Brandon Graham is a maverick. He is most famous for his work on 2009’s King City, but has worked in comics since the 1990s, getting his start in sequential porn before moving into work for Dark Horse, Oni Press, and Image Comics. Known for his clever wit, graffiti-inspired illustration style, and fascination with butts, Graham has carved a niche for himself in the industry that he uses as a platform to explore artistic styles and subjects rarely seen in mainstream American comics. He is currently finishing a run on Rob Liefeld’s Prophet and is about to launch two new Image series. 8House is a fantasy series that features a different creative team in each issue telling short stories that combine to form a cohesive universe. Island is an anthology series that is being curated by Brandon and is designed to reintroduce audiences to the dying art of the comics Zine.
The Beat recently sat down to talk to Brandon about his influences, his work, and what he hopes to accomplish in the years to come.
Alex Lu: King City was one of the first books I read when I was getting into comics. My favorite thing about it was the inordinate number of puns in the story. Do you keep a journal full of them?
Brandon Graham: Oh yeah, it’s obscene how many bad puns made it into that book. I do keep a journal full of jokes and things that make it into the comic, but it’s not necessarily planned. I used to work very hard at making sure I had enough jokes per page, but it wasn’t the most fun way to work so I toned it down.
I used to have a system for making jokes and making puns. More recently, I was trying to find different ways to do humor. I would study Rumiko Takahashi comics, see how she structures her humor, and then try to emulate that. That influence played into the Multiple Warheads series. In doing these non-pun based humor, sometimes the puns would just come in naturally, whereas in King City I’d make lists of possible jokes I could make. I did that a lot, but I didn’t want to keep doing it in everything I did.
Lu: How’s it been working on Prophet, simply being the writer as opposed to playing the role of the artist as well?
Graham: It’s a very different experience. The humor there is much more subtle, as it’s not meant to be a humorous book. That makes it faster to write, and it’s been a really good learning process to collaborate with different people and collaborate on a monthly comic.
Lu: How did you script Prophet?
Graham: A lot of the stuff is just me thumbnailing it– just doing a rough version of the comic, handing them a copy, and letting them do their own versions of the pages. The back of some of the volumes have those rough thumbnails in them. Sometimes I’d even do them in full color.
Lu: Did you find your collaborators sticking to your roughs or deviating from them dramatically?
Graham: It depends on the artist. When I work with my wife, Marian, she doesn’t like me to do layouts. She just likes me to tell her what happens on the page. However, a lot of the guys on Prophet preferred that I did the layouts so they could come in and not have to think about a page too much. They’d just rework it if they had a better idea.
Lu: When Prophet wraps, do you plan on doing more work that’s strictly based in writing, or will you transition back to doing art as well?
Graham: I’m working on doing more illustration. I’m currently doing a magazine, Island, which is an excuse for me to do a lot more short story work and a lot more drawing without a specific sense of place. If I want to do a series of illustrations, now that I have Island I don’t have to worry about finding a home for it. I’m going to be writing five or six issues for the 8House shared fantasy universe each year as well.
Lu: I saw the cover work for 8House. It’s beautiful. How long has that series been in production?
Graham: Quite a while. It’s changed dramatically, but it started as a way to do stuff with some of the Top Cow books. I was going to be doing Pitt, and another team was going to be doing Witchblade. That didn’t work out, but it turned into a new version of itself.
Lu: What’s the basic premise of 8House?
Graham: It basically takes a bunch of creative teams, have them set stories in the same world, and then have them riff off one another. It’ll be interesting to see how teams are influenced by one another, similar to how Marvel and DC have these random books that weren’t originally meant to be part of a shared universe, but have been patched together to form one that people accept.
Prophet was very strict about how the universe worked but 8House is more open. Different stories can be told from different perspectives and they’ll almost feel like they’re in different worlds. It’ll be more like how Fantastic Four and New Gods are in the same universe but feel very different from one another.
Lu: Awesome. And what’s the premise for Island?
Graham: It’s going to be a monthly title put out by Image, 150 pages per issue. It’ll be distributed through comic stores. It’s about an inch larger in width and height from a standard comic. A lot of the production process involved me thinking about what I wanted to read in an anthology as well as why I didn’t often read anthologies.
A part of it was making sure it felt like a bundle of comics than an anthology. None of the stories are shorter than 20 pages, and some are up to 50 or 60 pages. You pay for this $8.00 book and you get 3 or 4 entire comics, so it’s slightly cheaper than just buying individual issues.
It’s also carefully curated, so if you like one or two artists in the issue you’ll like the other two as well. There’s nothing in there I wouldn’t buy myself, and I’ve been very particular about not playing politics and picking people specifically for their names. I go after quality work.
Lu: So how do you pick the group that ends up in each issue?
Graham: I’m always digging up artists whose work I am excited about, and there’s a huge amount of work that doesn’t get the exposure it deserves. A lot of people stick to specific publishers or genres, and that’s true even in places like Image. I come from a different background from a lot of their creators, so I wanted to bring in creators that I feel more in tune with.
I’m even putting some lesser known older work into Island. There’s a 1986 six issue comic published by Eclipse called Zooniverse that I fell in love with when I was eleven. That’s getting reprinted in Island. There’s also a British small press comic by an artist named Lando called Island 3 that’s only been printed in small press zine format in England that we’ll be printing and bringing to a mass audience.
Lu: It’s pretty unique to have a zine in the modern American comic book industry nowadays, isn’t it?
Graham: Well, you have stuff like Dark Horse Presents… but those stories often feel like they’re intended for different audiences. I’m not trying to do this specifically, but I am trying out untested people. There are new creators in Island, but there are also creators like Emma Ríos (Pretty Deadly) who are coming in and doing their own writing.
Most of the work is single creator– written, drawn, and colored by them. If a writer is in Island, I’ll have them do prose or write an essay. Kelly Sue DeConnick wrote an article in the first issue about a poet who deeply influences her. It’s stuff you wouldn’t see in a normal comic book.
Lu: What’s your hope for Island?
Graham: Well, I hope people are just as excited for it as I am. One of the great things about comics right now is that people that are being given the freedom to do whatever they want at publishers have the opportunity to shape how the industry grows, not only in their work but in the work of people they bring into the industry. If you have a fanbase and people who trust your work, you can tell them to check out the work of someone you admire and help grow the community in that way.
Lu: What specifically has influenced you?
Graham: I used to be strongly influenced by graffiti, but I also did porn comics and it’s all bleeding into my system and becoming something that’s hopefully new. I read a lot, and I’ve been trying to read more novels in order to remind myself that there’s a world outside of comics.
Lu: What are you reading right now?
Graham: I’m reading a Charles Stross book called Saturn’s Children, which is about a sex robot that activates after humanity goes extinct. There’s also Haruki Murakami’s Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which is my favorite book ever. I remember reading that and thinking that this is just a better version of everything I’m trying to do.
Lu: How do you feel about having a distinctive style that’s strongly influenced the development about several other artists?
Graham: It’s always really exciting to see that. I wear my influences on my sleeve so much that I hope it’s a gateway to people tracking down the work of people I’m influenced by like Moebius or Adam Warren. It’s also a little daunting when you see what you can see what you’ve done in something someone has devoted their life to, but ultimately it’s very exciting.
8House: Arclight #1 releases on June 24th, 2015. Island #1 hits stands on July 15th, 2015.
Children’s picture book author, Tonia Allen Gould, wants to crowd-fund an island to bring awareness to the children of Nicaragua who drop out of school, on average, by the sixth grade.
The Finding Corte Magore Project works virtually to connect a global community of students and crowd funders in real time with the plight of educationally and economically repressed Nicaragua. The project incorporates social entrepreneurialism, gamification, and augmented reality and involves showcasing, purchasing and managing, through collective voting processes, one of the country’s own small, yet beautiful islands to create awareness, coupled with sustainable, positive and long-term impact on the country’s people.
Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore Original Musical Score by Robby Armstrong, Copyright (C) Tonia Allen Gould, All Rights Reserved.
New York City, five boroughs boasting nine million people occupying an ever-expanding concrete jungle. The industrial hand has touched almost every inch of the city, leaving even the parks over manicured and uncomfortably structured. There is, however, a lesser known corner that has been uncharacteristically left to regress to its natural state. North Brother Island, a small sliver of land situated off the southern coast of the Bronx, once housed Riverside Hospital, veteran housing, and ultimately a drug rehabilitation center for recovering heroin addicts. In the 1960s the island, once full with New Yorkers, became deserted and nature has been slowly swallowing the remaining structures ever since. Christopher Payne, the photographer behind North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City, was able to access the otherwise prohibited to the public island, and document the incredible phenomenon of the gradual destruction of man’s artificial structures.
North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City: Photographs by Christopher Payne, A History by Randall Mason, and Essay by Robert Sullivan (A Fordham University Press Publication). Christopher Payne, a photographer based in New York City, specializes in the documentation of America’s vanishing architecture and industrial landscape. Trained as an architect, he has a natural interest in how things are purposefully designed and constructed, and how they work. Randall Mason is Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design. He worked previously at the Getty Conservation Institute, University of Maryland, and Rhode Island School of Design. Robert Sullivan is the author of numerous books, including The Meadowlands: WildernessAdventures at the Edge of a City; Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants; The Thoreau You Don’t Know: The Father of Nature Writers on the Importance of Cities, Finance, and Fooling Around; A Whale Hunt, and, most recently, My American Revolution. His stories and essays have been published in magazines such asNew York, The New Yorker, and A Public Space. He is a contributing editor to Vogue.
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It's one of my favorite times of the year - kids' book awards! I waited with baited breath for the new Printz and Newbury winners and the resulting pile of spanking new stories to discover. I started with the Printz winner, MidwinterBLOOD
, by Marcus Sedgwick, and oh, what delicious fun!
Multiple, seemingly unrelated tales spanning thousands of years but that nevertheless all take place on the same island with two repeating character names slowly reveal themselves as the stories of the multiple lives of two star-crossed lovers that culminate in their final breaths. And even throws in a vampire and a WW II aviator.
This sort of storytelling mesmerizes me. It takes the short story and incorporates it into novel length. It's a two for one that cleverly takes short stories arcs and layers them into a longer, overall novel arc. It's pretty cool how Sedgwick pulls that off. How he takes elements in one story and reworks them, nevertheless expanding and revealing backstory in another about those elements, and the two characters they revolve around.
There were a few stories in the set that I understood less quickly and had to reread, but I'd say this is a reread all the way around, it's that rich with story and new author tools to tell story.
For other stories that will put a spring in your step before we tumble forward this weekend (hopefully out of the snow and into the flowers!) check out Barrie Summy's site
. Happy reading!
by Craig Moodie, author of Into the Trap
Writing Into the Trap allowed me to transform many of the coasts and islands and bodies of water I’ve known into the fictional setting of Fog Island.
Since I was a kid, islands in particular have captivated me. All of the islands I’ve set foot on or seen from the deck of a boat have kept me under their spell. I wish I could tell you about all of them, from Vieques to Cuttyhunk, Bermuda to Barra.
But one that I thought about a lot when I was writing the book was called Dobbins Island. My family was lucky enough to own a 35-foot yawl that we sailed out of Annapolis, Maryland. Sometimes when we cruised we would head into the Magothy River and anchor near Dobbins Island.
It was an uninhabited islet covered with woods and thickets atop steep clay bluffs. Its spindly tangled trees looked like the masts of pirate ships. One time when we rowed ashore for a quick walk along the beach, one of my sisters said it looked like a good stand-in for the setting of Lord of the Flies. It was eerie, quiet and watchful and secretive, and that made me want to explore it all the more. But we had to head back to the boat.
I got another chance one muggy evening when we’d anchored off the island again. After dinner I climbed into the dinghy to head to the island alone. Crossing the smooth water, I spooked myself when I looked over the side to see the dark forms of seaweed just below the surface. I crunched ashore on the orange-ish sand and walked past a steep clay bank pocked with the burrows of swallows. The birds swooped and veered past me. I followed the beach and found a path leading up the bluff into the woods.
The woods was dim and shadowy and hissed with the sound of crickets. The leaves laced together overhead to blot out the light. I hadn’t expected to find such a well-worn path, and I followed it at a trot to reach the far headland. At the edge I pushed through the undergrowth to look out through the foliage over the anchorage, where our boat lay among a few other boats on the serene water. Behind me a blue jay called.
Why I had a feeling I was being watched, I wasn’t sure.
I spun around.
Only the woods lay before me. A blue jay called again. The light was thinning.
I went back down the path to see what was on the other side of the island. The path began to climb toward the other end, tree branches forming a leafy tunnel overhead.
Then I heard a thumping ahead of me.
I stopped to listen, my breathing heaving in my ears.
How close had that sound been?
I moved ahead, slower now.
The sound came again—a thumping of hooves.
I heard rustling in the underbrush.
The path took a sharp turn as it climbed. I came around a bend.
I stopped, my heart jolting, before a pair of large eyes staring at me from the middle of the path. They were the wide-spaced eyes of a goat—a wild goat. The forms of two other goats were behind it. They, too, stared at me.
What was I doing on their island? they seemed to be saying.
I should have known, I realized. Why else would a desert island have such a well-worn network of paths?
The dusk settled deeper as the goats melted into the thicket and vanished into the shadows. How the goats had gotten there I wasn’t sure. Maybe they swam here from the mainland. Maybe their ancestors had survived a shipwr
A humming, a twitter, a buzz, a noise beyond hearing emanated from the deep, dark, depth of the closet.
A puff of air, a small breath of breeze, a flicker of curtains opens a slit of light from a bright moon lit night.
Caught by a moon beam, held by a boy's clear sight, a closet Gnome stands frozen and frightened to move a minute muscle.
Perhaps unnoticed or not believed, perhaps thought to be imagined or seen as night's shadows dancing.
Hoping Mortimer the Gnome wills himself unseen to make himself invisible.
Knowing and now seeing what he knew all along his eyes locked and fixed on this creature of beyond.
The boy Felix stares gluing his eyes refusing to blink scared that his magical creature would disappear.
"You there. I see you. Yes you." And in a breath Felix and Mortimer were side by side, face to face and eye to eye.
"I know some serious magic needs to happen now or I couldn't do this." And with that Felix touches Mortimer with a eruption of faerie dust.
"I know something magical when I see it."
"It is a well known fact that Gnomes live among us unseen. This has been going on for a long, long time and we like it that way. Sometimes people will see us and do not believe it, this happens all the time. You got to be nuts to believe in little people, you need glasses. Well those are the rules and that is just the way it is. Grow up! And go back to sleep I am just a dream. Forget about it."
"Now you touching me like that was out of line. OK OK maybe I do owe you a little magic. And maybe all this Faerie dust is a dead give away."
"Caught in a moon beam; they warn you, they tell you never ever get caught in a moon beam. So I did. Big deal. Or it wouldn't be if you hadn't touched me. Now my whole world is changed. I have to... never mind. Magic is what you want and magic is what you will have."