Brandon Graham is best known for dusting off the Rob Liefeld Extreme Studios title “Prophet” and turning it into a true sci-fi epic, but that’s not the only comic he’s helping to revive. As announced at Comic-Con International 2012, Graham plans to resurrect his creator-owned series “Multiple Warheads” later this year. Although the first issue was released by Oni Press in 2007, the creator’s personal issues and professional advancements put the project on the back burner. Now, “Multiple Warheads” is slated for a comeback in October, this time at Image Comics.
With an eye towards creating four or five issues a year moving forward, Graham’s series about a strange, surreal futuristic version of Russia will pick up where the first issue left off. While the original Oni installment won’t be printed as a single issue, it will be collected in the eventual trade paperback.
Longtime fans of Graham’s will remember a similar gap in release and change in publisher for the manga-influenced book “King City,” which started out at Tokyo Pop and moved to Image for completion. While “Multiple Warheads” shares some similar themes with “Prophet,” it’s closer to “King City” in feel. CBR News spoke with Graham about moving the series over to Image, how the story has changed since he started it back in 2007 and the reason for the five-year delay.
CBR News: Brandon, the first issue of “Multiple Warheads” was published by Oni five years ago in 2007. What caused the delay between issues?
Brandon Graham: Man, it’s been busy years. A lot of it was getting “King City” settled and then finished. I went through having cancer — gave my left nut to draw comics — moving to Canada to shack up with my misses, Marian Churchland. I did a lot of freelance, worked on a movie that never came out and other comic stuff. I had to center my chi and discover the hidden truths behind a half medallion that I was found with at birth. I reunited an empire and taught it how to love.
What was the impetus to change publishers from Oni Press to Image?
I’ve done a lot of work with Image in the last couple years and Eric Stephenson has thoroughly impressed me, both with his support of my work and how outspoken he is on creators’ rights. Him and the rest of the staff at Image have done a lot for my work and seem to be genuinely enthusiastic about what I do. I felt like I wanted to do the book that was most important to me through them.
For those who missed the bandwagon on “Multiple Warheads” the first time around, what’s the concept behind the book?
It’s me just running all over a red-magic fantasy/sci-fi version of Russia. The main characters are a woman named Sexica who smuggles magic organs, her werewolf mechanic boyfriend, Nikoli and an organ hunter named Blue Nura. She’s a tough lady who drives around on a living motorcycle.
It’s a thing that I came up with years ago when I did porn comics for a living and I liked it enough to keep trying to flesh it out into something more concrete.
How did “Multiple Warheads” make the transition from porn comic to what it is now?
Even though it was porn comics I still tried to draw what was interesting to me and related to my life — but you know, with boners.
I drew it in New York soon after 9/11. It was a bizarre environment to be in. So I talked about it by making a story about a woman sneaking a wolf’s penis through security checks behind the Iron Curtain. She sews the wolf’s penis onto her boyfriend, transforming him into a two-dicked werewolf.
After I was no longer doing porn comics I wanted to show more of the characters. I did another short story with them in my book “Escalator.” It showed the main lady waiting for her werewolf boyfriend as he went off to deal with enemies from the wolf’s past that had been passed onto him. It all makes me sound like a crazy person to try to explain. But yeah, the main reason is I just liked the set-up and the characters enough to keep bringing them back.
“Multiple Warheads” is split between two stories, that of Sexica and Nikoli on the run and Blue Nura looking for magic organs. How do their stories relate, if at all?
The two main ladies in the story are in the same business, so part of it is showing the contrast to how differently they deal with things. One thing I’m looking forward to is trying to show characters that the reader hopefully likes and can relate to, but who don’t get along with each other.
I’m planning on doing the series for a while, in four or five issue chunks every year. So I’ve got lots of plans on the characters interacting more in the future. Mostly I’m excited about the world and the characters and I want to flesh it all out. I feel like with my writing on “Prophet” going on every month that I can let that be the more structured book and hopefully be more playful with “Warheads.”
With “Prophet” and “Warheads” both taking place on strange worlds with unusual elements, have you had times where an idea pops up and you have to determine in which book it would make the most sense?
More so when I was working on both “King City” and “Warheads.” I feel like the style I’m aiming for in “Prophet” is different enough that nothing’s really overlapped. Or sometimes I’ll take the same basic ideas and try to show them in different ways through each book. Both books have clones in them, but that one I partly let myself get away with because I though it was funny to have two clone books.
Was it difficult keeping the “Multiple Warheads” story fresh in your mind over so many years?
I’m used to working fairly slowly with lots of breaks in between. “King City” took me like six years. I feel like being able to return to work and stay excited about it over long periods of time is a big part of making comics.
Plus, it never seems to hurt a story to think about it a lot. I’ve got a lot of ideas that I might not get to, but I like throwing those never-gotten-to ideas into the backgrounds and conversations of a comic to hopefully imply that a complicated world is going on around the characters.
Did elements of the story change over the years between the first issue and the new one releasing in October?
Sure, as out there as some of the sci-fi elements in it get, I always want my stuff to relate on some level to what’s going on in my life. So the details change. As much as I have lots of notes and ideas I don’t really write scenes out until I’m drawing them.
Do you write or plot differently when you’re drawing comics than you do when you’re only writing?
Yeah, It’s a pretty different animal. When I’m writing for other artists, it’s all got to be done much faster and I need a pretty clear idea where something is going.
Unless I’m doing the layouts, I don’t always give too tight of direction on how something should be drawn. I feel like that’s the artist’s job.
With my own work, I can let myself draw more of just what I’m in the mood to draw. If I feel like showing a character brushing their teeth for a page, I can throw it in no problem, whereas I wouldn’t ask someone else to put up with that. Working with other people is something I never had any interest in doing in the past. Only since I started on “Prophet” has it been something I’ve enjoyed.
Do you feel like your artistic or storytelling styles have changed in the five years since the first issue was published?
Yeah, I like to think that I’ve gotten more confident and faster in both writing and drawing since the old “Warheads” issue. Plus the “Prophet” stuff has been good for me to work on something that doesn’t use any of the comfortable tricks I would rely on in a lot of my other work: the puns and sex. I think the way I show women has been going though a change for the past few years.
In the past I would do a lot of things because they were difficult for me or because people had reacted to them. More recently I’ve been trying to focus more on what I enjoy reading — and I think sometimes that’s about knowing when to ease back and not try so hard.
How has your writing in regards to female characters changed? That’s a pretty prominent topic in comics these days.
I think making porn comics really sexualized how I draw women and I think that’s fine, but it can be really limiting. I’ve been trying to learn to draw and write more diverse characters. I don’t want to be an old man and only know how to depict half of humanity as 18-year-olds with arched backs.
The first new issue of Graham’s “Multiple Warheads” in five years hits in October from Image Comics.