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Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Ed Brubaker -- Ed Brubaker writes some of the most involving and entertaining comics available today, including my favourite monthly title Sleeper, Gotham Central, and Catwoman. He's rumoured to be in line to write The Authority, a move which can only improve what was once the best superhero comic being published. He took the time to be the first subject of another new feature on the ADD Blog, answering Five Questions.

Your career began largely with independent, often autobiographical comics far removed from the harrowing, superpowered paranoia of Sleeper. Track the evolution of your career from then to now.

It's not that easy to do, really. I started out wanting to be a cartoonist,
and spent most of my twenties doing that, working on Lowlife, which was very
personal. During that time, though, I started writing comics for friends to
draw, as well, because I'd always been more comfortable as a writer than an
artist. I'm a very slow artist, and rarely pleased with my own work. So
being a cartoonist was sort of about finding stories I felt were worth the
time it would take me to draw them. I rarely if ever told anecdotes, like a
lot of autobio comics did, because it seemed pointless to spend six months
drawing an anecdote.

The more I wrote stories for other artists, the more ideas for stories I got
that I would never want or even be able to draw on my own. Then Eric
Shanower got me into Vertigo in the mid-90s, which was my first real paying
gig, and I had fun doing it. This led to more offers of writing work from
DC, and as I was getting into my early 30s, and getting sick of being dirt
poor, it was nice to be able to earn money doing something I was good at and
enjoyed. And this, of course, has led to some screenwriting and opened other
doors for me as a writer in other fields that I'm just beginning to explore.

Part of being able to have a career as a writer for comics and the biggest
departure from the early part of my comics career, of course, is that I no
longer dismiss genre work as automatically bad. I like a lot of crime
fiction and some sci-fi, and I think in my 20s, when I was at the height of
my art-fagginess, I felt guilty for liking stuff like that. As I got older,
I just stopped feeling that way. I love Philip K. Dick and Ross Macdonald's
writing just as much as Milan Kundera or Raymond Carver's, and sometimes
more, because they're less pretentious.

Reading some older Wildcats issues recently, I was struck by how
much the art of Sean Phillips has changed. He was an incredible artist
then but his work with you on Sleeper far transcends the high standard
he set back then. What do you feel he brings to the creative

Sean brings a depth of understanding and subtlety to what we do. He knows
how to draw facial expressions that make you sympathize with the characters
on the page, and he knows how to establish mood. One of the hardest parts of
working in comics as a writer is finding an artist who understands what
you're trying to get across. Sean does, as do several other artists I've
worked with. And he's fast as hell, which is rare, too.

What's the best thing, for you, about your current working
relationship with DC/Wildstorm?

I guess the stability. Knowing there's paying work available to me, usually
work I enjoy. It's allowed me to buy a house and support a family. That's
pretty nice.

What's the worst?

That's a hard one. I suppose I'd like a bit more marketing support for my
work. I seem to write some of their best reviewed and most award-nominated
work, but they don't seem to push it very much sometimes. A lot of this is
changing, of course, with the success of the Sleeper TPB and how much more
mainstream mags like Wizard are writing about my work lately. Of course, as
I've said before, they will never push any of our work as much as we'd like
them to.

If you could do one thing to improve the comics industry, what would
it be?

That's easy, I'd cancel three quarters of the mainstream superhero books and
publish a lot of different genres like the publishers did in the 50s when
superhero comics stopped selling. I think we're just slicing the pie into
more pieces every year, and while there are some good superhero books out
there, there's simply too many to fit on the average comic store's shelves,
so is it any wonder a lot of good ones don't get stocked? I don't know if
this would work, because the Direct Market is such a disaster anyway, but I
think it would be nice to see a more diverse offering in stores.

Or maybe we should just make the whole market returnable. That would be
great, because then retailers wouldn't have to rely on subscriptions from
their customers and could afford to stock a wider variety of material in
their stores. I know there are economic reasons this doesn't happen, but I
think it's criminal that this is the only entertainment industry that puts
all the risk on the retailer, not the publisher.

Thanks to Ed for taking part in the first Five Questions, and remember to visit EdBrubaker.com


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