Brandon Graham is one of the most interesting people working in comics right now. He started out writing underground porn comics for alt-comix and American manga publishers, and from there built his profile through creator-owned work until he spearheaded the relaunch of Rob Liefeld’s Prophet as a Heavy Metal-style sci-fi series. The critical and sales acclaim he won headlining Prophet helped him convince Image to start a line of books with some of his favorite creators called 8House, the first of which, 8House: Arclight, launches on July 1st. We had a chance to talk with Brandon via email about Arclight, editing his own line of books, working with his significant other and the pundamentals of comic writing.
1. 8House Is Its Own Mini-Line.
|The Cover to Arclight #1 – Click to Enlarge
Jim Dandeneau: Your career has been a steady progression from porn comics to indie comics to Image indie to Prophet, and now this. How would you describe your role with 8house? Writer? Organizer? Editor? Art wrangler?
Brandon Graham: I think with 8house I’m a writer and organizer. My editing style is about as invasive as picking people whose work I’m excited about and then letting them do what they do. I’m interested in seeing the creators involved not only making their own work in the 8house world but also how they riff off of each other’s stories.
Both 8house and the Island magazine I’m doing feel like a progression of what I was doing with my collaborators on Prophet (or are doing since we have 6 more issues).
JD: Has 8house been the biggest comics thing you’ve done?
BG: In terms of organization? I think the Island magazine is a much more daunting task since it’s 115 pages a month. But also, since I’m not putting my own writing or drawing into each and every issue of these books, in some ways it seems like a more casual workload.
Both projects are certainly Image putting a huge amount of faith in me and my collaborators to do what we do. It’s exciting.
2. It Started Out As A Top Cow Revival.
|Arclight P.1 & 2 – Click to Enlarge
JD: They do seem to be letting you build and headline a more expansive project than they traditionally publish. How did that come about?
BG: It’s pretty unrecognizable now, but initially 8house started with talks about relaunching some Top Cow books in the same way we did Prophet. That ended up not happening but this grew from it. I was gonna do PITT and Marian was going to do Witchblade.
Island came about from a conversation with Simon Roy talking about how much freedom I had working with Image and what I would be most excited to work on if I could really do anything that I wanted to. I figured out what I wanted to do and took it to Eric Stephenson.
I think because of the basic setup of how Image works – as a creator-owned publisher – they’ve certainly done anthology books before but less collective projects in this style. A lot of this is me trying to rethink what works best for me as a creator and a reader. I hope it’s as fun to read as it has been to put together.
JD: It seems like, as Prophet has gone along and now with 8house and Island, an interactive creative process is something you really enjoy. How does building these creative communities change your work?
BG: Something that I’m really excited about in comics, aside from making them myself, is thinking about what I would like to see on shelves. What would get me excited as a reader. Image has put me in an amazing position where I can not only get my own work out there but collaborate with other artists whose work I’m excited about – or even make a space, as with Island to present work I’m excited about that might not make it to reader’s attention.
Also, I think just knowing that I’ll be working alongside artists like Emma, Sloane and Fil Barlow and the rest raises the bar for me. It makes me want to do work that lives up to the work they’re doing.
3. Graham Is Incredibly Excited About the Artist Lineup.
|Arclight P. 3 – Click to Enlarge
JD: You’ve been fairly outspoken about what you would and wouldn’t like to see on shelves even before you had the chance to be EIC of your own line (for lack of a better term). What is it about Sloane or Xurxo that jumped out and made you say “SHIT YES let’s get these guys in front of more readers!”
BG: With both of them, a lot of it is the kind of people they are as much as how incredible I think their work is. Sloane is impressively experimental in her work, jumping around in styles and even between comics, text games and animation. And she is nicely outspoken in things that I think are important to the comics community. I’ve seen her get shit for saying some of the same stuff that I get away with saying.
In contrast to Sloane being a cartoonist in her 20’s, Xurxo is the same age as me (38) and has been pushing along in work-for-hire jobs and comic covers, but he has a love and excitement of things that I find to be really rare. I don’t know a better way to say it – he’s just an incredibly pleasant [person]who is super-invested in the work he’s doing and the insane amount of thought and detail he puts on every page.
Needless to say, these are creators who I think cosigning makes me look a lot better than it makes them, and [it]makes me want to live up to the quality of work they do and quality of people that they are.
4. The Art Process On Arclight Is Non-Traditional.
|Walrus: Brandon Graham’s All Bum Album
JD: Is this the longest story you’ve worked with Marian on? What was it about Arclight that made it the right story for a longer collaboration with her?
BG: This is the only time I’ve written for Marian. We’ve collaborated on some fun sketchbook things that ended up in my Walrus book, but this is the first real-real thing. She was working in video games while I was working on Prophet. I think she saw how much fun I was having and wanted to try out Arclight as something to get her feet back into comics. I’m happy that she seems to be enjoying it. She’s already got her next couple comics after it planned.
Usually when I’ve written for other artists, I try to come up with something that they would want to draw. So Arclight has a lot of the fantasy elements that Marian likes to draw, and we’re messing with body stuff and gender stuff which is her wheelhouse of interest. It’s been really fun working with her. As much as she’s the creature I married, she’s also one of my favorite artists to make lines on paper – ooof those lines!
5. That Process Is Giving Us a Really Gorgeous Book, Though.
|Arclight P.4 – Click to Enlarge
JD: I want to vehemently agree here. The word that keeps popping up in my head when I reread is “elegant,” which I think is a combination of the setting and characters and of her art. You and Marian, even though your art is very different, seem to share similar design tastes. Is that a conscious team decision, or does it just come from familiarity? How do you guys work? Tight scripts, or shouting back and forth from adjacent desks as you go?
BG: Usually on stuff like Prophet I make rough layouts that explain how I’m thinking of each page, and the artist has the option to keep or disregard the layout. With Marian it’s more casual. I’ll email her text breakdowns for each page and then we meet at coffee shops and talk them over – we are a odd married couple in that we live a block away from each other and we tend to work in our own places. But yeah, I’ll give her rough ideas, sometimes roughing it out on paper and then she makes pages that I then rework the dialog on.
I should also mention how her coloring process on Arclight is. All of her lines are done with pencil crayons (which is what Canadians call colored pencils). She pencils them in lighter colors, like pinkish red, and then goes over them in grey markers to make the tones, does the final lines in grey or black pencil crayon, and finally in photoshop she lays down flat colors over the marker tones, giving it that watercolor look. I think it’s a cool process.
After that I rework the text and send it back and forth to her before sending it off to Ariana Maher to letter.
JD: Multiple Warheads and King City and even a good chunk of Prophet are incredibly visually dense. Arclight is much more expansive and methodical at the same time, like the panels and characters are given a lot of space to impact. How much of that is because of Marian’s input and her work, and how much of that is a story decision?
BG: A lot of that is just how Marian likes to tell a story, but also it’s leading the readers into a new place. I have a lot of theories on bringing readers into a story. The second issue gets denser. Marian had me rewrite the last half of #2 to add more of what we’d talked about that wasn’t shown.
6. The First Year Is all Planned out.
|The Cover to 8House: Kiem – Click to Enlarge
JD: Just to give readers a sense of the structure, 8house 1 and 2 are Arclight, 3 is Kiem, 4 and 5 are Yorris, 6-9 are Mirror, then we wrap up Arclight, and there’s another arc from Marian and From Under Mountains to be determined, right?
BG: That’s the gist of the first year we’ve planned. From Under Mountains (with Marian, Claire Gibson and Sloane Leong) is in the same world but it’s a monthly of it’s own.
JD: So the loose outline structure of 8house is that all the stories take place on a world ruled by 8 magic families. It looks like you’ve got plans to show us 4 of them. Any discussions happening about expanding that?
BG: More than 4 show up in the first year, but that’s more of the structure of the world than what the stories are actually about. But yeah, if these books do well we’ve talked about bringing in more books in the same line.
The main thing that interests me in that is less the shared world, but more the idea of saying to readers that if you like the work that me or Emma or the others guys you’ve seen in the line, then the other books are also by creators whose work we enjoy.
7. Read Island If You Want Pun-ishment.
|The cover to Island #1 – Click to Enlarge
JD: Are you saving up all your puns for Island, or is there going to be like, one issue of Earth War where the Johns hold off an assault from a brain-mother army by shouting puns at them?
BG: Mannnn, I always say I never wanna be the Geof Darrow of puns (how that guy has to pack huge amounts of detail into every page he draws). I like to tell myself that the puns are mostly retired but that’s just what I tell myself. The [Multiple] Warheads stuff in Island is sick with them. I can’t escape. It is my crime and also my punishment.
8House: Arclight is available in comic shops and online on Wednesday, July 1. Check back then for our review of the issue! Spoilers: it’s good.
Previously by Jim Dandeneau
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