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Comic Vine Interview with Brent Anderson
by Tony 'G-Man' Guerrero on
I've been sitting on this interview for a little while now. You can almost call it a Comic Vine Lost Interview. Due to technical reasons it just never got posted. I figured it'd be a shame to sit on it for any longer. So enjoy:
Comic Vine: I have to start out with the X-Men graphic novel "God Loves, Man Kills." It was one of the first X-Men stories I read and still is a favorite. How do you feel about how it turned out?
Brent Anderson: I feel the X-men graphic novel was the best work of my career from that period. I spent an incredible amount of time researching the artwork in that project, because it was the first work of my professional career I both pencilled and inked. Prior to that, I had pencilled and inked my Ka-zar covers. I also worked closely with colorist Steve Oliff so the final product looked as painterly as possible.
Comic Vine: Did you have any input in scenes or did Claremont lay it all out?
Brent Anderson: Chris pretty much laid it all out, but I did have a reasonable amount of input in how I wanted to do specific scenes. I think I re-staged the first scene I drew which was Kitty's confrontation with and escape from the gang and winding up on the elevated subway train where the cop gets shot.
CV: What was your opinion on the movie X2 being based on it?
Brent: I really like the X2 movie, but I was disappointed that they steered clear of the screw-loose TV evangelist angle. It was Stryker's abuse of the mass media to enflame anti-mutant/racist sentiment which pulled the story through. I fully understand why they shied away from that, but making the Stryker character just another evil-military-general-gone-bad cliché fatally weakened the anti-racism message of the story, and made it about prejudice only, which is a different thing.
CV: Let's back up now, who were your influences?
Brent: God, there's not enough room to list them all! Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Al Williamson, Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, Gene Colon, John Romita Sr., Alex Toth, Milton Caniff, Will Eisner, Wally Wood, Richard Corben, Vaughn Bodé, JC Leyendecker, Fortunino Matania, Franklin Booth, Howard Pyle, Austin Briggs and Norman Rockwell, just to name a few. More recently, Alex Ross, Arthur Adams, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Lee Elias, David Mazzuchelli, June Brigman, Istvan Banyai, Steve Lieber, and a slew of great artists whose names I'm not remembering right now (it's a senior moment kind of thing. I'm getting to be that age!)
CV: First comic read? I think I saw somewhere it was Fantastic Four? Any recollections on issue # or villain?
Brent: FF #69 "By Ben Betrayed!". It was the middle part of a three-part story and I didn't have a complete idea of what was going on after reading it, but I didn't care - I had discovered something wonderful. I even missed buying #70, since I wasn't aware at the time of the chronological monthly numbering of comics, so I REALLY didn't have a clue! As a matter of fact, at about that same time I bought six comics at a junk store for 5 cents each. The six comics were Spider-man #s 1 and 3 and Fantastic Four #s 13, 48, 49 and 50. All six for 30 cents! I quickly realized there were issues of Spider-man 2 and 4 through 53, and FF #s 1-12, 14 through 47 and 51 through 68. I was a collector.
CV: What's your average rate of drawing?
Brent: I try to pencil and ink an average of four pages of straight comic art per week.
CV: Do you have any drawing rituals? Do you only work at a certain time of day? Do you need certain music or a place to work?
Brent: I draw when I can! Being married and with a twelve-year-old son, there is this strangely rewarding thing called a family life, which tends to regularly drag me from the sanctity of my studio. I usually work during the day while my son is at school, reserving 3-day weekends for family outings and trips. When I'm working I like to watch/listen to movies and/or music suited to whatever project/story I happen to be working on that day. Strangely, I am inspired in my own work by listening to the director/actor commentaries of film-making now being included on DVD editions of most movies.
CV: What kind of script do you prefer when drawing? Is it easier to have a detailed script basically telling you what to do or just a loose script to allow more freedom?
Brent: Funny you should ask. I started my career working "Marvel-style" from detailed (or not so detailed) plot outlines. Then I started collaborating with Kurt Busiek on Astro City and requested full scripts on AC stories. After twelve years of doing it full-script, Kurt and I have started working plot-style. I'm also working on a two-part Brave and the Bold starring a team-up of Green Lantern and Plastic Man from a plot by Marv Wolfman. I don't really have a preference. Whichever style works best for the writer I'm collaborating with works best for me.
CV: Do you attend a lot of conventions? Any crazy stories or strange requests?
Brent: I don't attend a lot of conventions these days, but I did a fair share of them when I was the "New Young Turk" on the block in the early days. No overtly strange requests, but I longed for the guy to ask me to draw Ka-zar on his girlfriend's breast! But, alas, he never showed! I do have a crazy story of losing my purse with all my identification, credit cards and money in it just before doing a comics art seminar during a San Diego Comic-Con, but it's too long and involved to relate here. I wrote about it in a Comics Buyer's Guide back in the 80s, but it's a good one. Maybe I'll post it on my web site <www.brentandersonart.com>.
CV: Do you still stay current with today's comics? How many titles? Any stand-outs?
Brent: Not really. For the past ten years or longer I've been pulling interesting titles from DC's comp box, but I've had time to read very few of them. Maybe some day... I have been reading many independent graphic novels (Gemma Bovary and American Born Chinese, just to name a couple) and odd comics series, but nothing regularly or necessarily mainstream. I'm into almost everything First Second is publishing these days.
CV: Any thoughts on the current state of Mutants/X-Men? Their identities being public, most of the mutant population being wiped out, etc?
Brent: Nope. I haven't a clue as to what's going on in Mutant-dom.
CV: Do you have a favorite storyline? One that you've worked on and/or one that you've read.
Brent: It's always the one I'm currently working on, which is The Dark Age Book 3 of Astro City and the Green Lantern/Plastic Man storyline for Brave & the Bold!
CV: Superhuman Registration Act (Marvel's Civil War), who was right? (Captain America or Iron Man). Should individuals with super-powers be required to register?
Brent: This is silly. Who's in a position to require supers to register if they don't want to? Push them too far, they take over the world (see Rising Stars).
CV: Being a person with strong family values and heavily involved in your community, what's your opinion on the basic state of comics today? It seems there are lots of dark/violent themes in most comics. (Comics don't seem too kid friendly these days).
Brent: That's why I'm doing a buddy cop comedy starring Plastic Man and Green Lantern for B&B! I've drawn a lot of dark stuff over the past ten years. One of the reasons I like doing Astro City is because Kurt comes up with some light stuff occasionally (even in the midst of The Dark Age.)
CV: You've worked with Fourth graders in the past, do you see a lot of kids still aware of mainstream heroes? A lot of kids are into Manga. What have you seen? Do you see a lot of passion in drawing with this age group?
Brent: Fourth through seventh graders are my favorite cartooning students. Fourth graders are just beginning to see a world outside of themselves and they are very curious to explore and discover it and express their feelings about it. They are generally enthusiastic, focused and very expressive about drawing. This tendency progresses through seventh grade where they discover other ways to socially express themselves. Their interest in drawing wanes. Some come back to it after or during high school, but most don't. My fourth/fifth grade classes are always full.
CV: Last October you taught a Cartooning and Comics class at Sonoma State University, how did that go? How many attended? Will this be a regular thing for you?
Brent: This was my first class for adults. I had eight students who enrolled, one no-show and an add-on. I prefer a minimum of ten, but I was willing to try it. It went well. I am doing another Saturday class in April this year, and I've been asked to do a Saturday over the summer, also, but we'll see. (Note: Another class was held in June)
CV: How are your current projects coming?
Brent: Fine. I'm juggling so many right now, I never know which to work on when I have a little time away from the paying work (Astro City and Brave and the Bold). I keep adding strip ideas to "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (which has to be the longest title for a newspaper strip I've ever seen!) and I've started drawing Good Mother Dinosaur in color. I will post the pages on my web site soon.
CV: You're working on a graphic novel, Tecknight: Jar of Ashes, have you seen the character called Tek Knight that Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson have created (that appeared in a few issues of the Boys)? Does that change any plans to use the name?
Brent: Not really. Years ago, Marc Silvestri made a reference to "the Tec Knights" in one of his Image titles. Also, there is a book out there currently titled High-tech Knight, The Adventures of Conrad Stargard. My story is called "Jar of Ashes" and the TecKnight character in it bears no resemblance whatsoever to these other characters. Copyright protects all these characters within the body of the work, so I see no problem. The name would only be a problem if applying for trademark protection, but I have no plans to trademark the name.
CV: I saw the snippets of Good Mother Dinosaur on your web page, it's set as a kids' book. Seems a little...spooky. Do you have a specific age group in mind?
Brent: Spooky? Hmmm... It is admittedly unusual, but I don't see it as "spooky". It's aimed at 8 to 14-year-olds who like a sense of mystery and magic.
CV: Any idea when Astro City Dark Age book 3 will come out?
Brent: I'm finishing the first issue of Book 3 this week (Feb 7).
CV: There's been talk of an Astro City movie for some time. Any ideas how that's going? Would you be involved in any way? Character sketches, etc?
Brent: The on-going writer's strike has put a damper on the development of any new movies for the time being. There's still life in the idea, but we have to wait until the strike is settled before resuming our journey toward the Big Screen.
CV: You also worked on Rising Stars. Any ideas if the tv show will still make it. Opinions on comparisons to Heroes? (Do you watch Heroes?)
Brent: I saw the first season on DVD last fall. I see elements of Rising Stars, Smallville, Astro City and Strikeforce:Morituri in Heroes as well as many other influences and inspirations, I'm sure. As an aside, I think the writers on Heroes lost track of their story focus about two thirds the way through the season. They set up some terrific characters and cliff-hangers, but there were no pay-offs, only the promise of even more to come. I got kind of bored by the end of the final episode. The same thing happened to Buffy after five seasons and Smallville after four. I guess this is the price of episodic television wherein there is the constant promise of change with nothing ever really progressing. Lots of development, no pay-off.
CV: What's the story behind the name of you production studio, Knee Deep Productions?
Brent: I've always had an affection for frogs. When a frog is knee deep in something, he's up to his eyeballs in it also. This is the way I feel when I'm working on all the stuff I work on - knee deep and up to my eyeballs!
CV: What was the last good movie you saw?
Brent: Mad Hot Ballroom and Pieces of April come to mind. Memento, Stripes, Full Metal Jacket, Unbreakable, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and the Iron Giant are ones I've seen recently on DVD as I work.
CV: Favorite comic-related movie?
Brent: I have very much enjoyed the three Spider-man movies. #3 had way too much going on, but Thomas Hayden Church as the Sandman was a sheer delight. If we ever get The Tarnished Angel made into a movie, Church needs to be cast as Steeljack! The FF/Surfer movie was a bit of a mess story-wise (as was the first one), but I've waited since 1968 to see the Silver Surfer flash convincingly across the silver screen, and his race with the Human Torch gave me goose bumps! I just wish the same could be said for the scene wherein Galactus tells Reed Richards on the roof of the Baxter Building that the human race is a race of ants in the way of a starving god! THAT would have given me goose bumps, too, if they'd done it!
CV: Favorite version of the Hulk? (Thoughts on the "red" Hulk?)
Brent: I really like Ang Lee's movie Hulk! He did an outstanding job of direction on that film and really captured the pathos of the original grey-then-green Hulk of the 60s. Red Hulk? No idea.
CV: Favorite pizza topping?
Brent: Canadian bacon, ham, pepperoni, black olives and pineapple.
CV: Favorite Peanuts character?
Brent: Charles Schulz (which is another way of saying I like them all, without favorites, since Sparky was all of them.)
CV: Betty or Veronica?
Brent: Oh, come on! You're kidding, right? It's obvious...
CV: Were you rooting for Blu-ray or HD-DVD?
Brent: I never conducted a comparative study. I'm still getting used to the improvement from VHS to laser disc!
CV: Anything else you'd want to mention? Upcoming projects, website (art for sale), etc.
Brent: Yeah. I'm in the process of posting a site-load more artwork for sale at www.brentandersonart.com. Check it out from time to time. One of my New Year's resolutions is to keep the web site current. While there, check in on the Work-in-progress web pages. I will be adding more spookiness to Good Mother Dinosaur, maybe a changed name for Tecknight (but probably not) and maybe a few photos or two. And come to the Comic-Con in San Diego and say "Hi". I will be drawing there.