Andreas prefers not to explain everything
German native Andreas Martens (1951) has been amazing his audience for years with enigmatic comics such as Rork, Cyrrus, Mil and Coutoo. This September (1995, ed.), the second volume of Cromwell Stone, aptly titled Le retour de Cromwell Stone, will be published. Andreas had his readers waiting ten years for this sequel. "It might well take another decade before the third volume will appear," he sighs looking back on the maniacally detailed hatchworked art he just finished for this second volume. As much as Andreas's earlier works were filled with hard-to-believe detail and stunning perspectives, in this new volume of Cromwell Stone, Andreas has yet pushed his limits. In the comfortable lounge of a Brussels hotel, Andreas sat back with us to reflect at length on his comics work.
"The second part of Cromwell Stone took so long because the
publisher of the first part, (Michel) Deligne, went bankrupt. Back
then I didn't go out to find a new publisher, because I had so many
other things to do. Le Lombard, for example, asked me to pick up Rork
Wasn't it hard to pick up the thread after such a long time?
"No, I felt like living it up with the time consuming drawing."
Ten years ago you will probably already have had an idea about this second part. Have these ideas changed in the meanwhile?
"Not really. This second part is more or less supplemental to
the first part; many questions that remained unanswered in that part,
are explained here. The third part will be more autonomous. I always
think a long time before writing a scenario. Through this long preparation
period I can finish the scenario quickly, so I can start drawing immediately.
Don't you ever adjust your ideas while drawing?
"Seldomly. In my scenarios I work out everything very precisely. Later I sometimes shift a picture to the next page, or I spread a page over two pages. The important things are fixed, though."
Isn't it tiresome to work out a fixed idea for the long time it requires?
"It took me a long time indeed to work out the drawings for the second part of Cromwell Stone. It took so long because I somewhat lost sight of the story I was making. Normally, I like to hurry up with the drawings, because the story is central. In this case I was completely consumed by drawing it. I had foreseen that, when I wrote the scenario. I wanted to live it up with drawing for example the double pages that are filled with ships. Now Le retour de Cromwell Stone is finished, I've had enough of this way of working for now. The drawing of the second part is much more detailed then the first part."
Is that a conscious breach of style?
"I use more of the hatching technique and more shades of gray. I don't know what caused that. I just felt like doing it. It suited the story. It doesn't bother me that there is a breach of style between the albums. The third part may look very different again."
You make use of extreme perspectives and transformations in your drawings. Why do you chose to do so?
"The story often forces me to it, or... Actually I don't know.
I like to make it hard on myself. That double page in Le retour de
Cromwell Stone took me three weeks. After a week I found out that
it didn't work and it had to be done over again. I was fed up with
it then already.
You must be crazy about drawing.
"(laughing) Yes, indeed I love to draw. My problem is that I am a limited draughtsman. My illustrations are never really good and they take me a lot of time. I am more of a storyteller. I admire artists that commit a good drawing to paper with great ease. With me the result is always less then I had in mind. For one, I wasn't satisfied with the scene with the ships, because I could not get enough contrast in it. Of course I am content with many of the pictures, but not about the larger share of my images."
Would you redo some of your albums?
"No, once its finished, its finished."
Yet a revised version of Mil has appeared in French.
"That only involved a few altered pictures. The original version was longer originally. When I had started the album already, the publisher wanted less pages, so I deleted two pages. These are added in the revised edition. The story is smoother now. Also I have separated the black-and-white and color-pages from each other. I had made them seperately and mixed them in the first version. That was too artificial."
Are there any albums about which you are fully satisfied?
"I'm still satisfied with Coutoo, but mainly about the scenario. I always wanted to do a detective story with a slightly fantastic element. It worked out reasonably well, I think. The drawings will do."
Why do you like to draw fantastic things over real things?
"Because I am a too limited draughtsman to draw realistic things
from daily life. That might be the reason I work with transformations.
It's much more difficult to draw a man sitting in an armchair in a
normal way, because then it should look natural. Classical draughtsmen
like Juillard master this drawing technique. While drawing I always
encounter my limits as a
In your debut book, Révélations posthumes, you nevertheless tried to draw realistically?
"I did that because it worked fast, not because I am having trouble drawing realistically. The documentation and drawing technique (scraper board, ed.) took a lot of the time. In the chapter about Agatha Christie, for example, I used only photographs. I was in a hurry and the story had to be finished quickly. I would never do that again, though, since you are only copying and not really drawing."
Your style of drawing reminds one of Berni Wrightson. Are you influenced by him?
"At first I was, when I was working on the first stories of Rork (Andreas deliberately called the writer in the first Rork-story Bernard Wright, ed.). Through Wrightson I discovered many American illustrators from the start of this century. Their drawing technique using strokes appealed to me."
The theatrical distortions of your personages is found in the work of your contemporaries Foerster and Cossu as well.
"Of Philippe Foerster I know that he is, like me, influenced by Wrightson. He loved him even more than I. Antonio Cossu is influenced by a much more diverse company of draftsmen. He learned from both Italian, Argentinian and American draftsmen. Therefore he is a much more all-round draftsman. All three of us do have a liking for the fantastic strip. At the moment I work with Philippe Foerster on an album, Styx. That is, I ink his drawings. In his scenery I recognize perspectives and other matters, that I use in my own strips as well."
What kind of comic is it?
"The scenario is from Philippe Foerster. It's a Chandler-like detective-story, complemented with fantastic elements. Despite these elements it remains a good, classical scenario. At the end of this year it appears at Le Lombard, so I hope it is translated in Dutch as well."
You were at the drawing-school of Saint-Luc together. Did you acquire common influences there?
"Not at school. At St.-Luc everything was more focused on Moebius and the Belgian school. At that time I did discover my American influences. In shops and at sales of libraries I encountered their work. Together with Philippe Foerster I bought my first albums of Berni Wrightson and Neal Adams. Later, the two of us - together with Antonio Cossu and Philippe Berthet - had a studio together here in Brussels. The four of us were working on the same things for a long time."
You have written scenarios for Philippe Berthet and Antonio Cossu did the same for you. Are you ever going to collaborate again?
"I am going to write a story for Antonio Cossu shortly. I don't know about Philippe Berthet. Maybe so, maybe not."
In general, do you like working with others?
"Actually, I prefer to work alone and hesitate to involve others to help me. On the other hand I do have my limits and it can be refreshing to work with the ideas of others. It has given me the opportunity to make things I could never have made by myself. That's why I made Dérives, with stories that have scenarios of different collegues. If you write a scenario for yourself you like to omit things you don't like to draw. I for one don't like to draw crowds. An other scenarist can make you do it anyway an thus you develop as a draftsman. Dérives contains a short story of Frédéric Bézian. He added an element to my work that I could never have done myself. With him I would like to do an album sometime. In Dérives you use, as in all of your work, the most farfetched drawing techniques."
Are you still looking for the most befitting technique or do you just like to experiment?
"I want to do as much different things as I can. I could never,
like for example 'Morris', work my whole life in the same style. I
also think different kinds of stories require different
There are numerous similarities between the worlds of 'Rork' and 'Cromwell Stone'. They both play in the same time and in a fantastic world.
"But the characters Rork and Cromwell Stone are incomparable. The first is a bizarre and the second a normal personage, living in a bizarre world."
The ferryman from Rork and the creator from Cromwell Stone look a lot like each other.
"Well, that must be a lack of imagination on my part."
Both worlds are dominated by the threat of a civilization that existed before mankind.
"That's a theme from H.P. Lovecraft. I used to read his books a lot at the time I started with Rork. In the first parts you will find many of his influences. It is indeed true that this theme returns in Cromwell Stone, and that's because it fascinates me very much. I used to read many fantasy books. When I discovered Lovecraft I knew it was that I wanted to make. Since then I read everything of him and haven't touched a fantasy book since. In Lovecraft I found a theme that appealed to me, what I was looking for, a theme with a lot of horror."
In Cromwell Stone you mix those horror motives with metaphysical elements. Why this remarkable combination?
"I don't work consciously in one specific genre. When I was
young I was very Christian. I was very interested in the bible and
its stories. Later this got less and I became interested in philosophy,
even though I haven't read much about it. Currently I am no believer
When making Le cimetière de cathédrales, the third part of Rork, did you know how the latter parts would finish?
Yet there is a great difference between the parts from Le cimetière de cathédrales to Descente and the last part, Retour. The storyline is rather calm and clear at first, while Retour is stacked with information.
"Indeed, the album contains too much information. When I started Retour I had enough material for a hundred pages. I then asked my publisher if I could make an extra large comic. They said it was possible, with the consequence that it would be a very expensive book and that it could be distributed only by specialized strips-shops. Considering that the first parts had been available everywhere for a reasonable price, I chose this form. I drew smaller pictures to fit more pictures on the same number of pages. The result is not completely succesful. The story has not remained clear, the reader has to concentrate too much."
How did Cyrrus come about?
"The first page was a dream I had and that I wanted to use in
a story. The album was a reaction to Rork, that I made for the weekly
magazine Tintin/Kuifje. Rork had to fit in Tintin/Kuifje, so I couldn't
do everything I wanted qua storyline. Cyrrus is the most complicated
strip I have ever made. I can tell you little about the process of
its creation, because I have written it very much unconsciously.
Aren't you afraid to lose sight of such a complex story?
"No, in my head everything always fits. I don't like to simply make things that aren't possible, like Escher who once drew water running upstream. For me everything needs to be explicable. I always look for logic behind the paradox. Imposibillities in the scenario are a weakness and unfair to the reader. I demand of my readers that they puzzle with the story. The logic in my work is hard to find, but it is always there."
Did you ever make a story, whose storyline was incorrect in hindsight?
"In Mil something happens that is inconsistent with what happened in Cyrrus. That annoys me. My attention has slipped for a moment. I think it was something with the temple. I don't remember exactly."
Is that error still present in the renewed version of Mil?
"Yes, the mistake is in the color pages and I haven't redrawn them. Probably no one has noticed. I have, though, and it annoys me."
You are not easy on your readers with your complicated stories. Do you get many questions for explanation?
"Yes, but I don't like to explain my stories. I want the reader
to make the effort to understand and to read the album multiple times.
I think, for example, that Cyrrus can be read very easily. One has
to read it more than once to understand it, though.
So you are working on a strip about Frank Lloyd Wright at the moment. Why?
"When I was young, I wanted to be an architect. Only later I
saw myself as a strips artist. I am still fond of architecture. This
liking returns in my work. Le triangle rouge has a complicated storyline
about someone who dreams about someone who dreams. Its a nice challenge.
And the third part of Cromwell Stone?
"Maybe it takes as much as ten years before the third part appears. After the long work on the second part, I am tired of it for the moment. I do have the idea in my head."
Do you make long hours?
"I draw all day. I start at eight o'clock and stop at seven in the evening. This suits me. I work all days, weekends included. You know, I get more and more things on my hands. So I have to make time to do all the things that are still in my head. But I also am more in the mood to do all these things. don't ask me where I get that urge, its just something I like to do. If I'm on vacation, I want to start drawing after five days. I worked one-and-a-half year on Le retour de Cromwell Stone. At the end I started drawing faster because I have so many other things in my head I want to work out. Sometimes I am aftraid that I won't have enough time in my life to make everything that I have in my mind. I am 44 years old and thus past half my life. The next twenty years I will have to work very hard to get everything done."
Are you still looking for that one comic book about which you are satisfied?
"Of course, but I think and hope that I will never make it."