Brandon Easton is a guy who has his thumb in a lot of pies. At first his dreams took him down the road to be a screenwriter, enrolling himself in Boston University’s Film & TV Screenwriting program. After a few years of developing a number of scripts and ideas, Easton landed himself a regular writing gig on Arkanium and Transformers: Armada from Dreamwave Productions. His years of hard work would eventually catch the eye of the right person at Warner Brothers and land him a writing gig for the new Thundercats reboot.
In between of all of this, Brandon was able to develop and publish a full length comic book. Shadowlaw is the story of an top-cop in a religion-run future having to stave off the attack of a well organized army of vampires and has done so well that it’s already sold out at the distributor level after its first couple months of release (you can read our full review here). We were proud when Brandon accepted our invitation for an interview and honored that he would take the time out of his schedule to talk to us.
Comic Booked: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
Brandon Easton: The desire to become a writer had always been inside of me I just didn’t know it. (laughs). As an only child I spent many years going to the movies alone and falling in love with the stories and characters of 1970s and 80s Hollywood genre cinema. I didn’t make a personal commitment to the craft until my sophomore year of college; by that time, a number of my writing professors had told me that they saw talent in my work. Slowly, but surely, I developed my voice and started to take chances with content. All this occurred around 1993 or so.
CB: How did the concept for Shadowlaw come about?
BE: It was a synthesis of a multitude of creative influences throughout my life. First, much of it was inspired by the zeitgeist of mid-80s boy-oriented afternoon action-adventure animation. All the great animated series of that time fueled my imagination in ways I didn’t understand at the time. On a practical level, I wondered what would happen if you put vampires in the world of Blade Runner? Around 1996, I was sitting in my dorm room and realized that there had never been a sci-fi movie that put vampires in an ultra-futuristic setting. My original concept for Shadowlaw was 180-degrees off from what the final version became, but the core idea was to have a vampire story take place in a totally unfamiliar environment.
I didn’t revisit Shadowlaw until 2004 when I decided to create my own graphic novel instead of trying in vain to get work with Marvel and DC. One of the reasons that I had shelved Shadowlaw back in the 90s was because everyone who read the synopsis felt the story didn’t work as it was constructed. It was much more of a chase adventure across a post-apocalyptic terrain and it was far too simplistic. I changed the environment and central motivation for the characters. It became a prison story where everything got turned upside down once our hero was incarcerated.
CB: Shadowlaw has some pretty heavy socio-economic and religious themes. Was it difficult to undertake a project like that?
BE: Not really, I never thought of it as heavy because I’ve been a student of history for decades and I was raised Roman Catholic so it made sense to me to take those ideas and meld them into a sci-fi/horror context. The best science-fiction is when you tell an allegorical story about human conquest, genocide, advancement, discovery, etc. It was easy to put it all together, I just had to be certain it all made sense in the end. The trick is to make the political economy of your reality plausible. Once you have the basic understanding of the dynamics of your universe, the rest is just connecting the dots.
CB: It seems like you have a lot more Shadowlaw story left to tell. When can we see the next installment?
BE: Yes, this graphic novel is just the first step into a sci-fi world that has 2,000 years of past and future history to tell. There’s an elongated origin story for the vampire nation and a story of what happens after the events of the first book. There are consequences for every action taken and we will see how it develops over time. I honestly don’t know when the next Shadowlaw book will be produced. I need to find artists who will be able to handle the giant mecha battle sequences I have planned for the sequel and all the political intrigue and horror of the prequels. Rest assured, it’s all planned, I just need to let the current book continue to find its market.
CB: So how exciting was it to write for WB on Thundercats? Will you be returning with the second season?
BE: Thundercats was literally a dream come true. To get a chance to write dialogue for characters you grew up with is amazing. The crew over at Warner Bros. animation is an incredible group of talented professionals who understand how to take older properties and diligently repurpose them for the 21st century. I learned a great deal by spending time with them and listening to their creative processes. That said, I’m not sure what’s happening with season two at this time. I’ve been in contact with them, but there’s a lot of wrangling that needs to be done.
CB: You also offer writing advice in your podcast Writing for Rookies. Tell me more about that.
BE: The Writing for Rookies podcast (http://writingforrookies.podcastpeople.com/) was something I developed back in 2008 because I felt that there wasn’t enough real advice given for aspiring comic book writers. I’ve been going to comic book conventions and writing panels for about 20 years and I’ve rarely gotten advice from professional writers that I could actually use in the real world. Practical advice that you could apply to getting your career started. All most of these guys ever say is stuff like, “Yea, it’s tough out there,” or “It ain’t easy breaking in as a writer,” and this isn’t revelatory. We already KNOW it’s tough to break in, that’s like comic book career 101.
What most aspiring writers need to know about are issues like character generation and development; figuring out which of their stories would best fit the current marketplace; how to hire artists and the red flags you should watch out for; what kind of contract is best to create for your particular project; how to self-promote and market your work, and whether or not you should go into self-publishing or sign with an indie publisher? These are the real things a writer needs to know before taking their first steps into the business.
Listening to your favorite comic book writer tell the story of how they broke into the industry for the 75th time won’t help any new creators. Chances are that the opportunities and political structures of the comic book industry have evolved to the point where all of their advice is rendered irrelevant. I dealt with that for a long time and I got tired of hearing useless drivel under the umbrella of “career advice.” I gathered all the information I’d received from those who explained the truth of how the industry operates for aspiring writing talent and mixed it with my own doomed attempts at breaking into the big time and that became the Writing For Rookies podcast.
CB: What other writing projects do you have in store? Anything you can share with us?
BE: Of course, I am working on a few graphic novel scripts right now. First is a teen superhero action-adventure called Miles Away that I’m co-writing with Star Trek: Enterprise star Anthony Montgomery. I am writing a graphic novel for a new company called Lion Forge Entertainment that’s quite unique: it is a steampunk re-imagining of the Robin Hood mythos but with a female lead. My next original graphic novel will be Dominion’s Light (http://www.killingthegrizzly.com/dominions-light-by-brandon-easton-jeff-stokely/) and that is a sci-fi, sword & sorcery, Final Fantasy-style blockbuster mash up.
There might be some other TV animation gigs on the way but I have to keep quiet about that for now.
Way to be cryptic, Brandon.
After speaking with Brandon, I was really impressed with his body of work. Not only does he have ideas coming out of his ears but he’s also chosen to give back to up and coming writers through his podcast. You really have to admire a guy that’s willing to assist his own competition by providing insights into his experiences in the industry.
Make sure you ask your local comic shop to order you a copy of Shadowlaw and be sure to email Brandon with your opinion of the book. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. And watch out for Brandon’s future stories. He’s definitely a writer to keep an eye on.