This Is…, my recurring interview column in which creators and others from around comics discuss the comics they love and the ones that made them, is back this week with one of my favorite people in comics: writer Brenden Fletcher. He’s the writer of Isola and the upcoming Robotech Remix as well as other favorites like Gotham Academy and Motor Crush, so he’s not just a good guy but a heck of a talent on top of that. And today, Fletcher talks about Emily Carroll’s greatness, the 3 “Ms,” the power of music, Batman’s very specific dining habits, his workspace setup, and a whole lot more.
What comics have you really been enjoying lately?
I’m all over the map these days and not particularly proud of it. I feel super guilty about not keeping up with all my friends’ monthly comics. There’s just so much cool stuff coming out these days!!
I’ve been spending a lot of my comics reading time on reference material for work. (SO. MANY. ROBOTECH. COMICS.) But when I’ve had some free time to read for fun, I’ve really been getting into “Again!!” by Mitsurō Kubo of “Yuri!!! on Ice” fame as well as Tillie Walden’s “On a Sunbeam”.
What comic(s) first made you realize that you loved comics?
ELFQUEST ALL THE WAY!! It was a real turning point for me, from just enjoying the odd issue of Batman or G.I. Joe way back in Grade 6 to becoming obsessed with the medium a year later. I discovered the local comic store on the hunt for Elfquest and became a collector almost immediately.
But I think I discovered fairly soon after beginning to visit the comic shop once a week that it wasn’t series that were inspiring me, per se, as much as it was particular creators. Mignola, Sienkewicz, Mazzucchelli, Xaime Hernandez, Jon J. Muth, Kent Williams, George Pratt… I would buy ANY BOOK that had their names printed on the cover. I still do!
What was the last comic or graphic novel you read that made you want to up your game?
“When I Arrived at the Castle” by Emily Carroll. Ugh. Emily is a master of mood and storytelling. Always so in awe of her work!
Also, my wife bought me the Akira box set which is just the most glorious and depressing thing ever. It’s perfection. I’ll never achieve anything in comics that can even begin to approach Otomo’s work.
How do you read comics primarily?
These days? I spend a lot of time on my iPad. But all the books I’ve talked about so far (aside from comics I’m reading for work) I’ve read in graphic novel form.
What’s your workspace setup? (if you have a set workspace, if you wouldn’t mind sharing a photo, that would be great)
I can, and often do, write just about anywhere. I travel a lot and end up writing a good half of my work on the road, on airplanes or in hotel rooms, in Google Docs on my iPad Pro.
But my desk setup includes a Macbook Air plugged into a junky old 27” Samsung monitor. I often have the iPad on the other side of the monitor for good measure.
I type on a bluetooth Apple Keyboard and use a Magic Mouse. This is my favourite way to type. I’m not so into the keyboard on the MacBook or the the one I’ve got attached to my iPad. They get the job done but this bluetooth one has more bounce and feels like it helps to propel me through my script work.
My desk is also littered with Macross figures and mecha, some odd Studio Ghibli toys and a fake plant to trick myself into thinking I’m an adult.
You’re in a tough spot on a project. Is there a comic you turn to if you need inspiration?
I always look to the 3 “Ms” for inspiration: Mignola, Miyazaki and Moebius. (Karl will tell you it’s the 4 “Ms” but I find I don’t look to Frank Miller as often as he does.) So, it’s less about any single comic I’m looking to for inspiration but instead a general approach to storytelling, character, moments, world building etc. Yeah, those 3 guys are incredible. My gurus.
What comic character do you rep hard for that others might not appreciate as much?
Man, if you’d have asked me this a couple of decades ago I woulda told you Darkseid or Mr. Miracle but they’re ALL THE RAGE these days (thanks, Tom!)
I guess I’m gonna be gross and spill my guts here and just say that I’m deeply into the Gotham Academy kids. I mean, it makes sense that I’d be invested in them, having co-created them with my friends but I just feel like… Ugh, those kids are the BEST.
They’re gonna come around, just you wait! They’ll be appreciated in time HAHA! Thirty years from now, the next Tom King will rediscover them, put Olive, Maps, Pomeline and the rest of the Pizza Club in a new limited series that blows EVERYONE’S minds and creates a wider audience for these kids that just had so much potential in their original incarnation (wipes a tear from his old-man cheek…)
You’re writing a Robotech comic now, which I have to imagine is a big deal for you. What’s at the top of your own storytelling bucket list? Is there something specific that takes the top spot, at least as far as for-hire work is concerned?
I told myself I was more-or-less done with work-for-hire a number of years ago. It hurts my heart to work so hard on a story and not have any control of its ultimate fate.
That said, Chris Thompson, who was at Titan at the time, gave me a Robotech pitch that was tough to turn down. I gave him a hard “NO” off the top (Robotech is… COMPLICATED for so many real-world reasons and, besides, I didn’t see any point in mucking with the story that was already there… plus it was WFH, of course…) but he turned me around!
So the thing at the top of my bucket list these days is simply to find a way to carve out more time to tell my own stories. I’m not a fast writer. I can only juggle a few books at once. And I’ve got a ton of projects lined up. I just need time to get to them all.
But I might say yes to a Grendel project if Matt Wagner ever came calling…
Is there a comic that made you rethink what comics can be and the stories you can tell yourself in the medium?
David Mazzucchelli and Paul Auster’s “City of Glass”, Los Bros Hernandez’ “Love and Rockets”, Dan Clowes’ “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron” and “Ghost World”, the Christine Spar era of Matt Wagner’s “Grendel” with that crazy Pander Bros. artwork and pretty much anything done by Chris Ware or any of the creators I listed previously.
What is your typical writing soundtrack, and how much does it depend on the project?
What I’m listening to is 100% determined by what I’m working on. Music is integral to my creative process. I only wish I could factor my vinyl records into the process but damn, does it ever eat into my storytelling flow to have to stop mid-thought, get up, walk across the room and flip a record over just to play the next 4 or 5 songs on “Side B”.
So, these days, I’ve either got my B&W P5s plugged into my laptop, playing something from my relatively vast iTunes collection, or I’ve got a pair of Sony noise canceling cans (for those days the NYC street noise begins to erode my will to live) streaming from my phone. And every now and then, when I’m feeling ambitious (and also alone in the house) I put a CD on and play it through the pair of ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 bookshelf speakers at the front of the room. Absolute bliss!
What do you do when you need an escape from comics?
Movies and TV! I own a lot of discs and digital files and I’m always trying to find a spare minute to dig into them.
But I’m gonna be honest here and say that when I’m truly spent and have nothing left upstairs I often turn to reality TV. I still watch Survivor and Queer Eye and have lately taken to the odd episode of House Hunters, as my wife and I have started looking around for a new place to put down roots.
What books, movies, music, games, TV shows, etc. do you turn to for inspiration outside of comics?
Ohhhhhh, that’s a tough one, David. I don’t think I can give you specific titles here as I usually try to find media that’s somewhat in line with the tone, themes or genre of whatever it is I’m seeking inspiration for.
Music, in particular, helps me to lock down the tone I want to hit in any given story so invariably when I’m starting a new project I spend a LOT of time listening, eyes closed, imagining worlds. I also fall asleep a lot.
What cover artist gets you to look at any comic?
I’m a little biased, but I really do find that my pals and co-creators Becky, Karl, Cameron, Babs and Annie’s covers always turn my head. David Aja, Cliff Chiang and Josh Middleton also make me sit up and take notice of whatever it is they’re working on. And, as always, throw a Xaime Hernandez cover on ANYTHING and I’ll buy it.
How do you organize your comics and graphic novels? Do you have a method, or is it a Wild West type situation?
I don’t even have most of my comics here with me in our small Brooklyn apartment. It’s just random boxes of comps and handouts from publishers and pals. My old collection is all back at home in Canada, sitting in my parents’ basement in packing boxes, long boxes and on shelves.
Once upon a time, when I was still living in Toronto, everything was pretty well organized. These days it’s the wild west.
I’m a few short weeks away from heading back to my parents’ place and making my old collection someone else’s problem, to be honest. It’s too much to move down here to NYC and is taking up a ridiculous amount of space in their house. Some lucky duck is about to be the proud owner of a full run of “Who’s Who in the DC Universe” and “The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” along with SO many copies of “Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters” HAHA
If you told a Batman story and it required him to eat at some point, what do you envision Bruce Wayne/Batman eating? And would he dine out, do delivery, have Alfred cook him something or something else?
Batman carries everything he could ever possibly need in his vehicles and on his person. He won’t stop for hunger, he won’t even slow down for drive through (…only for JUSTICE!) and he won’t eat your poison taco or drink your devil juice. He packs his own nutrient and protein and carb-rich bites of high-energy bat-balls in his utility belt and can jack a bag of bat-saline directly into his body through slide-over epaulets hidden under his cape whenever the fibre and copper circuitry inside the bat-suit registers he’s getting low on fuel.
Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, will have no problem moving handily from eating a swank 5-Michelin-Star dinner to scarfing down a greasy dollar slice of ‘za with a lukewarm Coke and sugar-bomb ice cream chaser, if that’s what the evening calls for.
…But it has to be what the evening calls for.
Otherwise, Bruce eats what Alfred serves him at home. And he always finishes his vegetables.