Today marks the release of Furious #5, the finale in the first volume of Dark Horse's new superhero sensation from Bryan JL Glass and Victor Santos. If you aren't already a fan of this creative team from their work on Mice Templar, you must be some kind of comic hating sociopath. If you haven't been reading Furious despite our rave reviews of every issue, well, that's somewhat understandable, because who the hell trusts us? That being said, I recommend you stop what you're doing right now, head down to your local comic shop, and beg them to find you the back issues so you can get all caught up. Well, or you could just get them off the Dark Horse Digital store, I guess. But in case you need more convincing, we somehow convinced writer Bryan JL Glass to give us an interview, and he didn't shy away from answering anything we asked.
Warning: There may be some spoilers - maybe skip over question #2 entirely if you're concerned about that.
Hi Bryan, thanks for joining us, and my apologies in advance for any damage appearing on The Outhouse does to your career.
No worries. Any damage sustained in an outhouse is purely superficial—and nothing that can’t be cleaned up with soap & water, and a fresh pair of undies!
Furious #5, the conclusion to this volume, is in stores this week, and I've got to say, wow, what an ending! Victor Santos’s kinetic art on the sky sequences and the tension of a possible “Gwen Stacy” moment had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire issue. Without spoiling the ending, was that always where you saw the story going, or did you ever consider things working out… the other way for young Christine?
An alternate fate was never in the cards…not with it being a kid. Furious simply isn’t that kind of book. Furia doesn’t need any fresh “Gwen Stacy” moments, as her entire life is a repetition of that cycle. Granted, the death of Cadence’s twin sisters when they were only 7-years-old is a fact of our heroine’s backstory, but while I’m not revealing the actual cause of their death any time soon, you can rest assured it wasn’t because a superhero failed to save them.
Actually, the action of this finale was originally intended to be issue #1 in the pre-Dark Horse Comics incarnation of the series. My plan was to begin the debut with Perfidia tossing the child to her death, and the controversial superheroine known as “Furious” risking everything to save her. The flashbacks accompanying the save were to set up how controversial the superheroine actually is, how she got her unfortunate named branded by the media, and all leading to the press conference crashed by a hitherto unknown arch enemy. Furious was to save the day, only to flee her long desired acceptance by the media and the public. She would return home to reveal she is actually the notorious fallen starlet Cadence Lark. That introduction would have then set-up her ongoing conflict with Perfidia, whereby we would reveal all her flashbacks moving in reverse order until the climax where her final confrontation with Perfidia resonates with the death of her mother and sisters.
Yet there was simply no way to reduce that 8-issue mini-series into only five. After six weeks of agonizing over retooling the existing material with editor Jim Gibbons, I concluded it was impossible to condense…but we could always expand. Thus the original starting point was now the finale I was building toward, and that gave me four issues to set up my heroine as both superhero and fallen celebrity. The new issue #1 with the car chase allowed me to foreshadow the finale, and illustrate the character’s major challenge in creating disaster out of all her desperate attempts to do right. Then getting the chance to put that teaser story in Dark Horse Presents really opened up possibilities.
How did the book perform from your perspective? How were sales, and what kind of reaction have you gotten from fans? Is it what you expected?
Sales? Dark Horse doesn’t tell me anything!
Seriously though, the series performed extremely well coming from a publisher not typically embraced for their superhero books, and by two talents—namely me and Victor Santos—that aren’t really known for creating superheroes. Capturing an audience as large as we have is somewhat miraculous!
And speaking of fan reaction, we could not have asked for a better response. This series was a tough promotional call on several levels, so it was difficult to promote to our intended audience without giving away the Cadence Lark starlet reveal on the last page of issue #1. So many potential fans either ignored us or were unwilling to get too excited up front believing it was just another Kick-Ass clone basking in its ultra-violence. And then of course, those who wanted another thin excuse for ultra-violence were extremely disappointed.
But somehow, Furious still found her audience. They’ve been tremendously supportive in person at conventions and store appearances, and wonderfully exuberant online.
I think you did a great job of capturing the self-destructive spirit of the “teen celebrity” in the past of Cadence Lark without her being an obvious analog for any particular person. Now, I’ll ask you to ruin that. What real-life celebrities and stories most inspired Cadence’s history?
You’re right, we didn’t want to parody anybody because the series isn’t about the ridicule of a real life person. It’s a tragedy seeking a happy ending.
So Cadence Lark is the fiery redhead who’s been in and out of rehab and prison. She’s one of three child star triplets. She attempted an ill-fated signing career to re-invent herself. She’s any one of these real-life starlets…and she’s all of them.
But the tragic story that actually propelled this incarnation of the character was the unfortunate passing of Whitney Houston…and particularly Patton Oswalt’s Twitter quote about how all those mourning her passing were those who previously sat by doing nothing as she “killed herself in slo-motion.” That was the inspiration that transformed my troubled superheroine into a troubled former child star seeking redemption as a superhero.
Furious employed some darkness and a lot of violence, and addressed some serious themes including drug abuse and misogyny, while remaining, in my eyes, a story of redemption. While I thought you handled everything really well in Furious, there are times in comics where the overuse of brutality, violence, and "grim and gritty" dark themes can became cliche or repulsive. How do you maintain a balance? Is it something you're concerned with while writing?
I don’t relish ultra-violence, although readers of both Furious and my epic rodent adventure The Mice Templar know that I don’t shy away from it. For me, violence, ultra-violence, or any dark subject matter or theme, are simply storytelling tools to utilize in the proper context when the story calls for them.
Whatever balancing act I employ is merely the requirements of the story I’m telling. I’m not writing for children or the aged; I’m not serving religious propaganda or hustling a political ideology. My sole purpose as a storyteller is to tell a compelling tale that inspires somebody somewhere along the way. For now, those stories have a hard edge because we live in a hard-edged world, and so the violence—mindless or otherwise—will always serve some purpose in the journey of the character who’s story I’m sharing with the reader.
Did the industry-wide push for better representation of women in comics and inclusiveness for female fans have any affect on your writing a young, female protagonist? Is that something you thought about while writing Furious?
Literally, it was a case of being at the right place, at the right time, with the right story and character, for the first time in my life. The earliest incarnation of this character stems back to the late 80s for me, and I’ve taken her out of mothballs and attempted a new approach ever decade or so.
The Whitney Houston inspiration occurred a little over two years ago, and I rapidly moved into an incarnation of the character with the late Josh Medors in the spring of 2012. I felt his passing in November of that year was going to end Cadence’s new journey before she ever even began. But Dark Horse opened its door to Furious in January ’13, and the next thing I know, the industry is raging and clamoring for “strong, female characters” on every website and every convention. And I sat there saying…well, I’m working on one.
Like the topic of violence you raised earlier, I’m pursuing no agenda other than the telling of a compelling narrative. I firmly believe the audience can tell when they’re being pandered to, and it backfires on the propagandist almost every time. I don’t believe anybody is reading Furious and seeing some shallow attempt to capitalize on a trend. Furia is struggling way too hard to be mistaken for anybody’s tool.
On that note, in issue #3, Furia is lured into an ambush by Andrew Bales, a serial killer who hates women for rejecting him and believes there's a conspiracy by the media to empower women and make men feel weak. This weekend in Isle Vista, as I’m sure you know as it’s been all over the news, a guy went on a shooting spree and killed seven people. The suspect, who killed himself, posted some youtube videos prior to the incident that expressed a kind of misogynist, “men’s rights” agenda, and, not to trivialize the horrible thing that happened, but I was reminded of your story in issue #3, which I had just reread in preparation for this interview. Not in execution, but in motive. When you wrote that story, were you thinking Bales was an exaggerated, “mwahaha" kind of villain, or did you think, “this kind of thing could actually happen in the world today,” and, if the latter, where did you draw from for inspiration on that?
For any of the good we as individuals aspire to, we still live in a horrible world. Oft times, that horror is the result of someone else’s distorted perception of righting some perceived wrong. Every villain believes themselves the hero of their own story. And while that works in fiction, or for any actor preparing for a villainous role, it suddenly pales when confronted with real life tragedy
This remains a difficult question to tackle. I am not the first creator to find oneself viewing an idea they conceived of as fiction abruptly leading the evening news. Creators aspire to be timely, relevant…and yet it still hits like a sledgehammer when uses the same concept, or even worse attributes their atrocity as somehow inspired by another’s creation.
Yes, I derived my monster serial killer from psychological principles I’ve read and viewed discussions of in the media…yet explanations are never justification, and do little to ease the pain of those who have suffered loss. Such repugnant individuals exist without any single trigger to justify their horror. Thus I created that specific horrific character knowing that he was representative of a genuine mindset that exists out there in the real world.
What made you choose Dark Horse for this project, as opposed to Image or another publisher? How was the experience working with them in comparison?
Furious at Dark Horse is truly the result of Mike Oeming’s direct interference! He was already ensconced with a new series at the publisher, The Victories, and he knew I’d emotionally put Furious on the shelf. He truly paved the way in asking editors, and even my eventual collaborator Victor Santos in advance, so that when he encouraged me to make the pitch there were already willing participants ready to take a look at my idea. That’s when my work ultimately needed to stand on it own, and thankfully, everybody whoever heard or read the pitch was fascinated by what I proposed.
Working with Dark Horse has been a pleasure, particularly in regards to an editor providing their expertise without interfering with the creation. I can honestly say editor Jim Gibbons forced me to justify story decisions again and again without ever forcing me to change anything. It’s as if once he was on board the concept, he was committed to guiding me towards the fulfillment of my intent. If he felt I was too close, or somehow off the mark, he called me on it, and dragged me back kicking and screaming to the idea I’d intended all along. The result is that the finished series is quite different in execution than whatever I might have crafted at Image without oversight, and yet it’s all still mine creatively.
Furious has been a long time in the making. Can you tell us about the origin of the book?
I’ve explored this ad nauseum in numerous interviews preceding the release of issue #1 so let me give you a truncated version…
The original inspiration was drawn in the late 80’s from Frank Miller & David Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again, in which our titular hero is dismantled to their base core from which they arise stronger than before. Yet it was the descent that fascinated me, and so I conceived of a version where the least likely character one would imagine having such a dark underbelly to their lives would experience the same deconstruction. That story suddenly surpassed the established character I’d considered, and then found new lives in numerous incarnations…yet each was too firmly entrenched in ever more elaborate super-powered universes that prevented her tale from ever coming to true fruition.
The ultimate solution was to remove the superhero universe all together, and replace super-powers with super-stardom, deconstruct a celebrity before the media eyes of the world…and only then reinsert super-powers, this time as a means toward redemption, and an original concept was born!
Or is that, Born Again?
You mentioned earlier working on Furious with artist Josh Medors, who passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer. If you don’t mind my asking, how does something like that affect a personal project like this?
It was devastating. I mean, when I first translated the inspiration that led me to this incarnation of the character as a crash & burn celebrity I called “Furious” I was on fire creatively—champing at the bit to find a suitable creative collaborator!
Josh Medors entered the picture because I’d asked him to write the Foreword to Mice Templar Volume III—my mouse hero Karic spends the entire volume’s arc in a coma, and I knew that part of Josh’s previous battle with cancer had left him in a coma for several days. Josh leapt at the opportunity, and his poignant, heart felt words in the final printed Forward still rock me to this day. But as we were finalizing his text and art for that project, I randomly told him we needed to work together on some future project. He leapt at the suggestion. Within a week he had chosen between my zombie project and my superheroine story, and wanted to craft the redemption saga of Cadence Lark along with me.
Josh started designing characters while I jumped into transforming my outline into an issue #1 script. Yet within only two short months Josh received word that his cancer was back. I tried to offer him something smaller than my Furious ambitions, but it seemed this project was giving him hope and inspiration. Two months later, the reality was setting in that we were losing him.
When Josh passed that November (six months after he’d started work on Furious, and mere weeks before his Mice Templar Foreword saw print) I couldn’t conceive of just taking the project to another artist. I’ll be honest that my thoughts and emotions were extremely conflicted. I shelved the project just as I had so many times in the past. I told myself that when the time was right, I would honor Josh’s involvement by ensuring the project saw the publishing light.
It remained shelved for three months. I realize that doesn’t sound like much of a grieving window, but when the prospect of pitching to Dark Horse, and replacing Josh was first suggested, I nearly said no.
You’ve been working with Furious and Mice Templar artist Victor Santos for a long time. Is it true that you've never met in person? Can you tell us a little bit about your collaborative process?
Correct. I’ve worked with Victor for over five years, on two different projects from two different publishers…and I have never met him, nor spoken to him outside of the Internet: Facebook, Twitter and email.
It is surreal to maintain a creative relationship that long, via such distance, as Victor lives in Spain. Yet he’s been there for me through several dark periods of my life and career. I consider him a profound friend, and yet I fear I’ll freak him out the first time we meet in person by how long I will hug him; he’ll be on his twentieth buddy slap on the back by the time I relinquish my death grip on him.
Our collaborative process on the two books we do together is very different. Both Furious and Mice Templar begin with very calculated plot outlines on my part, and that translates into very detailed scripts. Because my storytelling process began in film, I tend to think visually. I need to first see a version of the page I script in my own head, before I can then write it out panel-by-panel.
With Mice Templar, Victor is inheriting a world originally designed by Mike Oeming, so there is a bit of a second generation dynamic going on creatively (although Victor has now drawn vastly more of the 40 issue saga than Mike’s original six-seven issues). Yet Victor is still coming aboard an epic that was set in motion long before he ever dreamed he’s be working on it. Even now, Victor is drawing scenes I conceived of a decade ago when I still thought Mike would be finishing the saga. So while Victor is given a lot of artistic freedom, he remains somewhat hampered by Mike’s original designs, and the requirements of my story.
On Furious, Victor asked for greater creative freedom from the start. He wanted the designs of the characters, and even the aesthetic look of the final book to be his (he specifically asked not to be shown any of Josh Medor’s designs, so as not to be influenced by anything that had come before). With penciling, inking and coloring the series himself, Victor has definitely created a unique look worthy of his co-creator title. I still write highly detailed scripts, but he has the freedom to translate the world in my head into the world he transfers onto the page, and all I do is sit back in awe whenever fresh pages of pencil, ink or color show up in my mailbox. My notes typically pertain to elements in the story lost or obscured by his translation into visuals. Nine times out of ten, Victor’s divergence is better than anything I thought of.
Yet between the two of us, profound respect for what each brings to the process have prevented either of us from losing interest in working with the other.
To promote Furious, you maintained an in-character Furious twitter account and even held a sort of Twitter press conference as her, as well as releasing teaser images on the web. How much of an affect do you think that had on sales, and what role do you think the internet and social media can play in future comics promotions?
I can’t begin to calculate the effect for good or ill that any of those promotional stunts had on the ultimate sales. We did what we did, and had a helluva lot of fun in the process. I can only hope that fun, that ambition—our sheer audacity—resonated for some as evidence of the care we were placing on our creative process.
The night of the Press Conference was definitely me struggling to maintain character along with the responsibilities of promotion, as well as dealing with the unknown in a version of “real time.” Since then, the Twitter account @FURIOUScomic is maintained by three different people—all who shall remain anonymous—yet all intimately in character.
I really can’t say if what we did is good for anybody else, or if it even worked for us at the end of the day. But at least Furious as a book deals with modern media and its scrutiny, so using the very tools that might make or break our superheroine if she existed in the real world in order to promote her story had a ring of meta- truth to it all.
In the end, I’m immensely satisfied and proud of everything we did. And if we broke some form of new ground in the larger comics media Internet world, then bully for us—bully for the good guys!
Let’s help our readers get to know Bryan JL Glass a little bit. What do you do when you’re not writing comics, reading comics, or talking about comics?
Drinking fine wines with my wife, and allowing her to experiment upon my palette with her culinary expertise. Otherwise, I waste far too much time contemplating how technology is slowly enslaving our culture and eradicating free thought…and how we seem as a society to be only too anxious to get in line for our own execution.
And we have far too many cats for any one sane household to manage.
What do the J and the L stand for?
“Jason Lee” like the actor…although there’s a strong suggestion that other guy wasn’t even born yet.
Digital comics: the future, or harbinger of industry doom?
Bryan: Harbinger of industry doom—100% agree. I predicted a decade ago that our entire industry would be dead within two years…and see where we are now!
Next question, please!
I’m a transplant from New Jersey to the San Francisco bay area. You grew up in Philly, and, I think, still live in the area. This means you have access to all kinds of awesome foodstuffs that I don’t, including good cheesesteaks, edible pizza, Dunkin Donuts, and, most importantly, Tastycake snack cakes, which makes me extremely jealous. Can you eat a Butterscotch Krimpet at some point in the near future and think of me while doing it? Also, what’s your favorite regional food?
I am obsessed with Geno’s Steaks, and my inability to consume them on a regular basis. And then there’s that prowling Mr. Softee truck, although I’m uncertain how regional a phenomenon they are. All I can say for certain is that they task me…and I shall have them!
You wrote one of those Marvel Custom Solutions comics, the Cirque du Soleil one. That line of comics has always fascinated me. I'm not sure most people are aware that they exist, but it's a line where, basically, companies and organizations hire Marvel to make a comic. Would you mind revealing a bit about how that process works?
I’ve actually crafted several of these. From Cirque du Soleil to the New York Fire Department, the Elks Club to Veteran’s Administration, Hasbro to Burger King. I am the guy!
When either the deadline is way too tight, or the concept way out there, I get an email from Bill Rosemann at Marvel telling me I’d be perfect for the project. Most of the time he’s right (although there have been those occasional miscalculations and ill-fitting glass slippers). The projects are usually client heavy, in that the needs of the company or organization are extremely specific, and although they’re often seeking Marvel characters, the agenda is paramount. One of the reasons I receive so many is that Bill knows how hard I strive to imbue even the most hardline corporate project with a purity of story that elevates the project beyond even the sponsors’ expectations.
What started my fascination with Marvel Custom Solutions was that they used to always send us press releases about them, and after a while I noticed a pattern to them. Every one followed the same format. They would talk up the brand and all that, and the climax was an over-the-top quote from Bill Rosemann. He's a great guy, by the way who has always been nice to us, so I say this with love - these quotes were the most ridiculous thing. In the "so bad it's awesome" category.
For instance, for one about Tim Tebow, Rosemann's (totally real) quote was:
"Like the Marvel heroes who pull off last minute victories, Tim Tebow has fans around the world on the edge of their seats and believing that--in our own lives--when time is running out and all looks lost, we can dig deep inside and use our various strengths to triumph over insurmountable odds."
And for one about financial responsibility, he said:
"In an uncertain world, understanding how to save and properly budget your hard-earned money is one of the keys to personal success. The Avengers are not only the world's greatest heroes, but they also know a thing or three about financial health. After all, Iron Man hasn't managed his vast wealth of Stark Enterprises by accident, and, as Spider-Man learns in this story, you don't have to be a millionaire to be a saving hero."
And for a comic called SpyGal sponsored by Benefit Cosmetics, Rosemann said:
"Marvel and Benefit both know that humor and intelligence can be a heroes’ greatest strength, especially when faced with life’s modern problems. SpyGal dispenses justice, beauty tips and witty life advice with an effortless grace, while also grappling with work and dating worries."
So, as a Marvel Custom Solutions veteran, picture this: You are hired by a company or organization of your choosing to write a comic starring Furia and promoting their product. What's the company, what's the product, and what's the killer press release quote shamelessly tying them together?
Well first, I’d hire Bill Rosemann to write the ad copy, because nobody does it better than him!
As for the company or organization…who would know better, or be a better spokesperson (or spokesmodel) than Furia when it comes to issues of “anger management” than the woman who practically invented the term! Leaving behind a veritable corpse-strewn path to her own redemption, no one knows how to deal with pesky personal demons more efficiently than someone who can literally fly away from the scene of all her most heinous crimes…
Or at least that’s what she says in her book.
What’s in the future for Furia? It seems like there’s a lot of potential to tell more stories about her and her world. Do you have plans for more? Will new volumes continue to be called Furious now that Furia has settled on her superhero name?
The book will always be called Furious. Because even if or when Furia herself ever learns to quell all her personal demons, there will still be somebody close by for whom the title “furious” will still be apt.
As I said earlier, my original plan for an 8-issue mini-series didn’t just truncate itself down to five, while our current climax is still essentially issue #1 of my earlier intent. Not only would I like to truly wrap up the original story, but even that proposed arc is only the first salvo of many more stories I’d love to tell.
My hope for the moment is awaiting the Dark Horse green light to start working on Volume II: Type Cast
I hope we haven’t seen the last of Perfidia. Do you think she has a chance at redemption like Furia, or will she always be the Joker to Furia’s Batman?
Did you pick up on that subtly that Perfidia is actually a non-actress trying to portray herself as “Cadence Lark”? One of the most fun-filled challenges of this particular story was portraying characters outside their natural environment. Cadence can act, but she can’t write…and so I had to write an intentionally awful speech that she thought was pretty good. Perfidia can’t act, and yet she’s trying so hard to be the woman she wants to accuse. As a creator, that’s been the true magic of crafting this series.
With all of that said, you can be sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of Perfidia. I will tell you, she’s the only human being on Earth who understands what actually motivates Furia’s drive for redemption.
Anything else would be telling—other than Furia has not seen the last of her nemesis…not be a long shot.
Furious didn’t really have a romantic subplot, but a dating scenario bookended the story, which led to a nice callback to the first issue in the closing scene. Assuming we’ll get more volumes, will we be getting a romantic subplot, or was this meant purely to show how Furia changed over the course of the story?
I think I can say this without given too much away…but while Volume I: Fallen Star concerns itself so heavily with Cadence’s destructive isolation, Volume II: Type Cast deals with her struggle to maintain a healthy stable relationship with anybody on any level, romantic or otherwise.
I don’t think The Outhouse’s readers would forgive me if I let you go without one Mice Templar question, so can you give us a tease of what’s coming up in that book? Maybe in the July 30th issue you’ve been tweeting about?
Aye, Mice Templar. We are within the climactic 9 issues by the time this interview will see posting, so we still have another year to carry our saga through to its close.
But the July 30th issue I’ve been teasing about online is Legend #12 (of 19), and all I can really say is that it launches our climactic war…and features a storytelling technique I have never seen implemented in a comic before. Are we really making history? I can’t say. But I do know the entire creative team is dumbfounded by my audacity, yet ecstatic to be a part of the mad charge I’m enlisted them all on!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and I hope our readers will check out Furious, if they haven’t already. Any last words for the readers of the Outhouse?
This seems so cliché ridden, but it’s real: for the comics you love to continue, they need more than just you monetary support, the buying of issues or trades, in print or digital…they need you talking about them in online communities, posting and tweeting, and encouraging others to join in the love you have for your favorite books…
Be they Furious or Mice Templar, or that awesome obscure indy title: if you want to see their creators thrive enough to keep creating the very books you love, you need to support them with your activism!
And you can find me in June at either New York Special Edition and/or Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC!
Read the reviews of every issue of Furious from Ace Reviewer TIm Midura, including its eight page debut in Dark Horse Presents:
- Presenting Dark Horse Presents #31
- She's Her Own Villain: Furious #1
- A Clear and Present Danger: Furious #2
- Furious Reveals Her Innocence in Furious #3
- Well I Did Have Furi-os For Breakfast: Furious #4
- As Crazy and Broken as They Come: Furious #5
Buy Furious at the Dark Horse digital comics store, or pick up Furious #5 in your local comic shop today!