Pander & Vankin fire a Tasty Bullet

Once again, we here at Dreamland continue with our haphazard interviewage of comics creators. This time, it’s writer/artist Arnold Pander.

Pander first gained the widespread notice of comics fans as part of the Eisner-nominated art team of Comico’s “Grendel,” along with his brother Jacob. Since then, both Arnold and Jacob have cut a unique path through the comics industry, working both in the fringes and with mainstream characters like Batman, always imbuing them with their unique vision. Most recently, the pair has delved into the realm of film with their independent film, “Selfless.” Now Arnold has teamed with noted writer and editor Jonathan Vankin to create “Tasty Bullet,” an original graphic novel from Image imprint Shadowline.

“When a stunt goes awry, and almost causes her death, Tamar has to look in the mirror and ask herself who she really is and how she came to be the adrenaline-charged Tasty Girl.” Pander said of his main character. “When Tamar begins to look into her past that has been clouded by her own addiction to Tasty Bullet, she begins to realize there is a far more nefarious world behind the drink’s creator, Bullet Corp. She sets out to reveal the truth behind the secret formula and Bullet Corp.

“She enlists the help of a youth named Zak who had once been a test subject for the secret formula. He was a failed attempt to create a perfect specimen to promote Tasty Bullet. Zak reveals her connection to the formula which awakens a host of baddies including, Bullet Corps.’ Teen Death Squad, “spiritual terrorist” Ali Hallaj who seeks the cure to a disease thought to be linked to Tasty Bullet and the ultimate villain, Tamar’s own addiction to the very product that has shaped her life. In her search for the truth behind Tasty Bullet, Tamar begins to find herself.”

Pander characterizes the book as an action drama with a Manga-injected style. ”It’s very ‘branded ‘ in its approach,” said the creator, “with the Tasty Girl ads running through out the story and in some way reflecting the actions in her personal mission. Art and life begin to blend as the adventure goes into overdrive. Its also very cinematic in its approach, Jon and I have always seen the story as a movie and wanted to have that type of epic quality where the audience is taken into a intriguing new world.”

Pander and Vankin first developed an interest in working together after meeting at the San Diego Comic Con in 2000. Said Pander, “We had just released ‘Accelerate.’ We thought it an ideal time to put a project together so we explored avenues for the project. In the end Jon took a job with Vertigo and I took the reigns of “Tasty Bullet,” self-producing the book over the past few years. It’s been a slow cook for a fast paced tale that is right on time for our current cultural state.”

The collaboration with Vankin reaches back into the genesis of the idea for “Tasty Bullet.” Said Pander, “I was interested in exploring some high concept material based an obscure conspiracies. Jon been tossing around an idea about an energy drink icon based on a short-lived Asian energy drink from the 90’s. I recalled having a similar sounding energy drink while visiting family in Holland and we both wondered if it might be the same drink. It was simply called ‘Tasty’ and presumably there was a girl who did wacky stunts to promote it. Tasty was never available in the US and we began to wonder why. This put us on a path of curiosity with the central question, ‘what had happened to the Tasty Girl?’ We thought, ‘hey there’s a story here!’”

Pander’s collaboration with Vankin had many benefits for both the project and for Pander himself. “Jon has a wealth of knowledge in conspiracies that he’s researched for his books,” said Pander. “We tapped that well as we delved into the possible speculative reality that the Tasty Girl inhabits.

“Many of the books I’ve written with Jacob in the past deal with some type of personal transformation. ‘XXX’ dealt with a character who had to face his fears, ‘Secret Broadcast’ with someone who need to change the way they operate in the world. ‘Accelerate’ with a girl who had to learn to be a leader. The notion of a character faced with her identity being defined by the product she promotes was fascinating. I was also writing ‘Batman: City of Light’ with Jacob at the time so it allowed me a chance to work with a different co-author an experience a new type of collaboration.”

“Tasty Bullet is designed for an audience hooked on the next buzz,” said Pander in talking about who the graphic novel is aimed towards. ”Anyone who is a video game or movie junkie or a trend-driven consumer who wants anything that will take them into a new fast-paced experience. It’s also for people who want to go deeper into what’s behind the chaos and mayhem of our culture. Tamar is the ideal personification of the today’s hip youth, faced with a future that is uncertain. The choices she makes in defining who she is and not allowing it to be defined for her is the stories’ crux. It’s a fun ride.”

“Tasty Bullet” has already seen interest from some quarters of the film industry, but Pander is unable to comment on it, however he encourages those who enjoy the book to blog about it. “We need to get that grass roots support to help us take “Tasty Bullet” to the next level,” said Pander. “Also follow our updates at www.tastybullet.com.”

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