December will be a good month for writer Ivan Brandon–what with the December 22 softcover edition release of Viking: The Long Cold Fire (Image) and more immediately, this week, the release of Doc Savage 9, the DC Comics/First Wave universe series that he is co-writing with Brian Azzarello. Brandon and I discuss both works, as well as the potential advantages of the digital platform, his recent involvement with Weird War Tales and the particulars of collaborating with a writer such as Azzarello. While we were not able to delve too much into his plans for 2011, it definitely sounds like his intentions for the new year are quite ambitious.
Tim O’Shea: How intrigued are you by the prospect of increased exposure via different platforms, such as the iPad for your work–how much of a priority is it for you to make your creative-owned work available for the digital platform?
Ivan Brandon: Well, of course it’s important to me to add millions of new outlets where people might find my work. The idea that I can link a new book and some of the people who follow me on Twitter, say, who don’t read comics at all might be able to just click and start down that road… that’s to me an incredible new market that needs to be taken very seriously.
But creatively moreso I’m very interested to see what new voices the digital world might bring to storytelling. What’s the new equivalent of a Jack Kirby when there are no longer any print world parameters to adhere to? Comics have for a long time toed a weird invisible line that I think this removes. I’m excited to see what kind of stories come from anyone who notices.
O’Shea: In researching Viking history for the series, is there any historical aspects that really caught you by surprise or otherwise stuck out in your mind?
Brandon: It’s hard to say… it’s hard for me in my head to separate what I learned as a kid and what I’ve more recently discovered. Throughout this whole process I think what’s been the most surprising is the realization of how much of what they did still affects us now. And how similar their reality was to ours in terms of this constant influx of new invention and technology.
O’Shea: You’ve made an effort to provide Viking in different formats (initial floppies; hardcover). Have you been pleased with response to the hardback?
Brandon: Yeah, it’s definitely been great for us. We’re releasing a softcover in December in a 3rd oversized format… magazine size, bigger than the issues, smaller than the hardcover. We’re kinda trying to help on a larger scale to make the point that not every comic has to look alike… Viking is not like Captain America and it shouldn’t have to be presented the same way.
O’Shea: You and Viking artist Nic Klein had a story in the recent Weird War Tales, how did that story come about?
Brandon: I got asked to do WWT by editor Joey Cavalieri… I’d been working behind the scenes for the past year or so on the First Wave line with him and he presented me with the opportunity and I snuck Nic in the door with me.
O’Shea: Not many writers get to write a Two-Face story where he’s actually innocent (to a certain extent). Was that the nuance that attracted you to writing the recent Streets of Gotham co-feature or was it some other aspect?
Brandon: It was that and a combination of a lot of things. To me that character has wandered away from the perfect simplicity of his origins. I really wanted to take a crack at bringing him back to a more visceral place.
O’Shea: CBR’s coverage of a DC panel at San Diego noted that you said “Doc Savage should be the coolest character in comics.” Could you elaborate on what you meant when you said that?
Brandon: Doc’s this amazing character that really makes almost any kind of story possible. He’s a genius, an inventor, he’s a self-made Superman, if you will… a guy who has really built up his mind and body to almost superhuman levels by sheer force of will. He’s Bond and Q in one giant bronze package. I was talking to my friend Drew about the old novels and he made the comment: “There’s more sci-fi in these books than in sci-fi books.” Doc and his world are built to take everything in stride and to be malleable enough to completely change the game with every single story. My goal is to hopefully push that to every issue… to try to sell some kind of crazy impossible thing at every turn without ever being campy or silly. I think in a lot of ways comics has moved away from things that don’t look exactly like a photograph. To me the Marvel and DC worlds aren’t supposed to be the same as our reality, they’re supposed to be BETTER. And the first wave world even moreso is built of the best pieces of everything you could ever want in any genre. Andy you know: it says a lot about DC’s commitment to this character that when they pitted Doc against Batman, Batman wasn’t able to land a punch. For me that raised the stakes of this gig significantly… to my mind my version of the character needs to live up to that: he needs to be the guy that can potentially outmatch Batman.
O’Shea: The current issues of Doc Savage had him go to that universe’s version of the Middle East, what fictional liberties did you take when structuring this universe’s Middle East?
Brandon: Well, ours is kindof a post-war Middle East and that’s an area that in the real world has seen a lot of hard times over thousands of years. So most of all I wanted to show that resilience… to show the inhabitants’ ability to survive and rebuild. I took a lot of inspiration from post-WW2 Germany… after the war lots of different cultures and factions have showed up to plant their flag. I basically took liberties with the layout and timeline but not with human nature, hopefully.
O’Shea: What are some of the biggest benefits to collaborating with a writer like Brian Azzarello?
Brandon: It’s a great time. Azz and I have similar tastes but very different approaches to how we get to what we want. I think more than anything we add a different perspective to each other and we’re very honest about the other’s ideas. So far it’s been a really refreshing experience that may eventually feed some other stories outside of Doc Savage.
O’Shea: Any chance you’ll be doing another Nemesis mini down the road, or are you done with that character?
Brandon: There’s a great chance, I think. There’s nothing on the schedule right this second but obviously I left him in a prime spot for a followup. Hopefully the stars will align and I can get DC on board. I have some giant crazy ideas I really like for where to go with him… fingers crossed, I guess.
O’Shea: What’s on the creative horizon for you?
Brandon: I can’t really talk about any of the work for hire stuff but there’s one project in particular that I think people will be extremely excited about. It’ll hopefully be announced early in 2011.
Beyond that I’m working on my next 3 creator owned properties, at least one of which’s probably going to be a digital-first concept that I hope will get me to think outside my comfort zone and do something new creatively.
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