by Benjamin Ong Pang Kean
Love Rob Liefeld
, hate Rob Liefeld, love Youngblood, hate Youngblood, Brandon Thomas is living the dream. An Internet comics columnist at Silver Bullet Comics
with nary a comic to his credit, he was selected by Liefeld to script Youngblood: Genesis
. Newsarama caught up with Thomas for more on his rise.
Just to recap, Kurt Busiek was originally attached to Genesis
in 1994. Not soon after, Busiek left the project and the origin of team Youngblood
was in limbo since. Nevertheless, Liefeld has always wanted to tell the origin of his favorite superhero team but never got the opportunity to jumpstart the project with the right scribe. Until Thomas, that is.
In a time when budding writers and artists are looking to submit proposals to Marvel for their Epic imprint, Brandon chose to continue to write his weekly column, Ambidextrous
. However, the opportunity arose when Mark Millar
opened the door to creative stardom when the latter mentioned the former’s name to Liefeld. And the rest, as they say, is history.
: Who is Brandon Thomas? From what the online community knows, you're the columnist for SBC's Ambidextrous…
: Ambidextrous premiered at Silver Bullet Comics on July 21, 2001, and I’ve been writing it weekly since then and just crossed the 100 column mark. The whole thing started as an extension of my attempts to break into the comics’ industry as a writer, and after becoming an occasional letter hack, and interacting with a handful of editors from a few different companies, I thought an Internet column was the next logical step. Somewhere along the way, I learned that, just maybe, I have something valuable to say, and SBC has been kind enough to let me say it. In other words, the column has offered even more undeniable proof that I talk too much.
My proudest achievements would have to be interacting with the various professionals that I’ve had the opportunity to interview. Joe Quesada, Axel Alonso, Bendis, Gail Simone, Eric J and Arvid Nelson from Rex Mundi
, Brian K. Vaughan, Rob Liefeld, everyone has brought something to my column, and if I e-mail most of them, I’ll probably get a response. That’s flattering for a guy just writing his little column every week.
The whole experience has forced me to grow as a writer, and that’s never a bad thing.
: So spill - how did you land the Youngblood
: Rob did an interview for my column, and we’ve had a running correspondence ever since then, and that led to my getting a chance to script Genesis
. I’m sure the nice things that Mark Millar has been saying about me didn’t hurt matters, and thus far, I’ve been having a lot of fun. Rob pretty much sends me the material and lets me run with it. Knock on wood, but he hasn’t disagreed with any of the directions I’ve chosen to take with the scripts, and has been nothing but excited about the work I’m turning in.
: In a nutshell, what is Youngblood: Genesis
: It’s Making The Band
combined with American Idol
, before such things even existed, grafted onto the concept of superheroes. The story centers on the manipulation of the media, celebrity status, and government conspiracy, as we follow our main character, Special Director Alexander Graves, as he constructs a piece of modern pop culture.
was first worked on by Kurt Busiek back in 1994 but he left in 1995, leaving only a plot. How much will your version of Genesis
differ from Busiek's original notes?
: Essentially, it’s Kurt’s story, and my job is to add my own personality and style to the piece without corrupting Busiek’s original vision. As a great majority of the art is already completed, there’s not much to alter, but the way in which I’ve chosen to handle the narrative and the dialogue is up to me. This may not make much sense, but just because Busiek and I are both taking a right turn doesn’t mean we have to take it the same way. Liefeld is allowing me and encouraging me to bring my own voice to the piece and hasn’t prevented me from adding a few personal touches where appropriate.
: Who comprise the rest of the creative team?
: A pair of brothers named Chad and Eric Walker are handling the art.
: Back to the story, who are the main characters? After all, Youngblood #1
did sort of start at the beginning…
: Alex Graves, the story’s mastermind, who takes the initial steps to put Youngblood together. Keever, his right hand man. Throw in two stranded aliens, Combat, and Photon; two professional assassins, Battlestone and Chapel; a scientist, Sentinel, an icon, Diehard; an F.B.I. cadet, Shaft; and a pair of token females, Riptide & Vogue; and you’ve got your initial squad right there.
: How would you describe your style and what you’ll be rbiniging to Genesis
: Hopefully I'll get to use more than one, but I've found that as I've matured a bit more, my stories are less about exploding planets and intergalactic war, and more about the ways, positive and decidedly negative, that people react with one another. Realistically conveying the nuances and mannerisms of friendships and relationships is what gets me going. Trust and duality are big issues I find myself often coming back to, and how this is affected by the secrets we keep from each other, and the little lies we tell.
All of this Oprah/Dr. Phil musing never stops me from exploding a building or two mind you, but to me, at the core, it's always about character. Five years ago, I thought story was hitting the Earth with a giant death ray, now I've come to realize that you put two men that have slept with the same woman, separate them with a coffee table...that's story.
I don't know if that's really a classification though. Hopefully I've got that good style.
: Obvisouly, your story is pretty unique in regards to “breaking in,” but from what you’ve learned, what are some of the tips that you could share with the readers or budding writers?
: I have no
business even answering this question, but I'm going to chime in with the common credo that if you want to write, then you've got to write. Don't talk about writing. Don't think about writing. Don't dream about writing. Put the pen to the pad and lay it down. Everyone has years and years of nonsense to write out of their system, and the only way to get rid of most of it is through active purging. When you look at material you've written last year, or maybe even last month, you should notice little things that have improved about your style and approach.
I got lucky and not only found something that would make me write on a regular basis, but offered a permanent record of all the crap I've laid down. On that same vein, don't beat yourself up when things don't work perfectly every
single time, which is something I'm notorious for doing. No writer is perfect. Of course you have to try, but there are some things that you're going to mess up initially, and learning from your mistakes is key.
Writers are sponges, and you have to be willing to absorb everything and turn it into personalized weapons. Have influences, but don't be handicapped by them. And don't give up. The system is engineered to kill you before you even get started, so you've got to have the stamina to outlast it. If you want it, you have to go get it.
: Who are some of your favorite writers/creators within the comics industry?
: [Brian Michael] Bendis, [Mark] Millar, [Grant] Morrison, [Warren] Ellis, Priest, [Ed] Brubaker, [Greg] Rucka, [Brain K.] Vaughan, [Gail] Simone, [Mark] Waid, [Joe] Casey and [Alan] Moore are just a few and I’m pretty sure I’ve left someone out. I’ve said this in my column, but I don’t think there’s been a more talented and diverse collection of creative talents working in this industry at the same time. Ever.
: Who from outside of this world of comics that influenced the way you write, be it comics or your column?
: The first time I saw Star Wars
was a big deal to me and probably helped to begin my journey down the writer’s path. Chris Carter (X-Files
), Joss Whedon (Buffy
) and David Chase (The Sopranos
) are huge influences. Anyone that writes well and does it consistently becomes a personal hero and keeps me from stopping. There’s an undeniable sensation that comes from experiencing something that hits you on multiple levels, whether it’s thematically, emotionally, or visually. I want to pass that feeling on to as many people as possible. Ideas and stories are slightly viral in nature, and I want to play a part in keeping the contagion potent and relevant.
: Who are some of the artists that you would like to work with if given the opportunity some day? What distinguishes them from the rest of the pack?
: Lee Ferguson. Billy Dallas Patton. CrissCross. The first two are guys I've been in semi-regular contact with since I started my column, and are future superstars. CrissCross is someone that's become a tremendous artist since he started, and I don't think he receives the credit or the accolades he deserves. There are plenty more of course, but those spring to mind immediately.
: Aside from, probably, more and more Youngblood
, what other comics projects would you be up for tackling?
: That little thing I mentioned that may be “in development” is something I know that people would dig immensely, and that I’d learn a lot by tackling. Anything with Batman and Robin involved I’d take without hesitation, as when I truly discovered the industry, DC was just integrating the 3rd Robin (Tim Drake) into the mix, and I’ve always been very fond of that character and his role within the larger Bat Squad. X-Men
I’d probably jump at too.
: What's next after this project?
: Good question. I have something that I hesitate to say is “in development” that I’d like to see released before the year closes, but other than that I’m a completely available man.
: Does Marvel's Epic appeal to you? Have you submitted any proposals to them?
: Love the ideas and principles behind EPIC. They just may have something of mine...
: Rob Liefeld, Mark Millar and Brandon Thomas: Who'd win an Eisner first?
: Millar of course. Ultimates
will win an Eisner before his run on the title is completed. It’s inevitable, I’d think.