We’ve long been fans of the work of Ed Brisson here at Multiversity and never felt the need to hide it. From his phenomenal self-released “Murder Books” to “Comeback” with Mike Walsh and Jordie Bellaire from Image, Brisson is a burgeoning talent in the industry (let alone being the guy that letters more than half of your favorite Image books — “Prophet,” anyone?).
As a follow-up to “Comeback,” Brisson and Johnnie Christmas launched “Sheltered,” a pre-apocalyptic series following a group of kids living in a survivalist compound who decide that, under the guidance of one particularly disturbed young man, to murder all their parents as they prepare for the end of days. With the intelligence of William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” and the tension and terror of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s “Walking Dead,” Brisson and Christmas have absolutely hit it out of the park on their series so far — and now, as we enter into the third arc, it’s coming to a close.
Read on as we chat with Ed about the end of days for “Sheltered,” as well as look at his other recent mini-series “The Field” with Simon Roy, which has some exciting updates of its own.
So lets talk about the finale of “Sheltered.” From the teases that I’ve seen in solicits and whatnot, it’s about to get nuts. What can you say about the last arc of the book?
Ed Brisson: Well, the last arc — and I don’t think this is a spoiler — is focuses on what happens when the ideology and the actions of the kids of Safe Haven finally come against the realities of the outside world. Not surprisingly, the police are not considerably understanding when you say that you killed your parents because the end of the known world is around the corner and supplies are low and besides they really would have wanted it this way. Also, what happens when these survivalist children have more munitions that the local police department?
One of the big things is that the final arc will address how the outside world reacts to our favorite nutjobs. The book’s offered you quite a lot of fun opportunities in terms of character reactions, but how do you find this changes up the dynamic of the story?
EB: Well, these kids are still fighting for what they think is right. They’re incredibly distrustful of the outside world, especially the government and any of its agents. So, yeah, this is them moving past the inside fighting and banding toward one common enemy. All their training, all their firepower, it’s about to be put to the test.
Was there anything in particular that you were excited to getting at in the finale?
EB: There are a few things that I’m really looking forward to, but — and I know this is a total cop-out — I can’t really say without spoiling. I think that each issue has at least one “HOLY SHIT!” moment in it where you realize just HOW badly things are going.
There have been some questionable leadership decisions by Lucas in the book lately, however, as we continue things become clearer and we see that he’s still got a plan. He knows what he’s doing and is still a master manipulator.
I understand some people were worried that it had been canceled, but you’ve been saying that this was the plan since from the beginning. What led to the decision to wrap at 15?
EB: Johnnie and I are both fans of finite storytelling. Neither of us wanted to do something that would just continue on without an end in sight. We really wanted for “Sheltered” to tell one story, one complete story, that would hopefully satisfy readers, rather than tacking on an ending when sales started to flag.
Initially, there was the possibility that we could have only had five issues to tell the story, thank Christ sales were good enough for us to continue beyond that.
Did you want to bring it out further? It seems like the series has been doing very well, I’d wager you could get away with it.
EB: No, not really. That would feel like a cheat to the reader and would only serve to water down the story we wanted to tell. I think that 15 issues is a good run.Continued below
We’ve talked in the past about the real world elements of giant hidden volcanoes that will destroy everything and the survivalist culture, but as you and Johnnie worked on the series was there anything really wild you discovered about this side of the world that you had to then incorporate into the series?
EB: Early on that happened, more than it does now. Early on we set the ground rules and so brought in a lot of those details to really paint the reality (perceived or actual) that these kids were dealing with. So, the fall out and “volcanic winters” were things that we had learned early and incorporated as we went on.
There are a few instances of that in issues that are yet to come — and something very specifically in issue #12, which is not necessarily “wild”, but was something that I certainly didn’t know, or at least had misconceptions about. I don’t want to get into specifics for what’s to come though, for obvious reasons.
Have you found, over the course of the series, that any of the characters surprised you from what you initially had planned for them?
EB: Sure. There are characters who were meant to only be minor or background characters who came more to the forefront as I spent time writing them. The most obvious example of this would be Curt. He initially was only supposed to have a couple of scenes and was never meant to take on the larger role that he did — but, he was just so much fun to write. He was/is such a little prick and really good at antagonizing others and is exactly the danger you run into when you have a society that’s missing any sort of real adult guidance. He’s the poster boy for what happens when you let a kid do whatever you want. In some ways, he’s like an evil version of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.
Nancy also got a bit of a spotlight and Mitch and Hailey both have had or will have larger roles than they were initially intended.
The strongest element of the story is the way that the book has no easy moral center to it; though not all, most of the characters are pretty dark and relentless in accomplishing their goals. I’d assume you’ll want to push this in the finale, but given that every arc is filled with bleakness, is there any room for optimism in the finale?
EB: I’ll never say never.
As you get into the final stand of the series, I know this verges into spoiler territory a bit, but what has become the most difficult thing to do?
EB: I think that personally, what I’m most concerned with is wrapping the series in a way that’s satisfying for both Johnnie, myself AND the reader. We’ve always known the end that we were building to, and it’s something that I think really works, but there’s still that fear of satisfying readers who’ve invested 15 issues — a year and a half — into this story.
And, with the 15 issues of the series, how have you found the relationship dynamic between you and Johnnie has changed?
EB: It hasn’t really. We’ve managed to make it this far without any sort of fighting or hurt feelings. We’ve challenged one another, for sure, but we’re both pretty thick skinned and willing to listen to criticism.
A few days a week, we work out of the same studio space, so we have the opportunity to sit down and talk about scenes when we need to. It’s been really great.
Lets talk about “The Field”, your mini with Simon Roy at Image that’s wrapping soon. Before we couldn’t talk to much about it, but with three issues out and the final issue on the way, how have you found the response to be for this zany thriller?
EB: It’s been mixed. Some people really seem to love it and some people seem to really not love it. Overall though, it’s been good. We’ve been happy with it. “The Field” really scratches some serious storytelling itches for me and falls in with the types of stories that I tend to love — those gritty, sweaty, absurd 80s b-movie style stories. I love that sort of stuff and am so happy that Image would greenlight something like “The Field”.Continued below
I know this can be somewhat a contentious question at times, but do you think think that the fact “The Field” is a mini affected it at all? I know you like minis, we’ve talked about it in the past, but minis hold a weird place in the industry these days.
EB: Honestly, I’m not sure. I know that people prefer to buy ongoings as single issues and wait for the trade on minis, but I really don’t think too much about it going in — what people will and won’t buy, that is. My main concern is always what’s right for the story and what’s right for me and my collaborators. I’ve plans for both minis and ongoings in the future. I don’t have a preference, although do wish that more people would support closed stories. There are too many comics that go on with no end in sight, to their own detriment.
I would say that “The Field” was pretty much monumentally surprising in the route that the book as gone, as I personally assumed it’d be something completely different — surreal, sure, but this book has been a roller coaster. Given the way this series was born (out of strange tweets), how has the development and execution of this series throughout different from other books you’ve worked on?
EB: Although the end product may seem different from past projects, I don’t feel that the process has really been any different. While the story already its bones in place, Simon came in and added the muscle and flesh. It really is a collaboration between the two of us, telling the story that we want to. The same with my past collaborations (“Comeback,” “Sheltered”), “The Field” has been an open dialog between me and Simon and I think that you see that on the page.
I also understand that there’s a film option to “The Field” now, so mega congratulations on that. Can you talk a bit about how that came about, and explain your involvement?
EB: Yep. We recently signed with LaRue Entertainment out of Toronto to do a feature film version of “The Field”. There’s not much excitement to talk about, really. They emailed me and we hopped on the phone to talk about it. I really liked what they had to say and their vision for the film. Rather than shooting for a HUGE production, the plan is to try to put it together as a lower-to-mid-budget feature, which suits the story perfectly.
Before “The Field” came out, I’d been describing it as being like an 80s midnight movie that you’d accidentally stumble across on a lonely Friday night. For me, that dredges up memories of being a 12 year old, sitting in front of the TV at 1am, with the volume low so as to not wake my mom. Our cable station offered up so many gems for my young eyes: Repo Man, Deadlock, Basket Case, Eating Raoul, etc. It really opened me up to stories that I didn’t know existed — stories I didn’t know COULD exist — and did a lot to shape my own interests as both a consumer and a writer.
And you’re co-writing the screenplay? I’m going to assume this is your first time doing this kind of film script work, so can you tell me about the experience so far? Or has it not really begun?
EB: About 14 years ago, I wrote and shot a couple of micro-budget short films before deciding that film directing is not for me. I’m much happier writing scripts and working in comics. More recently, I co-wrote a short film adaptation of my “Murder Book” story ‘The Orchard’, which was funded by Bravo and is currently in post-production.
Co-writing the screenplay for “The Field” will be my first time working on a feature film script and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it. That said, I’m happy to play a more active role in the adaptation and it’s largely the reason that we decided to sign on with LaRue.
Given how long you have worked in comics as a letterer and now a rather accomplished writer, how are you feeling about comics and your work as Ed Brisson approaching the latter half of 2014?Continued below
EB: I’m feeling good. I’m starting to finally feel confident about what it is that I want to do and where I want to go with comics. I’ve got a few projects already lined up for 2015 and am currently collaborating with a few artists on a new pitches that we’ll be submitting in the coming months. Hoping to make 2015 as busy as 2014 was.
The latter half of 2014 is really just focusing on wrapping “Sheltered” and working on “Sons of Anarchy”. I’m writing ahead on the above mentioned creator owned books and hoping to land WFH gig.
Hustling, as always.