In this week’s “in-house” interview leading up to the release of the Other Worlds anthology, we speak with artist, Russell Brown.
Russ: I’m a part-time freelance artist working in Emmett, Idaho. I’d been living and working in the Seattle area for ten or eleven years, and had relocated recently to be closer to my two daughters, who live just outside of Boise.
AWBW: And how about your art training? Did you always want to get into comics, or did you start out in another field?
I’d graduated from the Animation Art & Design program from the Art Institute of Seattle in 2003 and had been doing quite a lot of animation pre-production designs and storyboards.
I’d never regularly drawn comics art, but had been watching the emergence of guys like Jim Lee, Mark Silvestri and Jae Lee through the early Image Comics days. Honestly, I’d never really considering doing comics regularly until I was approached by Justin Zimmerman with the possibility of working on The Killing Jar.
AWBW: What were the first comics you ever read and/or which ones were the most influential to you growing up and becoming a creator yourself?
Russ: I’d had a few comics pass my way as a kid, but family life was pretty strict as home and they were slightly taboo. I was living in a tiny, high-desert town called Jordan Valley, Oregon, and we didn’t get a lot of comics. The rare occasions were a treat; gobbling up anything from ROM: Spaceknight to Transformers and The Uncanny X-Men. I did’t have the best selections or frequent exposure, but the art and storytelling always stuck with me. Believe it or not, my earliest and most formative exposure came for Archie (and I still have something of a crush on Midge, Moose’s girlfriend).
It wasn’t until later that I realized that you could have continuity of story and be invested in amazing characters. My first big taste, and the one that stands out the most, was the Mutant Massacre crossover in Marvel’s X- titles.
AWBW: Before your work on Other Worlds, you first collaborated with Justin Zimmerman on the original graphic novel The Killing Jar. How did you hook up with Justin for that project and what was that collaboration like?
Russ: The Killing Jar was the very first comics work I’ve EVER done. I’d toyed with character art and practiced cross-hatching in a comics style, but I really had no experience with layouts or worked on a story until Justin came along. We met through a mutual friend. I’d been doing character design and concept work for an animated series; a long-term pet project of mine. Justin was a Film Professor and I was an animation storyboard artist, so we hit it off right away, plotting the angles and layouts for the Killing Jar in film language.
It was an amazing learning experience for the both of us. Until Other Worlds, every comics page I’ve ever done had been a Killing Jar page. My first page was The Killing Jar, issue #1 page #1. The 200 plus pages that follow are the entirety of my experience as a comics artist.
In fact, my favorite thing about that book is to watch my evolution as an artist. It’s amazing what can change as you grow.
AWBW: Anything about it in particular that made you want to work with him again on Other Worlds?
Russ: Justin is a very unique writer. He has incredible taste, a wicked sense of humor, and frankly, he writes violence in such a way that I HAVE to draw it. Justin is a generous and loyal friend, super professional, and usually the smartest guy in the room. I know it sounds like I’m laying it on pretty thick, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who might disagree. Did I mention his skill at working with surly, prima donna artists?
Russ: If The Killing Jar is a wild-violence survival horror film, Other Worlds is, to me anyway, highly evocative of those awesome, surreal TV serials, like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. They are emotional and thought-provoking, and they are most often based to the simplest of ideas. The twists are satisfying and often create more questions than answers. It’s a journey from childlike wonder to very adult dread and consequence in the space of 3 to 6 pages.
AWBW: What was your favorite part of working on your Other Worlds stories?
Justin like to challenge me. He’ll never allow me back into my comfort zone as an artist. When I feel as those a story required exacting detail and crisp style, Justin will ask for all manner on ink-splatter and smudges. No matter how much I might protest, the Man is always right, and the end result is always very satisfying artwork.
AWBW: What other projects are you currently working on, or that you have coming up?
Russ: I am working on another top-secret project with Justin; some kind of comics to film hybrid that should be very much fun. I’ve also been working on concept design and storyboards for 2 animated shows as well.
To see more of Russ’s work visit the titles page for The Killing Jar, as well as the Other Worlds anthology, which debuts on September 21. And make sure you get updates on future interviews by following us on facebook.