Will Scott Interviews Brandon Graham
Brandon Graham’s work is creative, inspiring and full of personality. He is someone deserving of our encouragement and support. What he’s shared with the market thus far is a feast of words and pictures. And I, for one, don’t believe that we’ve even scratched the surface of his tremendous ability.
Head out to your local comic book store and buy a copy of King City or Prophet to see what I mean. And while you’re there pre-order his newest comic Multiple Warheads, due out in October.
Enjoy our interview.
Will Scott: You have given Rob Liefeld’s Prophet one of the greatest makeovers in the history of comics. How did that gig come about?
Brandon Graham: It was just a conversation at a convention bar between me and Eric Stephenson, who runs Image, and Joe Keatinge, who writes Glory. It was really casual and I talked about what I’d do with Prophet but that I didn’t have time to draw it. Joe suggested I ask my pal Simon to draw it and it escalated from there. I mulled over doing it for a couple days.
At one point I was out eating with some friends and when I went to the bathroom Moritat, who draws All Star Western drew the giant word PROPHET on my sketchbook. So I had to take the gig or get a new sketchbook.
It’s been great, though – a lot of freedom and a lot of new readers.
Stephenson and Liefeld have been great to work with. And without Prophet I don’t think I would’ve had the chance to collaborate with the fantastic guys I’m working with.
WS: Many of the issues of Prophet, whether they feature your art or another guest artist, appear to give a nod to the art and storytelling techniques found in many bandes desinées. Was this intentional on your part or due mainly to the existing styles of the artists that you are working with?
BG: It’s not intentional as much as it’s just the influences of everyone on the book. I guess I tend to hang out with artists who are into the same stuff as me.
Originally I was going after the guys I knew who I thought would do a good Buscema style Conan. Giannis has a lot more of the same Manga influences as me. I’d planned on not drawing any of it when it started.
WS: Your open line style is very pleasing to the eye. It also allows the colour to remain prominent rather than compete for the reader’s attention. How did that aspect of your style develop?
BG: Thanks. The comics that really clicked with me growing up were usually black-and- white or with flat colors. Moebius books and stuff like Dragon Ball or Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse. My color aesthetic is kind of stuck in the 80’s.
I’m really into the artwork doing all the heavy lifting and letting the colors just help it.
WS: Are you influenced by the country and culture of Japan? Manga, perhaps? By the same token, are there any European artists that you would say have been influential or that are particularly interesting to you?
BG: I‘m into comics from all over. I wouldn’t say I’m especially into the culture of Japan. It seems OK. I don’t think I’d like to work in the Japanese comics scene but it’s turned out some of my favourite books.
I’m really into Masamune Shirow’s early pre-Ghost in the Shell work. His Appleseed series has been a big deal to me, I’ve reread it dozens of times and I’m still trying to figure it out. Fascinating stuff.
European comics too have been a huge influence on the kind of work I’m trying to do. My older brother brought home the Epic Moebius books when I was a kid. I’ll never get over his work and the way he talked about art.
Michael Kaluta once said that Moebius was the kind of artist who teaches you how to draw just by looking at his work. I think more than that, his work just makes it all seem more possible – it opens things up.
And other European guys like Enki Bilal and Milo Manara were huge to me growing up. Even though a lot of it was just sexy blue-haired ladies the whole approach was, and is, just so alien and exciting to me.
WS: I understand you’re embarking on a new mini-series for Image entitled Multiple Warheads. If I’m not mistaken, Multiple Warheads began as a bit of a porn comic; is that correct? Please tell our readers what Multiple Warheads is about. How did it come to be in its current incarnation? Is it an all-ages book or is it Adults Only?
BG: It’s not Adults Only but there’s some sex in the first issue.
It was a porn short at first. I used to do porn comics for a living and had a lot of freedom to play around with whatever I wanted to draw as long as there was sex in the stories.
It’s set in a fantasy Russia following a woman named Sexica who works smuggling magic organs. She’s got a boyfriend who is a mechanic and a werewolf, and there’s a bounty hunter woman named Nura. A lot of it’s an excuse to play around with big fantasy ideas but also I want to still be able to write about things in my own life.
WS: You share a studio – not to mention, a life – with the very talented Marian Churchland. Do the two of you trade storytelling ideas or do you tend to keep your work lives separate?
BG: We have a nice setup where we don’t live together, so we both have our own places that we work out of. But yeah, we both talk about what we’re up to. Poor Marian has to listen to me hammer out all my story ideas when we go on walks.
Years ago I lived in a house with a much of other artists. James Stokoe, his wife Marley Zarcone, Corey Lewis and about four others. It made it harder for me to work, with everyone around. It’s nice for motivation to see the exciting work they’re doing but I learned that I prefer to draw in my underpants and not have to think about anyone else in the room. I want to make sound effects when I draw without looking like a crazy person. “shhhhhaawwwwoooo!”
WS: What is a typical day at the drawing table like for you? Are you inclined to experiment artistically when opportunities arise?
BG: I try to play around a fair amount. My schedule is tighter these days but it’s all fun stuff.
I just moved close to a beach in West End Vancouver. I’ve been going outside to work a lot more and staying up all night to see the sun rise over the water. It feels like I’m on vacation – it hasn’t sunk in yet that I live here.
I have a drawing table but I don’t really draw on it much. I sit on the couch a lot, or in front of the computer with a board. I just slowly doodle in between typing at my friends or looking up rap videos.
WS: Granting that feelings change, is there – as of this moment – any specific type of comic story that you have no interest in working on?
BG: I used to say that as long as I was writing and drawing my own work it didn’t really matter what genre it was in.
I’m sure there’s a lot of things to not find any interest in. The important thing is to always make what I’m working on fun and exciting.
Prophet might be as close to superheroes as I ever get but it can be fun to try and think about things like, what could be done to make Aquaman something interesting to me. Not that I see myself ever working for the guys who own Aquaman. I guess that kind of thing is like my comic book equivalent to fantasy football.
WS: Should the opportunity arise, would you consider working in animation and film or are you happy staying with the comics medium?
BG: I’ve worked in animation a couple times. I might do some more in the future if there were enough freedom. I really like comics a lot more though.
WS: Granting that it might be difficult to separate the two categories, do you see yourself primarily as a writer or as an artist?
BG: I guess an artist. But it’s all art, or craft aiming at being art.
I think about the separation between drawing and writing like I do the difference between drawing perspective and drawing a character, or lettering, or coloring. It’s all parts of the same thing.
WS: Are you concerned about the future of comics in North America or do you see the future as bright?
BG: I think the future for the medium is bright. The Internet has opened things up nicely. I rant about it a lot but I wish more of what I see on the Internet translated into what’s in comic shops.
But there’s been some fantastic books coming out recently. I’m excited about the Prince Of Cats and that The Nao of Brown book looks cool. My pal Stokoe on Godzilla is great. I think Ross Campbell’s new Wet Moon just came out.
For the most part DC and Marvel are just shit and they have so much weight over the direction of the whole industry. I’ve been trying to pay less attention to that side of things though. But even there some great work makes it through sometimes. I can’t be all sour on them.
WS: What is your greatest creative challenge?
BG: It’s always just about staying excited and remembering how much fun the work can be. Any difficulty in drawing or writing is nothing but fun, if I can just keep that in mind.