The cover image shows the poppy, the logo for Hypnozine, first of one.
Rockport artist Andrew Mc Kenzie discusses his latest illustrated novel titled Hypnozine, which is described as: ”A coming of age epic, vibrating with the hormonal fury of sin, redemption, mutation, and obsession.”
Hypnozine is a serialized illustrated novel co-created by West Coast writer, Jason Squamata and Andrew Mc Kenzie, a Maine-based graphic artist. Mc Kenzie was born in Rockport and received his B.A. from Emerson College in theater studies. While in Boston, he cultivated a relationship with a fraternal gang of nomadic artists, writers and designers, a relationship that continues to this day and remains the primary influence on his work. After college, he spent five years working in Asia, and has now settled back in his home town, working out of the West Street Heritage, his design studio.
Hypnozine is not like any indie comic you’ve seen lately. Subversive with an unreliable narrator combining the surrealism of Zippy the Pinhead, the mock zeal of the Church of the SubGenius and black-and-white seizure-inducing illustrations, this isn’t an escapist comic — it’s dense reading. Like the first paragraph that sets off Hypnozine, you have to be in the right frame of mind to absorb the narrative. It’s as if the words themselves are swinging back and forth across your eyes, attempting to simulate the kind of drug-induced dysphoria that the characters in Hypnozine experience by ingesting a mind-altering 1960s drug. Here, as the illustrator, Mc Kenzie tells more of the story.
Q: You are the art side of this magazine. What was the concept behind the high-contrast black-white optical illustrations as it goes with the text?
I first started working on Hypnozine about six years ago while living in Taiwan. I had the original concept for a comic that was filled with not just great story content, but all of these amazing icons and images. I wanted to add to and build off of what my other creative partners had started. I slapped those pages down on the drafting table and traced them out on vellum, then threw those tracings on the overhead projector and mixed them with transparencies of some of my favorite black and white photos and my technical drawings and blue prints. The style really comes from a compilation of my love of OP art from artists such as Bridgett Riley, my love of the “Mod” aesthetics and what I was being exposed to for Taiwanese inking. I wanted the art and design to really stand out, to have a distinctive feeling to it. In the story line, Hypnozine is a mind-altering psychedelic, but in reality it is this consuming hybrid piece of media that really does try to possess and overwhelm the reader.
Q: How do you and your writing and creative team work together in different states and how long has it taken to put these issues together?
The entire story arc takes place over 32 issues, each issue consisting of 11 images/ text pieces. The first series is completely done and all the outlining for all the remaining issues has been completed. When Jason and I started working on Hypnozine, we knew we wanted to have something well plotted. The books move fast and when the first series concludes, we get into it quick.
Jason and I have spent hundreds of hours on speaker phone. In the final steps of creating the images, I use the computer. At this point, email takes over as we work back and forth on the text and final image; probably about four times before we are finished. When the page is done, we put it online and add mixed media elements to it. For example, Jason starts working on the audio track, narrates the series and mixes music into it. It really is an indepth process, I love it.
Q: You and your partners are also working on several other concurrent projects, all of which flow around the written-illustrated graphic novels/comix. As Jason says you are a "story-telling factory." What is it about working with visionary artists and writers that is so fulfilling to you?
Nothing is ever wasted, I love the line we float between art and media, conveniently using the rules of either to help achieve our goals. It is truly satisfying to be in a group of creators who are just hungry for each other’s work.
Q: Are you ever tempted to move away from Maine to be amongst more of these creative circles? What makes you stay and how do you still stay relevant?
I went to school in Boston, worked in L.A., and lived overseas. This is the only place where things feel real. I want to be here, and there were some definite decisions made to stay and settle here. I much rather work on changing Maine, to try to get more media made here, than leave.
Q: Hypnozine’s illustrations also function as art installations, which you’ve shown in galleries independent of the writing. How do people respond to this on its own?
Different crowds give different things back. People at comic book conventions are curious about the way the images relate to the narrative and want to get in to the story. People in a gallery setting want to know more about the process and how the posters are made. My favorite comparison I have heard so far that Hypnozine was Alice in Wonderland meets the 1960s British television series, The Prisoner.
Q: How can the public get their hands on this magazine? Is it going to be printed or electronically produced?
We have done several small independent printings of the first and second books that have done well. We have the books in a couple bookstores on the West Coast, and I would like to get in some here in Maine. In addition to the paper comics, we have presented Hypnozine as a gallery poster show as well as PDF slide shows. The images have been hung along nature trails, used to decorate club spaces and even used as political illustrations. In addition, I have been approached to reproduce the images for music festivals and was asked recently to consider reformatting some of the patterning into textiles. We try and use every bit of what we have, but we are really looking for an outlet for a larger release. We have definitely gotten to a point where we have grown beyond an indie comic, and are really interested in taking that next step.
For more information visit hypnokomix.com/projects/hypnozine
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