January 22nd, 2013
Greetings Mr Graham. You were due to be interviewed by The Beast Must Die, but sadly he is too busy travelling the globe as an international podcasting megastar with his good friend/mortal enemy Gary Lactus. Therefore you will instead be strapped into the Quizzlertron, and be interviewed by Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735. Expect no fleshy soft peddling and ego-stroking – Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 is hard-hitting interviewer. Expect Frost/Nixon style hardball, human! Be warned –any deviation from the truth will result in severe electric shocks to the balls, nipples and brain. You have been warned fleshy one. Now on with interview good times, yes sir!
Section 1: Secret Origin
1) First question, simple. Or is it hard? YOU DECIDE FLESHY ONE. Why comics?
BG – It was a decision that I made before I remember making it. My mom says that when I was Seven I announced that I was going to do comics for a living. Past that incredibly well thought out life choice comics has been amazingly rewarding, there’s so much that can be done when you consider what’s possible in mixing words and images and how much of it is still so untapped. My big fear is not doing nearly as much as could be done with it. I feel like I’m on a comic book continent and I’ve just explored the coast but behind me is miles and miles of untapped mysteries. Tell me Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735, have you ever really loved a woman? You’ve got to know her deep inside hear her every thought see every dream and give her wings if she wants to fly…
2) What comics inspired you to become a creator? What about beyond comics? Or were you one of those brain-damaged humans who did not expose their mind parts to other stimulus?
BG - There was a lot of Asterix and Tintin books around when I was a kid, and I remember my Dad having Furry Freak brothers comics –with lots of scenes of them all getting STDs from the same hippy girl or having to do all the drugs in the house when they thought the Fuzz was at the door. Also I remember the STAR comics Planet Terry from when I was a kid. It was a kind of Richy Rich/Casper style story about a kid in space who was looking for his parents that he didn’t remember meeting. Every issue would end with it looking like he’d found them followed by disappointment the next month. And then later I got into Manga and more French comics when I was a teenager and that opened things up. My Older brother’s collection was a huge influence on me, he had a lot of Moebius and Matt howarth– Howarth in the 80’s was pushing what could be done in comics like nuts! Shirow was always huge with me, and Fil Barlow, who I’ve been lucky enough to get to know recently. It’s surreal.
Beyond comics, I grew up on lots of sci fi & fantasy in other mediums. I liked Red Dwarf and the British Avengers a lot as a kid, All kinds of books mostly Sci fi early on–Neromancerrrr. And then later hip hop is/was a big deal to me.
3) Some of your earliest published comics work was porno sexy times comics Pillow Fight. How come? Did you have an interest in creating something artistic in a generally disrespected genre (like Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights). Or was it dollar make you holler, fleshy one? (Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 does not care either way – it only finds hard drives sexy. And the robot from Rocky IV)
BG – A couple of the publishers I was dealing with would test new artists by having them do porn shorts. So Radio comix had me do my first porn comic. I have such a clear memory of me saying “it not being my thing but –ok I’ll try it.” And then later and even now porn comics are such a part of my comic book–DNA. My first porn story was called Paris Paris and I based the title character off of Australian singer-songwriter Natalie Imbruglia–so it must’ve been in the mid or late 90‘s. I was on a kick where I’d just realized that you don’t have to create everything you put on a page, how you can pull anything from the world around you. I had this idea that I wanted to do comics that felt “big budget”.
It felt like in the 90’s a lot of the books that were making the most money and had the most money put into them felt kind of small budget –almost like B movies. But then you see something like AKIRA and it’s huge, but it’s not like they’re fucking filming on location it’s just about a dude putting in the work. It’s Otomo’s fucking 300 Million dollar brain. Anyway as awful as it is to relate comics to movies, that was my mood at the time. I also thought it was funny to do stuff like the Imbruglia character. It never occurred to me how morally reprehensible it might be to see a real lady and draw porn of her. I mean, I did it with people in my life too. I think It was also just that kick of “ANYTHING CAN GO IN A COMIC” and at 20 years old many of my fondest hopes and dreams seemed to point to naked ladies.
4) Did you self-publish any comics before getting published? Did you do the con-circuit? Or did you sleep your way to the top?
BG - I used to make a lot of photocopied comics to sell at shows and give to friends. As far as getting published, I sent a ton of submissions to every place whose address I could find and I went to a lot of local Seattle cons. So I could learn early on that I don’t like everyone who does what I do. I managed to mostly avoid sleeping with anyone in comics, I remember being worried when I was living in NYC about not mixing who I dated and who was in comics. It’s funny to me in retrospect how little that would’ve hurt my career. And then I go and end up marrying a lady whose made some comics(my dear sweet Marian Churchland)– so there’s that.
5) Tell me about your childhood…Ha ha, not really! Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 is not your psychiatrist!
BG - Your heart is 00.743 sizes too small Narratorbot X-15735
Section 2: The Work
1) King City is somewhat your signature work. It had a long genesis and publishing history. How do you feel about it now, as a complete work?
BG – I like King city. There’s parts in it that came out better than I’d hoped. It’s kind of my time capsule of what I was going through and thinking about while working on it. Sometimes I long for those days of abject poverty and loneliness it was good grist for the mill. These days I’m all happy, so much harder to plumb the depths or maybe it’s just different now. I’ve tried to work on some things in my art/writing since KC, but I don’t think that detracts from what it is. It is what it is.
2) Your new comic is Multiple Warheads. Characters have already appeared in one of your sexy times comics (featuring sex with a strap on werewolf johnson – that is a new one to Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735) Can you please tell us about the new series?
BG - By now 3 issues are out but, it’s mostly an excuse for me to make up a fantasy sci fi version of Russia and then mess around in it. The idea is that their world is like if the time line of fairy tale made it up into the 1980’s –so they have cars and radios along with Sphinxes and dragons. It follows a woman named Sexica, who’s a recently retired organ smuggler. ( A joke job title when it was a porn comic) She moves black market magic organs. Her boyfriend is a Werewolf named Nikoli–with 2 penises 1) wolf and 2) dude. And then there’s another character named Blue Nura who is a bounty hunter woman carrying around a severed head and looking for it’s escaped body.
3) Is Multiple Warheads ongoing or limited series?
BG - It’s an ongoing series of mini series. I’m planning on releasing 3-5 issues whenever I get a new chunk of issues done. That way I don’t have to worry about deadlines as much and can take my time messing around with the pages. The joke stuff always takes a little more time for me than books like Prophet. I feel like anything where a specific emotion has to be hit is more work– like horror comics or humour. I guess I’m trying to say: Diehard is easy comedy is hard.
4) Prophet is a comic you write primarily (although Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 did enjoy the issue you drew with the robot in it very much). How do you find writing as opposed to writing/drawing. Is it hard to hand the keys to the car to someone else?
BG – It’s been a good experience, It’s fun to be the captain of the good ship Prophet. I get to play around on more pages in less time. In my own work I’m used to doing like 3 or 4 pages a week and now on Prophet I spend less than a week figuring out each issue. and it’s been fun back and forthing the work with Simon, Giannis, Farel, Joseph and Ed a lot of the work I do feel more editorial than writing. But it all goes into how the final book reads. I do a lot of grabbing the keys back with working on layouts and helping Joseph on coloring. I’ve been messing with planning what color schemes Joseph might do on the pages in my layouts–so I‘m planning a scene to be in blues or reds from the start. I always thought a flaw in mainstream collaborative comics was that everyone might be working to make their part the most impressive part so you get less of a unified vision. I remember an old room mate of mine who was an inker working on pages without reading the script. I’m sure he was trying to make the lines pretty but man that cannot help the book read well.
One thing is working as just a writer has got me a little sour on the slant towards writers in current comics and that’s not to take away from how important writing is and how many great just writers there are in comics (although I wish there were more). It seems like a lot of it is a reaction to the Image guys getting bigger than companies in the 90’s just being able to walk away. So those publishers don’t want to make star artists anymore. I’d love to see things get more equal where there were as many books put out by single creators as there are by teams or if not as many books as many creators who are writer/artists. Thing is, I don’t think you can draw comics well and not be able to tell a story. So on that level everyone who draws comics is a writer, and maybe some might be weak at dialog or whatever–but I get this idea that showing that you can draw is almost an indication to some people that you can’t write. I know this is just more mainstream stuff I’m talking about, but I guess I’d like all of comics to get more Indy in that sense. And I get that guys who don’t draw can put out more books a month but I feel like one of the things that draws me to this medium is that you can get a single vision from a single creator. So yeah, collaborative comics are great and fine I just wish it was less of the norm.
5) What gave you the idea to take the Liefield characters in such a radical direction? What appeals to you about John Prophet?
BG - One of the things I like so much about working on the book is the idea of taking these Liefeld characters and thinking about why they are how they are. I really enjoy a kind of GI joe logic a lot of his stuff has., like how in GI Joe the villains–COBRA! Would make secret hidden bases look like 200 foot tall snakes. There’s a joy in trying to make sense of that as an adult. Like– “Troll fought in the American war for independence, what does that say about him– and how would he feel about a clone human society 10thousand years into the future” — and I’m having these conversations with Simon Roy –with deadly serious looks on our faces like we’re doing a bank heist. It’s fun to try to boil the character down to what Prophet would be like if he was vat grown to be a good soldier and how that would shape the personalities and the culture of the Prophets- especially when there’s not any non Prophet Earth Empire society left.
6) Prophet is fantastic poetic gnarly psychedelic sci-fi. Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 assumes you are big fan of Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant?
BG – You’re a nice Narratorbot X-15735. Yeah, Heavy metal was a big deal to me– more so just guys like Moebius and Bilal and Manara that were in it. I really liked Adamov’s the Waters of Deadmoon. That one is fun. Post apocalyptic French aristocrats.
7) You seem to have chosen to work outside of the Big Two, with work for Tokyo Pop, Image etc. What appeals about independent publishers?
BG – It’s almost more about what doesn’t appeal to me about the big two. Image is an amazing company and Stephenson’s backing of my work has been huge for me. It’s all set up as total freedom to do whatever I feel like with access to production and marketing people to help me get the stuff out. My thing with mainstream companies is it bugs me that they’ve shit on so many creators and are still seen by the general comics community as nothing but positive to work for. I care about how Kirby or Alan Moore were treated and I think it affects how I’ll get treated working in comics –I’m pretty loud about my fuck Marvel and DC stance but it’s not just for the “fuck those guys” of it. Part of it for me is that they do pay really, really well & have a built-in audience that might move with you to creator owned work– sooo tempting.
So I’m setting myself traps. So I know I’ll look like a giant hypocrite if I ever decide that Marvel or DC aren’t so bad. I know most of these people who I’d meet working at those companies would seem really nice and it wouldn’t seem so bad. I have friends and creators who I respect who work there now. Paul Pope’s reason why he did a Before Watchmen cover was that his pal Mark Chiarello asked him to and he doesn’t know Moore. And I’ve met Chiarello, and I really liked him at the time. He‘s smart and talented and really knows comics. but I think his involvement in Before Watchmen is awful, and I’m glad he’s not my pal so I‘m not in a position where my friendship with him might blur his gross actions “Oh it’s just Mark–helping to trample on another creator’s wishes”.
The other reason is that I want to be loud, is on the off chance that anyone looks up to my work and wants to get into comics I’m maybe setting that seed in their brain that it’s not cool to keep propping up Wolverine or Batman for Disney & time Warner. Without hiring the best and brightest these publishers have nothing. Batman without Frank Miller was a lot less cool. I can only see it as a good thing if it was thought of as kind of lame to work there. But this isn’t me asking for a reader ban on X men or whatever, I was buying Emma Rios Spider man comics when they came out. And I think it’d be stupid to tell people what not to read. This is me trying to stick to my own ideals.
8) You build well realised and detailed worlds to set your comics in. Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 likes details and things that fit together nicely. Do you enjoy creating these places?
BG – Yeah.
9) Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 likes rules. What are you r rules for creating comics? If you do not have rules Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 will presume you to be an anarchist and will proceed with the electrocution yes sir!
BG - I have things I don’t like but I’m sure there’s exceptions to everything. It bugs me when people use computer blur effects to show movement. I generally don’t like it when I see someone doing lazy shortcuts –photo backgrounds or reusing the same panels, especially if it’s someone’s face. I think intent has a lot to do with what works though. Personally I love the idea of photo covers and working photos into pages, but I think that stuff has a bad rap. (Puff Daddy) 10) Are there any mainstream characters you would like to work on? I like Power pack and the 80‘s new Mutants but ya know see question #7.
11) What work have you got coming up other than Prophet and Multiple Warheads? Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 is hoping that you do Archie comic.
BG - Archie is like Cherry poptart with the sex scenes taken out. For the most part I hate things set in high schools (with the exception of the movie Brick–I liked that one) I think it’s that I didn’t go to high school so I miss all the ins and outs of that stuff. Yeah, I’ve got a couple other things I’m working on. I’ve got a sketchbook called Walrus that PictureBox is putting out soon and I’m working on another short for DHP about a guy who lives in city that’s inside a giant robot. And also my pal Marley Zarcone and me are working on a 4 issues thing about witches and crows.
Section 3: The Craft
1) How do you work? Is it pencils/inks or do you work straight onto computers? Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 wants to know how you get your lines so damn smooth???
BG – Mechanical pencils on cheap Bristol and then I ink with Micron Pigma pens #3‘s and #5‘s. I color most of my stuff in photoshop these days, it just allows for more control in how it looks printed. My lines are smooth because I make sounds while I draw—”wOOOOoooooosh!”
2) Do you write full script, and thumbnails or is there an element of freestyle with the storytelling? Do you always know the endings of your stories.
BG - I like to break down scenes into how many pages I think it will take to show. And then layout a couple pages at a time and draw and color them before moving onto to the next scene. I lot of it is just as I go. There’s a level of confidence or cockiness that I aim for, a point where I believe that I can do great work so hopefully I try new things and don‘t 2nd guess myself. My misses talks about it as “being able to fully commit to the work.” I usually go into stuff with an idea of where it’ll go but I like the option of changing it. I always describe it like running around a room trying to keep a broom balanced on the palm of your hand. I have to adjust for things as I go.
3) How disciplined are you with work? Is it like 9-5 or do you burn midnight oil?
BG - I feel like the trick is to scam myself into not knowing what is work and what is me having fun. The deadlines kind of push it, I tend to stay up all night when I know something is due. My schedule gets real weird. Me and my misses have separate places so it’s really easy for me to get into a thing where I’m waking up at 4 or 6 and not knowing if it‘s am or pm. Some days I only work a couple hours but I don’t take many days off, it’s kind of a slow and steady.
4) Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 is awake always and does not stop working ever, but suspects you as a fleshy one need to partake in leisure activities. What do you do to unwind?
BG - I’m trying to figure out that part of life still. My pal Stokoe is always trying to talk me into getting a hobby, he paints war hammer figures and plays video games. For good or bad what I do is kind of what I do. I like to walk around the city and hang out with my misses. I read a lot and I’m really into rap music but it all feels like it goes into the comics.
5) Do you listen to stuff while you work, or just listen to servos hum, like Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735?
BG - Ya, lots of music and audio books. podcasts. (SILENCE!!) I really like having an audio book that I’m enjoying and a big drawing that has a lot of lines that need to be drawn. I feel like that’s a good way to keep me at my desk. Recently It’s been some old horror radio shows, there’s this one called- Quiet please that I’ve been going through.
6) Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 loves the colouring of Multiple Warheads. Has animation cell purity. Do you like working in colour?
BG – Yeah, color is great. Doing full color comics was never something I planned on doing but it opens a lot of new possibilities up. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to full black and white comics. In the next issue of Prophet we’ve got a robot that speaks in green balloon and then she splits into 2 robots –one that speaks in yellow and one in blue. That kind of stuff can be fun to mess around with.
7) Your work seems to be influenced by many things – graffiti, manga, European comics – yet you have very fully formed, unique style. Did you have to work on it to find a style you were comfortable with?
Thanks. I don’t think I ever thought about it too much. I guess I hope the manga influence tempers some of the Moebius influence. There’s just so much cool stuff to pull from out there. With Prophet I always talk about how each artists style in how they Prophet they’re drawing sees the world –but I think that’s almost how an art style should work. This is how I see things or maybe just a gumbo of what I like visually– and then there’s shit that just pops up in the work that you can’t control. I like how much you can tell about a person by studying their comics. You can psychoanalyze a creator through the work. It shows a lot.
8) What’s with the puns?
BG - I always liked word play. My dad used to say things that amused me as a kid like “Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends” I like the line “she offered me her honour, so I honoured her offer and I was on her and off her all night. “ I also like when a pun is kind of invisible in a sentence but still works-It feels like a hidden code to me. When I discovered stuff like Marx brothers movies and later good rap music, it felt like it added depth to the work.
9) Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 wants to get into the comics industry. Do you have any advice?
BG - Hmmm I had more luck getting into comics when I stopped trying so hard to get into comics. There’s the internet these days so anyone with access to that has the ability to get the work out there and get people to read it. It democratizes things nicely. I guess the main thing is to focus on the work and if money comes then cool but you have to be ok doing the work anyway if you never saw a dime from it.
Section 4: Miscellany
1) Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 heard that you came here to do two things – chew bugglegum and kick ass. And now you are all out of bugglegum. Is this true?
BG - I always had the idea that They live was influenced by the Moebius story Rock city. They both have the same destroying a dish on a rooftop ending. 2) What is the best film you have seen recently? I saw the Swedish Girl with the dragon tattoo movie this week, it was ok. I liked the actress who played the main lady. And I’ve been rewatching the terminator TV show, that’s one of my favourite things ever.
3) What is the best comic you have read recently?
BG - Nausicaa and Dungeon have been really good. And TJ and Amal: tjandamal.com I also like seeing what my friends are up to –Stokoe just drew this insane giant Orc stain page or I just hung out with Emily Carroll and saw the new pages she’s working on for her collection of horror stories. And I just read Natasha Allegri’s Fionna and Cake Adventure time comic, I liked that one a lot.
4) What is the best dinner you have eaten recently?
BG - I stayed up all night recently and went out with my misses to a good sushi place for box lunch. I was into anime and Manga as a kid and always avoided sushi because I was around friends who were obsessed with all aspects of Japanese culture, I felt like I needed a line in the sand. So when I hit 30 and I stopped trying to be cool I found out that I really like the stuff. –and I like that you can get it in little boxes with inner boxes for each thing you’re eating.
5) What is the best?
BG – The “those weren’t fathers those were mothers” line Dom DeLuise says about the guys dressed as priests who fuck up his car in Cannonball run.
6) You are friends with talented fleshy one orc creator James Stokoe. Who else do you like in the industry? Whose work do you admire?
BG - Like I said, Emily Carroll is a good pal of mine, Stokoe’s wife Marley, all the guys on Prophet are solid (although I have yet to meet Giannis in person) I’m friends with Joe Keatinge (and Joe was a huge part in getting KC to Image) and Ross Campbell who do Glory. Jeeze there’s a lot, my Meathaus gang (a nyc anthology I was part of) with Tom Herpich, Tomer Hanuka, Farel, Chris Mc D, Becky Cloonan (who helped KC find a publisher at TokyoPop) Not MH but a pal of mine from NY Lesean Thomas. (Who mostly does animation) My Dicecat gang in Seattle –Corey Lewis, Moritat is kind of like the comic book godfather of a lot of my pals & has helped me out a ton. Sheldon Vella who works on that TMNT cartoon now.– this is just me name dropping now.
Creators I admire , I like Carla Speed McNeil, Adam Warren, Craig Thompson is cool. Emma Rios has been really impressing me. And there’s an artists that Keatinge has been working with named Ricken whose work is amazing. James Harren is doing some fantastic work– all the BPRD guys are killing it. . Ron Wimbrly or D-pi , Pope is a big influence. I like what Deforge does, and Matt Sheean and MalachI Ward. Fil Barlow Hmm I’m probably forgetting a lot.
7) How can you be sure that what you see is the same as everyone else?
BG - I dunno if that’s something I need to be sure of, I kind of assume through whatever different brain chemistry and life experience that different people can see the world pretty differently. I think about that in relation to comics, how to get what someone is saying you sometimes have to be coming from a similar place or at least be willing to dig into what their experiences are. I think about when I was a teenager the first rap I got into was stuff like Tribe called quest, De la soul stuff that you can play for someone who listens to the Beatles and have them see value in it. But the first time I heard KRS ONE I didn’t know what to think of him and only a couple years later when I was more knowledgeable about the stuff could I see the value in it –and now KRS is one of artists whose work I’ve gotten the most out of. I had the same kind of experience hearing Merle Haggard’s stuff too.
8) If you could turn back time, if you could find a way, would you take back those words that hurt me?
BG - I don’t know why I did the things I did Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735, I don’t know why I said the things I said. Pride’s like a knife and it can cut deep inside.
The Final Question
1) Sadat X once asked ‘Rugged Man what’s the lesson for the day?’. So now Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 asks you – Brandon Graham, what’s the lesson for the day?
BG – I feel it’s important to remember to have as much fun with what you do. But it’s weird how the stuff that really pays off in fun can sometimes be the hardest to get yourself to do. Also take risks, it’s ok to sometimes fuck up. And Today’s secret word is: Percolate
Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 would like to thank the fleshy one Brandon Graham for his time. Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 also suggests that if you haven’t already you run out and buy the current issues of Multiple Warheads and Prophet. Then buy the back issues. Then also buy King City. And if your rhubarb is feeling stout why not also get a copy of Pillow Fight? Further information on all these and lots more can be gleaned from Mr Graham’s excellent website.
Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 will no doubt be forcing another fleshy one into The Quizzlertron soon, and perhaps they will not have such an easy time of it…Keep yourself tuned to the missing channel.