In anticipation of the exciting first ever My Little Pony mini-series event, FIENDSHIP IS MAGIC, we are featuring a weekly creator-interviewing-creator series. This week the creative team behind SIRENS (releasing 4/15) Ted Anderson and Agnes Garbowska talk ponies of the deep!
Agnes Garbowska interviewed by Ted Anderson
So let’s start with the movie, I guess! Did you see Rainbow Rocks in theaters? What did you think about the Sirens when you first saw them?
I did not see Rainbow Rocks in theaters. I actually don’t get out to see a lot of movies in theaters since I’m usually working away. I saw Rainbow Rocks once it was streaming. I watched it and I thought it was a really great movie. The music was very catchy and I found myself re-watching a scene to hear the song again. I thought the Sirens were presented very well. I loved the different personalities of the characters and how they interacted.
What do you think of the Sirens, either as individuals or as a group? Any favorite character aspects or elements?
I really like the Sirens. I like that you brought up that they felt very “old”. I got the same impression in the movie. That they were together a very long time. Sonata Dusk has to be my favorite because she is so flighty. I guess I like her the best since I relate to her a lot. I can be very scatterbrained sometimes and I am also easily amused by things. Even though she is scatterbrained at times she is still a vital member of the group and she is a strong individual.
When I read your script the character personalities came across strong and I made sure to show the different personalities as best as I could. At first I thought it would be tricky since other than color, and giving them slightly different head fins, there are not really any differences in their character appearance. I did try my best to vary the eyes slightly to match those of the shapes of their eyes in the movies. I tried my best to take a lot of the movie elements in their movement and mannerisms and apply it to their character in the book. Adagio Dazzle is very sure of herself and a strong personality so I made sure her expressions read as such.
I really loved your work on this issue! We’ve worked together before, so I knew what to expect, but you really turned it up for this issue. I’m always impressed when artists can get good emotion out of pony body language, but you had to work with the weird seahorse-like shapes of the Sirens! Were they challenging “actors” to work with?
I am so happy you enjoyed the art in the book! I think it may be my favorite book to date since I really tried to experiment more with panel layout and ways to show the sirens using their powers. I also try my best to grow with each issue I do. After I get a copy of each book, I look through it and critique myself. It is really the best way to grow. Look at my mistakes and figure out how to prevent them. I look at everything from my panel layouts, characters interacting, the way I draw the ponies, to the way I color them. Once you see the book in print you can see if the colors work or not. I have been adjusting the colors and I think my Fluttershy and Iron Will issue I started getting the colors the way I want them. I did step it up for the Sirens issue since this one way a go all out coloring one for me. It really is a learning experience and I believe we should never stop learning.
The Sirens were very challenging “actors” to work with. They in a way did not have the same flexibility that the regular ponies have. I had to make sure I did not draw them all the same or give them the same mannerisms. This is why it was key to watch the movie…maybe several times. I wanted to see the mannerisms the characters had in the movie and try to incorporate that into the seahorse form they had in the book.
The time period was my choice, more or less. In the movie they say that the Sirens were banished by Starswirl, so it took place “long, long ago,” but putting it in a parody of ancient Rome was all me. It made sense with the Greek mythological origins of the Sirens, and I liked the idea of a completely different, comically “old” setting for the issue. Did you enjoy the new setting, or was it a pain drawing all the columns and ancient statues?
I loved the new setting! I did a lot of research into the Roman time period. I looked at both the architecture and the style of hair and clothing for the time period. My goal was to take key elements and give them a pony flare. So I used a lot of Roman architecture, but I incorporated a lot of the current Canterlot’s colors into it. I thought this way it would tie the two worlds together and make the setting feel more familiar. The hair and outfits were the most fun to draw. I tried to only pick more elaborate hair styles for the female ponies to make each one stand out. I also once again used colors found in the MLP universe, but incorporate more gold and red into the outfits that seemed like the staple for the era. The best part of the setting is something I think the fans will find the most fun. I tried my best to do a lot of “ancestor” ponies. I believe at least 90% of the ponies in this book have ties to current ponies featured in the books and episodes. This takes find Waldo to a new level. I hope fans really enjoy trying to figure out who might be related to who in the book!
Ted Anderson interviewed by Agnes Garbowska
Did you watch Rainbow Rocks before writing the book? If so, did you find it helped with writing the Sirens?
I didn’t see RR in theaters either, actually—Hasbro sent me the script, and then a video file. It was a bit weird to read the script first and only later see the actual movie, since the performances add so much! Some of the big character notes still came through in just the script, like Sonata being easily distracted. But hearing how they interacted “on-camera” made them much more real.
One of the things that really surprised me in the movie was how the Sirens come across as, weirdly, very old. You get the sense that they’ve been in this world for a long time, and they’ve only really had each other to talk to, so they’ve been having the same arguments and discussions over and over again. Even though they work together as a group, they each have a lot of personal problems that have been building up inside. So with the comic, I tried to show the Sirens as they were long, long ago, before they got sick of each other: they still have arguments and problems, but at least they’re in a world that makes sense, you know?
Do you have a favourite Siren? Which Siren was your favourite to write? Also, did you have a say in the time period the took takes place in or was it decided by Hasbro?
Ha, I’m also a big fan of Sonata. She adds some heart to the group! The Sirens are the only villains in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that act as a group: they’ve got a goal, so they work together, but they’ve been around so long they can barely cooperate. They were all a lot of fun to write, but Sonata was definitely useful for non sequiturs and weird interjections!
With all this talk of the sirens, we can’t leave out Starswirl. What was it like writing him? I won’t want to reveal anything that happens in the book, but Starswirl really is a character!
Starswirl was a fun character to write, yeah! And an interesting character, too: he’s been mentioned a lot in the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic animated series and the comics, but hasn’t actually shown up much. So it was fun to put him in a situation where he’s … a bit out of his element? No spoilers, but I liked making him face off with the Sirens in an unconventional way.