In case you missed it;
THE INTERVIEW: 13 QUESTIONS W/ BRIAN WOOD
Brian Wood graciously agreed to an interview during the hectic days prior to his appearance at the New York Comic Con
and in the immediate wake of DC Entertainment’s restructuring announcements. It made for a fun and unexpected way to epilogue THE BRIAN WOOD PROJECT. Enjoy!
I’ve read so many interviews with you that it’s a little daunting to come up with an original question. I know you didn’t get into comics until your college years at Parsons, right? So, when you were a kid what did you want to do when you grew up?
I think at varying points, a veterinarian, a pro-skateboarder and then a pro-snowboarder, typical youth stuff. But I always drew pictures, and it seemed a foregone conclusion that I would go to art school, even if it was deferred for several years. But aside from a general idea of what an artist might do for a living (if anything) I was pretty clueless.
When I turned 20 I got an advance on this pitiful inheritance I was due at 21, and used it to move to NYC. Somewhere around there I discovered HATE, the Peter Bagge comic, in association with the rise of grunge rock, which I was pretty into at the time (1991-ish). Comics were still not anything I thought I could do, at least not until I stumbled across VIOLENT CASES, that Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean comic. That book, specifically the artwork, seemed impossibly futuristic. I would look at a page and not have the slightest clue how a human being could produce images like that, but I knew I wanted to find out. This was the year I was applying to art schools and comics were becoming something I was paying attention to. Not until sophomore year, though, when I walked into St. Marks Comics in search of more McKean and found a whole row of Vertigo comics, did I basically decide this was something that was for me. Strictly speaking artwork, at this point. Writing came much, much later.
What’s your reaction to THE BRIAN WOOD PROJECT in general, and specifically on the premise of identity being the thematic link in your body of work?
It's flattering. I know you didn't write it for me, and I sorta hesitate to comment on it. I'm glad there are people like you out there who put this level of thought and consideration into comics. There are too many others who seem to enjoy being negative just to be negative.
I’ve tried to define and catalogue a number of your writing characteristics; are any of those traits conscious decisions, or are they just part of your inherent style?
It's not conscious. I realized the identity thing only a short time before you started to, but I didn't really examine it too deeply. I am not a self-analytical person, when it comes to my creative endeavors. I tend to prefer to go with my gut, for better or for worse. I look at other creators like Fraction or Warren Ellis, who will talk and write at length about their process, about panel counts and beats and formats, and that's just not something I ever really do. It's very much an internal process.
How do you feel about this crazy DEMO: VOLUME THREE prediction, that it could be the ninth work in your POST-MODERN period, landing some time around 2016?
It's not crazy... I mean, I dunno if there will ever be a DEMO 3. I think if/when I work with Becky again, we might be better served coming up with something new. But I will say that I have a half-dozen comics proposals sitting right here and they all belong, in a sense, to each other. I wrote them all thinking about my post-DMZ career, and they all reflect what I'm in to now. If even three of these six or seven get produced, in retrospect, they will absolutely be part of a conceptual whole, a period of my career. I hope I can see all of these projects to fruition.
I’ve seen you asked the standard question “what artists do you want to work with?” But, I’d like to flip it around. Having co-wrote with Warren Ellis, is there anyone you’d like to write with, or are you at a point where the idea of inviting someone in to co-write a project interests you at all?
David Lapham. I've been thinking about this! I don't think my temperament is one that lends itself so well to collaboration - see my "internal process" comment above. I don't "jam" or kick around ideas with the artists I work with. BUT, I think there can be an interesting way to make it work, for me. I love David's work, I'm jealous of it in so many ways, and I would love to be a part of his creative process, to witness it and share in it a little bit. I'm still not 100% sure how the nuts and bolts of that would work, but I hope to give it a shot.
If you’re not tired of talking about WildStorm yet, with DV8 being so well received, how did the recent news of the end of the imprint hit you? For what it’s worth, I saw a few comment threads repeatedly citing “Brian Wood’s DV8” as an example of there still being life left in these characters.
I was sad, still am, for a lot of reasons. It was bad, devastating news for the people who work at and for Wildstorm, and I also think that there is absolutely life in that collection of characters. As much as in anything else, and perhaps more so, since its so much younger than the DC and Marvel catalogs. I don't really know what else to say. Somewhere in the Wildstorm offices sits proposals I wrote for a great many books that will now never see the light of day. I'm bummed about that. Beyond that I really hope I can work with my editor Ben Abernathy again someday.
I know it hasn’t wrapped yet, so perhaps some of the intelligent design elements will out by the end, but did you intend DV8 to be deconstructionist in nature or is that just a happy story byproduct that I’m picking up on?
I really just love those characters, how fucked up they all are, the inconsistencies, the contradictions, and flaws built in to them. It sounds a little dorky, but I really just wanted to celebrate them, to show to as many people as I can reach what I saw in them. The deconstructionist bit may just be what happens when someone like me, who is a stranger/outsider to the superhero genre, writes one of those books. I dunno. I wrote a bit about that in the last Demo essay
, about my relationship with that genre. Anyway, it wasn't intentional in the sense that it was a stated goal of the series.You’ve long been an advocate of an arts-first, creator-owned approach, so on the rare occasion you do work on a company owned project, what’s the thought process that leads you there?
Only if it feels right, if it makes sense with my larger body of work. DV8 obviously does, as you would agree. I don't want to do company-owned work for the hell of it, just for some quick money or to mark time, at least if I can help it. It should be work that appeals to my readership, that doesn't take up too much time, that I can genuinely get behind and put myself into. I think you'll probably see more company work from me in the next few years than you saw in the last, as DV8 sorta broke the ice, but it really has to be in the minority. I don't want to be a creator who does four company books in order to keep one creator-owned one alive. It should be the other way around, ideally, right?
I know Kirkman caught a lot of flak for his manifesto video about creating original works… whatever you saw online in terms of negative reactions, Justin, you have no idea the intense level of anger within the creator community to it. I agree with Kirkman, though, and it’s not anything that I haven't seen others publicly say. Brian K Vaughn, I remember, wrote something online to a similar effect when Y ended.
I don't have anything against company work, or against anyone that does it. But I do put it in what I feel should be its proper place, and that will always come second to original work.
Do you consciously create a “career plan?” What does the future hold for the industry in general, and where do you see yourself in another 13 years?
Christ, you wouldn't believe to what degree I consider and plan. Everything is mapped out, and as a result, everything I've wanted to do or wanted to happen has come to pass, from working with certain people, to what projects follow other projects, to my DC exclusive (something I set my sights on about three years before it actually came to pass). I credit this with, in part, my ability to build a career on creator-owned work. It took me a lot longer, but it was all completely on my own terms and exactly how I wanted it.
In another 13 years I'll be 50, and I literally can't fathom that, can't imagine what I'll be like at that age. Fifty! I hope I'll still be making books... all I've ever wanted to do was make books. It's easy to be tempted by videogame work, or to try and write for TV and film, and I've dabbled a bit. But I'm not one of, and don't want to be one of, those comic book creators openly lusting after big (or small) screen work. Books will always be my first priority. Anything else I do end up doing should be in service of that, done to support that.
You and I have talked before about how someone like Jason Aaron can just absolutely tear it up in every issue of SCALPED. What other writers or books are you impressed by at the moment?
I don't read a lot of comics. I'll follow writers or artists I know and like, like Jason, and Warren Ellis, David Lapham and so on. I get most of my kicks from manga these days, with Detroit Metal City currently at the top of the list. There is a fearlessness to most manga that I am very envious of, and very near the top of my personal short list of Things To Change About Comics is to create an environment where more people can have the freedom to be that fearless in the American industry, and be rewarded for it.
I’m from Silicon Valley, so various aspects of the tech culture still fascinate me. How has social networking and the web in general affected your career?
Its hard to answer only because I've not had a career at a time when the web WASN'T a big part of it. I got my Delphi forum around the same time Warren Ellis did, in 1997 or so. In terms of outreach, press, finding and then communicating with my collaborators, it's just a given. I don't know how I would do what I do without it. I wouldn't have found Becky, Riccardo, Kristian Donaldson, etc.
What’s next, Brian? I know you have some big announcements coming up in the near future, but is there anything you want to tease or hint at?
I don't know. I don't know how to tease it out. I think I can say that I have a book that is probably officially approved that is slated to replace DMZ… not in the sense of a sequel or anything like that, but literally… the next long form monthly book to fill the space in the schedule as DMZ comes to a close a year from now. But it’s not entirely dissimilar to DMZ. I think it does for environmentalism and disaster fiction what DMZ did for urban war and politics. There is another project that is so close to my heart that it can, at times, cause me physical pain because I want to write it SO BAD and I cannot get the relevant people to like my proposal! This is a project I will fund personally and self-publish if I have to. I don't even want to breathe a word of it aloud, though.
Last question, and you’ll have to play along, but let’s say you’re wrongly accused of a horrible crime and receive the death penalty. What’s your proverbial last meal consist of? Dazzle us with your insider foodie knowledge and favorite spots in New York. Don’t hold out on me man, I’ll hurt somebody for the right Greek food.
Isn't it the case that everyone's last meal is always a very simple one? Wouldn't the very best homemade mac and cheese always trump a tasting menu at Momofuku, in that situation? That said, if I had to order out for my final meal, it would be a toss-up between the warm lemongrass chicken salad at Rice and the schnitzel and potatoes at Cafe Steinhof. Simple stuff.