Tim Bradstreet - Putting the AWe in RAW

This past week, CBR News has been covering the launch of "Alien Pig Farm 3000" with interviews of the book's creators and the members of the studio behind this intriguing project - Steve Niles and Thomas Jane. To help ensure completeness of our coverage though, we've wrangled up the third head of RAW, Tim Bradstreet.

The artist - well-known for his "Punisher" covers and role-playing game art - was more than willing to talk about his involvement in the studio and their two big projects: "Alien Pig Farm 3000" and "Bad Planet" (which Bradstreet is inking as well). He even pointed out that RAW had another reason to celebrate this week: their entertainment division's first film - "The Tripper" - hits theaters today.

It sounds like a great time to be part of RAW Studios, and CBR News is glad to have reached Bradstreet before the celebration of their efforts reach a fevered pitch this weekend. Because in a group that includes Thomas Jane, Steven Niles and Tim Bradstreet, who knows what could happen?

Hi Tim, and thanks for talking with us. While most people know you are a partner in RAW, how would you describe your role within the company? And what strengths do you feel each partner brings to the studio, both talent-wise and personality-wise?

My role is hard to describe. I guess, first and foremost, I'm the visual guy - the art director - though Tom plays that role too because he oversees everything. But it's by no means limited to that. All of us bring ideas to the table - ideas for potential series, stories, etc. There are times I help Tom by reading scripts we're working on and offering my viewpoint and suggestions. We bounce ideas back and forth. He trusts my instincts and we see eye to eye almost across the board. He appreciates that I am not a "yes" man. If I think something doesn't work, I'm not afraid to tell him. Some of that is comics and some are screenplays. We're just a three-headed creative team, each with their own specialty, but all of a singular mind.

Tom brings his considerable talent and knowledge of things "Hollywood," along with his love of classic comics. Most people would be surprised by how much a student of the game he is. Steve brings his talent and clout in the field of writing (he's an idea machine), and I likewise in the field of art and visuals. As far as personalities go, it's like three guys who all grew up together; we're twelve years old hanging out in a back lot somewhere. Niles has a copy of "Famous Monsters Of Filmland," Tom's got a vintage copy of "Mad Magazine," and I brought "Heavy Metal." We trade books and consume it all like starving wolves. Then we empty our pockets, combine our funds and go buy a copy of "Creepy."

Sounds like fun! How often are there RAW "board meetings" where the three of you get together? And what do you generally talk about?

Well, we talk on the phone all the time, trade emails like there's no tomorrow, and every once in a while we all three get together. It's a lot of the same stuff I just talked about. We're all three very busy individuals. Recently, since I took on covers for Steve's "Criminal Macabre," it's more likely that we get together for a photo shoot for Macabre,

Tom plays the lead character, Cal McDonald, so we end up having bull sessions while we shoot. It saves time. Then we will usually follow that with dinner and a late night hangout. It's all very informal. None of us are business types (though we're all three savvy where it counts), so board meetings are generally three friends getting together to talk about the shit we love. Then we turn it into comics or movies.

You've worked for several studios/publishers. What has it been like for you to be on the "other" side where you're in charge? Are there any lessons you feel you've learned?

I've learned a lot of lessons, and for me that's always been a major part of my evolvement as an illustrator. I started in obscurity, illustrating role-playing games right out of high school. I had to learn very early about discipline, meeting deadlines, how to promote myself (without the benefit of the internet), and the business aspects of being a freelancer. Along the way, I helped change how the RPG industry treats its artists with respect to royalties and ownership of art.

Over the past twenty-one years, I've gained experience doing everything from graphic design, production, and illustration, to art direction and editing. With RAW, I'm using all those tools, but now I'm doing it with almost total control. I only ever have to worry about two people (Tom and Steve) signing off on a decision. It's liberating in many ways. I get a lot of satisfaction from picking certain artists for certain projects; then you get to watch them take the concepts and run. You want to direct them, not control them. I know from experience that I do my best work when the creative shackles are off and I'm left free to do it my way. Those are the pieces that people end up remembering.

What excites you most about both "Alien Pig Farm 3000" and "Bad Planet?"

On "Bad Planet," getting to work with Steve, Tom, James Daly, and Grant Goleash is crazy cool. I'm having a lot of fun doing the ink art over Daly's pencils. I'm doing a lot of extra work and decision-making, and Daly is very supportive of me running with his art. I'm not stepping on it, just trying to enhance what is there with a bit of my vibe. The result is an amalgam of our insanity.

For "Pig Farm," I was more hands-off. From a visual standpoint, it's Don and Grant's book and Tom directed them. I had input, but it was mostly technical or production. I got a tremendous kick out of watching William Stout and Mark Schultz go mano-a-mano in a friendly cover war. Stout would turn in a cover and Schultz would have to try and top it. Then Stout would see the stakes had been raised and then pull out all the stops on his next one. He blew us away with issue #3. Then Schultz went, "Okay, I see how it is" (I'm paraphrasing), and on issue #4, he channels Frazetta. Those covers are freaking spectacular.

I think they look pretty fantastic as well. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but you're overseeing the creation of a lot of aliens currently. How involved are you in this process?

Heh, to tell you the truth, not a whole lot. With "Bad Planet," Tom pretty much knew what the Deathspiders looked like. The first artist we had did some neat concept drawings of them based on Tom's descriptions, then LaRosa put his spin on them, then Daly his. With the Convict, that was mainly Larosa, Tom, and me. Tom sent Lewis a loose description. The Convict started out with fur, then Tom and I tag-teamed Lewis with art direction until we pretty much had the Convict down to something we are all extremely happy with. I think one of the early designs got used for the "Mandrill Prison Guards." We wanted the Convict to have this big, powerful alien presence, but he also had to have a certain nobility. He's basically like a dinosaur-hide covered "Chingatchgook" from "Last Of The Mohicans." Daly really put his stamp on the character - his is the definitive version.

There was some art direction between Tom and James Daly on some of the other aliens, like "The Moleian," but for the most part we let the artist use his own imagination to come up with stuff. Daley is a concept artist too, so he'll send us like six versions of everything, from starships to exoskeleton battle armor. Tom and I just email him back with our suggestions; things like, "I like the chest and helmet from #2 and the shoulders and legs from #5." You just can't stop that kid. If we mention that the toilet in the holding cell needs to be less fancy, he'll send us six versions of the redesign. So, with the exception of a few major characters, it's all Daly. "Pig Farm" was all Don Marquez, and the writers.

Whoa, now I'm curious about those toilets. So, in your opinion, how do you avoid repetition when designing aliens? Are there any inspirations you look to?

Definitely like to avoid repetition. I don't think any of the aliens in either book look like anything I've seen before. The inspiration comes from the written page. Obviously in most cases, we use nature as a source, like the Mandrill prison guard. Lewis designed these two guys in issue #1 of "Bad Planet" that were completely crazy. One guy was like a reptile giraffe/anteater, the other one is like a Mr. Hyde-version of Fozzie Bear.

That's part of the fun of working with these guys. You just take a few steps with the direction, and then you let artist and their imagination run wild. There is an energy when all the creative arms are communicating - sending emails with graphics back and forth. That energy is inspiration. Having a vibe like that between art direction and artist is very much a huge part of what makes these projects special to us.

I know you have the film "The Tripper" coming out soon. Can you tell us a little about the film? And how involved are you in the film side of RAW?

"The Tripper" opens on April 20th, so by now it should be on screens. Without going into a whole history of things, I'll just say that "The Tripper" enlisted the production power of RAW before I was officially "on board," so that's mostly Tom and Steve's deal. Right now, I'm doing what I can to promote and spread the word about the film on my website and MySpace page.

The film is a funfest of horror and depravity from the twisted mind of David Arquette. It stars our own Tom Jane, along with a who's who of great indie actors and actresses, namely Balthazar Getty, Paul Reubens, Jason Mewes and Lucas Haas. David's wife, Courtney Cox-Arquette, has a small part, and David also drug his brother Richmond into the role of Tom's partner, "Deputy Cooper." Our pal Christopher Nelson has a great role, too. Chris models for me as Mo'Lock on the "Criminal Macabre" covers. Niles recruited him straight off "The Tripper" at a cast screening of the film - too fun!

As for projects I'm involved with on the film side of things, Tom and I have been making tweaks to the script for "Dark Country," written by Tab Murphy which Tom will direct and star in at the end of the year. I'll be on board as the film's art director and creative source. Then we have a film called "The Amateur Kind." I'm hoping to take a step up and do production design and art direction on that. We also have "The Lurkers" (written by Niles) in development at Lion's Gate. I got to do the teaser poster for it.

That's terrific! So, in addition to inking "Bad Planet," what other projects are keeping you busy right now?

Oh God. I'm doing covers for two monthly books ("The Punisher," "Criminal Macabre") and an ongoing series of novels called "Rogue Angel." I just started working on a cover for a cool prequel book based on Wesley Snipes new film, "GallowWalker." And I'm doing a movie poster for Eric Red's new film "100 Feet." All that stuff is on the plate now. It's like having two full-time jobs, but what would life be without a little adventure?

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