Talking to Professionals: Ed Brisson

Ed Brisson is one of the hottest up-and-coming writers in comics. His first mini series is called Comeback. It’s a time travel/crime story, and issue one comes out on Wednesday. Ed is also also a friend of mine, dating back to the mid-90′s when I ran a record store down the street from the video place he worked at. I also owe him $5, which he probably thinks I’ve forgotten about.

He was nice enough to answer a few questions about Comeback, and his career in general.

A story about time travel and crime not named Looper.

Q: How mad were you when you saw the first trailer for Looper?

Steaming mad. Running down the street screaming, flipping over cars, burning down small villages angry.

When the trailer for Looper came out in April, we were already well into production of Comeback. The first issue had already been drawn and Michael was onto the second issue. So, when I saw this trailer, I kinda threw my hands in the air and was like: YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! It was funny because it didn’t feel like the concept was the same, but the opposite. In Looper people are sent from the future to be killed, in Comeback people are brought from the past to be saved. But even that was too close for me.

Thankfully, I’ve since seen the film and the two are completely different things. There’s very little that Comeback has in common with Looper, other than a gritty take on time travel. Even how past events affect the future are handled differently.

Q: I know you’ve been trying to land a creator owned series for a while now. How deliberately designed was your pitch? Did you have a dozen things that you threw at Shadowline, and this was the one that stuck? Or did you know how strong it was right from the get go?

I wouldn’t say Comeback was any less or more deliberate than any other pitch that I’ve done in the past. The primary thing is that the pitch has to be something that I’d want to read. I’ve approached all my pitches with the same process: what would interest me as a reader? What type of comic do I want to see that I’m not finding at my local comic shop?

With Comeback, it was one of those projects that, as soon as the pieces fell into place I thought: “This could be something really special.” Thankfully Michael Walsh (the artist on Comeback) and Jordie Bellaire (the colourist on Comeback) felt the same way.

Q:Tell me one thing about Comeback that no one else knows.

Right up until before we pitched it, it was called 67 Days. The title change was a last-minute thing.

Q: You decided to go full-time into comics a few years ago, and the results are starting to pay off, with things like Comeback. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the comic biz in that time?

I’ve learned just how small the industry is. It’s pretty amazing that once you’re working in the industry, you’re never more than one degree of separation away from anyone else in the industry. I’ve met and talked to a lot of people whose work I love and admire just because they and I have mutual friends and ended up hanging out at a convention.

As a creator, I’m starting to realize how much effort goes into promoting your work. I’ve been hustling for the past two months to line up interviews and reviews for the book and now, days before the first issue of Comeback hits stores, I’m doing 3-4 interviews a day. I’m not complaining, mind you!

Q: So far, your comic book stories are fairly finite. Any interest in a larger story? What are your next projects?

Absolutely. I’d love to do larger, 12 issue stories down the line. At this point though, I’m focusing on 5 issue mini-series and want to stay with that for a while. I am really only interested in working projects that have a definite ending. I don’t think it’s fair to a reader to keep stringing them along with cliff hanger after cliff hanger. If anything, I’d love to do a series of five issue minis where at the end of each fifth issue, we have what would be a satisfying ending if we decide to pull the pin on it.

But, for now, just five issue minis. If one is successful enough to warrant a follow-up, I’d be down for doing that – providing the series is one that has room for new stories. The last thing I want to do is force another series just for the sake of keeping things going, shoe horning in something that doesn’t really fit or retreading the same ground. It’d have to be something that works naturally. Also, I don’t think that I’d want to keep anything as an ongoing with 5 issue arcs. I’m more interested in the BPRD model where every new arc is its own series.

Q: Pro-Tip time: I think of you as a strong dialogue writer. With something like Comeback, what comes first: Fully forming a character, or dialogue, with character evolving from said dialogue?

It’s a combo of the two. I won’t start writing a character until I have a pretty good idea of who they are and what they’re about, but they never really come alive to me until I get in and start working their dialog. Once that happens, then they become more fully formed and the way that I write the dialog informs a lot of how I develop the character from then onward.

Q: In a lot of ways, Murder Book seems to have been the girl who brought you to the dance, comics wise. What’s next for Murder Book? Any plans to collect the whole thing?

I’m working on a couple of new Murder Book scripts that I’ll be sending out to artists soon. I’ve got one artist locked down for sure and will be on the search for another soon. My hope is that I can build it to about 200 pages of story and then see if I can’t find a publisher who’d be interested in collecting it all into one trade – would be amazing to get it out as a hardcover, but that feels like a bit of a pipe dream at this point.

Right now, I have approx 130 pages of Murder Book complete. I suspect that it’d be late 2013 before I have enough for the trade. It’s important to me that it’s a really thick book, that it’s a lot of bang for a readers buck.

Q: You’re also an in demand letterer for comic books. As someone who has to transcribe their words onto comic book pages, what’s the worst mistake you’ve seen another writer make. Please, name names.

I won’t name names, but the big thing I see with writers is over-writing. On average, you can fit about 35 words of dialog in each panel. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but 35 words fills a 9-grid sized panel full. With a lot of new writers, I’ll get pages that have something like 150 words per panel. Just not do-able. Also, a lot of writers tend to over describe with captions. In so many cases, you can remove almost all of the captions in a comic and still have it make sense (I’m talking strictly about new comic writers here). It’s a combination of not having confidence in your own writing and not trusting your artist’s storytelling abilities.

Another big problem is with new artists who don’t consider how much space text will take up in a panel or who is talking in each panel. Will get a lot of artists doing extreme close-ups in a panel that has 60 words of dialog or will place characters in the reverse speaking order, which causes a lot of issues when trying to letter in a readable way.

Q: What was the worst part about working at that video store on Broadway in the late-90s?

Ah…Primetime.

The boss was a weasel. He was always scamming us out of pay, never providing proper pay stubs and there was always this fear that the place would be seized for non-payment of taxes, rent, whatever. Always a lot of collection calls.

The parking lot behind the video store was patrolled by tow trucks constantly. I’m sure that the owner had a deal with them where he got a cut from every car towed from there. So, if someone parked there and went to another store: TOWED. Then we’d have to deal with the fallout. At least twice a day people would come in and scream at us about it. I once had this angry Russian dude who’d been towed lean over the counter and demand that I get his car back (which I couldn’t) because “he could make people disappear.”

Q: The best?

Working at a video store! I loved working at a video store. This was before I had any real world responsibilities, so I’d bring home and watch a couple of movies every night. Also, the store was never terribly busy, so I’d watch a ton of movies in store. I used to also get a lot of reading done there as well.

Comeback #1 is published by Shadowline/Image, and will be available at finer comic shops everywhere on Wednesday.  It’s quite good. You should buy it. 

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