Tommy Lee Edwards Discusses Vandroid
Vandroid, the new series from Tommy Lee Edwards, Noah Smith and Dan McDaid and Dark Horse Comics sees its second issue released this week. The series is a throwback to the amazing action movies of the 80s. The team has put together nostalgic entertainment that feels like it was ripped from another time.
Not only does the comic feel like a lost movie from the 80s, Edwards and his team have put together an experience that evokes the time including movie posters, live video, music, mocked-up video games, a fan club and more.
We got a chance to talk to Edwards about Vandroid and the awesomeness that was the 80s. We also have some preview pages of the comic as well images of the live action movie below!
Graphic Policy: Where did the idea of Vandroid come from? And what got you interested in making it into a comic?
Tommy Lee Edwards: Nic Nicola came up with the idea of Vandroid and created a beautiful soundtrack for the ﬁctional movie from 1984. He and I met when I was in London directing The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator with Edgar Wright and Microsoft. Nic and I hit it of and thought that there was a great story to be told in comic book form, but also as a cross-media project.
GP: How did Noah Smith and Dan McDaid come to be a part of the project?
TLE: Noah and I have been buddies for ten years or so. He’s a great screenwriter, with a knack for original concepts. I ﬁnd it much easier to write comedy with a partner. Since Vandroid is supposed to be over-the-top and silly, I invited Noah to co-write with me mostly for fun. We sit at my kitchen table and work and laugh for hours. It’s great. But we are also really pushing ourselves to elevate the story’s 1980s action roots into a really cool character study with some really tight structure. I’m really proud of the way we’ve stayed true to the “accidentally funny” vibe we wanted while putting in some exciting and original ideas that readers will really be surprised by.
When I decided that illustrating Vandroid myself was not in the cards, I went on an “artist hunt”. Through friends’ recommendations, I settled on Dan. I love his work, because it has some traditional roots to the past while being extremely unique. Dan understood where Noah and I were coming from on the story, and was looking for the same kind of fun collaboration I was yearning for.
My regular partner-in-crime John Workman is lettering the book, with my wife Melissa on the colors. So the Vandroid comic is all in the “family”. A very tightly-knit group with lots of communication and mutual respect. This whole project has been an utter joy to create, and has helped remind me why I got into comics in the ﬁrst place.
TLE: Like I said, it all started with the music. Nic and Dan and Noah and I all grew up watching the same movies and tv shows. The whole Vandroid project is our love letter to an era of genre storytelling. Although everything we are doing echoes the techniques and style from our favorite childhood ﬁlms, comics, toys, and music, I feel that our individuality really shines through. It’s the easiest thing in the world to be inspired to create, because Vandroid is paying homage to many of the things that made us all the artists we are today.
GP: I noticed in the ﬁrst two issues, there’s visual cues to the fact it’s the 80s. Was there a balance that needed to be worked out to reference the time of the movie, but not go overboard?
TLE: The whole thing is played very straight. It’s a ﬁne line to walk, but all of us chose to deliver Vandroid in a very ernest way. It’s done with a lot of hard work and love, and is not really meant to be as “tongue-in-cheek” as one might guess.
Noah and Dan and I didn’t want it to be “about” the 80s, but the story really could only be told in that era. I grew up watching, LIVING, the things referenced in Vandroid. The malls, the hair, the clothes, and especially the slang. We could’ve gone a lot further, but that just seems like a lot of jerking of to me. A young reader may think it’s a little overboard on the references, but it’s not.
GP: You’ve also brought back the fun “fan club.” Where did that initiative come from?
TLE: I miss those things. I miss the pre-internet days of having to mail away for special subscriptions and exclusives and not knowing everything about a comic or movie before it comes out. There was a mystery to things, and an excitement when I walked to the mailbox. I loved going to the pharmacy, browsing the comics rack with anticipation for new issue of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Shogun Warriors, or Rom. So basically the Vandroid “Van-Club” is another love letter. Issues 2 through ﬁve of the comic have fun games and puzzles in the back. I wish we had a Vandroid coloring book to add to our trading cards, stickers, and personalized letter from Vandroid himself!
GP: Why do you think stories like Vandroid fell out of vogue after the 80s?
TLE: Primarily, the audience became more interested in other genres. But beyond that, video stores began to die. Movies like Vandroid did well because of the VHS box art. Illustrators and designers sold those movies. In the 80s, you rented movies based on how cool the movie looked on the outside. What was the title? “Vandroid? Sounds cool… I like vans and guns and androids and stuf.” Then you’d ﬂip it over and read the premise. Or maybe not. Then you brought it home and watched it with friends and family with popcorn, pizza, and soda. Sometimes the movie ended up sucking, and often times it was great. Either way, and had a great time around the tv set experiencing a story that you took a chance on just because you liked the cover. That’s kind of a foreign thing to many people today.
GP: When it comes to 80s action movies, I think sequels. Are there plans for a follow up?
TLE: Yeah, Noah and I already have the story ﬁgured out.
TLE: The soundtrack had been done for quite a while, and is being released through a huge label out of France called Ed Banger Records next month, along with my full-length extended movie trailer. Maybe some day we will “discover” the entire movie. I sure hope so.
GP: The big question is who today could play Vandroid?
TLE: Man, I don’t know. I’ve never thought about that. There aren’t many of those kinds of guys in Hollywood anymore. Kurt Russell or Stallone could’ve done it back in the day. Actually, that dude from Thor would work.
GP: What else can we expect from you this year?
TLE: I’ve got a music video coming out soon that I directed for David Holmes’ new band called Unloved, and am directing a short ﬁlm this fall hopefully. Beyond some Star Wars work for Disney, I’m writing and illustrating my own comic that won’t come out for quite a while. I’m also writing and directing an animated project with Film Roman right now that hopefully becomes a series. Fingers & toes crossed on that one.
A preview of the Vandroid comic:
And stills from the Vandroid live action movie: