"Chaos it is, then" - Mark Haven Britt Talks "Full Color"

Boom is a young woman who has what you might call a "dead end" job – literally. You see, Boom's job is just so bad and she hates her boss so much, she's decided to give herself one day to get her whole life in order or she's going to kill herself. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), on the same day, Boom's old friend David gets himself into serious trouble with a drug dealer and needs her help. "Chaos it is, then," David says. "We'll need coffee."

And thus begins "Full Color," a mad odyssey through the streets of New York City by Xeric Grant-winning creator Mark Haven Britt. CBR News spoke with Britt about the 178-page black and white (that's right, "Full Color" is black and white) Image Comics graphic novel that features jokes, guns, hot tubs, dog fights and Bill Clinton having breakfast.

"Boom is an aggressive kick-ass person in every facet in her life except when it comes to her bosses," Britt told CBR News. "All the jobs she's ever had, she's hated. Her girlfriend leaves her and that lights an emotional fuse within Boom. She decides to dramatically change that and sets her sights on her former boss. He's the target for all of the rage inside her."

Britt has a few things in common with his driven-to-the-brink-of-madness protagonist. "I hated my job," Britt admitted. "I hated my boss. Everybody has gone through that. I wanted to create story that addressed those feelings. I wanted a character who did something about it. Someone who would go after who they blamed for their problems."

Complicating Boom's otherwise simple goal is her college friend David, who's foolishly put his life in danger by ripping off a drug dealer. "He's the devil on her shoulder," Britt said. "David is down for fun at any cost. The day Boom decides she's going to get her whole life in order, David shows up outside of Boom's window. Oh, and he's naked. And on the run from the cops. Also, he lies. A lot."

Also along for "Full Color's" wild ride is Ned, the well-meaing and goofy-charming rich kid whose family connections are an essential part of the plot. Then there's Lilly, who like Ned knows Boom and David from their college days, when she fell face down in a subway tunnel and has since claimed to dream of glimpses into the future.

Mark Haven Britt was on a roof in New York on Septemer 11th, 2001, and it was that experience which chiefly inspired the creation of "Full Color." "It was a weird time in New York," Britt explained. "We just watched all these people die in their offices. People working away just like you and me. Why the fuck was I standing there on a rooftop with someone I loathed? What was I doing at this job? What were any of us doing? I think everyone was reassessing.

"The funny thing is that when I first wrote the story I thought that this book was a pulpy thrill ride. It kind of is. It moves along. However, I think the underlying issues I was dealing with at the time took over and made this book into something else. This book was how I reassessed."

At one hundred and seventy-eight pages, "Full Color" is a sprawling kinetic pastiche of high-energy action and true-to-life emotions; at times funny, at other times morbid, but at all times asking whether Boom's choices are really going to turn her life around and redeem her. "Is this a story of redemption? My intent is to keep readers guessing while taking them on this ride through New York," Britt said. "After the ride is over, I hope folks will be asking questions and finding their own answers. Some folks think the end is optimistic and others think it's pessimistic. I love that.

"The story is about job frustration and dealing with what you've made of your life. There are a lot of folks dealing with various states of change. Some are avoiding. Some are embracing it with optimism and looking forward to who they are becoming. Some are simply intent on destroying their old self."

Five years in the making, "Full Color" is a labor of love for Britt, who had to develop a unique way of working to create such a large graphic novel by himself. "For the first half of the book, I'd write a chapter in the form of short story," Britt explained. "Next I'd thumbnail the chapter based on the story. Then draw/ letter the whole chapter. That was really fun, but after eighty pages I wanted to know how long this sucker was going to be.

"I wrote the rest of the book. Sketched each page and lettered it. I put together a binder with the whole story there. I got the idea from my musician friend Raul. He'd just record a whole song with simple instrumentation and gibberish for lyrics. It's nice being able to see the whole piece. As each page was finished, I'd replace the sketch page with the fully rendered one. It's so, so satisfying to do that."

The Xeric Foundation is a non-profit corporation established by Peter Laird, the co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The foundation awards grants to charitable comic book organizations creators committed to comic book self-publishing. Britt was awarded a Xeric Grant, and although he eventually found a publisher for "Full Color," he credits the Xeric Foundation with inspiring him to finish the book. "The Xeric Grant means the world to me," Britt proclaimed. "There were a couple of times that I almost gave up on comics all together. When I got that grant I felt so energized. Adrian Tomine got that grant! Jordan Crane got that grant! I am not as good as those dudes, but hey man I don't care if it's a list for a table at a restaurant, I'm psyched to be on the same list. I felt supercharged. When I was running late, they were very encouraging and fair. That organization is truly a gift to young fools like me. I would never have finished my book with out them."

As some readers may know, Britt recently took the position of Marketing Director at Image Comics, putting him in the perhaps unenviable position of having to promote his own work for the same publisher he works for. "[Image Comics Executive Director] Eric Stephenson wanted to publish my book before he asked me if I'd be interested in the marketing job," Britt explained. "Image would be publishing my book even if I had turned down the job.

"I take my job as Marketing Director incredibly seriously and when I am on the job, I am working as hard as I can for other creators, not myself. At home? On my time? Then I work on promoting my work. This job is one of the most important in comics. Seriously. Selling creator-owned work is essential to the growth of our medium and I would never do anything to compromise that. If anyone were to scream nepotism, it's because they were unaware of my work ethic or the quality of my comics."

With "Full Color" finally completed and ready for release, one might assume Britt would want nothing else but to take a break, but the writer-artist is eager to move on to his next project. "Something short!" Britt said. "Like 'Family Circus' short! Haikus! Seriously, I want to have something out soon. I've got a ton of ideas cooking up in the lab. I'm a Wednesday Guy and I love all kinds of comics. Yeah, my book is very 'classic alternative.' However, I'd like for my body of work to reflect my taste in comics. I love 'Optic Nerve.' I love 'Local.' I also love 'New X-Men' and 'Daredevil.'

"I'm working on a superhero fight comic called 'Tidal.' I feel very strongly about it. It's about heroes rebuilding. It features all kinds of stuff I've been aching to draw, like crazy masks and robots. The first issue features a fight with a four story-tall baby. It's all kinds of fun.

"There's 'Monument,' a murder mystery/coming-of-age story based on my childhood in the Boston area. I've got an anthology in the works. I've been chiseling away at a long work about my father's life as a Roman Catholic priest. He was a fascinating guy and people are always curious when I tell them that my father was a priest and my other was a nun. I'm taking my time with it though.

"I'm taking the summer to figure it all out. It's been a truly crazy year and it's only going to get nuttier."

"Full Color" ships July 11th from Image Comics.

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Image Comics forum.

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