The brain behind long-running "2000 AD" series "Ampney Crucis Investigates," "Stickleback" and "The Red Seas," writer Ian Edginton adds to his impressive resume this fall with the steampunk fantasy "Brass Sun." Already a very familiar face to "2000 AD" readers, Edginton is perhaps best known in the US for the two "Victorian Undead" series put out by Wildstorm/DC Comics, his recent Looker-starring "National Comics" issue and his run on Marvel's "X-Force" with co-author Warren Ellis.
His latest series presents itself as the ultimate answer to the recent steampunk trend, exploring the concept of an entire solar system that is literally mechanical. Each world in "Brass Sun's" clockwork system -- and Edginton promises there will be many -- has a unique look and civilization to go along with it. "Brass Sun" begins as the entire solar system starts shutting down, and it's up to one young girl to get it started up again.
Accompanying Edginton on this strange trip is artist and long-time collaborator D'Israeli and "New Deadwardians" artist I.N.J. Culbard. D'Israeli and Culbard rotate story arcs on "Brass Sun," with Culbard kicking things off in "2000 AD" prog 1800.
Edginton spoke with Comic Book Resources about "Brass Sun," working with long-time partner D'Israeli yet again, the insane worlds "Brass Sun" will take readers to and how he and artist and friend Steve Pugh broke into comics.
CBR News: We know you're telling a steampunk story with your new series, but what's the basic premise of "Brass Sun?"
Ian Edginton: It's about a life-sized orrery, a gigantic mechanical solar system that contains dozens of worlds and moons that are all connected via colossal spars to a vast, life-giving brass sun. However, the sun has started to wind down and the system is slowing. The outer planets have begun to glaciate and their populations are dying. On one such world, known as Hind Leg, we find a young girl called Wren. Her grandfather gives her part of the secret of the lost Key that will restart the sun. Wren then embarks upon a treacherous journey across the system, trying to piece together the clues that will lead to finding the other parts of the Key, which was broken up after The Great War. Along the way, she picks up an unlikely and eclectic band of characters who either help or hinder her as she goes.
Where did you get the idea to model this universe after a device most commonly found in a high-school science classroom?
I think I was hunting around, looking for pictures of orreries to use as reference for something, when it struck me, '"What if these things were full scale and not models?" And that was pretty much that. It sat simmering away on the back burner in my brain for a while before I decided it was time to turn up the heat and get working on it.
What worlds will Wren visit during the course of her story? And what's the story behind Hind Leg? It seems like a very odd and very specific name for a planet.
Hind Leg is so called because it's one of the outmost planets of the solar system. It's in the boondocks, so it's sort of the ass-end of system, the hindquarters, hence the name. There's also another world that's almost as remote called Distant Cousin!
Wren will visit scores of worlds on her travels, and they will be a visual feast. I don't want to give too much away, but there will be gas giants that are mined for fuel and where society exists in huge balloon towns. Airships and dirigibles are the favored modes of transport there. There is also an ocean world, and another which consists of one vast continent that is actually a gigantic world house, or rather a palace. It's like Gormenghast on steroids.
How many arcs do you anticipate "Brass Sun" lasting?
To be honest, I don't really know. I've got a rough overview of the story from start to finish, but it all depends on how well it's received. It's a big story, an actual epic, so it'll need space to build and breathe. That's the beauty of working for "2000 AD" -- you're given a degree of shoulder room to let your series grow and develop, to build an identity and a following.
You'll be working with both "New Deadwardians" artist I.N.J. Culbard and your long-time collaborator D'Israeli on "Brass Sun." How did you get paired-up with these artists, and will both be considered co-creators?
Well, I've been working with Matt (Brooker aka D'Israeli) for years, on "Kingdom of the Wicked," "Scarlet Traces," "Stickleback," and "Leviathan" to name but a few things. "Brass Sun" is something we've talked about working on together on and off for a while now. I've only been working with Ian for a couple of years, but we've done a lot together. We started working together for a publisher over here called Self Made Hero. We adapted Oscar Wilde's "A Picture of Dorian Grey" for them and then went on to adapt all of the Sherlock Holmes novels, followed by Edgar Rice Burroughs' "A Princess of Mars."
Both Ian and Matt will be credited as co-creators, that goes without saying. The way we see it is that they'll each do alternating arcs, with each arc being set on a different world, thus having a distinctly different look. Really, we're world-building on an enormous scale. It's a little daunting but incredibly exciting, too.
You collaborate quite a lot with D'Israeli, as you mentioned above. Why do you think you work so well together?
I think it simply comes down to the fact that I write things that he loves to draw and I find his artwork so inspiring. In truth, we've become a bit like an old married couple. When we're bouncing ideas around, it doesn't take us long to tune into what other's thinking. Often, I'll come up with what I'd consider a throwaway idea or suggestion, just something mentioned in passing. Matt will then take that and deliver the most astonishing sketches. When I see them, they'll generate a whole new lot of ideas in my head and off we go again. I love it when we bat stuff around between us. In a strange way, it's almost like jazz, where we're riffing off what one another comes up with next.
Matt often has input into the story as well, while I sometimes have very specific ideas of how I want something to look. Neither of us are precious about what we do; we just want to create the best story we can.
You've been a "2000 AD" mainstay for several years now. Exactly how many different series have you created for the book and its sister title "Judge Dredd Megazine?"
I wrote a stand-alone Judges story drawn by Sean Phillips for one of the early issues of "Judge Dredd Megazine" back in the 1990's, but I didn't do anything more for them until around 2002 with the first series of "The Red Seas" with Steve Yeowell. That's when I started working for "2000 AD" on a semi-regular basis.
I think I've created something like 8 or 9 series as well as various "Judge Dredd" and "Rogue Trooper" stories. I'm just working on the last of the pirate-fantasy series "The Red Seas" at the moment. Steve and I have had a great run on it and it's been the best fun to write. This will be something like the eleventh or twelfth "Red Seas" series, so we decided to tie up as many loose ends as we can and bow out gracefully. We've already sown seeds for its replacement in "The Red Seas" itself, so you'll have to look out for the clues.
In the meantime, I've just started the fourth series of the steampunk crime saga "Stickleback" with D'Israeli, and the adventures of 1930's gentleman adventurer "Ampney Crucis" will soon start their fifth series with the inestimable Simon Davis on the fully painted art chores.
There's also been a number of stand-alone series ranging from science fiction ("Interceptor," "Detonator X") to wild-west horror ("American Gothic") and all out gory survivalist horror ("Stone Island").
You also created the gothic series "Victorian Undead" for DC's Wildstorm imprint. Have you had any contact with DC about writing for any of their New 52 titles?
"Victorian Undead" was actually Wildstorm's idea. My editor, Ben Abernathy, knew I was a Holmes enthusiast and asked me if I'd like to work something up around the core concept of Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies.
I'm not doing anything for the New 52 line, but I have written the Looker book for the DC's "National Comics" (fashion model turns vampire!) and I do have another major project in the works for next year, but can't really say much more at the moment.
"Brass Sun" is your latest comic in a career spanning decades. What are some of your highlights?
I started back in the late 1980s when the creative team for the comic magazine "Deadline" were doing a UK signing tour which included a stop at my local comic store, Nostalgia and Comics in Birmingham. Deadline had been the brainchild of "2000 AD" artists Steve Dillon and Brett Ewins. The creative team was headlined at the time by Jamie (Gorillaz) Hewlett, who was co-writing and drawing "Tank Girl."
A good friend of mine, artist Steve Pugh, and I put together a 5- or 6-page story for them to look at. Actually, we sort of shuffled up to them, mumbled something, shoved the pages at them and ran away. They apparently liked what they saw, because they gave us a couple of short series before Steve was scooped up to draw "Grimjack" for First Comics and I was offered a "Terminator" series by Dark Horse. We weren't an overnight success by any stretch of the imagination, but our feet were planted firmly on the ladder and a long climb commenced. Steve is now writing and drawing the amazing "Hotwire" book for Radical.
I have to say though, if there's one person who I can point at and say, "I have this career because of him," it's Brett Ewins. Brett was and is an inspiration. He had faith in a couple of wet-behind-the-ears kids. He was full of practical knowledge, skills and encouragement. And when we had nothing but fluff in our pockets, he bought us many pints of beer.
As for career highlights, meeting up with the "Deadline" bunch ranks pretty highly, as do my Eisner Award nominations. Others include meeting writers and artists such as Ron Marz, whose work I admired for a long time and now count as a friend.
When I attended my first San Diego Comic-Con, I got to chatting with Jim Steranko who called me "kid." He was just extraordinary, slightly scary too but he didn't just talk, he had this great, gravely patter. He sounded beat; he sounded like a Jack Kerouac novel. Afterwards, I helped him move some of his stuff to another booth. Before I left, he gave me a signed Chandler print -- "To my pal Ian." Brother, my feet didn't touch the ground.
Later that day, I was in the hotel lobby waiting for a friend, when sitting on a couch in the corner, were Harlan Ellison, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee deep in conversation. I've since had people ask why I didn't get their autographs. First of all, there was no way I was about to interrupt Harlan Ellison! Who am I to butt into their conversation? At worst, it would have been disrespectful, and least, it would have been impolite. Also, I didn't need their names on a bit of paper, what I saw was enough. I'd seen four literary and comic books legends on the same day, and that memory still brings a smile on my face even to this day.
"Brass Sun" by Ian Edginton, I.N.J. Culbard and D'Israeli debuts in "2000 AD" prog 1800. The print edition goes on sale in the UK and digitally worldwide on September 12. Print editions hit North America September 26.