When I first got back into comics in the early aughts after a decade-long hiatus to pursue girls, drugs, and punk rock (though not necessarily in that order), I, like pretty much everyone at that time, ended up at Newsarama, which was ruled by the iron fist (or uru banhammer) of Matt Brady. Pretty much all the comics news articles and interviews I read during that time period were written by Matt Brady, and by the time he left Newsarama for good in 2009, it was only after influencing an entire generation or two of bloggers and internet comics reporters. And me.
Brady returned to comics, this time from the creators' side, to co-write the 2011 Buck Rogers Annual for Dynamite and a story in the Batman 80 Page Giant for DC. But at that time, The Outhouse, a site which is, in a way, an offshoot of Brady's OldRama, was still finding its footing. Now that we're something like the 257th most well known comic book website, Brady is back again, and this time, I asked him for an interview. And he agreed!
Next week, Dynamite will publish Warlord of Mars #0, part of their most recent revival of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter property. Matt Brady is writing. Jack Jadsen is drawing. You, Outhousers, will be buying. Two copies, if necessary.
And so, for the first time ever...
Welcome to the Outhouse, Matt Brady! I’ve waited a long time to say that.
The Outhouse was created by, and to a large extent still populated and run by, people who met on the Talk@ Newsarama forums back when you were running the show there. So, in a way, you’re kind of responsible for us, and all the trouble we’ve caused. We’re sort of like your progeny, and you’re like our dad. Our deadbeat dad. Where have you been since then, Brady?! Why don’t you ever visit?!
Matt Brady: Wow - waaaay back. What, that would’ve been 8 or so years ago when everything that led to the formation of The Outhouse started? And don’t take it too hard - I didn’t visit when I was with Newsarama, because I was running Newsarama, and that was a 28/9 job. And I didn’t visit after I left because…well, I don’t visit too many comic sites anymore - teaching high school kind of eats up the time.
Do you think your time dealing with the misbehavior of petulant man-children like myself on Newsarama’s forums helped prepare you for your work as a teacher?
MB: Most definitely. Dealing with a classroom of unruly high school students is a little easier than dealing with a flamewar on the old ‘Rama boards. And - inside joke ahoy - I have Thor’s hammer hanging on the corner of my whiteboard in my room. It’s always ready if things get too unruly…
Would you like to take this opportunity to apologize to the internet for the existence of The Outhouse?
MB: I am so, so sorry. I can only apologize for causing the original butthurt that planted the seed though. Everything you, my little bastard children, have done since is all on you.
You were on top of the comics journalism world when you left. It was like Dave Chappelle leaving his extremely popular show in its third season, except, you know, a lot nerdier. Why did you decide to call it quits? Did you go to Africa like Dave?
MB: Not Africa, just off the internet. I called it quits because it was losing the fun aspect to it. When things started, it was pretty much the Wild West, and there were real leaks and scoops and things like that. As the years went by, and the publishers started trying to control the press more and more and phrases like, “We’d be very unhappy with you if you…” became more common, or laying the groundwork for a story only to see another site get it handed to them as an exclusive…I think overall, I just really got tired of playing the game. I started writing for comics journalism in 1994, so by the time I left, I’d been doing that kind of stuff for what…about 14 or 15 years - the last eight were full of 7 day weeks of 16+ hour days. It was time to go - I needed to retain, or regain my sanity.
I’ve said it before - when I told my friend, Charles Brownstein, the Executive Director of the CBLDF, that I was leaving, he told me that with that one decision, I added ten years to my life.
In an interview last week, my nemesis over at CBR, Albert Ching (Ching!!!! *shakes fists*), asked you what you thought of the current comics landscape, and our readers can click here to read your answer. I’d like to know what you think of the current state of comics journalism. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What’s changed since you ruled the blogosphere?
MB: Like I said earlier, I’m kind of out of daily checks of the laundry list of sites so I can’t speak to anything specific, necessarily. But overall, it’s the bugaboo that haunted me that I can now, ironically complain about - the “harder” news. People bitched that Newsarama didn’t do much, if any of it, and now, being out of things for five years, I can bitch that no one really does any kind of hard news - or at least hard news that’s not coming from a bias or prepackaged by someone with an axe to grind. But I don’t know if that’s a valid complaint - there’s just not much hard news these days, anywhere…in anything.
I also see sites biting the hook of the big stories that are just silly. Wolverine’s going to die? Suuuuure - and he’ll be dead for…what’s the betting pool at? Six months? But I get it - that story gets traffic. Sites have to cover that to keep people coming back and traffic high. But covering that uses resources that could be used on other stories, other issues…
The biggest thing that’s changed and a gratifying thing for me is to see the breadth of sites that “cover” comics now. Back in the day, it used to be between Newsarama and CBR when it came to divvying up San Diego, or any major announcements. Now, exclusives go to what, USA Today? Buzzfeed? The Nerdist? The news is out there at sites with a much bigger reach than CBR and Newsarama together back in the day. I’m not sold that say, coverage on Buzzfeed translates to better sales though, but still. You have a ton of sites that think comics are cool and covering them has value.
I’d like to think that Newsarama helped get that ball rolling. I remember late in my time when talking to DC or Marvel and hearing that one of these huge sites was getting an exclusive…I saw the writing on the wall. If Entertainment Weekly was breaking comics stories online…competing was going to get very difficult.
You’ve written Warlord of Mars #0, out from Dynamite in July, but you’re not the regular writer on the ongoing series. What can people expect from this issue? Will it serve as an introduction to the story that will be told in the ongoing, or is it a standalone story, or something else entirely?
MB: When Nick (Barrucci, Dynamite Publisher) and Joe (Rybant, editor) asked me to do this, it was clear from the start that this needed to be a stand-alone story to keep John Carter fans happy while the new series was being readied, and hopefully, attract a few new readers in by giving them hopefully a fun story that tells them exactly who John Carter is and what he’s all about. It is its own thing - no ties to the upcoming series relaunch.
So - if you’re one of those people who likes to go into their comic shop and complain that there are no standalone stories in comics anymore, that everything is some kind of Original Future Sin Eternal tie-in, shut up and buy Warlord of Mars #0 on July 9th.
Would you like to be writing the ongoing? Who’s doing that? We could run a smear campaign and get rid of them, if you want.
MB: I’d love a shot at writing more John Carter, but the idea of writing the ongoing is kind of dizzying right now. I’ve talked to Joe a little and there may be some smaller stuff coming before then. I want to get used to this walking thing before I run.
That said, Nick and Joe have a great track record of matching the right writers with the right properties, so I’m not worried about John Carter’s future in the slightest.
The artist on this issue is Jack Jadson. Will he be the artist on the ongoing?
MB: I’m not sure - I’ve seen some of the other things he’s been working on lately - even though he’s in Brazil, we’re friends through the magic of Facebook - and I don’t think so, but you’d have to check with Nick and Joe on that in a month or so, when they’re ready to fully announce the new series.
What does Jack bring to the project, and what was it like working with him? How did you collaborate?
MB: Jack’s done a lot of work at DC and now at Dynamite, and he’s just great. His characters are fluid and real, and he’s used to Carter’s Mars, so he hit everything right out of the gate.
Our collaboration was interesting - I knew that he was going to be the artist early on, so I made sure to clearly nail down the descriptions of the panels where they were important to the story. But I think what worked best was that for a lot of the work, I had some clear ideas in mind that I found images for - like the issue’s monster - or worked in common references. He may be in Brazil and I may be in the U.S., but for example, Frazetta is universal. I needed a character and a little bit of the setting to emulate a Frazetta image, and he nailed it.
Was it your idea to write a John Carter story, or did Dynamite ask you to do it?
MB: It was all their idea. Nick dropped me an e-mail and asked. I think I inflicted Joe with four or five ideas and he steered me towards one that he felt had legs. That was that, and we were off to the races. So, yeah, their idea for me to write it, the story - all my idea.
But if you think the story sucks, the opposite of what I just said is true.
The properties created by Edgar Rice Burroughs have an interesting history. Though Burroughs created John Carter and Tarzan prior to 1923, which would normally put them in the public domain in the United States, he set up a corporation to protect his properties, making the situation somewhat more complicated, with various publishers putting out books about his characters, sometimes called John Carter, and sometimes avoiding the trademarks. I have a difficult time wrapping my head around it. These new books are officially sanctioned by ERB, Inc.. Does Dynamite have full access to the properties, as far as calling characters by their names in titles and things like that?
MB: I feel bad for saying this after such a long and well-written question, but that’s out of my league. I think all I can say is what every other creator who’s worked on the ERB properties can say - man, I hope the new relationship between Dynamite and ERB opens the doors for everything - John Carter and beyond. I mean how cool would an official Monster Men graphic novel be?
The John Carter movie that Disney put out a few years ago didn’t do too well at the Box Office. Do you think Disney mishandled the property? Are you trying to approach it any differently because of that?
MB: See, I was one of the people who really enjoyed the movie. I don’t know what Disney was thinking, but yeah, perhaps it could have been marketed better and it could’ve given the potential audience a better feeling of what was coming, but it’s easy to second guess from a couple years out, looking backwards.
I did look at the movie again before writing, just to get some of the characters “moving” again in my mind. Of all of them - and this may just be me - the movie made Tars Tarkas come alive for me a little more than the comics or stories ever did…which is weird to say, I know since he was completely CGI. It’s like saying I watch Episodes 1-3 because they breathe life into Jar-Jar.
But no - I wasn’t trying to ape the movie at all. I relied more on what had come before in Dynamite’s comics and the novels, since my story is set at some indeterminate time after John Carter came to Mars. He’s been there a while, he and Dejah have been a couple for a long time, and he and Tars Tarkas have seen much action together.
How do you make old pulp characters like John Carter, or Buck Rogers, who you wrote in a one-shot in 2011, relevant to today’s audiences?
MB: Relevant and relatable are easy. Look at the Buck Rogers Annual that I co-wrote with Troy Brownfield. I think I came up with the hook on that one - after doing the math to correct for the new calendars that had been invented in the 500 years he was asleep, Buck figured out that the day in the story was his birthday. Everyone he knew though, was dead. He was lonely. We took that as a starting point, and resolved it.
I mean, no one will ever know what it’s like to be thrust 500 years into the future, but most of us know what it’s like to move somewhere new, where you don’t have any friends or family. I remember when I moved out and had my first birthday away from home in a city that I barely knew anyone in. It suuuucked. Loneliness on a fundamental level.
Likewise, with John Carter, I think I hit on perhaps a more existential type of common ground, but it’s still thunderously powerful - what if I lose all of this? What would I do to get it back? Like I said, no one’s going to live John Carter’s life, but I think we’ve all had those questions late at night.
Can readers today connect to that sense of the unknown, the wilderness, adventure, in the same way that people could a hundred years ago, before we’d settled the entire planet and were able to call up a Satellite image of any spot on the globe in Google Earth within seconds?
MB: Oh yeah. I think so, at least. For my John Carter story, I went right to the current maps of Mars to noodle around and see if anything jumped out. There’s a canyon on Mars, Mariner Valley, that’s as long as the United States is wide. It’s western end is called Noctis Labyrinthus. Labyrinth of the Night. That caught my sense of wonder, and inspired the location for the story. There’s lot of wilderness out there, both on the earth and off, and of course, there’s always the trick of telling you that what you think you know about somewhere or something isn’t true.
I mean, look at Joe Harris’ GREAT PACIFIC. The Pacific Ocean is in most people’s view just a boring shitload of water. But he found an interesting location in it to start off with in what’s become a really cool series.
So yeah - I can still go for the sense of wilderness and adventure. I guess my job is to get other people to dig it.
There’s a certain element of nostalgia involved in publishing new stories about these old characters. How can creative teams use that to their advantage without relying too much on it?
MB: More often than not, you’ve got a core audience for these properties built in, that know the world, so sometimes you don’t have to spend too much time on exposition. But that’s a double-edged sword - rely to heavily on what’s come before, and you might as well be writing in code for new or just a casual reader. You need to find a balance.
What’s next for Matt Brady? You have a creator owned project coming up, right?
MB: Yup. Co-writing one, but can’t say anything about it just now. Hopefully soon, though.
Anything else you’d like to plug?
MB: I do some science on TheScienceOf.org - where my wife and I use popular science as a way to start talking about real science. It’s very much a work in progress, and something we’re hoping to get rolling a lot faster this summer.
And no, that’s not an open invitation for the members of The Outhouse to come over and set up shop in some kind of karmic retribution.
My biggest disappointment with myself as a writer is that I haven’t been able to find a way to work the phrase “Who’s holding the ban hammer now, Brady?!” into this interview. You’d think, since I’ve been doing this for quite a few years now, I’d be able to figure that out. From one respected paragon of comic book journalistic virtue to another, have you got any tips for me?
MB: You’re a respected paragon of comic book journalistic virtue?
Warlord of Mars #0 is in stores July 9th. Make sure you check it out, and also check out TheScienceOf.org... but enter and leave through the back door. They're trying to do something respectable over there.