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
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
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
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
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.