• FIENDSHIP is Magic #3—Interview with Ted Anderson & Agnes Garbowska

    "Open your eyes. I see your eyes are open."—Always by Erasure

    I wonder how many pony sailors these three led to their deaths.

    What, did everyone forget that little detail about siren mythology? For shame! Twilight would take away library card for that!

    Though there are two people who get to keep theirs! I had the distinct pleasure to sit down with Ted Anderson and Agnes Garbowska (the writer and artist of FIENDship is Magic #3 respectively) and chat about the only villain group in the franchise and what went into creating their little history in the MLP universe.

    I hope you're all ready for a long one.

    You can find it after the break!

    These three lost their library cards a long time ago, and they're still steamed about it!

    All right so when and how were you both approached to work on the Sirens issue of Fiendship is Magic.

    Ted Anderson: I was probably approached about the same time as everyone else, just by Bobby [Curnow] saying "Hey we're doing a villains month event, are you interested in participating?", and I said absolutely. He offered me the Sirens. I don't know what order he offered what to which people. "Start on the Sirens?", I'm like “Absolutely, I love the Sirens.”

    Once I heard about the full list, I'm glad I got the Sirens, ‘cause they were, in a way, the most fun of the villains to work with. Just in the sense that they have least back story and ties to anyone. We got to play with them a lot in where they came from, what they do, and what their deal is. So, as much fun as it would have been to do a nightmare moon back story, I would have felt an obligation to fit as much as possible in with canon. This story fits in canon, but we were able to do some nutty stuff.

    Agnes Garbowska: For me I think I was working on one of the Friends Forever issues and I was halfway through the… I don't even remember! All these issues are starting to blur together in my head right now. Anyway, Bobby's like, "Hey, we got a villains month coming up. Do you want to be a part of it? Do you want to draw the Sirens?". I'm like “Heck yeah!” I'm not going say no drawing the Sirens. I don't think I’ll ever say no to Bobby for anything.

    I literally had just watched Rainbow Rocks on Netflix. So, it made me excited ‘cause, I'll admit it, I love that movie! The music in that movie was so brilliant! Then, he gave me Ted's script and I got even more excited seeing the script ‘cause I'm like “This is so much fun!” It’s like a [REDACTED]. It was really cool. It’s ridiculous, and awesome, and magical all at the same time.

    TA: I got a little bit worried because I hadn't talked to any of the other writers on the other issues and I don't know what kind of tack there going for. Theirs might be a little more serious, or have a little more actiony stuff, or have dark back story stuff. The Sirens are pretty much just straight wacky. I like straight wacky. It was a lot of fun to write. It was a blast!

    AG: But they’re straight wacky evil!

    TA: Yeah, they’re straight evil wacky, absolutely! It’s not their origin story ‘cause I didn't want to dive down that rabbit hole. It’s not how they were born, or created, or whatever because I don't think that's been decided by anyone yet. It’s more about how they became a threat and then [REDACTED]. So little has been decided apart from, “Oh they were a threat, and Starswirl banished them.”

    AG: We gave the reason [REDACTED].

    TA: Yeah. Yeah.

    So would you both say you fell under the Sirens spell?

    TA: HA! Oh. That's a good one, that's a good one! I got to see Rainbow Rocks earlier when I was doing the [Equestria Girls] Holiday Special and I really liked it too. I may have enjoyed it more than the first Equestria Girls movie, because it got to tell a larger, sort of more involved story.

    I loved that Sunset Shimmer got to be more part of the cast and added her own elements to it. And the Sirens I thought were a nice set of villains to have for it, because they had ties to Equestria but weren't known Equestria villains. They had their own sort of shtick, which is the music. I thought they were really well designed, well developed, and I thought that was fun! I loved reading the script and then watching the actual film. Then when I got the chance to play with them… Hey, why not.

    AG: I like the second movie more than the first one as well. The music was just so catchy. I always go back to the music, but they wrote the music really well! Everything had a good story beat to it, so it felt like you kept on watching to know what happens to the characters. Yet the way the characters interacted—like the bickering—was hilarious.

    They're great villains to watch on screen and I like that Sunset Shimmer had a role. I felt bad for her the whole movie ‘cause I was like “She's trying. She's failing. Keep trying!” So it was really cool.

    I think I liked the Sirens more than I should’ve. I have this habit of when I really, really like a character, I have to get their toys. So, I have a Pinkie Pie toy—because I'm obsessed with Pinkie Pie—from the Equestria Girls set. I also have a Trixie toy, which I hunted down ‘cause I'm like “I don't want order online.” I found it in store, got really excited, and left that store like a little kid, smiling ear to ear, going “I got my Trixie!” So, now that I've fallen in love with the Sirens, I need to have something Sirens related at home now. It will happen very soon.

    TA: I saw those videos of your art process, and in basically every one of them you're listening to something off the soundtrack.

    AG: Oh my God, I can't believe how many times I watched that movie now! Any time I got stuck—especially in pencils or when I needed to feel what the Sirens' personalities are—I seriously just watched the movie; especially their epic fight scene with the final music battle. I call that a fight scene even though no physical fighting. It was the magic fight!

    It just totally got me in the mood. So anytime I got stuck on any part, I just started listening to the Siren's music because it reminded me of the characters, and it kind of captivated me into their world. A lot of times when I'm drawing something particular, I have to listen to a certain type of music to get me into that part of the story. For Sirens it was easy, just keep re-watching the movie!

    Un vídeo publicado por Agnes (@agnesgarbowska) el

    I don't even want to admit how many times I think I’ve watched the whole movie. It’s just a little scary at this point, but I'm not sick of them yet. When I was drawing the characters, it really did help to listen to the music because it encaptivated me. It made me feel part of the characters.

    TA: I know I watched it far more times than I should. I got the soundtrack as soon as I was done with it, ‘cause I love it so much! But I got to say, I like the Sirens music. I'm a big fan of Trixie's song. I don't know what it is. It’s sort of pop, but it’s got that weird like minimalist, it’s like the triangles stuff in the background. I don't know. I love the whole thing, it’s great.

    AG: Yeah, that song makes me laugh every time I hear it! Oh Trixie you're trying, but it’s a good song. It gets stuck in your head too.

    It’s an ego trip, but it’s not anywhere near as big an ego trip as “Awesome as I Want to Be.”

    TA: *laughs*

    AG: *laughs*

    So the main difference between this issue and the others in the series is that you’ve got three villains as the focus instead of just one. Furthermore, the Sirens also have an extensive mythology, both from the Greeks and the Romans, that's well known throughout the world. With these two things in mind, what sort of challenges did you encounter when it came to creating an origin for these three?

    TA: I didn't stick too much with the Greek or Roman mythology in the sense of them being water creatures that sung passing sailors to their death. Obviously, the music is the huge part of their story in this issue and that provides a lot of the conflict, but it’s handled in a slightly different way.

    I kind of gravitated towards the [REDACTED].


    Yeah, I don't know. The Greco-Roman stuff does show up in the background, in the way the story is handled. The story takes place in ancient Equestria, and—because Equestria's timeline is just so fluid and ridiculous—we got to make it, basically, a parody of ancient Rome. So, there's the [REDACTED], and there's statues everywhere, and there's Doric columns holding everything up. Agnes, you told me you kind of went crazy into the research on this.

    AG: Yeah, I did.

    TA: It was cool. I mean, you had like togas adapted for pony wear, and stuff like that. Did you like research like roman hairstyles? Cause I swear there was like some ...

    AG: I have a folder with over a hundred references of Roman cities, Roman clothing, and Roman women hairstyles. So, I tried to pick like the most elaborate hairstyles I could use on the ponies. I wanted to make it clear that it's not current day.

    From their fashion to the background—which there is one spread where I might have gone a little background happy because I was just like, “I have to do cool establishing panel of the city”—I wanted it to reflect the current [REDACTED]. You'll see some familiar elements but you'll also notice a lot of the Roman buildings and clothing. So I tried to really use what we know in the present but throw it into the past and make it a totally different world.

    I didn't want anything about the book to read like you can mistake it for present day ponies. I might’ve put in some little wacky things, but I tried my best to engulf you into this different world in the past.

    TA: It looks so great. You totally stepped up your game, especially on the spread. Yeah we can't talk about it, much, but there's a two page spread in there that I just looked at and I'm like “Holy God.”

    AG: I did a lot of experimental stuff with this book cause a lot of the things I couldn't approach them the way I traditionally do.

    Because this book was so different than what we usually work on, I stepped up the coloring and experimented a lot with it. When you open up the book, you'll notice some things which I might not have tried before.

    I got experimental with some of the panel layouts as well. I thought this was the book to experiment with things, try out different layouts, and different techniques. It was the perfect book, with the perfect characters, because it needed more of that different, experimental aspect to it. I'm very good at storybook style and I know my art gets referred to it feels like a storybook a lot. Where this one I kind of stepped it up, still kept what I'm known for and what I'm good at, but just pushed it to the next level, ‘cause I thought the Sirens really needed that.

    TA: Yeah, it’s gorgeous! I'm so excited to see this thing in print.

    AG: I couldn't have done it without awesome writing.

    TA: I couldn't have done it without awesome art, thank you!

    AG: You're welcome!

    Speaking of being awesome, which Siren was the most fun to work with? 

    TA: Oh man. Don't get me wrong it’s always fun to write the ditz characters. I mean Sonata was ... She got to be kind of the one who ... I mean, calling her a ditz is doing her a disservice. She's easily distracted, she likes to have things explained to her, but she always thinking of new ways to approach things, and she's always looking for new bizarre stuff to get obsessed with. I loved having her be able to comment on the weird things that come along, and just be the odd ball of the group.

    The group as a whole ... I like the idea that [REDACTED].

    [REDACTED]. Sonata, in particular, was fun just ‘cause she was she was the wacky, odd ball one. But the whole group was also a blast. And I know, Agnes, you said you relate a lot with Sonata.

    AG: Yeah, I relate a lot to Sonata. I think I share a lot of the same personality aspects, where I can be really ditzy sometimes, or I can flip that and also have very educated art conversations. So, you never know which aspect of me you're getting. I get super, easily excited about things. Some things I should really not get as excited about, but I'm very easily amused, which is really good if you're trying to entertain me! Show me a pretty, sparkly thing and I'll be like, "Oh my God, that's the coolest thing ever".

    So, I really do relate Sonata. I know I'm a bit of a ditz. Sometimes I say things I shouldn't. I just say stupid things where right afterwards I'm like, "Wow. I can't believe I actually said that. I thought it, but I didn't think it actually came out of my mouth. But it did and now I'm totally embarrassed.” *laughs*

    If I'm ever doing panels, I see someone in a cool costume, I'll literally stop what I'm saying and yell out, "That's the coolest costume ever!" And then literally go right back to what I was saying.

    So that’s why I relate to Sonata. The other girls are having an intense conversation about something and she's just in her own little world, but then she'll also give her input and then they're like what. And I like that a lot. She was so much fun to draw in the background...

    I think the hardest aspect [of the comic] was that I'm drawing three characters that look super similar to each other. So, how do I make them look different? I did make minor changes. Their eye shape—in most panels—and their little head fin are slightly different. They're very minor tweaks but it gave them a little personality, made them a little bit different, and their eyes are a similar to what they have in the movie.

    It’s a minor change just because of the way their bodies in the books move. You have to think about their manners just because their mannerisms are how you show the different personalities, and how you show the different characters.

    Essentially Adagio’s mannerisms are very much taken from the movie, especially the way she squints her eyes, or does some of her poses. I wanted the two characters to relate and be in the same world, since she is the same character. And Sonata, in the background, she has a lot of her movie mannerisms. She's just kind of spacy, kind of in her own little world and I love drawing her! She's just hilarious!

    TA: Yeah, I mean that was the thing I really loved about looking at the characters. ‘Cause it’s, like you say, they look so similar to each other but at the same time they're so completely different from any other character in the book. They have this totally different body shape, and they’ve got that weird elongated tail shape. You still made the fit in perfectly and gave them readable body language, despite the fact that they're weird seahorse, dragon things.

    AG: Yeah, their body language was a lot harder to draw than regular ponies. In a way they're more limited ‘cause they only have two arms and a fin. Their arms bend differently, so I had to always think about their joints and not make them look awkward, but their hands can only bend a certain way because of the way they're drawn.

    So, I'm like, "All right, I need these hands to do things, and not look awkward." I really thought about it a lot. You would see me posing as the Sirens a lot when I was drawing. I must have looked ridiculous. Thank God it was my dogs watching me draw, because I was trying to see how they could move their arms to do things and not look ridiculous or not look like their arms just got disjointed.

    It was very tricky ‘cause there was a new shape to get used to. Ponies now it’s like instinctively I know how their body moves ‘cause I've drawn them so many times. But these characters, I can't draw them always in the same pose since that would make the book very boring. So, I tried very much to always have them moving around and having them interacting differently.

    Looks like both of you and the rest of the Brony Fandom agrees: “Sonata is best siren!”

    AG: She is absolutely! Because she is hilarious!

    It's Taco Tuesday!

    TA: I wasn't able to put in Taco Tuesday I should have done some sorta joke about it but I don't know ... I got some goofy joke out of it but I didn't unfortunately do a taco Tuesday joke.

    You can always save it for the follow up.

    TA: Exactly!

    AG: Dude! I really hope they do some more with these characters in the comics. If they do I would love to be a part of it, because I just love drawing these characters. I didn't think I would be as obsessed as I am with the Sirens.

    Well that's one answer to my yet to be asked fifth question—if the opportunity were to present itself for another story for the Sirens would you both being willing to return? Agnes, I think you're in my mind. Stop reading it! *laughs*

    AG: Oops Sorry! *laughs*

    TA: *laughs* Oh absolutely!

    AG: Oh heck yeah which I just answered. *laughs* Oh my gosh! Sorry! *laughs*

    TA: I meant what I was saying earlier. They don't really have an origin or a real official place they came from. I'd love to do that story too—assuming someone approves it, or tells me where it came from exactly—or telling what happens after the movie, or I don't even know what! It's so fun to play with these characters that have their own dynamics and already have established characteristics, and yet play with them in weird settings. I'd yeah I'd love to do more of the Sirens!

    AG: Yeah! Like you said, there isn't much known about them. We know their basic story. We know how they left Equestria. We know what they are in the movie. We don't know anything else, so they’re characters that you can do so much with because it's just not there yet. It's not established so I really hope they continue working with these characters. They're very unique and funny. I know all the fans love them.

    TA: They're also the only villain group so far in the franchise. I mean Flim and Flam are kind of sort of a group. Except it's just the two of them, and they're basically the same.

    They're con-men.

    TA: Yeah exactly!

    The sirens are the only group that has their own internal dynamic— as a result of being a group they have an internal dynamic, obviously—and so I find them inherently a little more interesting. Each member gets to have their own personal reactions to something, even though they have the same overall goal. Yeah I really want to see some more.

    The one thing that I'm actually really curious about is exactly how much time they'd spent in the Equestria Girls universe?

    TA: Oh man the whole the time issue with the universe is such a black hole. I didn't want to think about it.

    How long has it been since Sunset Shimmer left Equestria as opposed to the time she spent in the Equestria Girls universe? How long have the Sirens been in that world since Starswhirl banished them about a millennium ago from Equestria?

    TA: That way madness lies!

    AG: No idea!

    TA: We can't offer anything because we literally have no idea!

    I'm sure Discord would probably know since he's already mad.

    TA: Of course!

    Since that question here was kind of burned through ... well that's really everything. 

    TA: No worries. I love talking about the book. I love working with Agnes as usual.

    AG: I think you're the one that I've worked with the most so far in the most issues.

    TA: I am?

    AG: I think so. Jeremy is right behind you because I worked with Jeremy for back to back issues, but yeah I'm pretty sure I worked with mostly you so far. Which is really cool.

    I like all the stories. So far I've just had so many great opportunities. I like how all the writers write differently, so it's always a treat just being able to draw. When I got a script from you I already know what to expect in the writing style. When I work with Jeremy it's totally different. Christina Rice is totally different as well. So it's really cool because it's like you can tell the personalities of the writers by looking into their script and figuring out what makes them all different!

    So it's always a fun experiment for me to adapt my style to the different scripts and different ways you guys tell a story and describe the layouts and the panels.

    This one was a really fun one! It's just wacky. I think so far it has to be one of my favorite stories to work on! Like I said earlier, I experimented a lot and it was such a different world then I'm used to drawing, so this one tested me as an artist. Because of it I pushed myself more than I usually do. So now I know what else I can do for the next book which I never tried before because the opportunity never came up!

    I think this issue really did help me grow as an artist because I just got to push it and I got to have fun with it. I always have fun with the books. I love the books! I love drawing!

    TA: It's so much fun working on these things!

    I can tell from just about every single issue that everyone puts out that everyone is having a ton of fun! They're so much fun to read!

    TA: I am so looking forward to season five now that I've seen the trailer and all the stuff about this bizarre town where everyone one is literally completely equal because they have the equal sign cutie mark and all that crazy stuff it is going to be weird.

    AG: I'm excited as well. The new character is creepy nice which because of their bizarro everyone has the same cutie mark and their creepy styles it like uhh what's going to happen?

    Creepy smiles, creepy same hairdos, creepy same eyes.

    TA: It's going to be good. I'm looking forward to it.

    AG: I think so. I'm excited.

    It's going to be ridiculous seeing communism represented in this manner.

    AG: *laughs* What I like a lot about the stories is that it teaches kids lessons without them realizing. For kids reading my last issue, "Luna and Spike," kids are learning just because someone's different doesn't mean you should outcast them.

    It's really funny because kids are reading this and they're having a blast and there really are awesome sweet messages behind it for kids to take from the books and they just learn them in really, really fun ways and the show's the same way! It has really weird, wacky things happening but the kids don't even realize they're actually learning a lot of really cool stuff from cartoons and colorful happy ponies. It's the best way to learn your life lessons!

    Pinkie Pie must have learned all the best lessons. It would be interesting to have as much fun as she does!

    AG: Pinkie Pie is my spirit animal because she's insane. Well I'm not insane, but I'm the same thing as Sonata. I like the ditzy characters because at least it doesn't make me feel so bad about my personality always being a little out there.

    You're not ditzy at all.

    AG: I know I am, but it's okay because I have my moments where I shine. It's okay. It's okay. I'm happy the way I am.

    TA: Marching to the beat of a different drummer.

    Just like everyone's favorite grey pegasus.

    TA: There we go!

    Whose name still can't be mentioned.

    TA: Ha!

    Well this was definitely a lot of fun.

    TA: Yeah thank you for having us on.

    AG: Totally!

    So again I want to thank you both for taking time out of your day to sit down with me and chat about the upcoming story for "Fiendship is Magic".

    TA: No problems. It was a lot of fun.

    AG: No worries. It was fun. Thank you guys.

    TA: Thank you so much!

    AG: All right. Laters.

    Thank you!