Following on the cult success of his "pre-apocalyptic" thriller "Sheltered," writer Ed Brisson began his new crime series "The Violent" at Image Comics earlier this month. "The Violent" #1 introduced readers to Mason and Becky, a pair of recovering addicts dealing with a terrifying crime concerning their three year-old daughter. Between this new tragedy and the past nipping at their heels, it's clear Brisson's newest heroes are going to make tough decisions and readers will be treated to a dark, gut-wrenching ride. Brisson's tense plotting and artist Adam Gorham's moody art guarantee that "The Violent" will find fans among noir aficionados.
CBR News caught up with the very busy Brisson -- who in between writing issues of "The Violent" is also one of the writers on DC's "Batman and Robin Eternal" weekly and an in-demand letterer -- who opened about how his hometown of Vancouver and his anxieties as a father influenced the first arc, as well as his hopes for the future of the new crime series.
CBR News: "The Violent" is a crime story very much rooted in realistic human drama and family dynamics. What was important to you when creating this world?
Ed Brisson: I wanted to tell a story about everyday people. To people who were relatable. Even if Mason's an ex-con and they're both recovering drug addicts, I think there's a lot about them that's relatable to the reader. We can all -- or most of us, at least -- can relate to being screwed over by our bosses, to scraping by, etc.
You've said that this is likely your most personal work ever --how so? And how does it being so personal impact the way you develop the story?
There are a few things here. It touches on my own experiences of being a father and being terrified of fucking it up. To me, there's nothing more terrifying than that fear of something happening to your child -- especially something that you could have (or should have) prevented. Having a kid makes you want to be a better person. Whether you're capable or not. Part of what made both Adam and I zero in on this story is that aspect. We're both fathers. We both have daughters. We both know the highs and lows that go along with being a parent, where you're second guessing everything you do, hoping that you're doing the best that you can.
Another part of it, for me, is the setting. Vancouver is where I live and the source of a lot of my day-to-day anxiety. Something that a lot of people probably don't know is that Vancouver is the second least affordable city in the world (next to Hong Kong). Regular people can't afford to buy a house. Most middle class families can't even afford to buy a condo anymore. This is causing rents to skyrocket. People who'd normally buy have to rent and rents have doubled and tripled in the last 5-10 years. People are being pushed out of the city due to the cost. I wanted to tell a story about people who are facing that; who are barely scraping by as is and what that looks like in a city that can be as unreasonable as Vancouver often is.
The main characters -- Mason and Becky -- are both struggling with addiction and focused on getting their lives back on track. What is their relationship like and how will it be tested? Has their shared bond of trying to overcome a difficult past prepared them for what lies ahead?
Mason's a fuck up. There's no two ways around it. Becky's definitely the more responsible of the two. In a lot of ways, it's one parent and two children. But the thing is, Mason's trying. He really is. They're both trying to do this, to be better parents, but there's still maybe a little too much codependency for them to really make it to where they need to be.
Another thing that works against them is that they don't actually get to see each other that often -- you see that a little in #1. In order to get by, they work opposing shifts so that someone's around to watch Kaitlyn at all times, they don't have the cash to pay for daycare. So, they're not always working together, they're just... working.
How did "The Violent" come to be? How did you and the art team of Adam Gorham, Michael Garland and Tom Muller come together on it?
"The Violent" is something I've been wanting to do for years. When I was first trying to pitch to publishers, before "Comeback," every project was straight crime. But I was never able to get anything going. Crime can be a tough sell and even more so if you don't have a track record. Now that I've got a few years of getting my name out there, publishers are more willing to take that risk.
I met Adam back in 2011, I believe. He and Michael Walsh (co-creator/artist on "Comeback") are good friends and introduced us when I was in Toronto for a show. Since then, we've kept in touch and have traveled to cons together several times. I'd been keeping an eye on Adam's art for a while and always knew that I wanted to work with him at some point. Plus, through conversation, I knew that he and I had similar taste in authors, so thought that he'd be a great fit for a crime book. In 2014, when I was thinking about pitching this project, I approached him to see if he'd be down. Thankfully, he was and here we are.
Michael had colored the first arc of "Cluster." I loved his work on that and so we hit him up about laying down colors on "The Violent." His sense of mood and atmosphere is amazing.
Tom we hit up because we really like the work that he did on "Zero," "Material," "Drifter," etc. We really wanted to make sure that we had someone on board who could make the whole package look great.
The art is so expressive and I felt immediately sucked in by the first issue. What was the character design process like? How involved do you get with your artists?
I tend to only give vague outlines/descriptions for characters. I want Adam to have his thumbprints all over the book. I don't like the idea of just dictating, obviously, it's a collaboration and it needs to feel like it. Typically, Adam will come up with designs and we go back and forth a little, just to make sure that everything is as good as it can be, but most of that is all Adam. Almost all of it. I can't take any credit!
This is a successor to "Murder Book" -- was it always planned that way? And what from the creative experience on "Murder Book" gave way to this series?
Yeah, it was planned as such. I loved doing "Murder Book," but really wanted to work on longer stories. I love, love, love writing crime comics. If it were possible, I'd be writing crime comics all the time.
"Murder Book" was a short form story, and you've gradually expanded the length of the series you write. How do you think that shift benefited you as a writer? And, assuming sales will be supportive, how long do you and your co-creators see "The Violent" running?
I think that I've been able to find my stride when it comes to telling stories. When I started "Murder Book," I hadn't really written much that was more than maybe 50 pages. Since doing "Comeback," "Sheltered," etc, I've been able to stretch my wings a little and tell longer stories, but think that I still like the idea of 4-6 issue arcs/stories. I like stories that end; that don't go on forever. With "The Violent," we're working to do that -- a series of loosely connected stories that are all complete.
Also, we're not always going to lock ourselves into always doing five-issue arcs here. The plan is to serve the story. If we have a story that's only a two-issue story, we're not going to pad it out, we'll just tell a two-issue story. Same if we have something that's 10 issues. We'll tell a story in 10. The plan is to be fluid, to focus on engaging stories first. I realize I just went on a tangent there. Circling back, the one thing I think I've learned is to just focus on telling the story and taking as much or as little time as needed.
As to how long we want the series to go, the answer is: forever.
What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
I guess one thing I'm hoping to do is put Vancouver on the map. Make it an interesting location -- Vancouver is often a stand in for other cities in the film industry, so I would like to see it featured more as itself.
More so, I'm just hoping that people are going to enjoy the book and that they'll follow us as we spin more tales.
"The Violent" #1 is on sale now from Image Comics.