Yankee go chrome: Talking with the creators of 'NYC Mech'

Tue, March 9th, 2004 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Seth Jones, Staff Writer

[NYC Mech #1]
"NYC Mech" #2 cover art by Kelsey Shannon. All other art in this article by Andy MacDonald.
The city breathes. The art has a pulse like a heartbeat. But the characters -- they're all battery-operated.

"NYC Mech" debuts April 14th from Image Comics and features the talents of Ivan Brandon ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"), Miles Gunter ("Bastard Samurai") and artist Andy MacDonald ("Kid Gilgamesh"). CBR News recently caught up with all three creators to get the inner workings of the city that never sleeps and the characters that don't need to.

NYC Mech is the story of New York City, except without humans. Robots are the dominant life form, though not via some robot revolt. They are simply the inhabitants of this version of New York, the robot version of the Big Apple. The first story is seen through the eyes of a girl trying to get ahead by any means possible. It deals with the evolution of crime for her on a personal level, not for evil but for a personal vision of success.

"NYC Mech is our own version of New York where we control the horizontal and vertical. This is the city as we see it and live it," says Gunter, co-writer and co-creator of the series. "I think a lot of the TV shows and movies that take place in New York follow a moral agenda dictated by marketing people. They sometimes present an over-Americanized version of New York life where relationships and social interaction is the same as in, say, Ohio. New York is a completely different animal than the rest of America."

New York state of mind

The story is character-driven, with New York claiming a starring role of it's own. It's robots running around a big city, but don't be too quick to think of "Blade Runner" and Daryl Hannah trying to be more human than human.

"There's always a little 'Blade Runner' in my head, but really it plays less into this concept than it would for me on other projects," Brandon says. "There's a little bit of Phillip K. Dick in there... just dealing with the interpersonal relationships and the character desires, but most of it is just the city and what I see when I'm out and about."

In the first issue, Goss is the narrator. He's got a shotgun seat for everything that happens and he's not entirely comfortable in any situation. Troy is a big man with a twisted sense of humor and a high tolerance for the pain of others. Alex is the pretty face -- tall and handsome and easily confused. Nika is the ringleader, soft-spoken and fully in charge. She's the robot girl of your dreams, but with a pistol.

"It's an adventure from block to block," says artist MacDonald, who, like his co-contributors, speaks from experience as a resident of New York City. "The same way one can be walking through Little Italy and then, by turning down one street, they are in China Town. A totally new environment and set of circumstances, while getting another piece of the NYC puzzle, just as the story takes turns into different venues and lives, the reader will get another piece of the main character's puzzle and her machinations in the Big Apple."

Tailor-made

A big piece of the puzzle that made NYC Mech a reality was the talent of MacDonald. Brandon and Gunter created the story specifically to showcase his talents.

"It all starts with Andy, in that Miles and I were obsessively devoted to bringing him the right book to jam on," Brandon says. "Andy and I have been working together for a couple years now and 'NYC Mech' was an opportunity to spotlight his tremendous talent for an audience that hadn't really seen him yet. It was tailored specifically to him originally, and along the way we all fell in love with the concept and the images just started flowing from Andy's pen in ways we hadn't pictured."

MacDonald has in fact been drawing comics for a couple years now. Prior to that, his art focused on painting, traditional drawing and design.

"That is, until I realized that the comic book is the magic media that can combine all these elements with story and become something really special," he says. "After that there was no turning back."

MacDonald says one of the biggest challenges has been working a full-time job while trying to keep up with a monthly comic book deadline. So far he's met the challenge. One of the biggest advantages he's utilized is his location in New York.

"It's really a great help, when the plot calls for an NYC-specific area or landmark, to be able to jump on the subway and actually go there to get photographic reference," MacDonald says. "We really want the city itself to be felt in the book and not just seen as a backdrop, so we try and fit all the nooks and crannies in there as best we can."

Though he loves drawing robots now, it's not always been a loving relationship between the artist and mechanical men.

"Hector from 'Saturn 3' scares the hell out of me. It's a holdover from watching it when I was like 5 or something, but still gives me a chill," MacDonald admits. "Maybe it was that he had three human brains in his chest and still needed Harvey Keitel to tell him what to do. Or that he had a third arm where his head should be. Either way, I hid behind a chair the first time I saw him."

For Gunter and Brandon, the two have not seen co-writing as a challenge, but simply as a way to make the material stronger.

"We put a lot of time into the scripts," Gunter says. "Ivan and I are vastly different as writers but these differences enrich the material. We don't shy away from rewriting. If people are willing to lay down $2.99 then we are obligated to push ourselves to do the best comics we can."

The book is contracted with Image as an on-going series and all three plan on doing the book for a good long while. After all, as Brandon says, "It's a big city."

"We want people to be happy and our goal is to take the conventional mainstream through the subway and rough it up a bit," Brandon says. "I hope the readers react with an urge to bring me bottled beer at conventions and ask for bigger and better books. I want to feed a hungry audience and I think the readers want to get excited about something new. It's on the way."

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