A Conversation With: Ed Brubaker (Part One)
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to sit down with Ed Brubaker at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, while his friend and frequent collaborator Sean Phillips was busy setting-up for one of the many events that were hosted over the weekend. After an interesting discussion about which of the Spice Girls is best (admittedly lasting longer than I’d expected) I got to ask him about his past and present work in comics, television and film.
We The Nerdy: So first of all, I wanted to get your thoughts on Cap 2.
Ed Brubaker: I read the script and it’s really good, it’s the best of all the Marvel scripts. I can’t talk about what happens as I’m on a non-disclosure, but I got to go to about five days of the filming and watch… and I went out to dinner with the Directors, and I’m friends with the guys who wrote the script. I met them after the first movie and they’re big fans of my comics.
WTN: Did you get any input at all?
Ed: Not input, like, my comic had a lot of input into it, but no I wouldn’t want to have much input even… I mean it’s called The Winter Soldier so it’s adapting that story to some degree, and people are going to be shocked by it, it’s much more of a thriller than a Superhero thing I think. I saw an animatic of one of the action scenes in it before they filmed it, and if they actually pull-off what the animatic is, it’ll be the most exciting fight scene you’ve ever seen in a Superhero thing.
[Sebastian Stan] who played Bucky in the first movie and The Winter Soldier… really nice guy, super into it, and he spent the last year researching the Cold War and all this stuff, and he’s been reading my comics and saying “Oh you know some of the stuff in here really happened!” And I’m saying “Yeah I know, I did the research too!”.
But I couldn’t believe he was so into it, he was so excited to meet me and he was really cool, so I really hope he gets his own movie after this…I could use the royalties [laughs].
WTN: You’ve obviously got a set group of people you like to work with quite regularly, even writers like Matt Fraction… is there anyone in particular that you really love working with… that you have the most fun with when working?
Ed: Yeah, well… Sean. I mean Sean [Phillips] and Steve [Epting] are the only two guys that I need to work with all the time. Steve I’ve been waiting years to work with again, and I feel like Steve brings out the sort of bigger, explosive side of what I want to do, and Sean brings out the really personal, darker side of what I want to do, so if I could only work with two people for the rest of my life I’m happy to work with those guys. Sean and I have been a team for fourteen years now, so I mean, we were walking into town earlier and I was talking to José Muñoz, and him and [Carlos] Sampayo are our idols, and they’ve been working together for thirty years, so Sean and I are planning to work together for the rest of our lives.
WTN: Sean, what is it about Ed that makes you keep coming back for more?
Ed: I won’t let him work with anyone else.
Sean Phillips: I’ve already worked with everyone else I want to work with, I spent ages trying to find somebody I could get on with… and I trust Ed to write stuff that I want to draw, whenever we discuss a new project Ed says “I’ve got an idea for some something” and I say “okay”, because that’s all I need to know really.
Ed: I used to worry that I’d have to try to come up with something he’d want to do, then he started telling me he didn’t want to know!
WTN: I read the first issue of Velvet at lunch…
Ed: Did you like it?
WTN: It’s incredible, yeah, I really enjoyed it.
Ed: Kurt Busiek said it was really good, and I thought… you dick, you’ve gotta say ‘GREAT’ [laughs].
WTN: What sort of length of run have you got in mind for it?
Ed: I’ve no idea… the first story, to finish the story we start in issue one will probably be about fifteen issues maybe. It’ll be three trade paperbacks for the first storyline then I’ve got ideas for if we keep doing it after that. We’ll see how it goes, because Steve is no Sean as far as speed goes. But if sales keep up and we keep liking doing it I have a couple of ideas that Steve and I have talked about.
So we’ll either keep doing Velvet if we’re really excited about it by the time we’ve finished the end of the first storyline, or we’ll start something else like Sean and I do… but y’know I think Velvet’s going to be a big hit, and we’re really psyched to do it, and Steve’s girlfriend, it’s her favourite comic that he’s ever done so she’s actually encouraging him to stay up late and draw it, so he’s drawing much faster than he ever has, since the early days of Captain America.
WTN: Is it one where you might need to take a break every now and then, just to have a breather then come back…
Ed: We’ll come out as close to monthly as possible because we want to get them out, the first five issues will come out monthly, then we’ll take a couple of months off, release the trade in between the come back, so we’ll probably do two months off then come back. Steve can do about nine or ten issues a year if he’s pencilling and inking so we’re trying to get him to go to ten issues… but we went long with the first issue, it was 28 pages…
WTN: But that gave you enough room to set everything up…
Ed: Yeah. I mean Saga’s the same way, Fiona does all the art and she can only do nine or ten issues a year so they take those breaks in between story lines, so she gets two or three months off…
WTN: But comes back fresh
Ed: Yeah exactly, so that’s been the plan all along, and we’ll see how it goes basically. I know where it’s going, so I say about fifteen issues… originally I thought it would be about ten to finish it but I got to the end of issue one and thought “Well I’ve barely gotten anything done in this one”, because I had to build the whole world. I was eight pages in and had to stop and start over, because I realised nobody knows who I’m talking about! I was so used to writing Marvel comics where you just kind of do one page to remind people who the character is y’know…
WTN: I heard Greg Rucka had a similar problem with Lazarus
Ed: Yeah exactly, I mean mine has the convenience of the tropes of spy-fiction, and the Moneypenny archetype, but I didn’t want to lean too much on that stuff. It started out as something like that but kept growing in my mind over the years while I was waiting for Steve to be available. He committed to doing the book five years ago, so I’ve been waiting five years for him. He was supposed to be done with his Marvel contract two years ago, but they kept finding little clauses to keep him, so turns out he had to do a specific amount of issues, and he became slower and slower as he was going along because he was getting tired of doing it.
WTN: He was running out of steam?
Ed: Steve and I had a great time on Captain America because I made it like a spy thing for him, but I think before that his favourite thing he’d done was that Pirate thing that he and Chuck Dixon did at CrossGen, El Cazador, that’s where his art really exploded. He really went from being a good artist to a great artist on that. So I wanted him for Cap really bad and but I think he was just really tired of doing superheroes.
WTN: It’s like the tone of the book changed when he left, and it went from being less about the espionage, which moved into Winter Soldier, and Cap became more of a straight-up superhero book…
Ed: Yeah, well you need a Michael Lark or a Steve Epting to get that realistic tone to it, and Butch is able to pull it off to some degree, but Butch… is crazy about the design and stuff so…
WTN: He liked to experiment with the layouts…
Come back in a couple of days for Part Two of our conversation, where we discuss Fatale, Criminal, the end of Winter Soldier and more…
The Genesis of Velvet Coming soon
Ed Brubaker’s Captain America Reading List Coming soon