Andrew Hammond may be the creator of a popular sci-fi comedy graphic novel series but he is as down to earth as they come.
Having worked for many years as a freelancer, the author, illustrator and education ambassador understands that keeping one foot firmly on the ground is vital in the creative sector, where greater freedom is accompanied by greater uncertainty.
However, following recent meetings in L.A. with the likes of Disney, Apple, and Dreamworks to discuss a big screen adaptation of his graphic novel Spacekid iLK, exciting developments are in the works for Hammond’s future.
Yet, as Andrew reveals exclusively to Business Matters, it’s the creative process itself, and the ongoing learning opportunity it provides, that motivates him.
Andrew Hammond’s work spans across TV, comic books, video games, and the publishing sector—making him the ideal go-to creative for any parent looking for original entertainment for their kids.
His own Spacekid iLK series, launched in 2018 and has quickly accrued a dedicated fan base of younger readers with its wholesome blend of humorous yet instructional sci-fi, fantasy adventures.
Like many creatives, the unassuming author and illustrator has remained largely in the shadows, preferring to let his artwork do the talking, having worked with the likes of CBBC, Pokémon, NBC Universal and the Marvel franchises, among many others.
However, that looks set to change. With a family-friendly brand of humour that appeals to all ages, the Spacekid iLK series of graphic novels has received interest from major production companies including DreamWorks, Lucasfilm, and Disney.
When we meet for a socially-distanced coffee in London’s Soho it quickly becomes clear that Hammond is driven by learning and perfecting his art. What excites him most are opportunities to develop his career of creating entertainment for young audiences and to continue working with other brilliant creatives.
“These opportunities have been a lot of fun and taught me so much. I want to continue finding ways to tell the stories that I want to tell, but often the most valuable part of the experience is the relationships that are built along the way, both with my audience and those I work with directly.”
Hammond’s fascination with art began at an early age, when he would draw his favourite video game characters or create his own comic strips.
In his teens he moved into oil painting and, by the age of 18, was selling commissioned portraits to help fund a foundation course in art and design. This money-earner continued throughout university and would catch the attention of a TV director—a pivotal moment in Hammond’s career and one that would alter the course of his professional life forever.
“I took a year out of university, where I was studying film production and screenwriting, to be a runner for TV production companies. Upon graduating, one of the directors who had been impressed by my oil paintings invited me to work for his company producing storyboards.”
The opportunity was too good to miss, and within months of leaving university Hammond was able to combine his passion for art with the other thing he needed most at the time—an income.
Further freelance jobs followed for major brands including Coca-Cola and Google. In 2009, he also worked creating storyboards for the CBBC TV show ‘Big Babies’. “My role was to prepare the first visualisation of the scripts—showing the funny moments, illustrating character reactions, and making choices about composition. It was inspiring at that time to witness an idea moving from script, to drawings and through development, to eventually appear on screen.”
From there Hammond began experimenting with other art forms. Among them was stand-up comedy, he had been writing comedic graphic novels for some time and was by now an in-demand freelancer, ready to put his writing to the test.
“I wrote a new routine for each gig, which probably wasn’t the most sensible approach, as I never got a chance to hone my performance, constantly having to work from a new ‘script,’ but it showed me that it was the writing process that I enjoyed most.”
His foray into stand-up spurred Hammond onto bigger, arguably more challenging things. In 2011, he co-created a money-saving app that drew interest from some heavy weight investors.
This was a steep learning curve for Hammond and when the investment never materialised Hammond left the project, though he credits the experience as one of the most valuable of his career to date; teaching him about the “power of an idea”, and the importance of brand development and strategy.
By 2015, Hammond’s new company, ‘Andrew Hammond Art Limited’, was up and running and even bigger things were in the making. Like many freelancers, balancing a steady income while pursuing creative projects was a challenge: “It was feast or famine for at least a decade,” he recalls. “It taught me that there are two types of security: Financial security, which is obviously very important; and the security that is born out of being able to make your own choices and establish an identity. When the former felt unstable, I leant on the latter to keep my focus.”
The money he saved during the feast was put to good use during times of famine, helping to pursue personal projects. Hammond went on to produce short films and music videos, as well as a clothing line based on his own artwork. He also released an online comic where readers could vote for what happened next, called ‘Mythed,’ which reflected his love of science fiction, fantasy, and mythology.
“As a kid I was heavily influenced by Greek mythology and parables,” he says. “I loved the idea of stories with a message. Metaphors that taught me about human nature, responsibility and consequences. I added in my own humour to make these messages more relatable so that they could appeal to a more modern audience.”
His first comic strip online was called ‘Invasion’. It told the story of an alien overlord who invaded Earth and had to deal with the stresses that came with taking over a planet. It was a short-run series and would later inspire his illustrated novel, Spacekid Ilk [LINK TO https://www.spacekidilk.com].
The first book in the series, Spacekid iLK: Invasion 101, was published in 2018. Aimed at children aged between seven and thirteen, the book won the hearts of readers, parents, and reviewers alike. According to Hammond, his books teach young readers about the importance of finding courage to make their own choices, and about the inner strength that comes from connecting authentically with others. As the books tell their story in visual form, with illustrations on every page, they are ideal for reluctant readers and for children who have difficulties with literacy.
The book’s publication led to Hammond teaching workshops in schools and becoming an ambassador for educational change.
“Creative subjects are the one opportunity at school in which children have to face the terrifying prospect of inventing something that other people care about. There is no set ‘right answer’, which is a frightening prospect for many, when our worth is usually based on knowing the right answers rather than on our courage,” Hammond tells me. “As a result, creative subjects are seen as less worthwhile, but they’re actually a valuable opportunity for us to begin to address the question, ‘How do I create value for others?’ and to learn the necessary skills, like empathy and communication, to do so”.
When a talent manager in LA read the book, he contacted Andrew with a request to represent the property and forward it to a few of his contacts. This ultimately led to Andrew travelling to LA to meet with production executives at DreamWorks, Lucasfilm, Disney, Skydance Animation, Apple and Imagine Entertainment, among others, to discuss adapting Spacekid iLK for the big screen.
“I was surprised at how much time these executives were willing to give me. I was extremely grateful for the opportunity and the conversations flowed so easily. It was very exciting to meet individuals with whom I felt I could share a vision.”
Timing is everything however, with Covid hitting just as talks were at a pivotal stage and Hollywood went into isolation. Hammond returned to the UK in early 2020 with an even deeper confidence in the potential for his projects.
Since then, Hammond has been hard at work on his second graphic novel, Spacekid iLK: Stranded!
“I’m open to all avenues, and excited for what comes next. As long as I am enjoying the process of creating and learning more each day, while mixing with fellow creatives, then I’m a very happy man.”