Interview: Ed Brisson & Simon Roy Explore THE FIELD
February 13, 2014
A man wakes up in a field wearing nothing but his underwear, with no idea who he is and how he got there. A cellphone sends him texts warning of impending danger, such as Christian, an ex-Bible salesman in the middle of a crime spree. Where does the unnamed man go from here? Only Ed Brisson and Simon Roy know for sure, but you can find out in April when they reveal THE FIELD and just how much trouble a man can get into.
Ed, for the benefit of those who are new to your work, can you tell us a little about yourself, and the remarkable arc of your career over the past few years?
Ed Brisson: Sure! Well, I've been making comics for about 20ish years. I used to write, draw, colour, and letter all my own work. In the '90s I'd sell my photocopied comics through record stores or just out of my backpack. For the longest time, my goal was to be a comic artist and I initially only started writing because I needed SOMETHING to draw. As time went on, I realized that I preferred writing over drawing—although it took me a good 15 years to figure that out.
So, yeah...about 2008 or 2009 is when I basically put my pencils away and focused on my writing instead. I did a story called THE ORCHARD for a crime anthology that I published with a few friends and that led me to launch Murder Book—of which Simon drew the first two stories for. Murder Book and The Orchard were my first two outings where I was just writing and not proving the art and it...I don't know...it just sort of felt right. Like, finally...this is it. THIS is what I want to do in comics.
After that, I just kept pushing forward. Just kept writing and pitching. I had a one shot called Black River come out through 215 Ink in 2011 and then managed to land COMEBACK (with Michael Walsh) at Shdaowline in 2012. Then Johnnie and I landed SHELTERED at Image last year, which was great. He and I have been planning things for years, so it was nice for it to happen. Ever since then, I've just been pushing full steam ahead. I feel like I've finally got my foot in the door and there's no goddamned way I'm letting up.
THE FIELD, thus far, is shrouded in mystery. The main character is nameless and the danger is enigmatic. Is the mystery the point of the book, or just part of the entire tapestry? Can you answer this question without revealing too much?
EB: The mystery is definitely a large part of the book. It's about discovering who are protagonist is; how he got to the middle of the field; why everyone around him is acting like a lunatic; and why do so many people want to kill him.
I'm enjoying the hell out of writing this book. Just peeling things back slowly and giving the readers a bit each issue until it all comes together in the last issue. Everything will make sense—as whacked out as some of it may seem.
Unfortunately, it's hard to talk about it too in-depth without spoiling some of the story.
You're working with Simon Roy on this series, artist of PROPHET, which you letter, and JAN'S ATOMIC HEART. What's your working relationship like?
EB: It's great. Honestly. Just so chill.
Simon and I have known each other since 2008. He was living over in Victoria then, which is where my Dad and brother both live. We met up for coffee when I was out there visiting one winter. In 2009 I published the original incarnation of JAN'S ATOMIC HEART through a small publishing house I was running out of my home (New Reliable Press). I can't stress just how small the publishing company was. We managed 7 books over 4 years or something like that. So small.
When I first saw that book, I would run around telling everyone that within 5 years, Simon would be the name on everyone's lips. That he would be a comic GOD. His work was just so good. SO good. And he was like...nineteen? Seriously. So much talent in someone so young! It made me want to strangle him. It just wasn't fair.
Anyhow, New Reliable ceased publishing in 2010. I wanted to focus on my writing instead. That was the year that I launched Murder Book, with Simon drawing the first couple stories. Around that time, Brandon and Simon had started talking about PROPHET and I knew it was happening. They brought me in to letter it, which was great, but I was honestly pretty hesitant about it at first. I think Simon has a great lettering style that works so well with his art. It's scratchy as hell, but it works. But, anyway... I didn't resist TOO HARD.
Oh man, I just went way off track, didn't I?
Ah well. Like I said. It's chill. Simon and I have talked about doing something longer for quite a bit. I'd actually tried to get him on something right around the time that PROPHET started up, but it just didn't come together. But, now that we are working together again, it's great. Simon has really great story telling sensibilities and isn't afraid to criticize something in a script. We have a lot of back and forth on things and did a lot of talking out the story before hand so that we know where we're going. We seem to just about always be on the same page, so that always makes things easier.
Simon, you've done a lot of work that's not just sci-fi, but extreme sci-fi—weird worlds, weirder aliens, and blasted landscapes. Does THE FIELD, which sounds like a very down-to-Earth tale, require a shift in focus for you, or is it all the same when you're looking at a blank page?
Simon Roy: A little bit of both, i think. It has been a bit of learning experience, stepping out of the very self-indulgent (for me) visuals of PROPHET into something more grounded, but I've been enjoying the chance to step out of that freestylin' sci-fi comfort zone. Where PROPHET is about making vast, surreal mindscapes full of weird creatures, THE FIELD is driven much more by the "acting" of the characters—trying to express and support the script through convincing facial expressions and body language.
But at the end of the day, I'm most concerned with making characters and worlds that are textured and believable, whether those happen to be in high orbit or outside Saskatoon.
Are you coloring this work, in addition to drawing it? What can you tell us about the colorist?
SR: The colorist on our team is Simon Gough, and he is blowing my mind. All the dual light-source action a lighting fanatic like me hungers for!
THE FIELD sounds like a crime comic, a genre that has seen a surge of popularity recently. You've done quite a bit of work in the genre already. Why crime, Ed? What's the appeal for you?
EB: My dad was a cop and my mom was a nurse who did a lot of work in victim services at one point. So growing up, I was sort of surrounded by it. I'd pick up bits of their conversations and be fascinated by it. For a long time, I thought I was going to grow up to be a cop. Then, when I was a teen and after my parents had split, I sort of became a juvenile delinquent. I used to get in fights like 3 or 4 times a week and my friends and I used to just steal so much stuff and just generally get up to mischief...breaking into construction sites and taking forklifts for joyrides. We'd always plan these stupid robberies we'd want to pull off, but (thankfully) never did. It was a lot of dumb kid stuff. Sometime in my mid-teens, my Mom moved us cross country and I mellowed the hell out.
But, still, it was something that always appealed to me. Sometime not long after we moved, I discovered Elmore Leonard, and it was all over. That lead me to Jim Thompson, Richard Stark, Carl Hiaasen, George V Higgins, Charles Willeford, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Walter Mosley, George Pelacanos, Richard Price, and on and on. For years, it was all I read. Just all the time crime.
The appeal could just be that it's a world that I find easily relateable, having grown up in the environment that I did. That makes a certain amount of sense, I guess. To be honest, I've never really sat back and analyzed it too deeply.
However with THE FIELD, even though it has crime elements, I wouldn't say that it's necessarily a crime comic. It also has some sci-fi elements that we'll start to see as the story goes on. I like to think of it almost like a road movie style comic. A little crime, a little sex, a chase or two, lots of drugs, guns, etc... Hmmm. Yeah, maybe it is a crime comic?
The big influence on me for this are '80s midnight movies. I'm a huge film fan and often tend to lean toward stuff that might be considered cult now, but there really wasn't a term that I can think of that my friends and I would use to talk about them when we were younger. Things like Repo Man, Time Bandits, They Live, Big Trouble In Little China...you know, those films that are generally tougher to nail down to one genre. For me, THE FIELD belongs in that sort category. Something that straddles genre lines while setting off on its own path.
Simon, Between PROPHET, JAN'S ATOMIC HEART, and now THE FIELD, you've carved out a unique space in comics for yourself. How do you feel about where you are now and the stories you've been telling? Is there an itch that you haven't gotten a chance to scratch yet?
SR: Oh, of course! But it's not so much about particular itches that need scratching—I'm not really waiting on that perfect western or superhero script to show up in my email. What I aim to try and do in my personal work is to negotiate some kind of balance between the awe-inspiring scale-based stuff of PROPHET and more character-driven, grounded stories. Vast worlds and landscapes with deep implied histories, but based around flawed, weak, lovable little humans.
It's a cliché question, but I've heard you have a good answer, Ed, so we're going there. Where did THE FIELD come from?
EB: Well, it sort of started out as a bit of a twitter prank. I was out one night in late 2012 with Johnnie Christmas, Jason Copland, Eric Z and some others and I may have gotten incredibly drunk.
The next morning, Copland posted something on Twitter along the lines of "MISSING: Ed Brisson. Last seen drunkenly wandering off into the night. If seen, please notify police immediately." And then the Comics Bulletin took that tweet and posted it as a news item. Putting it out there that I was missing—although, it was all in jest. So, I thought...fuck it, I'm going to run with this.
I started posting to Twitter about how I'd just woken up in a wheat field and was trying to figure out how I'd gotten there. The entire time, I didn't break character, just carried on tweeting about how I was in this field, naked and confused. How someone kept sending me text messages telling me that my life was in danger. For two days I kept it up. From waking up, to being kidnapped by an ex-Christian (named Christian) who was high on meth and in the middle of a crime spree. At one point he pistol whipped me because he ordered me a prime rib dinner at a truck stop and I wouldn't eat it because I'm a vegetarian. It just kept getting worse and worse for me throughout the tweets and I never broke the fourth wall. Never let on that I was kidding.
During all this my family was calling my house and asking my wife if I was ok and what was happening and did I call the police, etc...I'd have to get on the phone and let them know I was ok. A few friends thought that I was having some sort of mental breakdown. Some didn't know what to make of it, while others went along for the ride.
Eventually, this larger story started to form as I was trying to plan out my tweets and I thought to myself: "I should save this...I should do it as a comic instead." So, I did. I tweeted about how I was falling asleep because I was so tired and I'd lost so much blood and then I just left it. Came back as my regular self and sort of pretended it never happened.
I then put together an outline, taking myself out of the story and instead using a guy who really can't remember ANYTHING at all. I kept Christian and all of his craziness—although, in the tweets he swore like a madman, in the comic, he will carry out any sort of heinous act except for cussing. It's the only thing from his Christian days that he's held on to.
When the trade eventually comes out, I plan to run the entire twitter timeline as back matter. The comic and the twitter timeline are not identical. I changed quite a few things, but still, the nucleus was there.
THE FIELD releases 4/2 and will be available for $3.50. It can be pre-ordered using Diamond Code FEB140485.