Interview: Ivan Brandon – DC, Marvel, and Indie Comic Book Creator

Ivan Brandon is a comic book creator native to the New York landscape.  His work for Marvel Comics includes Secret Invasion: Home Invasion and Deadpool: Team Up.  He co-created The Cross Bronx with superstar artist Michael Avon Oeming and wrote the critically acclaimed series Viking (both of which were published by Image Comics).  He’s recently been writing heavily for DC Comics and in the past few years he has written the Final Crisis tie-in, Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape, Doc Savage, Batman: Streets of Gotham and, as part of DC’s New 52, Men of War.  In addition to writing comic books, he has also written for assorted other print and visual media.

You can learn more about Brandon and read his latest blog post by visiting his homepage.

Nicholas Yanes:  Like all superheroes, I believe every creator has a secret origin.  When did you know that you wanted to write professionally?  Specifically, when did you know that you wanted to write comic books?

Ivan Brandon:  It’s sorta nebulous. I’d been writing odds and ends for a long time, mostly prose. I’d been a reader of comics, I’d studied them as a kid, but as an adult I wasn’t all that enmeshed. But I had friends who worked in the business and based on my other writing they’d always encourage me to take a stab at it. They’d send me scripts, so I could see how they worked. One day I took a stab. But the distance between that and my career was like, literally months. I went from never having written a comic (except as a kid) to suddenly getting hired to write them. This was around 2002. It was all pretty surreal.

Yanes:  Some comic book creators claim that their formal education greatly helped them in their careers; others do not share this sentiment.  Do you feel your education helped you become a writer?  Do you feel your education helped you deal with the realities of the Entertainment industry?

Brandon:  I was a terrible student. I think my education only helped me to embarrass my mother.

Yanes:  The internet is filled with people who want to write professionally, but never do.  What do you feel you did right that most people don’t know about?

Brandon:  My friend Becky has a saying: the secret to making comics is just to make comics. I just made them, I guess.

Yanes:  There is a common saying that if you want to be a writer you have to write a lot and read a lot.  What are some of the texts you’ve read that you feel have influenced you as a professional writer?

Brandon:  Like guides to writing? I don’t really have anything I’d recommend. I think it’s good to understand why people look at structure the way they do, for example, but ultimately life is unstructured and I’d rather read a rough but honest work by someone who’s never heard of Robert McKee than a technically sound academic with no heart.

Yanes:  Your bio mentions that you have worked on some videogames.  In your experience, what is the biggest difference between working on a comic and working on a video game?

Brandon:  Ha, well none of what I’ve worked on ever made it to anyone’s TV, for what it’s worth. But the process motivations are different. In games, your characters, scenes, etc, all supplement the mechanism of the game.  In comics, at least in creator owned comics, you’re not serving that same master.

Yanes:  I personally think you have one of the best homepages out there.  You not only do the expected stuff on your website – like talk about which of your books can be purchased or post articles about yourself – you do a great job of connecting fans to your twitter and facebook accounts.  Given that you’re so good with social networking, how do you feel this dynamic has influenced the comic book industry?  Does it seem that comic book creators are now almost required to interact with fans in this manner?

Brandon:  Thanks. I don’t really do it out of need, or at least not financial need. I do it because my brain is a zoo and sometimes I need to let the animals out. And I like to talk. I like to listen. In the old days, you didn’t know anyone who liked the things you liked. The internet brings the whole world over to talk about it. That’s where it started, anyway, for me. These days, though, sometimes I’m testing ideas and social media really gives me a really quick sense of cause and effect, at least in a smaller sense you can see how the audience will engage an idea.
Do people NEED to be on there? I don’t know. I think people can be hurt by it. I know people who have lost jobs or fans based on their opinions. So it’s a double edged sword, nobody wants to tune into self promotion 24 hrs a day, but too much honesty can hurt, too.

Yanes:  Another aspect of your homepage that I like is that you share your thoughts on the comic book industry.  My favorite post of yours recently was “let’s talk about sales numbers.”  In this post, you did a great job of explaining why rampant fan speculation of sales can cause harm to the industry.  What are some other aspects of the industry that you wish fans took time to learn about?

Brandon:  To be honest, sometimes I think the fans know TOO much, that it’s all too inside baseball. I think there’s a weird symbiosis these days, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, less about what comic is just GOOD.

Yanes:  You have worked with Marvel and DC Comics.  Are there still characters from these two companies that you’d do almost anything to work on?

Brandon:  I’ve worked for both companies for years and I hope to keep on that way, and I have characters I’d love to play with, but none I’d “do anything” for. Ultimately, it’s enough work to create my own stories. More than that is hard to justify when it’s not something I own.

Yanes:  Finally, you’re non-DC/Marvel projects have been consistently great.  Are you currently working on any indie-comic or non-comic book project that your fans can look forward to?

Brandon:  This year will be my biggest creator owned year ever, but unfortunately there’s not a lot I can say beyond that. I have several new things on the horizon, with new artists I’ve never worked with, old artists I haven’t gotten to work with in a while. Everyone’s a lot more talented than I am.

Again, you can learn more about Brandon and read his latest blog post by visiting his homepage.

Remember to follow me on twitter @NicholasYanes

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