It's another entry in Panel Patter's SPX SPOTLIGHT series! We've been highlighting creators, publishers, and comics related to SPX since the site opened in 2008, but 2015 marks our fifth year of extensive coverage that is unlike what you'll find elsewhere! It's a great way to create your own personal guide for the show on September 19th and 20th, 2015, in Bethesda, Maryland. Don't miss it! You can find all our SPX SPOTLIGHT posts here.
I first met Andrew MacLean a few years ago at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MassMICE, an excellent event, you should go) where he was promoting his self-published book, Head Lopper and other works such as Department O. He's had a (well-deserved) breakthrough year this year, with the release of his graphic novel ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times and the recent publication of Head Lopper at Image Comics.
Head Lopper is a fun, violent, entertaining fantasy adventure read. If you like stories with magic and intrigue, and with heroic warriors beheading monsters as they trade barbs with the decapitated head of witch, then this is the perfect book for you. MacLean's skill as a visual artist are obvious, but Head Lopper is also a great showcase for his skills as a storyteller of wit and humor. Head Lopper tells the story of the titular Lopper of heads, but he'd prefer you just call him Norgal. We first meet him has he battles and successfully beheads giant sea monster from inside said monster. During the course of the issue we see Norgal fight other monsters, face corrupt clergy, and then eventually head off a great mission to destroy an evil that's plagued the whole island.
Because I've been following MacLean's progress on the story of Head Lopper over the course of several years, what's really been interesting in rereading all of this work as a new collected series, is to see his evolution as an artist and storyteller during that time. From the very beginning, his line was very strong and he had a very clearly defined style. It feels like kind of a mix of Mike Mignola and Manga-influence and Geoff Darrow in a slightly more "cartoony" style. However, just reading the first to the second to the third part of Head Lopper it's clear that MacLean is evolving and even improving as an artist, as you can see his line get further refined and see his style crystallize more into itself.
The evolution of MacLean as a visual artist and storyteller is on full display in ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times (my full review here). MacLean still excels at the big, dramatic moments of action and violence, but he's also bringing a lighter touch to his work that's on display in ApocalyptiGirl, in addition to a very different sort of character. ApocalyptiGirl is a book that's full of quieter, subtle moments and interactions, in addition to displaying a sweetness and optimism that's not present in Head Lopper. Not to worry though, there's still plenty of exciting action in a richly illustrated world. MacLean's a great talent, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next.
You can find Andrew MacLean online at Twitter and Tumblr. He will be at SPX at table W44-46.