Friday, May 20, 2011
Taking a quick break from the ongoing Street Team series of interviews, it is an honor and a pleasure to present this interview with Brandon Thomas, writer and creator of the boundary breaking Miranda Mercury! As an extra special bonus, Brandon has provided BSH.com and our readers a free preview of the entire first issue of the comic sensation to give a taste of what to expect in the upcoming hardcover- which is now available for pre-order! Hope you enjoy!
1) For people who may not be familiar with you, could you please give us a quick introduction?
BT: Yeah, I'm a guy who (like countless others) was driven by a childhood filled with hundreds of viewings of Star Wars on VHS and an obsession with Saturday morning cartoons to one day create my own stories and characters. For several years I was fully convinced that I'd write action/adventure novels until a seminar at a Chicago comics convention redirected my efforts towards breaking into the comics industry as a writer. After a couple years of research, which included talking to as many current writers, editors, etc. as possible, I turned a gig writing reviews for a comics news site into my very own column called Ambidextrous in 2001. This was a platform that I imagined would both help me break into the industry and document the journey along the way.
Sold my first official comics script in 2003 and have followed that with scattered assignments over the years at Marvel, DC, and Arcade Comics, while continuing to write Ambidextrous in one form or another for one site or another. The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury is my first creator-owned title and is everything I love about comics.
2) Without giving too much away, what are some things readers can expect in the upcoming hardcover?
BT: Action. Adventure. Drama. This entire project is an intensely personal, yet very public, love note to the comic book medium. The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury is everything that I’ve loved about comics since I was introduced to them in the seventh grade. The kinetic storytelling, the unexpected twists, the intensely complicated partnerships, the crazy villains and gadgets, the imagery, the morality---but more than anything else really, the possibility. Nothing is impossible in comics, and this romanticized notion is at the core of the Miranda Mercury concept…if anything can and will happen, why the hell isn't it?
Why aren't there more comic books willfully pushing against the walls the marketplace has built up around them? When did we just start accepting everything we're told---that female characters can't headline books unless they're running around half naked, or that titles with minority characters don't have a chance in hell of making it past their sixth issue. This book endeavors to take the rules and restrictions, expose their lack of validity in public and say with every bit of possible intensity that can be mustered, I DON'T BELIEVE YOU.
This initial story arc "Time Runs Out," begins as Miranda enters the final year of her life, due to an alien poison put into her bloodstream by archenemy Cyrus Vega. The 176 page hardcover is almost wall to wall comics and collects eight self-contained (yet interconnected) chapters that will feature Miranda and her best friend/partner Jack Warning as they free a samurai genie from his mystical prison, save every resident of the Glass Planet from impending destruction, battle the Time Raiders of Xaxium that have been stockpiling bits of lost time, get into a very violent misunderstanding with cross-dimensional heroes The Infinity Class, survive the Perils of Yor, and receive a message that makes everything in Miranda's life much, much, much worse. Every chapter takes place on a different planet, is packed with new allies and new villains, and before you have an opportunity to catch your breath, it moves onto the next adventure. It's designed to never stop moving, to never stop thinking of how to make things better and ultimately more compelling.
The Many Adventures Of Miranda Mercury Full Issue Preview
3) Miranda Mercury is notable for not only featuring a black female protagonist but one who is regarded as the prominent hero in her universe, this was obviously something very important to you to show. What are your thoughts on the portrayal of black female characters in mainstream comics?
BT: Well, I think the “atmosphere” for female characters in mainstream comics has certainly improved in recent years, but as with most popular entertainment (with the exception of music and sports, I suppose) anything featuring a high number of minorities faces a few additional challenges in achieving that financial success which often equates to legitimacy.
So casting Miranda as not only the greatest hero in her galaxy, but also as the progeny of a well established line of (mostly black) heroes and adventurers was important and intentional. I didn't want Miranda to have the word “black” in front of her name, or be some other character's sidekick or walking talking conscious, etc. I wanted her to be the greatest, and I wanted her to be the greatest because she'd been raised and trained her entire life by the greatest. And because of that she developed from a very early age the overwhelming need and intense desire to be great herself.
But it's one thing to simply tell people that, so the stories in this first (of many?) hardcovers is about trying to show you why she's the greatest. From both a physical and mental standpoint and when it comes to her values and her always impossible goals. And with that comes both great friends and even greater enemies. And hopefully, some great stories at the end of the day.
If people respond to it, who knows if it will have any real or noticeable effect on mainstream comics? I try not to get too ahead of ourselves or devote too much time to thinking about what could potentially happen if a book like this manages to achieve some success. Only thing I do think about is that we know exactly how it looks when comics, TV, movies, etc. don't accurately represent everyone's perspective, life experience, or even their likeness. And I don't want to be sitting around complaining about it without taking some kind of positive action, however small it may be.
4) From your "insider's" perspective as a professional comic writer, what are your thoughts on the current state of racial diversity within the comic book industry? Where are we at, where do we need to be and what do we need to do in order to get ourselves from here to there?
BT: Well, the most important thing for people to realize is that sitting on our hands and waiting for other companies to create and/or spotlight the characters we ultimately want to see is an incredible waste of time. As an industry, comics has proven that simply maintaining the status quo is a difficult enough task as it continues to be challenged by a number of external and internal factors. When Marvel and DC are having trouble sustaining titles featuring their own established second-tier characters, I don't think anyone can reasonably assume they'll be able to put forth much effort in ensuring that they publish “X number” of books with minority and/or female lead characters.
So really, if comics are not creating the comics you want to read than you have to create them yourself. No one else knows what you want but you, and as I've proven over the years, people writing columns and letters to and about mainstream companies is not enough to really change anything. It's not enough to tell people what you want, you've gotta show them what you want, and there's enough great talent out there (present company excluded) to create the kinds of comics people are always talking about.
Digital distribution will also continue to change the game, so some of the usual barriers to people getting their work out there are starting to fall away. It may be that people will have to adjust their expectations that we can all create characters that will share Wednesday shelf space every month with Batman and Spider-Man, but the OGN model, along with the digital and online model, will continue to offer creators greater opportunities to get their work out there and seen. And I'm a firm believer that there's a huge, untapped audience for comics featuring larger numbers of minority characters.
And seriously, the untimely passing of Dwayne McDuffie was a wake-up call to me personally. This was a writer and a man that left an indelible mark on the comics industry, and he didn't do it by depending on the mainstream companies to create or spotlight more multicultural characters. He went out there and he helped create something that people still to this day look back on fondly with great respect and reverence. What McDuffie accomplished can be done again, not in the exact same way or conditions of course, and maybe creating a shared superhero universe is overly ambitious, but I know of so many talented writers and artists that have been talking about stuff like this privately for several years and it's time to start making things happen. If not, than Milestone will continue to be a distant blip in comics history that no one ever attempted to aspire to, and I don't think that at all honors the great legacy that McDuffie left behind.
5) Longtime observers had an opportunity to follow your rise from comic book columnist to full-blown professional comic writer. Could you describe your experience throughout that process and what advice, if any, would you give to aspiring writers?
BT: Patience and persistence above all else. When I started Ambidextrous, I thought it would take six months to get “noticed” and then the column would quickly become about navigating this new, exciting career I'd created for myself out of thin air. Almost ten years in and I realize that I had no idea at all the number of challenges I'd face just to make it to this point, which is far from where I imagined I'd be after ten years. And I don't mean to imply that my “journey” is somehow that different from other folks--- fact is that breaking into any industry where there is already no shortage of both established and emerging talent is incredibly difficult. It tests your will and your dedication and not many of us get to take short cuts.
Also, something else that is paramount is a sense of balance. Do not let this pursuit become the only thing that's important to you because there are so many outside, uncontrollable factors and people that will help determine your ultimate success or failure. For years, I let my aspirations effectively control my life and so when things were going sideways it negatively affected everything. My emotions, my finances, my relationships all became delicately linked to how well my “career” was progressing and it's the one thing I wish I could have done differently. Having some type of balance in regards to what is important will help you weather the inevitable difficulties and frustrations along the way. It will keep you focused, hopeful, and humble.
Finally, I'd simply say... do not quit, under any circumstances. If you do, “they” win and will continue to grind your dreams and the dreams of others just like you into the dirt. Who the hell is “they” you ask? “They” could be anyone really, as long as they're standing between you and something you know you should have the opportunity to want. For me personally, “they” includes some close family members and people that shall forever remain nameless that took things from me, attempted to diminish or dismiss my efforts to advance, or found some BS justification not to give me an honest shot.
And bottom line, “they” don't get to win... not if I have anything to say about it, and as long as I'm alive and able to have these big dreams than I do. I get up every day and want to do everything in my life better than the day before, and that includes writing. Because someone out there that I've never met (and possibly never will meet) might be inspired by something I create and that moment is literally going to change their life. And I know that's a real possibility, no matter how remote, because that's exactly what happened to me all those years ago when my grandmother gave me her copy of Star Wars on VHS.
These types of little moments happen to people every single day. Someone took their experiences, motivations, and inspirations, and used them to create something that ended up inspiring others to pay it forward. Why can't that creator be me? Why can't that creator be you?
See, I don't think there's a good reason why not either...
The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury: Time Runs Out hardcover is slated for an August 2011 release and is now available for pre-order!