Ed Brisson recently hit mainstream comic audiences like a kick to the jaw (metaphorically in most cases) with his recent five-issue run on the Image title Comeback. While his name may be new to some, Brisson has been working in comics since the 90s as a letterer, writer, artist and publisher.
If all of that still isn’t impressing you, Brisson has new title with Image dropping in July 10, 2013 titled Sheltered. It’s shaping up to be one of the most innovative books of the year, especially as Brisson has an incredible sense for dramatic tension, which more often than not, is built at the end of a loaded gun.
I caught up with the comic maven recently to talk Sheltered and the mysterious (or not so) circumstances that lead to getting a book picked up by Image Comics.
Okay boring question first, how did you first get into writing comics?
Not boring at all!
I’ve been making comics for about 19 years. Back in the 90s, I used to make mini comics that I’d photocopy and sell through record shops and out of my backpack. Initially, I wanted to be an artist and only wrote comics so that I’d have something to draw.
From there, I just kept on. I did mini-comics, zines, comics for college papers, webcomics, you name it.
At some point around 2007ish, I started to cut back on illustrating comics and focused on writing. I didn’t have time for both and, by then, was more interested in the writing side of things than I was illustrating.
You started a small press, New Reliable Press, in 2005. Why dive into publishing?
Looking back, I’m not sure. I guess I was fresh out of school, where I’d gone to learn publishing (from technical to promo) and thought that I’d try publishing other people’s work for a bit.
However, it was tough going and I folded it a few years later because it was hard to get retailers interested in a newer publisher and because I wanted to focus on my writing.
Murder Book is an extremely interesting project. How did that first get started?
I’d done a few pitches that hadn’t made it through with any publishers and was frustrated with the process. With pitching, I was expending a lot of energy on something that only a few editors would see and ultimately pass on. I didn’t want to keep doing that.
So, one year (on my birthday), I decided that I was going to stop pitching and just start writing. I’ve always loved crime as a genre (books, comics, film, everything), so decided that I’d try my hand at writing it. I sat down that day and wrote most of the first draft of Catching Up. From there, I just kept going.
The important thing, for me, was that I was just doing what I wanted to do. Writing stories that I’d want to read. I think that showed through because it wasn’t until I started doing Murder Book that I started to get attention from publishers.
Was Murder Book in any way a successful means to get your work out there?
In a lot of ways, posting short stories was almost like having a writing portfolio. If you want to be a comic writer, you need to have something to show and you’re not going to get very far by just posting your scripts. Having completed comics helps get the word out there. As mentioned above, it’s MURDER BOOK that seemed to have put me on the radar of publishers and editors.
You write the stories for Murder Book and other artists illustrate them. As a writer, how do you typically approach an artist to work on your scripts?
I don’t think that there’s been a “typical” approach, to be honest. I knew Simon Roy from my New Reliable days and approached him about working on the first couple stories. Vic Malhotra and I met through a book he’d illustrated and I’d lettered. Michael Walsh had initially hired me to letter something of his. I really liked his work and we got to talking and really hit it off. Jason Copland is a local artist who I’ve known for years and we were basically just looking for an excuse to work together. Similar with Johnnie Christmas.
You just finished a five-issue run on Comeback with Image. How did that project get picked up by Image?
I wish there were a sexier story beyond “I pitched it to them and they picked it up”, but there isn’t, really. I just followed the pitching guidelines for Image/Shadowline.
Michael and I had been grinding out some pitches. Comeback just happens to be the one that happened to catch Jim Valentino’s attention.
You have a new book coming out, Sheltered, the premise seems extremely innovative and a step away from the true crime genre you primarily worked in. Can you tell us anything about it?
It’s a book about survival and living with consequences of your actions. SHELTERED follows the children of an off-the-grid survivalist community. Their entire life has been about training to survive any sort of apocalyptic scenario – from nukes to societal breakdown. I wanted to put them in a situation where they’re faced with a potential threat that they’ve prepared for, but then realize that they’re not as ready as they thought. They won’t all survive and they have to make some choices, quickly, about who will and why.
I don’t want to give away too much right now, for fear of spoiling the first issue.
You’ve lettered several issues of Prophet. Do you ever read the scripts for that insanely good space opera and think “what the hell is going on here?”
Haha. Nope! I know Simon and Brandon, so usually know what’s coming up well ahead of time. I really love working on that book.
Any last minute advice for aspiring comic creators?
Worry less about getting a publishing deal and more about making comics. Get your work out to as many people as possible. Don’t pander. Put your work online for free. When you’re starting out, there’s no money to be made anyway. Do it for the love of creating.
Where can people catch up with you and your work?