Ryan Browne is one of our favorite creators in all of comics – his “God Hates Astronauts,” which just wrapped up a ten-issue run at Image, is the funniest comic of the 21st century thus far, and his “Manhattan Projects” issues were somehow even crazier than what Nick Pitarra draws month in and month out. He’s also been a good friend to our site, coming on our podcasts, participating in our art months, running contests, and generally making mirth whenever he pops up on Multiversity.
So we couldn’t be any more thrilled that he’s returning to the world of “Blast Furnace” with a new, 280 page, full color edition. The project will be funded by Kickstarter, much like the first volume of “Blast Furnace” and “God Hates Astronauts” first collected edition. Some of the colored pages have already shown up on the “Blast Furnace” website, where you can read the series for free. We chatted with Browne about the book, the Kickstarter process, and his love of onomatopoeia.
So, what made you return to the world of “Blast Furnace?” Did you grow tired of drawing disembodied heads and/or onomatopoeia jokes?
Frankly, doing “God Hates Astronauts” was a crazy ton of work. Writing, designing and drawing that thing every month was at the limits of what my brain and body could take. “Blast Furnace” is very low pressure for me. I don’t spend all night trying to make the story work… I just throw it out there and hope it makes sense. There are certainly plenty of onomatopoeia jokes in Blast Furnace. The sense of humor is the same as “God Hates Astronauts,” it’s just not filtered at all.
For those that missed the boat the first time, what is “Blast Furnace?” What do people need to know going in?
-It’s an improvisational comic. I started it in 2012 when I was working on “Smoke and Mirrors” as a way of getting ideas and stories out there quickly. The book is made in a really weird way following a set of rules that I made for myself.
1. I only get to spend one hour on each page. I start the clock with a blank page, and an hour later, I have a written and drawn a finished page of comicness.
2. No preplanning or thinking ahead. I have to force myself to make it up as I go along. Keep it spontaneous.
3. Let the book do anything it wants to do. That means flashbacks and abrupt scene changes. The book was designed to be 12 issues long… finishing at around 260 pages. I knew I had a lot of room to fill, so I let the book meander wherever feels natural for it to go.
Where is the book picking up – is this a direct continuation of the past stories, or has there been some time in between the tales?
This new Kickstarter combines the old material, plus new material, all presented in full color for the first time. It’s everything “Blast Furnace” that there ever has been, presented in the best way possible. I think a lot of people missed out on reading the first book because they were turned off by the black and white. I think the new color version presents in a considerably more appealing way that will get my “GHA” fans to read it. I still think it’s funnier, and perhaps better than “GHA,” and a lot of that is helped by the rules of the book. It lets me take more risks and explore many bizarre scenarios.
You’ve done some work drawing from other peoples’ scripts, but you seem far more comfortable working on your own material; why do you think you work so much better as a one man show?
I wish I could figure that out. It’d be nice to not have to do everything all the time… it’s exhausting. I think when I work alone it becomes a lot more organic. I change the story and make decisions on the fly and only create stories that I want to draw. I also don’t write a lot of scenes of talking heads, which can be a total energy killer for me. If something isn’t getting punched on a page, there almost certainly is something getting punched on the next.
Why do you feel that Kickstarter is the best way to get this out there? Did your success with the platform in the past make it an easy decision?
Kickstarter is exciting and terrifying at the same time. It’s very close to a direct market and thus considerably more fulfilling. I can interact directly with the fans that want the book and they can be a part of making it become a reality. The only real middlemen are Kickstarter/Amazon and the Post Office. With “GHA” at Image, it was sooooo hard to make every store aware of the book and to order it, and then, I never really knew who was buying it. There may be thousands of copies just taking up space on the shelves of stores somewhere.
What is an incentive so nuts that even you couldn’t, in good conscience, offer it?
OH! What if I had a backer level where you get a copy of the book AND you get two tickets on Virgin Galactic so we can go and read the book together in outer space. Actually, that’s an awesome idea. I’ve got to look into that.
The “Blast Furnace” Kickstarter is up now, and will run through mid-September.