Andrii Ostapenko on War, Travel, Magic, and “Shortcut”

Andrii Ostapenko (he/him) is the writer of Shortcut,” a short comic exploring the responsibility in magic. It appears in the Destinations Anthology with art by Kamilla Sims.

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Andrii is a traveler and aspiring writer from Ukraine, dealing with war and whatnot for the moment. Usually when no war is happening, he seeks stories outside and on paper, trying to explore as much as he can from life, both real and imaginary. He is an avid reader, gamer, parkour aficionado, international relations bachelor, novice guitar player, DND fan(critter), traveler, and writer.

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andrii ostapenko destinations creator interview oneshi press

Tell us about yourself, Andrii. What is your background, and how did you start writing comics?

Greetings! My name is Andrii, and I’m a writer from Ukraine. I always had this extreme wanderlust, spurring me to seek something unseen. So, when I was a little and obedient child with no opportunity to travel, I used (just like maaaany others) written, told, filmed, or drawn stories to escape somewhere else. Really, I never stopped doing it. I don’t think you can.

However, enjoying stories of others and writing your own—well, there’s a gap in between, a threshold that I was too intimidated to cross. I didn’t know that you could write for pleasure then. Or play music, compose poetry or songs, make movies, and do art in general—all of that seemed too grand to even try, like swimming across the Atlantic.

But when the high school times were over, and I became a student of international relations away from home, in another city—I also became a better student of life. And then, many thresholds were crossed out of curiosity, and “too grand” stopped being a reason not to try.

At some point, listening to Hamilton and being motivated not to throw away my shot, I decided to try earning some money by writing. My first freelance gig was a short slice-of-life comic (14 pages), which I was fortunate to get without prior experience. That led to some other comic projects, but those were not enough to quench my now-growing appetite for comics. Eventually, I heard about anthologies as an excellent way to get prompts and grow your portfolio. Destinations was the first one I found and sent my story to, which is why I am here.

andrii ostepenko shortcut panel art by kamilla sims

Can you tell us about your inspiration and process for creating “Shortcut“?

I wanted to write something moody and meditative to reflect upon my traveling experience. I thought about using some of my memories as a basis for a fictional story, but nothing short enough to be told within eight pages would come forth. Different vague ideas passed through my mind, mostly related to the melancholic side of traveling—to the moment of goodbyes and farewells. Why? Because a destination is meant to be the final thing of your journey. It’s a place that only exists in front of you and disappears once reached, made into a memory. But then, there are so many other places to be, right? So many destinations… And if there was magic involved, you could teleport anywhere, just imagine it!

But traveling is much more than destinations, and I feel like many people are obsessed with labels of destinations too much. It’s almost like a sport where you need to see a certain place, take a photo of it (hooray, a hunting trophy to hang on the wall), and return to brag about it. And the rest of the journey is in expectation of that one event or place, and the road is just a waiting room before the main show.

Well, with teleportation—there are no waiting rooms in traveling. And what’s then?  

When trophies don’t satisfy you anymore, how would you fill that hunger for purpose?

What is the value of traveling when you can reach your destination in a heartbeat?

What is the value of achievement when you can get it in a heartbeat? That’s what I got from thinking about destinations and teleports, and thus the story was starting to form in my mind. About parents and their wisdom, about children and their unwillingness to listen, about shortcuts and quick satisfaction, and mistakes, and other things.

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“Shortcut” is all about the responsibility that comes with great magical power. If you had unlimited magic, what would you do with it?

I’d travel and have fun, testing myself and my magical prowess, helping and entertaining people, performing beautiful illusions and telling stories through magical effects, harmlessly pranking people—being like Gandalf in a way but without beard and smoking habits.

But now, living in wartime, I know that I’d use those powers in other more specific ways, too. Magical fields to stop rockets or send them backward, healing powers to grow limbs and save lives, and some destructive magic to stop the enemy from hurting those around you.

Since this anthology’s theme is “Destinations,” what is a destination or goal of yours?

Living life with eyes full of memories and lips full of stories has been and remains the road and destination I want to get to know.

andrii ostepenko shortcut panel art by kamilla sims

Who are your writing heroes?

Too many to count, really.

I have many English-speaking writers that inspired me with their stories. But their names are too well-known and mentioning them wouldn’t make much difference. Instead, I’d rather remember Ukrainian writers and poets who died for their ideas and art. There are also many names to mention. If you’re curious, you can find many of them by googling the term “Executed Renaissance.” And special thanks to the poetry of V. Stus, L. Ukrainka, I. Franko, and L. Kostenko. And to many others.

What’s your all-time favorite comic book (or a movie or TV show based on a comic)?

The Sandman.

andrii ostepenko shortcut panel art by kamilla sims

What comic book character do you identify most with, and why?

Peter Parker, I guess, aka Spider-Man. I love climbing and acrobatics, nerd stuff, making bad jokes in extreme situations, and other things that defined Peter Parker and made him relatable to many people.

What’s important to you in a comic book, as a writer?

The tandem of visuals and story. I imagine each page and panel first, telling the story to myself through visuals only. Later, knowing the meaning of the story, its direction, characters, etc., I add words to help navigate through the comic.

Or, if the story is heavy on dialogue and text, I will go back and forth between writing and planning the page outlook, trying to find a proper balance between visual and text information.

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Are you working on any new projects?

No comics right now, although I have a few scripts ready.
I am slowly writing a pilot for an animated fantasy show and working full-time as a narrative designer at Starni Games. Sometimes, I write and read jocular poetry for the amusement of people. Other projects are waiting for my attention, too, but I am bad at time management and can’t get half of what I want to be done.

Where can readers find Andrii Ostapenko online?

I am not active on social media, but you can find me by @Light_Andrew69, @light_andrii69, and LightAndrew on Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit, respectively.

I don’t have a website with my portfolio and good things written about me (yet). If you want to chat or collaborate, feel free to knock with a PM.

See ya!

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