We spoke with Guerillas creator Brahm Revel at SDCC about his latest project.
GUERILLAS follows a hapless new recruit who falls in with a troop of specially trained chimpanzees during the Vietnam War. As they hump through the damp jungles of Southeast Asia it becomes unclear if these chimps are a stable fighting unit, or an erratic and volatile pack of animals…
GUERILLAS looks at the nature of war, the nature of man, and all the grey areas in between. It’s also an action-packed thrill-ride, full of jungle warfare and simian acrobatics.This is the first solo project from writer/artist Brahm Revel.
OutHouse: Volume 2 just came out a couple days ago. How does that feel after almost 2 years since the first came out?
Brahm Revel: It feels good because it’s been a long time coming. People who know only the Oni incarnation, it had (originally) come out from Image for 4 issues that were 50 pages each. And then I decided that that it was better off changing formats, and that wasn’t something Image was into doing. So just being new, the fact I picked the wrong format – more periodical-, I was doing 50 pages, and black and white, and all this pointed to the fact that I should be doing Graphic Novels. Oni did a lot of that stuff and they saw my Image comics and contacted me asking me that whatever I put out next they’d be interested in me pitching it to them. After thinking about it, I felt they were a better fit and I told them “forget about the next thing, what about this (Guerillas)?” Oni was very receptive and since then it’s been good…good having someone who has a financial stake in it because they push it and get it out there because it’s in their best interest to make money for themselves, and for me, and everyone is happy.
OH: The main owner of The Outhouse goes by the name Lord Simian and seems to have an addiction to all things primate.
BR: (laughs) I rocked the monkeys in college, I put lots of monkeys in painting and such, and I was known for that in school. So it was no big surprise to anyone that this was the direction I went.
OH: Why monkeys?
BR: I think it a popular culture thing. People love Birthday cards with chimps on them dressed as people. They are just so close to us it’s funny to see them dressed up like humans. And that aspect comes into Guerillas as well, seeing them dressed in their little fatigues, running around, and I think it’s just pleasurable for people just seeing those images. But then there is also something slightly political and slightly ironic about it as well. I knew that choosing chimps for my first creator owned thing would be embraced by popular culture and of all the creations popping around in my head that choosing this would have the best chance of getting out there.
OH: What’s your next animal?
BR: That’s funny you should say that. The next thing that I do is going to have animals in it, but it’s not going to be animorphic animals like this is. It’s speculating at this point, but because there was such a long time between (Guerillas) 1 and 2, I’m really going be diligent about getting the 3rd one out. And I’m going to say now that it should come out by New York Comic-Con 2013 – October-ish.
OH: How does Guerillas 2 compare to 1?
BR: It’s definitely that second act kind of book. At the end of the first one everything is set up and you have all the players in place. In this one it is a little more character development and it’s more plot base – more things are happening. I don’t want to give anything away, but the way it kind of ends it’s kind of like my “Empire Strikes Back” kind of book. When you read it, you’re kind of like “Oh my God, what’s going to happen?” It is definitely following that trilogy vibe, which it should because I’m stopping at three. As far as my art, it’s come along further. I’m spotting blacks better and I’m drawing better for the format, and being a little bolder. Because sometimes I’ll make a big mark on a page that’s this big (holding about out about a foot apart), looking so bold, and then it shrinks down to a little chicken scratch.
But I’m very happy with this one (Guerillas 2) and I’m hungry to get the next one done. I’m very excited about Guerillas 3 because the very first chapter will be a lot of montage and a little experimenting with the story. And then the final two chapters there will be a lot of action.
OH: Because Guerillas is a military based book, do you find yourself with a big military fan base?
BR: Yes I have big following with our military and I’ve heard from a couple Vietnam vets and said it was great, but have never said “you did this wrong, this is how it’s supposed to be”. I never wanted this to be ‘This is how it’s supposed to be in Vietnam’. I wanted it to be a story about these chimps that happens to take place in Vietnam rather than talk about what life was like during the war. Originally it wasn’t going to be in Vietnam, I was thinking of it happing in WWII. I’m a big Hell Boy fan and a big Indiana Jones fan, so the Nazis as the big bad guys is easy. I was even thinking of having the chimps talking.
But the more I sat down and thought about it I what kind of story I wanted, I decided to rein it in and make it more realistic. It made more sense to be in the jungle and that is was during a war that we were losing and more desperate to try different things. We were losing a lot of soldiers and so sending surrogate soldiers rather than humans to die fit better in this time period.
But to get back to your question, I think it resonates with people in the service or used to be and I think they tune into it more because it’s something they can relate to.
OH: Did you study on the time period?
BR: Yah, I read a few memoir books by Tim O’Brien to get the feel of the war. And mostly what I was trying look up was to get was the visual reference. I got the feel from watching movies like Apocalypse Now and Platoon, which are good resources. The first issue – which I have to say it is FREE as a preview on Comixology – for me was setting the tone of Vietnam.
Like this is what we’re doing and where we are. We see people taking advantage of their power, burning villages when they don’t have the evidence, and after that we kind of go off into chimp land and go into the jungle; which is great for an artist – no perspective, just jungle and leaves!
OH: Which is your favorite character of the chimps?
BR: I like Goliath, who is the bald leader. I’m actually surprised that he’s not most people’s favorite. Most people’s favorite is Dr. Worzle, and I wonder if that’s because he’s got the helmet or that he’s the smartest. He interacts with the main human with them, Clayton, because Clayton had an injury in the first chapter, and so he kind of tends from then on. But with Goliath, he’s the bad ass and is sort of like my Wolverine character, where is the baboon, in the other platoon, is the Sabertooth. So they are going to have a Sabertooth/Wolverine type of epic brawl in the 3rd novel. But enough of giving stuff away. Exclusive! (laughs) I try to give them each their own personality.
OH: Do you create some of the characters from personalities of people you know?
BR: One of the baboons in the platoon that is following the chimps, the one with the glasses and the big beard, is based off someone I went to college with. I also did a Kickstarter for #2 to help get it finished, and three people did donations for rewards in which I drew them into the novel and then they got the pages I drew them on. Also, I want to add the chimp’s names are the names Jane Goodall had given to the chimps she studied. The characters aren’t based off the real chimps, or even look like them, but I wanted pick names to be able to give a head nod. The soldiers are actually named from street names I’ve lived on or been around.
OH: Well I wish you best of success on Vol. 2 and we’ll be on the look for 3 next year. Will there any sequels?
BR: You know, I really like having a beginning, middle, and an end. I always thought of my work as an artist is making novels. I want to have the three and be able to move on from there. I’m not the type of person who wants to have something that’ll keep on continuing forever like Spiderman in its 600’s. I want to give a sense of closure to my stories, and it’s very satisfying for me and I think it is for the readers.