rolling. It amazes me how flexible and versatile these athletes are. So when I apply this to drawing Spidey, I just amplify these movements a hundred times for someone of the web-slinger’s calibre.
- Difficult question: Marvel or DC?
I’m a Marvel guy. As you might have figured out from the previous questions, I grew up on a lot of Marvel comics namely, wait for it… Spider-man comics!!
As much as I love Batman, Superman and a lot of DC characters which I discovered only later on in my comic reading adventures, the Marvel characters were pretty much engrained in my subconscious from an early age. For that reason, and later, reading Marvel comics at a more “grownup” standpoint, I found the Marvel characters more appealing for various reasons. Character development, their costumes, where these characters live, are all tied in with the world we live in and I can almost imagine them being real. I’ve certainly never heard of Gotham City, Metropolis or Star City. I like that about Marvel comics. For example, when I visit New York City and look up unto the skyscrapers, I could just so imagine Spider-man swinging from one building to another. Yes, again, with the Spider-man!! Haha.
- What are the pros and cons to your profession?
As I’m telling you this, it will seem like there’s more cons then pros in this industry. But every artist is different and every artist has got different priorities. How you make it work is what’s important.
For me, my biggest problem is not knowing when to stop working. My working and personal life, if I don’t enforce a routine, will start to merge and blend into one another. Which is not healthy if one element is stronger then the other whichever way you look at at. Balance is key in my opinion. Another con that scares me is the financial stability aspect of it. There are none. I’ve been rather favoured that I’ve had a constant stream of freelance work since 2005. That hasn’t always been the case in past years. There was a moment, I was without any gigs for eight months and eventually I had to go back to doing design part time. In this profession, the need for establishing a stable baseline routine is sometimes crucial to actually getting any work done in a day. Another thing I don’t like but cannot be helped, is the solitude working environment. Coming from a design environment prior to comics, I do miss times when I’m able to communicate, bounce ideas and hang out with fellow creators. If I could do it, I would love the opportunity to pool together a bunch of like-minded artists, rent a studio space and just work.
With the cons though, the pros are rather rewarding. As much as having a stable routine is advised, to have the luxury of flexible hours can be ideal especially when trying to find time to spend with the little one as she’s growing up. I’m able to run some errands during day time when shops are more likely open and I can juggle my work later to accommodate for unexpected emergencies. The super plus pros however is the opportunity to be creative and to draw the things I love and get paid for it. I get to then share it with the world and sometimes even hold the finish work in my hands. I’ve also done a number of children’s book and because I now have a daughter, and priorities start to change, I can now share these published children’s book with her when she grows up. Something I really look forward to one day. 🙂
- Must be difficult juggling your family life with your job – how do you manage it?
I try to schedule as best I can but be flexible and juggle if the need arises. One of my main goals is to make sure I have the weekends allocated to family so during the week I do my upmost to concentrate on work. Then I pray that God will find the time and the energy for me to get everything I need to get done, done and in a timely manner at that.
My day unfolds usually with a 4am to 6am wakeup call depending on how tired I am. I find I work best in the morning now. During the day, as I work from home, I try to juggle in time with my daughter, Zoe intermittently, e.g.: morning play, breakfast, lunch, putting her in for afternoon naps, etc. We’re blessed that we found a trusted helper that can we can rely on to look after Zoe and take care of the house while both my wife and myself are at work. After putting Zoe to bed, By 11pm my wife and myself are both exhausted. The next day, it repeats.
- If you could chose to do a graphic novel for any manga / game / movie / TV series (even if it’s already been done before), what would that be?
I love Final Fantasy specifically VIII. Only because that was the first RPG I actually sat through with Squall and the gang. I grew to love the elements that represent the title after playing it for loooong hours. Swords, guns, mythical creatures, technology; all blended into one seamless epic story. I’m now slowly going through (started) FFXIII but it’s harder now to find an opportunity to play as work tends to occupy most of my time. Maybe FFXIII might slowly replace my next choice of graphic novel adaptation once I truly get into playing it.
Althoooough, I love Zombies, fantasy and Sci-fi. The first title that comes to mind that merges all these themes together are the Resident Evil games. This would be another epic title to adapt.
Maybe I could do a creator own Final Fantasy meets Resident Evil? Or has that already been done? 😛
- What’s your favourite movie?
There’s so many “favourite” movies to choose from. I love all movies for different aspects. The Bourne trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Marvel movies, Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Dredd and the list goes on. Even the Fast and Furious series at times and I’m not even a gearhead. Depending on my mood, This is the End, Pursuit of Happyness, The Notebook and more serious, comedy and romantic movies are up there too.
But if I have to choose only one, I guess that would be the Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring. Why? For me, that was the first fantasy movie that truly worked; The gathering of heroes, the adventure together, the emotion felt during the fall of Gandalf, the first time Legolas shoots multiple arrows in succession in that one scene towards the end. On a production level, the concept work, the designs, the environment, to me, it really grounded a fantasy movie (if it was possible) and set a bar really high for all other movies of that genre to come. Felt like everything in that movie worked.
- Do you listen to any music whilst you work? If so, what kind of genre inspires you?
I do switch between Movies and Music depending on the mood or how critical the deadline is. I listen to anything from Soundtracks, Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, Alternative to Faith music. If my deadline is a bit more relaxed, I will tend to put on a Movie to play in the background. It has to be a movie I’ve seen before though so that I could skip parts visually if I needed to concentrate on my art board.
- It’s been a while since we’ve seen you at UK conventions – do you ever miss it?
Yea, of course I do. I miss Conventions in general. Compared to US or Europe, the shows I can attend are very limited especially in Singapore. I miss talking to the people coming up to my table, just chatting, sketching for people and hanging out with my peers after the show. Working in this industry, I tend to work in solitude. So the only time I get to bounce ideas and talk to people that are like minded are at conventions. So yea, I do miss it a lot. 🙂
- Are there any big differences between the Eastern and Western conventions that you have attended?
The conventions that I’ve attended in Asia aren’t that much different to US and Europe shows as far as I can tell. A bit smaller in scale but the traffic is still pretty constant considering. I guess the world right now is hungry for pop culture that it’s united with its acceptance be it movies, comics, anime, manga, games, etc. There’s so much choices out there for everyone to sink their teeth into.
- Will we ever see you return to a UK convention in the near future?
I would like to think so. But right now, I’m at a different stage in my life. I have a daughter just 16 months old and family to think about and therefore it’s not as easy to head off on a 14 hour trip back to UK. If and when everything is align and falls to place, yea, most definitely would love to return.
- Any message(s) for your fans reading this?
I’ll be back in the UK one day… soon… ish. I hope. But If you wanna catch up with what I’m up to, I do try my best to maintain a blog (http://deemonproductions.blogspot.sg/) and am in the process of trying to gradually claw my way back into Deviantart (http://deemonproductions.deviantart.com/) which I did not realise I’ve been absent for almost 4 years. Time just flies.
Since moving to Singapore, bringing up a youngling 🙂 , my convention appearances are now somewhat limited for now. So the best way I feel I can keep in touch with everyone out there is to have a more active internet presence.
- Do you have any advice for anyone aspiring to follow your path into becoming a comic book artist?
If you can get to a convention, I would do so. Make a connection with an artist, editor, and show your strongest work in your portfolio. When getting reviewed, be open to criticism. It will help you evolve as an artist. More importantly, keep drawing and persevering.
I would like to thank Andie for his time in allowing me to interview him and wish him all the best with his family and career. I’m sure a lot of fans (including myself) anticipate his return one day to the UK. In the meantime, if you are interested in keeping up to date with his works, do take the time to check out his webpages at http://deemonproductions.blogspot.sg and http://deemonproductions.deviantart.com
All images used courtesy of Andie Tong.