Obviously, the Pander brothers arent concerned about the current downturn in the comic industry. Theyve picked this time to release their 350-page, plus, full length graphic novel, Triple X International, published by Portlands Darkhorse Comics. They know an eager public is waiting to gobble it up. Nor do the Panders have time to suck up for the title of local-boys-make-good. Ever since the brothers, born in Amsterdam, picked up a 16mm camera and started making movies while attending Portlands bohemian Metropolitan Learning Center, theres been no time to slow down and look back. Proving the theory that two heads are better than one, theyve collaborated on most of their art, film, video, and multi-media projects.
Jacob and Arnold finish each others sentences, speak with voices that are difficult to differentiate on tape, and tinker on the vanguard fringe of whatever medium they choose to express their vision. In the spirit of Allen Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs, and with the playfulness of Jack Kerouac, they are their generations artists blowing the trumpet about the malaise of the conservative, technological, corporate milieu that is settling down on, and silencing, the spirit of the individual. It is this theme that they mine with warmth, humanity, realism, and cynicism in their novel, Triple X International.
Set in the year 2033, the graphic novel follows a character to Amsterdam where, against his instinct to lay low, he becomes involved with a group of radicals fighting the conspiratorial plots of the evil Thexoll corporation. The art is full of raw emotion: faces etched with moments of pain, triumph, frustration, and bewilderment. Details are surprisingly rich in the black and white printing. The text is passionate -- full of wails, laments, questioning, and moralistic dilemmas... and hope. Though they want to express their unflinching look at global corporate nihilism, they refuse to deny their readers the opportunity to hope.
Coming of age in the Reagan era, the Panders cant help but look at the world as the enemy of free-spirited expression. Their father, Henk Pander, was a member of the vital, artistic cauldron of Portlands Storefront Theater -- a company whose board of directors were all artists, actors, directors, and designers. Dad was a set designer so, at an early age, they were exposed to the defiantly independent artistic original productions staged at Storefront. Meanwhile, over at MLC, they were given free reign, plus editing equipment; to shoot scripted sci-fi movies. This artistic freedom seemed to be the reality. But they found, upon reaching adulthood, that corporate greed and suppression of the individual was the greater reality. It is this confrontation of hot and cold in the world and in themselves, which creates the unrelenting storm of their work.
Currently they are developing Forbidden City, a new comic series. They will have proposed that project to publishers by the time you read this. Set in a Soviet wasteland city built upon the tortured ruins of some catastrophe, the story will mine international intrigue and the triumph of the individual human spirit, in the tradition of Triple X International. Theyre also shooting music videos for local indie bands Hitting Birth, Dharma Bums, and Underpants Machine, via their new venture, Radius Pictures. Along those lines, Arnold is producing an Ambient Trip Hop album, Super Broadcast, which hes designing to serve as a soundtrack for readers of Triple X International. The brothers also want to develop screenplays for a low budget feature film they will direct.
The Operation, their experimental, short erotic film, shot on infra red (see the February, 1997 Exotic Magazine for a review), earned them third prize at a Copenhagen film competition. Their prize will supply them with film and equipment, which will help them realize their feature film dreams. Basically, the Panders have been writing action/intrigue screenplays for all of their comic books, which have been their bread and butter. Their ambitious scripts have proven much easier to realize in comic art form than film.
At this point in their careers, the goal of 32-year-old Jacob and 30-year-old Arnold is the production of films; something not all that different from their adolescent roots as MLC filmmakers and members of their fathers Storefront Theatre audience. In their spare time, well, you can see the results on this months cover. Thats brother Arnolds rest and relaxation; a scene right off the streets of Amsterdam, where they spent two years while creating Triple X International.
Amsterdam has phallic posts, called Amsterdammers, which stick up everywhere out of the sidewalks. They serve as barriers protecting pedestrians from being hit by cars along the narrow, winding streets. On each Amsterdammer is etched a triple X, vertically along the length of the post. So you see, its a very phallic symbol in a city known for its outrageous sex shows and marijuana cafes. This is where both the title for their graphic novel and the name of an underground, radical paper in their storylines, came from. But when the series first came out in seven, individual installments, the title landed them in the adult section, which was some disappointment to them, and those who grabbed the issues, expecting to be titillated by an erotic comic book. Instead, the reader was treated to the Draconian, one-world corporations vs. the individual human spirit storyline. I dunno. Maybe that isnt much different from the struggle for free sexual expression.
Thexoll is watching. Wants you to behave. Wants you to fall in line. But as long as the Pander brothers are around, Id say humanity still has a fighting chance.