WORDS Kyle Collins  PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden

I first discovered the art of the Pander Brothers at the Portland music venue Berbattis Pan. There, perfectly lit against the red brick walls on six panels, was a Shaman leading a tribe of dancers across a desert rave, while fires burn in the distance. Done in yellow, orange, and red acrylic on wood, it was sexy-cool, and oozed style. The painting perfectly captured the energy of the room and the Bohemian vibe of Portland in the ‘90s. 

Then, while picking up the latest Hell Boy comic, the store manager gave me Triple-X International, released by Dark Horse Comics. I was quickly taken by the futuristic vision of rebels fighting against martial law.

Born in Amsterdam, Arnold and Jacob Pander, may best be known for their Batman, “City of Light” for D.C. They’ve consistently pushed the bounds of comics by integrating music and digital media. 

The Panders have produced engaging stories for nearly thirty years and are award winning writers, illustrators, and filmmakers. They took top honors in 2008 at the Bend Film Festival with their feature film, Selfless. I recently met them at their studio at the Falcon Art Community in North Portland.

What’s new in your comic book world?
Arnold: While re-mastering and coloring Triple-X so long after, because it was originally supposed to be done in color, we thought it would be great to create a prequel and explain the catalyst of the character as to how and why he escaped America and the surveillance society to hideout in Amsterdam.  It’s meant to show what drives the character and gets inside his psyche. We’ve given it a feel of modern, contemporary issues that are happening now. We’re really excited about it’s potential and we’re cramming to get it finished. 

Jacob: And we can announce that Dark Horse Comics, will be releasing the re-mastered book with new story and art, for the first time in full color as Dissident X, in the fall of 2019.

The theme or subject matter of Dissident X and much of your work is about a dystopian future, the rebels, and rooting for the little guy. Tell me about that.
Arnold: Growing up as artists I think there was a little bit of that feeling of being, “Outsiders.” We still relate to those characters in the underground and not on the main road. I think that we have empathy for the little guy. The elements we include in the new story deal with the anxiety of social media and the potential of that being turned against us, and those that want to operate outside of this reality.

Jacob: We’ve always been drawn to stories of the counter culture that question the world that we’re all operating in. That’s manifested itself in the Dissident X and our book Secret Broadcast, about a pirate radio station. We have new projects coming that deal with issues of our time, but in a future forward, science fiction space. You write about what you know, so we throw these characters into these extreme environments, and they can express how we see things today. 

In a sense, you two are sci-fi reporters, or journalists of the future. Arnold: That’s the great thing about speculative fiction. We wrote this story quite awhile back, but you tweak the knob a little bit and we’re looking in the mirror. What it shows you is how important journalism is. It wouldn’t be such a threat, if it were not so clearly important. It is the voice of the people.

Portland is a great place for creatives to start projects, but many relocate to L.A and New York.  You’ve stayed here.
Arnold: Well, yes and no. Around 1999 or 2000 it was clear that one of us needed to be in LA. I spent seven years over two separate stays in Los Angeles. We pitched and got a deal with D.C. for the Batman story. We were drawing in two cities, as Jacob was here. We pitched things but were really doing our own thing. We wrote a vampire screenplay around that time, which eventually became our latest graphic novel for Dark Horse, Girlfiend. I moved back to Portland and we just said, “Okay, it’s time to make our own movie with our own resources we have here.” And that lead to the feature, Selfless, which was picked up by Comcast/Time Warner. We can always pitch things in those industry cities and maybe something will happen, but we can always rely on Portland as a place we can make something happen.

Jacob: When we first started out Portland was an isolated little landlocked city. Since digital tech, it’s changed the landscape. The location where you’re doing things is not so city dependent. We’re able to export what we’re doing much easier using new technologies.

You just won an award for your latest video. 
Arnold: Yeah, for Portland hip hop act 3rd Twin and the song, Honesty.

Where can we see your short films and music videos? 
Arnold: The website has music videos and the short film, Subtext, a narrative piece told by text messages. And the new Dandy Warhols video, for Forever is there.  We used a lot of green screen and we pushed the limits of the budget, but they’re a lot of fun to work with. 

In the spirit of collaboration, how are you liking your studio space at The Falcon Art Community?  
Arnold: It’s cool. It’s a community and you really feel that. It’s really focused too, so there are moments when it gets really active here. The evenings are really fun. The radio station, X-Ray FM is here, there’s theater stuff going on and a band rehearses down the hall. So there’s a mixed bag and lot of different disciplines all in one place. 

Jacob: This place seems to speak to our core. We’re here almost every day because we’ve got so much on our plate. We’re the newbies here and it’s been nice to be in an environment with some good creative chaos.  

Find the Pander Brothers Video At:

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