Oregon Storytellers: The Pander Brothers

written and photographed by Andy Batt

Brothers Jacob and Arnold Pander know ink, film and visual storytelling, intimately.


The duo’s groundbreaking illustrative styles have shaped graphic novels and comics with Grendel: Devil’s Legacy, the Exquisite Corpse series, Triple X, GirlFIEND, Batman: City of Light and Batman: Apocalypse Girl. They have published original work with Dark Horse Comics, Image and Vertigo as well as franchise projects with DC Comics and Marvel.


The Portland-based dream team continue to fuse its creative elements into digital media and travel the world showcasing its debut feature film, Selfless, and creating commercial projects for agencies and brands.

What do you do to get past a creative block?

Jacob: Walk outside. Move the body. Road trips are great. I think the road hypnotizes you, something about staring at that vanishing point seems to draw out the subconscious.
Arnold: Music, bike ride, work on another project. You can get stuck creatively when your mood is stuck. Doing something that changes your state of mind can shake things loose, helping you see things more objectively. Sometimes shifting to other projects allows your subconscious to kick in on the one you’re taking a break from and solutions and new ideas can be allowed in to the conscious mind.


What’s the biggest difference between telling stories with ink and with film?

Jacob: Creating a film is very social, psychological, dynamic and high intensity. While writing and drawing graphic novels is a more meditative experience, similar to editing a film. Sometimes a solo experience with a much quieter process. They are both satisfying in different ways.
Arnold: They are very different beasts and require different skillsets. Filmmaking is very dynamic and technical and needs a lot of organizational discipline to deal with many variables. It always comes down to that moment where all the pieces come together for a brief moment that you hope to capture. Writing and drawing also requires discipline and focus, but also patience since the process is methodical and time consuming.


How do you build on your mistakes? How do they move you forward?

Jacob: Mistakes and the ability to examine them honestly is essential to the development of ideas and your craft. First drafts are often fraught with mistakes, most often structural, but also character motivations, etc. The big ideas are there, but you haven’t shed all the light on your thoughts yet. A refrain we often use is simplify, simplify, simplify.
Arnold: Try to recognize where you need to work to make a more effective story. It’s easy to fall into comfort zones that can keep one from growing and taking on new challenges. Never give up on an idea but be willing to move on from it so you might return to it later when you’re better equipped to take it on in a new light.


What makes you excited to tell a new story?

Jacob: When it feels alive on the page. When you have a script or story in your hand that feels like it stores an entire living and breathing world within.
Arnold: There’s usually a spark that gets you to that “What if?” place. That’s when I start throwing clay at the wheel. Hopefully things start to click and you can’t type fast enough. There’s a point when things fall into place that can also boost the sense of purpose. That’s when I feel most excited.


Do you work intuitively or from a carefully mapped-out plan?

Jacob: The initial inspiration is very intuitive, but then structure soon begins to set in. The structure creates the tension and compels you to keep reading and watching, but a great story is a dance between structure and character.
Arnold: For me, it begins more organically even with the structure so its fresh and unencumbered by the pressure to implement structural formulas. I then step back and apply some of those structural methods that get the story into a nice rhythm.


How do keep getting better at what you do?

Jacob: Keep doing it and keep analyzing your process and reading and watching other great work, and observe the behavior and world around you.
Arnold: Mostly repetition. The more I write, the less likely I am to repeat myself. I also allow myself to change themes and story worlds so I might expand my creative voice and occasionally surprise myself.


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