Ed Brisson: Crime Meets Time Travel with ComebackA comics interview article by: Danny Djeljosevic
Ed Brisson is one of those creators who does it all -- even if you don't know his writing from killer crime comics like his Murder Book short stories (you should), you might have seen his name credited for lettering books like Prophet. Even before that, he'd been publishing comics through his own company New Reliable Press like Jan's Atomic Heart by Simon Roy and the You Ain't No Dancer anthology books, which features comics from Hope Larson, Jeffrey Rowland, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Phil McAndrew, and Liz Prince.
His new comic -- his first creator-owned miniseries from Image/Shadowline -- is Comeback, a crime travel comic drawn by Michael Walsh and colored by Jordie Bellaire. I wrote a quick review of it for Singles Going Steady and quite liked the first issue, which follows a criminal organization that uses time travel to save their clients' loved ones from untimely deaths -- for a price.
Ed and I exchanged some emails and talked about Comeback, when to finally let a rejected pitch go and what the release of a certain crime travel movie a couple months ago meant for his book.
Danny Djeljosevic for Comics Bulletin: Comeback's a novel take on a classic sci-fi subgenre that often gives people splitting headaches. What inspired you to take a crime-oriented approach to time travel?
Ed Brisson: I decided to take on time travel because I have an excess of Advil in the house and like to torture myself.
The initial idea behind Comeback was to take a very limited form of time travel and try to look at how criminals could use it -- aside from clichés like playing the stock market or sports betting. When I started to write details for the organization (Reconnect) I sort of went crazy and wrote pages and pages with background information, rules of time travel, all that sort of stuff. From there, the story of Mark and Seth started to emerge and I just followed that thread. I liked the idea that the organization would look like they were heroes on the outside, but that things would slowly unravel.
CB: I could definitely get a sense of that consideration of rules in the first issue, when we find out one of the (one assumes) many dangers of time travel. You'll be glad to know that seriously shocked and disturbed me, and I'm not easily shocked or disturbed, especially in comics.
Brisson: I'm happy that scene shocked you! It was a lot of fun to write and one of those instances where what Michael and Jordie put down on the page was nearly identical to what was in my head when I was writing it.
CB: How much more of that background material will we end up seeing in the rest of the series?
Brisson: We'll be dropping in some of the rules of time travel, usually by example. There's not going to be any one exposition-heavy scene that explains it all, though. I'm trying to reveal the information naturally and only when necessary. I've got pages and pages and pages of typed information on the rules surrounding time travel in this universe, but at this point a lot of that is for my own understanding and isn't necessary for the reader (yet). With each issue, we reveal a little more at a time. By the time the fifth issue is out, readers will have a pretty good grasp on everything involved.
CB: You're a guy who knows a lot of amazing artists, as we've talked about before, which we can tell from your Murder Book stories with artists like Simon Roy, Johnnie Christmas and Michael Walsh himself. How did you decide on Walsh as the artist for Comeback?
Brisson: Michael and I hit it off from the first time that we worked together -- which was, incidentally, when he hired me to letter a pitch for him. After we did the Murder Book story together, we immediately started talking about putting together pitches to send to publishers. Comeback was actually our second pitch together. The first was a five-issue Murder Book series called Five Years. We got a lot of positive feedback from the pitch, but were never able to land it anywhere. Both pitches are things that we'd discussed together and had agreed to work on, so there wasn't really a moment where I had the concept and was looking for an artist, more that he was always the artist for those pitches.
Johnnie Christmas and I actually have a project that will be coming out in 2013 through Shadowline. Simon Roy is on Prophet, of course. Jason Copland, who has done a lot of Murder Book stories, and I are trying to find a project to pitch together, but there's nothing concrete just yet.
CB: Shame to hear about Five Years, but that does make me wonder about something that a lot of creators looking to pitch may not have thought about. When a pitch doesn't get greenlit, at what point do you decide to pick up and move on to another project? Bit of a bummer, but it sadly seems like a very likely reality for many creators.
Brisson: Michael and I had a list of publishers we wanted to approach. We'd agreed that if no one on the list wanted the book that we'd move on and not dwell.
One thing I see a lot -- and I was guilty of this with my first two pitches -- is creators who are not willing to let go of an idea. For me, I figure that my ideas aren't going anywhere, so if a publisher isn't into something I'm pitching, I'll just move on to the next pitch and keep pushing forward rather than just sitting on one idea and developing it into an ongoing series on my own. It's not that I don't have faith in my ideas, but that what we were looking for was to get backed by a publisher. I've already done enough self-publishing in my life and my bank account just can't take anymore abuse. Which is not to say that getting a deal with a publisher is a guaranteed golden ticket to riches. It does make it easier to spread the word, though.
So, yeah, the goal was really to get in with a publisher. The hope is that if we can establish a respectable track record with the publisher and readers, then it would be easier to go back to the drawer of ideas and pull out pitches that maybe didn't work the first time around and give them a second life. If they're ideas worth doing, they'll hold. But, maybe publishers are right the first time around. Maybe there is something about that pitch that doesn't work. Maybe it should be left in the dustbin. Or maybe it just needs a little something extra to make it work. Once you have a bit of distance and time away from the pitch, you can usually see that a lot clearer.
CB: That's an excellent point -- rejection isn't the end of the world, and one day you might come up with a different, better spin on it or have some ideas you can cannibalize for something else.
Back to the creative team -- I first noticed Jordie Bellaire's work coloring Ramon Perez on Tale of Sand and John Carter: The Gods of Mars. She's got this amazingly bright, striking color palette, and seems to be getting higher profile gigs all the time while still working on creator-owned stuff, which is great. When did she hop aboard the project?
Brisson: Jordie came aboard on… hang on, I'm going to check my email, I bet I can give you an exact date… January 25th, 2012. There you go. Michael and I had already been working on the project for a little bit at the time. I'd started writing it in September of 2011 and he and I had been talking a lot about it and one of the things that we were really trying to focus on was getting a really good colorist to come on board.
For me, I started to notice Jordie's work on BOOM! Studios' Planet of the Apes book that Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko were doing. Michael and I really liked her color and design choices, so I reached out to see if she'd be interested in coming on board for Comeback. I honestly expected her to shoot us down, but was pleasantly surprised that she agreed to work with us.
Her color work inside the book has been amazing and the covers that her and Michael have been putting out...they just blow my mind. We're really lucky to have her on the book.
CB: Maaaan, their covers are CRAZY good. Really cool and eye-catching. If I were just casually browsing a shop and came across it, I'd stop and pick it off the rack. I'm a sucker for pretty colors.
There's at least a decent-sized baby elephant in the room when it comes to putting out a high-concept "crime travel" comic at this point -- Looper came out in September and pretty much everybody who saw it flipped for it. Now here's Comeback, which is somewhere in the neighborhood but a markedly different approach to the idea of using time travel to do some good ol' fashioned organized crime. So, what's your take on that bit of synergy? Did you see the trailer and think "Fuck!" or does it make "the sell" of your book a little easier? Sort of a, "Hey, did you like Looper? 'Cause I've got this comic..."
Brisson: When I first saw the trailer to Looper, I lost my mind. I was so pissed. When I first came across a trailer, it was April. Issue one for Comeback was already in the bag and we were well into issue two. Without knowing more than what I saw in the trailer, I was freaking out that they'd be similar. I dug around to find out what was available about it and quickly realized that beyond the time/crime angle that the two were not terribly similar. Seeing the film back in August, or whenever it was that it came out, cemented this. Beyond time travel and a gritty crime feel, the two share very little. The stories are completely different… the setting, how time travel works and is used, past and future consequences, all of it… completely different. So, now I feel okay with it.
I'm sure that we're going to get some people who will make comparisons, but that's out of my hands. I can't do anything about it. For the longest time, I really didn't even want to talk about it, but at this point, it's like "whatever." If there were striking similarities between the two, say with story elements, then maybe I'd be a bit more frustrated with it. But there's not.
I would never think to use it as a selling point, as you mentioned, but I know that some have already done that and if it helps get our books into people's hands, I'm not going to complain!
CB: They're definitely opposing approaches -- guys who use time travel to kill people versus guys who use time travel to save people (albeit in exchange for loads of cash).
So what can we expect from Comeback besides time travel and criminal intrigue? Do you have anything else in the works you can talk about? Tease away!
Brisson: Hahaha, it sounds like you want SPOILERS! Honestly, I'm hoping that people feel like they're getting a fresh take on the genre -- both genres! I'm really proud of these scripts and am in love with the characters. I'm hoping that readers will feel the same. On top of that, they're getting some amazing artwork from Michael Walsh with glorious colors by Jordie Bellaire.
Comeback #2 is available this week at your local comic shop or online at ComiXology. We've got preview images for you now, though, so read on!