Today at MC, we have a chat with up-and-coming writer Ed Brisson. He’s been in the industry for a while as a writer, artist and letterer (namely on Image’s “Prophet” in the latter capacity), and this year he is taking his biggest leap yet as November brings the release of his Shadowline/Image Comics title “Comeback” with artist Michael Walsh and colorist Jordie Bellaire. It’s a quality book, and something people should be buzzing about with its sci-fi/crime story mash-up and phenomenal art from his team.
We talk with Brisson about bringing “Comeback” together, his path to getting this book together, and much, much more. At the end, make sure to check out a lettered 4-page preview of the first issue of “Comeback.” We highly recommend it.
You’ve been working on comics in some capacity for some time now, but 2012 has been a big year for you with Prophet taking off and Comeback being announced for Shadowline/Image. What has the path been like for you, and how excited are you to get one of your books released by a major publisher like Shadowline/Image?
Ed Brisson: 2012 has been great, for sure. Feel like I’m finally getting a bit of a foothold in comics, although, to be honest, it’s been a steady climb since 2011. I quit my day job at the end of 2010 and have been making my living exclusively from comics since January 1, 2011. That’s not to say I’m living fat, but I’m living. â€¨â€¨My goal was always to try to transition from lettering to writing, and I’ve been working on pitches for the last few years. Initially I learned to properly letter a comic back in the mid-2000s so that I could letter my own stories (which I also used to draw) and then found that it was also a fairly good way to pick up some freelance work — the last thing I ever thought I’d end up being is a comic book letterer.
I can’t stress how excited I am to have a book coming out through Shadowline/Image. I was a teen when Image started up and dreamt of one day being able to join their ranks. I don’t care how sentimental or sappy that sounds: Since day one, I’ve always wanted to have an Image book. Back then, I thought I’d be an artist, but gave that up a few years ago.
Speaking of Shadowline/Image, how has the experience been working with them as a publisher? For those that haven’t heard of it yet, what is Comeback, and why should readers keep their eyes out for it?
EB: Before signing Comeback, I’d already been doing some work with Shadowline, so knew what I was getting into. Jim Valentino is pretty hands on with covers and solicit information, which is great. He’s got the experience and I’m really appreciative to have the guidance.
Comeback is, in short, about RECONNECT, an illegal time travel agency that, for a hefty fee, will go back into the past and rescue a deceased loved one. They’ll cover their tracks, bring that person back to the present and help you set up a new life, cut off from the life you used to know. They’ll keep you hidden from the FBI. If the FBI discovers the modification of the time line, well it’s their job to fix it.
The series focuses on RECONNECT agents Mark and Seth who get stuck in the past when a mission to save a woman goes sideways. Seth, it turns out, has a bit of an agenda and the whole thing throws the two of them into a game of cat and mouse where they’re on the run from not only the FBI, but also their own employers. Lots of bodies and double crossing!
How long has Comeback been something in your mind? Where did the idea for this book come from?
EB: Since September of 2011, if I remember correctly. I started actively working on it in October, 2011.
The idea came from me looking at other time travel stories and films and trying to figure out what about them wasn’t clicking for me. As a concept, I LOVE time travel, but I found that I couldn’t get into most films or comics about it. I broke apart what I did and didn’t like and was really just looking at it out of interest sake, I didn’t have an idea back then to write a time travel story. But, as I tried to come up with something I WOULD like, a story started to emerge – initially MUCH different from the final product.Continued below
The idea was to keep time travel limited. I didn’t want a story about people going back in time and riding dinosaurs or people shooting into the future and jetting around in flying cars. I liked the idea of keeping everything present day, where everything is the same, except that time travel is possible. Of course, it would be illegal, otherwise life would be a complete disaster. With people being saved from death, I thought it would be interesting to explore what people would give up to be reunited with a loved one. Would you give up your friends, home, career? If you take away the life you had together and start fresh, how does that effect the life you have going forward?
When bridging the gap between genres like you do on Comeback, what were major influences on the development of this idea?
EB: Honestly, I can’t think of any that influenced me at the time. Crime and time travel have been done in the past, but it’s usually been stories that are sci-fi heavy. I wanted to keep this one as present day as possible. I wanted it to be relatable to our world. I didn’t want some future man walking around ruuning off lines like “You guys still haven’t cured cancer?”. I wanted to keep this thing as grounded in reality as a story about time travel could possibly be.
Since starting on the book, I’ve watch both Primer and Source Code, which I think are great films that both have a really interesting take on time travel. Source Code felt like a nice update on Quantum Leap. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Primer was great for keeping time travel super limited. I don’t think that they traveled more than a day or two in it. Also, it touched on something else that I’d already had written into Comeback: Time travel is not good for your health.
Something that did originally plant the seed for Comeback was an article I’d read in the Best American Crime Reporting collection from 2010 or 2011. It was about a US funeral home that was selling bodies to organ harvesters who would primarily take the layers of skin from the corpses to be resold to hospitals for skin grafts. The went on for a few years before the whole thing was exposed. That got me thinking about other things that people might use the bodies for and put me down the path of thinking of replacement bodies for people who should have died — I think I initially was working it into an idea for a Murder Book story about a man faking his own death, but then when I brought in the time travel element it just fell in to place.
Michael Walsh is the artist on the book, and after reading the first eight pages, it seems like he’s a great fit for the very grounded yet sci-fi story. How did you pair up with him, and what is it that he brings to the table that you were really looking for?
EB: Back in 2010 sometime, Michael emailed me out of the blue and hired me to letter a 5 page pitch that he was both writing and drawing. I did the 5 pages and really liked his style. I asked him if he might be interested in working on a Murder Book story and if he’d be cool with some sort of services trade (basically I’d letter for him for free in order to get him to do some art for me). I think he was skeptical at first, he didn’t realize that I was also writing comics, but then he read the two Murder Book stories I had online at the time and agreed to come on board. â€¨â€¨We did that Murder Book story (Settling Up) and really gelled, so we talked about putting together a pitch to show around to publishers. The first pitch was called Five Years (although the title was always changing) and was a straight ahead crime story. We got a lot of positive feedback from it, but no publishers bit. You can check out the pitch here.Continued below
I’d already started writing Comeback while we were working on that pitch and when Michael heard the concept, he wanted in on it. So, after getting our last “no” from a publisher, we set about putting Comeback together.
As for what Michael brings to the table, he’s just a great dude who is easy to work with. We bounce a lot of ideas off one another and in a year plus of working on things together, it’s been smooth sailing. I love his art, his brush work and the way he tells a story.
Jordie Bellaire is the colorist on this book, and she’s someone who has been having a huge 2012 with a ton of big projects. What was it that made her such a great fit for Comeback and for Michael’s art?
EB: She’s someone whose work I’ve really liked. Michael and I were looking at colourists out there and there were only a couple that we could agree on for this project. We needed someone who could do a flatter style, without much rendering.
I think what originally convinced Michael and I was her work on BOOM!’s Planet of the Apes series. Seeing her colours over Gabriel Hardman’s art…man. I don’t know what to say, it was just beautiful to look at. Great mood, colour selection…just great.
I shot her an email assuming that she’d shoot us down, but luckily she was into it and signed on.
Going back to working on Prophet, when you work on a book in a lettering capacity such as on that one, what do you feel like you pick up for writing? Does reading a script from someone like Brandon or Simon teach you anything about where you want to be as a writer?
EB: Prophet is completely unconventional in how it’s put together. Brandon and Simon break the story down and then Brandon discusses with the artist what’s happening, but as far as I understand, there’s not a formal script. It’s kind of like the old Marvel method — a synopsis that’s given to the artist to work off. Once the art is in, Brandon adds the dialog and captions and sends that to me in a text document. I’ve never seen a full script for that.
In general, I do pick up a lot of tips from reading scripts that others do. It’s interesting to see how each person writes and compare it to how I work. More than anything, I’ve stolen a lot of formatting from scripts here and there and have put together my own Frankenstein’s Monster format for my scripts.
I tend to not be an overly descriptive writer. I put in as much info as I think the artist needs and give them room to flex their artistic muscles. I’ll sometimes have to letter off these insanely long Alan Moore like scripts, where there’s 4 pages of script for every one page of comic and think that it must be the absolute worst thing for an artist to work from.
Besides Comeback and more on Prophet, what can we expect from you in the near future?
EB: Riley Rossmo has a new mini-series coming out in early 2013 that I’ll be writing part of. I don’t know how much has been said about it already, so I’m going to keep mum on it for now. It’s going to be coming out through Shadowline/Image, that much I can say.â€¨â€¨In addition to that and a myriad of lettering gigs, I’ve got a new pitch called Sheltered that I’m working up with artist Johnnie Christmas and colourist Shari Chankhamma. It’s another 5 issue mini that I’m just putting letters on now and plan to pitch at NYCC next month. Fingers crossed.