Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2004 Interview with Brian Wood

As today is both my and Brian Wood's birthday (I'm 25 and I don't know how old he is), I figured I'd take it easy and post an interview I did with him in November of 2004 for the University of Western Ontario Gazette. The actual interview was conducted via e-mail and then I wrote it up into an actual article. So, for the first time ever, people can see the uncut interview. My questions were pretty broad at times since most of the readers wouldn't be familiar with Wood and I like to use quotes to provide background info when I can. One of my biggest pet peeves about so-called "interviews" in newspapers are when 90% of the article is the writer with the odd quote thrown in. I've always liked to make as much of the article quotes so the readers get a feel for the subject. A little tedious for the subject to have to answer really basic questions, but I find it makes for a better finished product. I could be wrong. (Oh, and note the odd bit of ass-kissing that works it way into some questions. To be fair, it's what I actually thought/think, so it's not ass-kissing for the sake of it.)

Anyway, enjoy.


Me: Can you give me a brief bio of yourself for those unfamiliar with you or your work?

Wood: I graduated from art school (Parson, in NYC), in 1997 with the intention of drawing comics. At that time I didn't know or trust any writers, so I just wrote my own comics as I drew them. I started working in the web design field to pay the bills, and as that ate up more and more of my time, I found I only had time to write comics and not draw them. Since that point, I've written an awful lot of books and only recently found I have the time to get back into drawing on a regular basis. I live in San Francisco now, and in addition to comics I do a lot of editorial illustration and some freelance graphic design here and there for the videogame industry. I also have a small t-shirt company called Northern Boy.

Me: How was the experience of working under (for lack of a better word) Warren Ellis on Generation X?

Wood: It was fine. Very hands-off. Warren would write loose scripts or provide a basic outline, and I would tighten it up. Nothing very glamorous, although he did teach me how to write comic scripts. This was only my second job in the industry, so I really didn't know what I was doing. Warren taught me by example. My script formats to this day are based on the format Warren used on Generation X.

Me: Were you surpised by the reaction Demo has received so far?

Wood: Yes. It's a tricky question to answer, though, because I firmly believed that what Becky and I were doing was really good work. I just didn't expect the typical comic-buying public to care all that much.

Me: What's your writing process like?

Wood: I generally have it all worked out in my head before I sit down in front of the keyboard, so in theory, writing should be a simple and quick process. Sometimes it happens that way. Other times I'll be stuck for weeks agonizing over something. Writing has never come very easy for me - it's a battle. I imagine lots of writers will tell you that. I also always know my artists, so I keep them in mind as I write, working with what I know their strengths are, and giving them freedom within the script to improvise if needed.

Me: What's your drawing process like?

Wood: Lots of music playing, mostly. I just sit down and do it. Recently I've been scanning the drawings in at the end and adding some of my own photographic elements and textures. Not sure if I'll stick with that technique too much longer, though. It's a fun experiment.

Me: How do you approach your cover and design work?

Wood: I am one of those "design by instinct" types, as opposed to the rules-oriented designers that do it all by the book (not knocking them, by the way. I wish I had their discipline and skill set). I know the general look I want at the end and I use whatever tool or process I have to accomplish it. When it looks right to me, it's done. Lots of noodling around and trial-and-error.

Me: How has working with Becky [Cloonan] been?

Wood: Becky is wonderful in so many ways, and talented as hell. She'll be a superstar one day soon.

Me: How has the move from New York to San Francisco impacted your work or working process, do you think?

Wood: Well, the move across the country was also at the same time I quit my day job to freelance full time, so that probably impacted my work more than the change of locales. SF has given me a few good work opportunities and a slightly easier lifestyle than I had in NY. Cost of living in a little cheaper, and the daily pace is so much slower and laid back. I miss the East Coast - it's my home, and I think it influences my work way more than I know. I'll probably move back east in a couple years, although not back to NYC.

Me: How has working with Rob G on the Couriers series of OGNs been?

Wood: It's been good, much like with Becky. We stay out of each other's way for the most part, and just let each other do their thing. I don't believe in micro-managing the artist. They're my partners, not my employees, so their input is just as important as mine. I give them a lot of leeway.

Me: How many Couriers OGNs do you have planned?

Wood: Hard to say right now. I have ideas for lots more, but we may stop sooner than later, depending how we feel after this third one comes out.

Me: Could you talk about the concept of Demo a bit?

Wood: Demo is a series of short stories in comics form, not about superheroes and not tied together with a string of continuity. It's actually closer to the idea of a book of short stories than a serial comics series. This is an anomaly in the comics industry, I know. Took people a few months to 'get' what it was we were doing on this book. Those short stories are little indie dramas, stories about young people
(meaning anywhere from 16-30) who are at a pivotal, life-changing point in their lives, and how they deal it. Death, first love, last love, betrayal, breaking from bad friends, breaking from family, things like that. It's designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. Everyone can relate to these types of stories.

Me: Did you get any negative reactions about Demo #7 and mixing politics (kind of) with comics? On a similar note, what about for Channel Zero?

Wood: I got a lot more heat for Channel Zero, and I think mostly because the politics I depicted were (intentionally) naive and flawed, as seen through the young protagonist's eyes. Many readers assumed that the thoughts and opinions of that character were my own thoughts and opinions, and came down hard on me for it. I still get that, even 8 years after I did that book. It can get a little annoying. Demo #7, I think, was handled a little differently, and wasn't at all preachy, so people spared me this time. Almost all the feedback I got was positive.

Me: How would you describe your experiences with Larry Young and AiT/Planet Lar?

Wood: Very good. Again with the hands-off working relationship. We trust each other to do our respective jobs, and it all works out right.

Me: Do you plan to do any more stories featuring Jennie 2.5 from Channel Zero?

Wood: No plans. Channel Zero, as much as I love it, is something from an earlier stage in my career.

Me: What do you think of the recent trend in comics towards multi-part storyarcs and the lack of short, single-issue stories? Is Demo a response to this in any way?

Wood: Not really. I just did what I wanted to do. I do my best to separate my creative intentions from what I think the rest of comics are heading towards.

Me: Seriously, will a collection of Demo ever be produced? (And I honestly would be happy if you said no.)

Wood: Eventually.

Me: Who would you say are some of your influences?

Wood: Almost exclusively film. I watch lots of movies, and listen to a lot of music. I like little moments in time, perfect snapshots, and that's what I get from good music and good cinema.

Me: What are your opinions of the covers produced by the mainstream comic companies? (And unofficially, why haven't Marvel and/or DC driven a dumptruck full of money up to your door and begged you to do their covers? I mean, really...)

Wood: I don't think they really understand what it is I do. I've had conversations with some editors, and they literally cannot think how to apply what I do to one of their books. When I did those covers for the Global Frequency series, it was writer Warren Ellis that instructed them to hire me. Wouldn't have happened if it was up to them.

Me: Why should someone at UWO who's never read comics and kind of thinks they're stupid pick up Demo?

Wood: Demo is just a bunch of short stories. Don't let how they're published get in the way of you enjoying a good story.


The published article can be read here.