Ed Brubaker Interview
The Comic Book WorldInterview by Garrett Faber
Ed Brubaker has a very nice hat. He originally thought our interview was a Mark Millar prank because I asked him about writing a Batman porno story. I was serious, and he sincerely answered the question, which is pretty cool.
Last time I looked, he was on Wizard's top ten comics writers, and that's pretty cool. He's also known as the writer who killed Captain America. Yep, he's that guy. I remember that story making the newspapers and I'd hate to pigeon-hole Ed into that role, so I'll also say he's the writer who killed Captain America, but he also wrote The Authority, X-Men, Batman, Daredevil, Catwoman, and that Law and Order in Gotham series Gotham Central. He's a writing machine and ex juvenile delinquent who likes to go bowling on his rare occurrences of free time, Church.
Ed Brubaker: Does Chuck Palahniuk know who I am?
Garrett Faber: I don't know personally, The Cult is like Chuck's headquarters, but the main editor, Dennis wants it to be more of a giant writers retreat, with other writers being interviewed and being involved so it's more than just Chuck's site, it's a resource. Why, do you hate Chuck? Wanna punch him in the face? We can talk about that in the interview if you want. :)
EB: I would never punch anyone. I'm an adult. No, I'm a fan. I just never heard of the site. I just know that Chuck got beat up really badly at some point, so I wanted to be sure he knew I didn't want to hit him. ;)
GF: Where are you from dude? What was your childhood like?
EB: I was a Navy brat, raised moving around from Virginia and Maryland, back in the late 60s when my dad was in Vietnam, to Gitmo after that, and then to San Diego, until he retired. Like a lot of kids who moved around a lot at a young age, I was pretty lonely and solitary, and thus very into cartoons and comics. So, I'm basically from all over. For the past 18 years, I've moved back and forth between San Francisco and Seattle, where I've been living again now for about four years, and will probably stay forever, since we bought a house this time.
GF: Have you ever been in the presence of a Vampire? Literally or metaphorically?
EB: Just emotional ones. My last girlfriend before I met my wife was definitely one of those. She could suck the life out of anyone in just a few days, I'm pretty sure. And she wasn't a bad person, even, it was just her nature. Like the scorpion and the frog. I'm always the frog in that analogy for some reason.
GF: How did you get into the comics world as a writer?
EB: Like a lot of my friends, I started out doing my own comics, writing and drawing a semi-autobiographical series called Lowlife. Not long after that, my friend Eric Shanower was looking for a contemporary idea to draw, since all his stuff is either historical fiction (his current book Age of Bronze is about the Trojan War) or fantasy. So I asked if I could write a mystery for him, and he for some reason said yes. From then on, I've mostly made a living in comics, and for the last ten years, as a writer exclusively. So, I got in by accident, basically, which is how most of the people I know who do this got here. We were just doing our own stuff and started getting offers that we didn't want to say no to.
GF: Whats a good way to pitch a story to say, DC or something? How could a writer go and write Batman?
EB: I have no idea. Like I said, I came in on the coattails of an in-demand artist, and was lucky enough to write some mystery stories that attracted some attention and awards nominations, and that led to more work. I think if you're starting out hoping to write Batman, you're really going about it the wrong way, and it's going to be a very long and hard road for you. You have to start out just wanting to make comics. An editor is always going to be more impressed by a good story that just stands on its own, then they are by the 1000th Batman idea they get that week. So, I always tell aspiring comics writers to just write a short story that has no company-owned characters, and get someone good to draw it, and then show that to editors, so they'll see that you can write a story and how it looks in comics form. It's really hard to tell from a script.
GF: What do you do for fun these days?
EB: Sometimes I go bowling, though my wife has turned me into a bit of a germaphobe, so I'm thinking about getting my own ball for that. Thinking of sticking your fingers into the same holes that some guy who was just holding his cock and pissing in the bowling alley bathroom is kind of disgusting, especially since you always end up eating fries or something when you bowl. It's like that movie where the guy explains why he doesn't eat the peanuts in the bowl at the bar. Other than that, I'm not young anymore, and I write for a living. So, outings are rare. Usually it's to visit friends or to go to a movie. The most fun I've had in years was going to Kauai last fall.
GF: How is the comic book world? Is it like a fraternity where you and Warren Ellis and Jim Lee are all at pugs, swiggin brewskis and talkin about broads?
EB: Not really. At conventions there's probably stuff like that, to some extent, but I tend to avoid that stuff and just get together with a few friends instead, at conventions. But almost everyone I know works in either comics or film or TV, at this point, so there is definitely a community feel to it. I have not heard anyone ever say the word "broad" though. But I bet Darwyn Cooke would, but he'd probably be being ironic.
GF: What's it like to write some of the most well known comics ever? Was the pressure on? Did you stress about writing a damn good story line?
EB: The biggest comic I've ever done was the Death of Captain America issue, and for some reason I wrote that so far ahead of when it got published, that I had no idea it would end up being a big deal or get lots of press all over the world, so I just wrote it like any other issue. I'm really glad I did, too, because had I known it would be like it was - a nightmare of publicity and press and outrage - I probably never would have been able to write. But I put pressure on myself, mostly, for everything I write. I always try to push myself to do something new or something different, whether it's on my biggest book - Like Captain America - or on my more cult-like stuff - like Criminal. The pressure is to not suck, and to keep producing work that people want to read and that is entertaining and deserves to exist.
GF: With a character like Batman, did you find it hard to do things with him that hasn't been done before?
EB: I just tried not to think about what had or hadn't been done with him, and to just do things that seemed interesting to me. But to some extent, writing a character that appears in so many other places is really difficult, because when you write these company-owned characters, you have to lie to yourself that they're yours, so that you can make it important. When there are three other books starring the same character, that can be really hard to do.
GF: So you know about Chuck Palahniuk's tale of getting in that fight that eventually inspired Fight Club, what else do you know about Chucky P? What's your favorite Palahniuk book?
EB: I know it's a cliche, but probably Fight Club. I read that not long before I saw the movie, and it really kicked my ass. What else do I know? I heard that he wrote Fight Club in public places, like bars and cafes, and I know he's a fan of David Mack's work. Other than that, not much. What does Chuck know about me? That's the real question.
GF: Speaking of books, what are your top five favorite novels, and graphic novels?
EB: I'm not much for top lists. I like a ton of novels. If I had to choose, I'd say that Steve Erickson's Arc D'x is one of my favorite novels, as is Ross Macdonald's The Goodbye Look, and Milan Kundera's the Joke, and Dan J. Marlowe's The Name of the Game is Death, and David Simon's Homicide, a Year on the Killing Streets. For GNs, I really couldn't pick a top five. Right now I like Scalped a lot, and Casanova, and Powers. I'll read anything by Joe Matt or Chester Brown. Chris Ware's new Rusty Brown story is great. Anything Dan Clowes does is generally great. V for Vendetta and From Hell are both amazing books and not so great movies. I am really fond of the first 30 issues of Love and Rockets. Like I said, it's impossible to narrow it down. I read a lot of comics.
GF: Out of everything you've ever writen, which would you most like to see as a movie?
EB: I have no preference, really. Probably one of the two Criminal books that are out - Coward or Lawless. I'd be happy to have any of my stuff get made, though, and incredibly happy to take the money involved. I always have a few things that are close to happening lately.
GF: Are you still a crazy workaholic?
EB: Only because I have to be. I am really starting to look forward to a few years from now, when I can hopefully slow down a little on the deadline pressure. But I imagine I'll always write, and probably everyday, just not for the length of time I do currently every day.
GF: Are you any good at karaoke? Can you rip into a bad ass rendition of "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown?"
EB: The only time I've done karaoke, I sang a Merle Haggard song. We went to this place here in town a while back, and I was going to sing, but the people there were like professionals or something, and I didn't have the nerve. If only I still got drunk. Still, I heard the best version of Mack the Knife ever. The guy didn't even use the mic, he just staggered around the stage and belted it out.
GF: What kind of music do you like?
EB: I'm a music wimp. I like stuff like CocoRosie, and American Music Club, and Will Oldham. Stuff that I can listen to and write. I like lyrics, too. There's that old theory that if you want to make a tape for someone, the first thing you need to know is which they prefer, the Stones or the Beatles. And while I love Her Satanic Majesty's Request, I'll always pick the Beatles. Which means I like Big Star more than Black Sabbath. And I like Belle and Sebastian much more than the White Stripes. I was a big fan of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. And I loved that Mark Kozelek record where he covered AC/DC. I like a lot of late 60s and early 70s soul and funk, though - Steve Wonder and Marvin Gaye and Funkadelic. What's Goin' On will always be one of the best albums.
GF: Have you had any brushes with the law? Did you hussle and go to juvy?
EB: Yeah, when I was a kid I was a bad bag guy. A drug addict and a thief. I never went to juvie, but I did spent a few days in County lock-up in San Diego in the felony tank. That pretty much scared my shit way straight.
GF: Whats your middle name?
EB: Schleuss. It's my mother's maiden name.
GF: What made you decide to kill Captain America? I actually remember it made newspapers and me and Kareem Black were talking about it, how does that feel? Did feel any guilt for killing an icon like that?
EB: I can't remember anymore. I think it's just the way that the story was going. And really, no one writes an icon, you have to write a character. And killing a character is no big deal, it's just part of the story.
GF: When's the last time you got some ass? Was it good? Are you adventurous when it comes to sex or do you have a patented formula that never fails? I actually got some last night for the first time in a month it was pretty damn amazing, I was in awe because sometimes the best part of sex is just watching it happen to you, do you concur?
EB: I'll just avoid the first part of that, because I don't think my wife would appreciate me talking about that stuff much. But I sometimes think the best part of sex is the moments before it, actually. The desire for it. Not that there's anything bad to be said about the actual fucking part of it, believe me. It's like that old Woody Allen quote about a bad orgasm. I've never heard of one of those - even the worst one I've had was right on the money.
GF: If there was like, a Batman Porno comic with Batman involved in this hardcore threeway with Catwoman and Harley Quinn, how confident would you be about writing it?
EB: Pretty confident.
GF: Would Batman use gadgets or his keen intellect?
EB: I think it would be the ladies in charge there, probably, and I'm sure there'd be plenty of gadgets.
GF: What are fun things to do in Seattle. What are some hot spots that are rad to chill at?
EB: I'm 41 years old, and I write for a living. The last time I left the house at night was to do a ridealong with the cops.
GF: Why were you riding along with the cops?
EB: Research, and because my friend is a cop.
GF: Whats your house like? Is it MTV Cribs worthy? Whats your coolest pocession?
EB: My home is pretty modest, a renovated 1920s bungalow style house. My coolest possession is probably my office. My wife, who can literally do anything if she reads how to in a book (she's like Joe90 or something) completely redid it while I was out of town, building this great wainscoting and a shelf around the wall, and carpet it. She even alphabetized all my books by category. I spend most of my days in here, so it's great that it's like my perfect little hideaway.
GF: Whats the last big thing you've bought?
EB: A new PC computer, probably. Got stuck with Vista, but the computer is about as big as a shoebox and silent and fast, so that's a nice trade-off.
GF: What was it like when you lost your virginity? Was it awkward and weird or was it magical and special?
EB: It was awful and weird, and I lied for months and told my friends I didn't do it, which is the opposite of how you're supposed to be when you're a teenager. I was very naive, though. I also believed that all my guy friends didn't jerk off.
GF: How was losing your V-Card awkward and weird?
EB: I'd rather not get into it. It was just unfun.
GF: Whats your favorite sin?
EB: Honestly, probably sloth. Maybe mixed with a bit of lust, just to keep it interesting. But if I had enough money, I think I'd love to spend a few years lazing about and just enjoying things, and not be so caught up in deadlines and schedules and stuff.
GF: Whats your favorite crime?
EB: RAPE. No, just kidding. As far as writing about them goes, probably drug smuggling or armed robbery.
GF: Whats your favorite Depeche Mode song?
EB: Planet Earth.
GF: Are you a political person? Are you going to vote this year? Who for?
EB: I'm politically aware and actively informed, to my detriment, sometimes. I read a lot of news from all over the world. Yes, I always vote. Informed voting is the foundation of whatever's left of our democracy. Emphasis on informed. I'll vote for Obama or against McCain.
GF: Jellyfish or Giraffe?
GF: Did you ever feel the urge to join the Navy like your dad, or some other branch of the armed forces?
EB: No. I hate taking orders or dealing with authority. And growing up on military bases around other officers families, it doesn't give you the best view of the military and how it's run. These guys had nothing but complaints about the system and the politicians.
GF: How do you feel about that Spiderman story arc "One More Day"?
EB: I don't really have an opinion. I think it was a good idea for the character, overall.
GF: Why not make the Captain America outfit black? Every outfit should be black!
EB: Okay. Sure.
GF: If you were to write a comic book about a famous rapper today, who would it be? Little Weezy?
EB: Who did "rapper's delight?" That guy.
GF: What websites do you regularly visit?
EB: Crooks and Liars, Raw Story, AICNews sometimes, amazon, Boing-Boing, The Comics Reporter, True Crime Diary.
GF: How would you run the government if you were writing a comic book about running the government?
EB: Personally, I'm a liberal, but I think I'd be a fascist or a dictator if I was in charge. I'd mandate a lot of things, outlaw a bunch of stuff that irritates me.
GF: Have you ever witnessed a miracle? What was it?
EB: No. Nothing.