Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fireside Chat With Ivan Brandon

It’s Weekly Crisis Fireside Chat time. Here we sit and ponder our inner demons amongst the cloud of organic tea steam and other natural herbs that promote thoughts and truth. Today’s willing participant is writer and fellow beard brother, Ivan Brandon. His latest series, Viking, has just been released in a mammoth book that could kill a brown dog.

Today we’ll be discussing beard disguises for facial diseases, how The Daily Show inspires, what to do when Brian Wood pitches a series up against yours, and just what you can do with that Viking cover stock.

Full interview after the jump!

Ivan Brandon has sprung to the fore with his Image series Viking, illustrated by Nic Klein and presented in the larger Golden Age format. He’s worked with Marvel characters in the midst of the Secret Invasion with Home Invasion, and worked within DC’s Final Crisis with Aftermath: Escape. He’s also dabbled in a variety of independent comics.

Ryan K Lindsay: Hey Ivan, a real pleasure to have you by the fire, is it warm enough in here for you, mate?

Ivan Brandon: No.

RKL: I’d offer a man-hug to warm things up but we should keep this professional. I have to address this first, you’ve got a beard (I only bring it up because I too adorn the face rug) and I wanted to know, given other luminaries of the word like Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, the old Matt Fraction, if you thought the hirsute adornment aided you in writing?

Brandon: I use it to hide a flesh eating disease.

RKL: Interesting, my beard only hides insecurity. Ivan, do you have any writing superstitions or rituals that you have to live by?

Brandon: I’m too lazy for superstition. Anything that adds steps to my workday is immediately off the table.

RKL: What does a regular work day for you entail? Talk us through it from start to finish; are there broad swords, sepia toned lithographs of old Presidents, or perhaps dog treats covered in peanut butter?

Brandon: In no particular order, there are a few things I tend to accomplish on any given day. The scripting is the most obvious, this tends to happen in whole scenes and I tend to break after I hit the end of one. New stories get mapped out in very broad strokes. Slightly less new stories become less broad and more ready for other humans to see. If said humans have seen them and disagree, those stories get tighter. If I’m lucky, there’s a full script that’s ready to go out and I send it and cross my fingers that it made as much sense as I thought it did.

What else… on any given day there are assorted bits of absorption… a movie/show/documentary related to what I’m working on…. some reading…. sometimes directly work related (as in reference), sometimes unrelated to spark some kind of reaction. When I hit a wall in a script I can’t get past, I hop in the shower. Or I run. The shower usually does it. Put a call in to an editor or someone else I’m doing writing for outside of comics, usually because without fail though it’s been silent all day my phone’s rung while I’m in the shower. None of this is ever in the same order.

The only thing that I can say I do the same way every day: after I eat breakfast I’ll drink my coffee and watch The Daily Show from the night before. This is my only ritual… it’s how I get my brain to work. I sit there, watch the screen and sip a giant cup until my eyes are all the way open and my brain has straightened out.

RKL: You’ve just wrapped the first arc of Viking, how would you sell it to people waiting for the trade?

Brandon: I’d say: your wait is over, I guess? Honestly Viking is very much a physical sale, I never spoke of the size and format during the solicitation process because there wasn’t really a way to express what was there. Even other writers, friends when I described what I was trying to do, they all thought I was doing everything all wrong until they held it in their hands. I guess I’d say: hold it in your hands. To me, the book is a must buy just for what Nic brings to the table. My words, if someone likes them, those are just gravy.

RKL: Speaking of trades, what are you feelings towards people who waited for the trade with Viking? Would you prefer to get the support in the monthlies or are you happy no matter what so long as they pay the money for the show?

Brandon: Well, Viking more than any of my books was targeted to the singles market… to entice that kind of reader with format and size, show them that there was a reward for indulging the story as a serial. The idea of “happy no matter what”… if a book tanks, there’s no trade, much less the end of a story. I’ve been lucky enough to have a level of success on some of my recent books and they’ve reached that point, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. There is no “happy no matter what”. Because one of those variables is a book that sells abysmally and doesn’t get to issue 3.

Which is not to say I don’t embrace the folks who want to read it in a different format. The hardcover is probably, as an object, my proudest moment in comics. As much as we worked hard to make the issue format special for the folks who read serials, we tried to make the collections AS special for those who don’t.

RKL: Well, the Hardcover, now out, is massive. You’ve compared the size to the large Marvel HC’s over on your blog. How happy are you that Image has gone this extra mile for your little Viking friends?

Brandon: Honestly, Image didn’t know what I was doing, really, until I sent it in. Which is not to take anything away from Image, they’re extremely supportive of my crazy ideas, but they’re all my crazy ideas. For good or for ill, when you see something like that you can be assured it’s me being unreasonable.

RKL: Now, you’ve decided to title the first five issues of Viking a season, why is that? Will there be a break before the next season? How do you plan on releasing the title in the future?

Brandon: It’s structured as a season and yes, the season ends and there’s no new episode the next month. The next season’s form isn’t ready to be revealed yet.

RKL: In an essay at the back of the first issue, you said you got the ball rolling on Viking way back in 2005, how did you feel when Northlanders began in 2007? Did you know anything about it before it saw print?

Brandon: The books were pitched around the same time so I knew it existed. I didn’t know much beyond that, I was talking to Vertigo about possibly creating a new series for them and I mentioned my Viking story and was told they’d already been pitched another by Brian Wood. At that point I was already so invested in what I was trying to do I just put my head down and got back to work.

RKL: And we’re certainly glad you did. What sparked the impetus for Viking? Are Vikings an old passion for you or did something catch your eye?

Brandon: I wish I could point to a single holy grail moment, but honestly it was a confluence of a million different things that are mostly unexciting on their own. More than anything, I wanted to do a period piece that didn’t feel like a period piece.

RKL: Nic Klein’s art for the series seems to vary between paint and the usual comic style, what sort of direction do you give him with scripts?

Brandon: I don’t give him any art direction in the script. I try to really make the moment clear to him, my intent in a scene, the emotion of the characters… the rest is Nic’s creativity.

RKL: What have been the favourite things for you to see Nic illustrate for the series?

Brandon: The kitten.

RKL: Ha, good choice. You have also said previously that you worked hard to make Viking a $2.99 comic, why was that?

Brandon: I wanted it to be easy for people to get their hands on.

RKL: That’s very nice of you. Is there a soundtrack to the creation of Viking and what does it consist of?

Brandon: The beating of my heart. There is also the sound of a ceiling fan.

RKL: Do you have much more in the way of notes, or scripts, for future Viking issues?

Brandon: Plenty more.

RKL: You seem to have toed the line between Marvel and DC, not to mention being associated with Masters of Horror, 24seven, and Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo, and this all means you haven’t been typecast yet; do you want to be or is it fun being able to simply rely on the story to do its job with the reader?

Brandon: For me a character should be able to connect with a reader whether they’re a robot or a Viking. Finding those inroads to character is what interests me, not the year they live in or the clothes they wear.

RKL: With writing that has graced the pages of The Toxic Avenger and The Crazies, do you have a really good horror comic waiting to come out?

Brandon: I have a couple, how good they are is anyone’s guess.

RKL: I’m sure they’re great, Ivan. How many Marvel and DC pitches do you think you’d be sitting on right now?

Brandon: No idea. I don’t really sit on them, much, unless there’s some logistical reason why my idea won’t work in the current publishing plans. If I get an idea, I send it out.

RKL: Was there a specific comic book in your childhood that completely won you over to the four colour world?

Brandon: The first thing I remember reading was an issue of the Hulk in the early 80s. It wasn’t an especially good issue, it didn’t make me a fanatic. But I guess it did the trick.

RKL: Certainly did. Is there one character that would be your ultimate dream to be given the reins of for a series?

Brandon: Bennet, the chubby bad guy from Commando.

RKL: Yeah, he’s an Australian actor, Vernon Wells, and a Jeph Loeb character. I guess it’d have to be a prequel seeing as he let off all his steam at the end of that flick. Are there any comics you are reading right now that are scratching any itches for you?

Brandon: Honestly, the best comic for itches is Viking. It’s got a thick cover stock that really holds up to some intense scraping.

RKL: How did you first get your writing seen by publishers?

Brandon: Cash bribes.

RKL: Do you have any desires to write prose one day in novel form?

Brandon: I don’t have a burning desire today, but I’ve been known to surprise myself.

RKL: The next section is our Literary Rorschach Test, we give you a word or concept and you have to tell us what it makes you feel. You may give us a one word response or a paragraph. Here we go:

Axe – body spray
Wild West – syphilis
Typewriter syphilis
History – remake
Comic covers – edible
Noir – black
Razor – dull
Sven – gali?
Twitter – gali?
Wednesdays – Like Tuesday, but later

RKL: Ivan, it has been a good ol’ time by the roaring fire but we must let you go off into the ether to create your fantastic stories, so thank you for your valuable time, and finally, where are you going right this second and what will you be doing?

Brandon: Typing. And Typing.

RKL: And we’ll certainly be reading. Toodle pip!

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Ivan said...

Great interview as usual. I love Northlanders, so I might give Vikings a chance eventually.

I don't know if he was going for a "quirkty/witty" thing during the interview, but some of those answers seem outright cold. Wouldn't hurt to reveal how he got his break, I guess.

Anyway, he's got an awesome name.

Ivan said...

*I meant "quirky" above.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Ivan - I'd go for quirky/witty over cold, the dude was an absolute legend to converse with. Very personable, very very cool. Seems he's a guy who I like his writing but now even respect him more from how he conducts himself.

Anonymous said...

kinda awkward . whywould he not tell how he got into comic puplishing?

Anonymous said...


Great interview Ryan! I liked FC: escape. The bad thing about everything final crisis is:
1-some tie-ins having nothing to do with the event (GL rage of the red lanterns I'm looking at you)
2-In most of the cases those books were totally ignored (the only one writer recognizing them being only Morrison)
Have not picked up Northlanders yet, but planning to do.

Anonymous said...

The webmaster of this site should remove the encryption that occurs when one attempts to access Weekly Crisis via the address bar.

Anonymous said...

Zombie ! He sounds like a douche glad he's not working for marvel/dc

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous #6 - I'm not sure what you mean. I can type the url in the address box and it works fine. Please feel free to contact me at with more details and I'll do my best to correct the problem.

Anonymous said...

Cool interview. I've read the first Viking, and it's excellent. Definitely a quirky/witty guy - if you're reading it as cold/douchey, reboot your sense of humor.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I agree, again, that Brandon was going for a more quippy vibe. He is a very busy guy, to take time out for this interview was a legend endeavour, but I could not then expect a massive diatribe for each answer. He sold Viking well, but getting into his past was a bit much to ask for. A funny answer was not.

Read this interview in the right frame of mind, you'll see he's awesome.

Anonymous said...

Zombie I am

Most of the writers should be as accessible as Johns, I have met the guy at the airport in Atlanta and we have a really short chat but he was funny and we even joked. A friend of mine met Bendis and says the guy did not even bother to look at him in the eye as if he is not worth of his stare!!! (end of rant)

Anonymous said...

whats wrong with him not wanting to talk to you?

Anonymous said...

@Zombie I am: I see where your point is, those guys does not seem to realize that the people who buy their works is the people who pays their bills...

Funny thing

Anonymous said...

yes but they are entitled to live their lifes and I would think that people just walking up to them to talk would get rather irrating . at least bendis talked to him

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