Brandon Jerwa is a writer, musician, and maker of documentaries, that lives here in Seattle. You probably know his work from the many comic titles that he has written, including: G.I. Joe, Highlander, Battlestar Galactica, Vampirella, Transmetroploitan: All Around the World, Xena/Army of Darkness: What, Again? and many others. This week the excellent new Vertigo graphic novel that he co-wrote, Shooters, is being released (read our advance review here). As if this list of achievements isn’t enough, Mr. Jerwa has been hard at work producing a documentary titled Untold Tales of the Comic Industry that is going to be wildly popular with anyone reading this. Mr. Jerwa is highly-respected by his peers in the comic industry, and has always been really genial and funny each time I have had the pleasure of meeting him. If Wikipedia is to be believed, Mr. Jerwa:
“…was featured on episode #24 of the Game Show Network‘s I’ve Got a Secret (his secret being that in honor of his work on the G.I. Joe comics, Hasbro used his face as the basis for the G.I. Joe action figure Dragonsky).”
Well I’ll be, you really do learn something new every day! Mr. Jerwa was nice enough to take time out from his busy schedule to answer some interview questions for us here at ComicBooked.com! We talk about Shooters, Untold Tales of the Comic Industry, the industry in general, advice for new creators, and his upcoming projects. Enjoy.
Your newest project coming out is the Vertigo graphic novel Shooters. I think that the story told in this project is very powerful and important. Can you tell our readers what Shooters is about?
Shooters is, at its core, a story about the cost of war. It’s not meant to be a blanket indictment or a generalization of how military service affects the men and women who serve. Our lead character, Terry Glass, has a traumatic experience during the Iraq war, and returns home to face a wide array of personal and professional obstacles, all of which are exacerbated by a severe case of PTSD and a feeling that he hasn’t fulfilled his service obligations.
You co-wrote Shooters with Eric Trautmann. Can you tell us a little about how the collaboration on this project happened?
Eric and I have been collaborators for a long time, despite the fact that we’ve known each other for less than a decade. We’ve had some projects misfire, or not quite get off the landing pad at all…but we’ve also done some fine work that was actually published: DC’s Red Circle relaunch (not a big hit, sadly) found us building our own little corner of a major comic universe with some other great creators, culminating in our co-writing The Mighty Crusaders to close the door on that whole shebang. I’ve also dropped in for guest-writing gigs on Eric’s great Vampirella run for Dynamite, and I’m now taking the baton from Eric to become that book’s regular writer with issue 21.
In less capable hands, the subject manner in Shooters could have easily been politicized and pushed an agenda, but the book doesn’t come off that way at all. In fact, Shooters seems to be a very honest look at the issues that soldiers face. Was there a conscious effort during the final writing process to keep the book from being overtly political?
I think I asked Eric early on if there was some sort of political subtext in his core story that was part of the nucleus of Shooters, because if it was there, I was missing it. I’m a largely apolitical person, at least in terms of my public persona and writer’s standpoint, but I’m actually still quite amazed that we managed to pull this off without letting politics worm their way into the story.
Has anyone who with a military background given you any feedback about Shooters yet? How do you think people with military people will respond to the issues raised in Shooters?
We’ve had a bit of feedback from military folks, even at this early stage, and it’s been extremely rewarding (and reassuring) for them to sign off on the book.
I really commend you and the entire Shooters crew for telling a vital story that needs to be told, and doing it such justice.
I will never stop being humbled by praise for this book, and I appreciate you saying so. I know I risk sounding insincere, but this whole project has been something bigger than the three of us since day one. If “they” told me that I had to leave comics forever in exchange for everyone reading this book, and knowing that I played a role in its creation, I’d start packing immediately.
So you have been all over the world and hard at work on the Untold Tales of the Comic Industry documentary. I think this film is going to be a smash hit with comic creators and fans. For people who might not know about it yet, can you tell us a little about the project?
It’s a film that takes the conversations that we comic creators have over dinner, or drinks, or just away from the convention floor, and puts them out there for the world to hear. I think comic creators are some of the most amazing, sincere people I’ve ever known. I genuinely love my peers, and I believe that even people who don’t know a damn thing about comics might find a new fascination with our industry if they could see what I see, and hear what I hear. And then there are the fans – they deserve a documentary that just gets in there and lets them listen. That’s what I’d want, anyway.
Who are some of the comic creators who have filmed segments for Untold Tales?
Oh, man. We have such a wide range of people who have been generous with their time and their stories, whether they were friends of mine or complete strangers. Let me throw out some names from the 70+ list of interviewees: Bendis, Millar, Diggle, Quitely, Rucka, Van Meter, Templesmith, Espenson, Fingeroth, Layman, Igle, Ryall, Sturges… And of course, Trautmann and Lieber. The list literally goes on.
Damn, that is some serious star power. When do you expect Untold Tales to be released?
We’re actively editing, but we still have a few more interviews to film as well. If I had to guess, I’d say the film will be done by end of summer… but you can’t hold me to that if it isn’t!
I can hardly wait! I have been really excited about this project since the Kickstarter. So what changes would you personally like to see occur in the comic industry?
Don’t get me started on that list! Haha! I think we need to diversify the voices in comics, and I’m not just talking about race and gender. We have a wealth of creators, but not a wealth of jobs for them in mainstream, paycheck-garnering comics.
What are your thoughts on how comics are currently marketed and digital distribution?
Creator-owned work and digital comics are coming forward at a furious rate, so I’m hoping that we figure out a way to get people to pay attention to EVERYTHING that comics has to offer, and end up with a bigger pie for everyone to have a piece of.
That would be ideal. Go to any convention these days and there are legions of new creators just starting out. As someone who has quite a bit of experience in the comics industry, what advice would you give to fledgling creators?
Be professional. You’re applying for a job, even if it’s just an attempt to show off your creator-owned stuff. The job is comics, and there is no shortage of people who want that job.
Also, find some people who will be honest with you about your work before you take it out of the house. I see a lot of art and writing that just isn’t ready for presentation, and there’s nothing harder than breaking that news to someone who brings it to you looking for an honest opinion…because if you ask me for one, I’m going to give it to you. You deserve that, right or wrong. And I’m not even an editor!
What other projects have you been working on?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m taking over Vampirella with issue #21, and writing the Pantha series as well, which is set in the same universe (and published by Dynamite.) They recently announced that I’ll be returning to Battlestar Galactica comics, although the details and specifics about that are staying under wraps for now. Eric and I have a couple of those long-suffering creator-owned projects of ours that are nearing the point of presentation to the public and prospective publishers, so maybe Shooters will be the real beginning of the Jerwa/Trautmann Era of Greatness.
A HUGE thank you to Mr. Jerwa for taking the time to answer a few interview questions for us! As you can see, he has done some amazing work, and has much more on the way. I honestly think that everyone needs to read Shooters, and who doesn’t love Vampirella and Battlestar Galactica? Be sure to check out Brandon’s band SD6, the Steel River Security website (the “Unofficial” Official Home Page for Shooters), follow him on Twitter (@Jerwa), be on the lookout for his comics, and go watch Untold Tales of the Comic Industry when it releases later this year!