20 Questions Tuesday: 186 - Reilly Brown

I have the wonderful opportunity to ask 20 questions to comic book artist par excellence, Reilly Brown.  Reilly draws for one of the big comic book companies (Marvel) and has had the opportunity to draw many iconic superheroes doing weird and wacky stuff.  His lines are super slick and he has a refreshing clean, very technically precise drawing style.  His technical and mechanical drawings are very precise and enviably accurate (when he draws an M-14 or a HK G36, it is clearly correct) , but where I think he really shines is with his characters’ facial expressions.  I always look forward to seeing the life he puts into his characters and the realism he infuses into his books.  Anyway… Reilly is one of the founding members of Ten Ton Studios and has used Ten Ton to launch a rather impressive career so far in the comic book field.  He is still young and will hopefully be doing this for a good long time.
Enough of my ribble rabble, on to the questions:

So, Let’s kick this off. Question 1: How many comic book conventions do you want to go to every year? and how many comic book conventions do you end up going to?

A lot!  Let’s see, last year I ended up going to C2E2, Wizard World Philly, SDCC, Baltimore Comic Con, NYCC, and I also went to Acme Comics FCBD festival.  I also did a few signings at comic stores in between those.

Between April and October I try to go to only one convention a month.  I always hear about more conventions that I’d like to go to, but it’s easy to get swept up in all the cons, and it does start to cut into my work schedule. I might try to go to a few more than usual this year, though, since it’s a good way to get the word out about Power Play.

Hol-ee Crap!  That is a goodly amount of cons to get to every year.  You have added 7 cons or about 6 weeks of travel to your schedule that gets in the way of your work production schedule.  That seems a bit counter productive.  This leads me to wonder….So, as a fanboi, I know what I get out of going to a comic book convention Question 2: What do professional comic book creators get by going to cons?

Besides meeting fans and drinking with other comics creators that don’t like in the same city as me, conventions are a great place for a comics artist to make a decent profit in just a few days.  Especially in these more lean times.  Doing sketch requests and selling prints and any self-published stuff we have is a great way to make some extra income, and a lot of times it came make all the difference.

Also, I really like doing panels at conventions.  I don’t do many of them, but it’s a lot of fun to have that back and forth with the fans and let them in on what’s going on behind the curtain.

Question 3: at these cons, is there a creator that you have met that you have been absolutely star struck by?  If so… who?  And if not, who would you be star struck meeting within the comic book industry?

Ha, yeah, Jim Lee.  Growing up, he was my absolute favorite comic artist.  I don’t know how many times I read and re-read his X-Men comics when I was a kid.  At San Diego Comic Con a couple years ago I was invited to the after-party in his hotel room, and when I tried to talk to him I was just a stammering idiot!  ”Th-th-thanks for inviting me Jim~ I always liked your stuff~ uhhhh, I’ll see you later!”
Totally lame!  Hopefully I made such a weak impression that he won’t remember me!

The only other comics creator that I anticipate would get me star struck would be Stan Lee.  I haven’t met him yet, but man, I’d love to!

That is awesome. I would love to be able to casually chat with Jim Lee. He is one of the few people out there that actually changed the look and feel of comics. Question 4: This is a question that I ask most of the creative types that I ask questions. Do you have any hobbies for when you are not pushing out pages or at cons (you know, for your three hours of downtime a year)?

Not really.  I’m always working on some kind of project.  If I’m not working on a comic where the pages are due immediately, then I’m trying to to get a pitch for a future project together or else I’m doing some kind of promo for that project.
The only things I do outside of that that people don’t see publicly are, going to figure drawing sessions or going to the movies.
I’ve also got a bunch of video games form the past five years that I haven’t even played for more than five minutes!

It sounds like you don’t have much “down time” in what you have described then, and since drawing is primarily an individual pursuit… Consider the following set-up, where an introvert is someone who “re-charges” their “battery” by being alone, and an extrovert is one who “re-charges” their “battery” off the energy of others. In this case I do not mean introvert as someone who is not out-going or fun at parties and extrovert as someone who is quiet and wants to constantly be alone.  For example, my wife tends to be very gregarious and interactive in groups of people, but needs time to herself to recharge. Question 5: Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert using the previous definitions of introvert and extrovert.  

I'd say I'm an introvert.  I frequently prefer to work by myself than go out with people.  That said everyone needs balance.  Being by yourself too long will drive anyone crazy.

…and on a completely different tangent (‘cause that’s how I roll).  You would be surprised how revealing this question ends up being… Question 6: Pie or Cake? If pie, what kind is best? and if cake, what kind is best?

Ice cream cake.  That shit is the best!  Especially when it has the little crunchy chocolate bits in it. Yummm!

That’s why I like you Mr Brown.  Out of the box thinker.  Great answer! So Ice cream cake takes the sweets category, but… Question 7: would you choose savory over sweet? Some people don’t have a sweet tooth, are you one of those people? If so, what savory food defeats the ice cream cake? (multi-part, long form questioning here. It is hard hitting questions like this that make me a badass blogger)

NOTHING defeats ice cream cake.
Ice cream cake is invincible.

Cheesecake for me.  I would sacrifice someonelse’s baby for some cheesecake. I wouldn’t sacrifice my own.  I am not a monster.

Ooooh, one of my favorite questions coming up, I love this one.  As you might have read all my other interview 20 Questions I was born in Oklahoma City, moved to Montgomery, Alabama, then to Birmingham, Alabama, went to school in Kent, Ohio and landed finally in Columbus, Ohio.  Question 8:  What is your geographic story?

I was born in Montclair, NJ, and moved to Virginia Beach when I was 16 and finished high school there.  Then I went to college at Virginia Commonwealth University where I studied illustration.  After that I moved back to Virginia Beach for a while, to save up some money waiting tables and getting my portfolio together.  Then I moved back to Montclair, started working professionally as a comic artist, and then to Hoboken, NJ where I currently live.

So when you moved back to Jersey, you moved closer to/within the megapolis… Question 9: Why move closer to the city instead of the cheaper outskirts?

Opportunities, my man!  I realized pretty quickly that there were no publishers in Virginia, and that it was hard to get an interview somewhere if you don’t live anywhere near their office.
Now it’s true, one of the benefits of being an artist is that I can do my job from anywhere I want to be, but it’s easier to stay in the editors consciousness if you can pop in and out of the office form time to time.

Also, there are more women in the city ;)

That is actually a bit of advice that most people would not listen to in this day and age.  It really is important to have face to face time with decision makers.  Good on you for making that happen.

So, back to the artistic kinds of question, because that is what I am mercurially interested in right now… I hate drawing feet, but I don’t mind drawing them as much as I dislike drawing backgrounds.  Question 10: What piece of human anatomy still vexes you every time you have to draw it, and is that the thing you hate to draw the most, or is there something else?

I draw people so often that human anatomy really isn’t that big of an issue, and any time it does cause me promblems it’s pretty easy to find reference in a mirror.  The thing that I have the hardest time with, and you’ll notice a lot of artists mention this as a problem, is cars and trucks and vehicles like that.  Helicopters are the worst! The problem with that type of thing is that they have specific designs and their own anatomy, but since they’re mechanical you can’t be as loose with them as you can with people or animals.  You really have to be precise, and they have to line up with established perspective and vanishing points and things like that.  It’s a hassle every time!

and yet, that seems like one of your particular strengths.  I have always enjoyed the amount of precision that you put into your physical/mechanical objects. Keeping with the artistic theme here…

Question 11: You advocate using reference to make your drawings more accurate… and you are part of a studio with a couple other artists.  Do you ever make them fight, so your action scenes are more realistic?

Well, the reason you like my mechanical stuff and i don’t might be the same— the fact that i spend so much time with it!
And about my studio mates, No, I only make them fight for my cynical amusement!

You are a cruel and fickle god… It is too bad you cannot get your studio-mates to photo ref your climactic battle scenes.  That would be super fun.  Speaking of studio mates… Question 12: What is the name of your studio? Who is in your studio? How did that come to be?

I share an art studio in Brooklyn with a bunch of other comic book artists— George O’Connor, Joe Infurnari, Jason Little, James Smith, and Michale Horwitz.  The studio’s called Hypothetical Island, which is based on George’s frequent survival-based riddles asking if we were shipwrecked and had a choice between two island, each containing a horrible fate, which would we choose.  And no, you’re not allowed to drown yourself in the middle!
We all got together because after working alone from home for a few years I started to go a little crazy.  It’s definitely nice to be able to work in the same place as other artists— even if it’s these guys!
Heh, nah I’m just kidding, they’re not so bad.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my online studio, Ten Ton Studios, which I know you’re familiar with, Scott.  Ten Ton is a message board I helped found with other comics artists such as Khoi Pham, Chris Burnham, and Jason Baroody when we were first breaking into the comics industry.  Organizing other artists together like that was a great way to get organized for conventions and network.
A lot of people have come and gone from Ten Ton over the years, but the current lineup is Aaron Kuder, Charles Wilson, Nick Pitarra, Doug Hills, Steve Willhite, Chris Burnham, Khoi Pham and myself.

Hypothetical Island is a great name for a studio.  Much better than the early 2000’s graphic design names like Chrome Orangutan, or Disgruntled Ferret Designs etc…

Question 13: If the cats at Ten Ton were all more local, do you think all of you would have become a “real studio” instead of the online/virtual one it became?

Probably.  That’s what I would have liked, in any case.
Some of the guys frequently talk to each other over Skype while they work, which can be kind of fun.

Question 14: So, if you were not able to work on comic books professionally, what was your fallback profession?  I mean, Khoi could always go back to lawyering, and Burnham could go back to selling his plasma and running numbers for the mob, what would have been your option 2?

If I wasn’t doing comics I’d still be doing art of some sort.  I’d probably pursue a career in tv or video games, or book illustration of some sort.  Just because I wasn’t doing comics doesn’t mean I’d stop drawing.

I distinctly remember when I was five, drawing one of my many many fighter jets, when I was able to draw a little tiny pilot’s helmeted head inside the cockpit of the plane.  It was like a peel of thunder went off in my head… I love doing this.  I love drawing… When I was about 12 or 13 I remember thinking, “Hey, not only am I enjoying the fuck out of drawing, but I am pretty good at this too.” (I was a filthy mouthed/minded 6th and 7th grader)

Question 15: When did you get the drawing bug?  How old were you when you realized that you loved doing it, and then how old were you when you realized you were good at it?

I “got the bug” when I was in kindergarten.  I remember me and my friends drawing Star Wars characters at nap time and I drew a Darth Vader that was particularly cool.  After that I was always the class artist.

Darth Vader?  Awesome. It is amazing how notions will set in and set in so strongly at such an early age.

I asked DDG this and he got input from people he knew, and I found that delightful. Hopefully, you can have some people fill in this blank for you.  Question 16: Fill in the blank… “I am mostly ________”…. and go!

I asked a bunch of people and they all said “independent.”  ;)

HA!  Brilliant!

Question 17: So would you say there is a wide discrepancy between how you view yourself and how others view you? Why or why not?

Geez, man, I have no idea what’s going on in other people’s heads!  I think I’m pretty straightforward, though, so people probably have a pretty good idea about who I am.  Actually, online sometimes I worry that I come across as a little more severe than intended.  That’s partially my sense of humor, and partially just because I like to be clear with what I’m saying because in writing it can be easy to miss out on people’s intent, so I might come off as a little patronizing.  Also I don’t like to use emoticons to point out when something’s a joke— if you have to say “this is a joke” then you’ve ruined it!
I’ve gotten into a lot of arguments by making hilariously dead-pan jokes that people have taken too seriously.  
I’m pretty sure that’s how Ten Ton started.  I said “We should make a message board so that everyone can read our brilliant insults at Jay Baroody’s expense and join in on mocking him!”  Someone took that WAY too seriously!

I will agree that sometimes your sense of humor does not translate well to the Internet. Some of the nuance in the dryness of your delivery is lost and seems more cutting than playful.  That being said, you give, quite possibly, the most insightful and cogent online critiques I have ever seen. The time you take to thoroughly and completely review people’s online work is truly remarkable and you should be commended for this.

Trunabout is fair play… Question 18:  Anything you want to ask me?

Maybe you misunderstand my sense of humor— I think it’s hilarious to make grown men cry.  That’s also the driving desire behind my critiques ;)

Anyway, yeah, there is something I wanted to ask you— after interviewing so many people, from so many random walks of life, I was wondering if you’ve noticed any interesting commonalities in how they answer certain questions, or any surprising differences.

Number 1: I think I understand your humor just fine.  I am all about the “funny over nice” paradigm.

Number 2: In answer to your question…

People are more willing to answer surprisingly intimate questions than I would have thought, and no matter who I talk with, the person is way more introspective tan anyone would have thought.  I have not found any consistent differences in people answering questions.  I have noticed, however, how difficult it is to ask interesting questions without repeating too many of them.  I have a bevy of questions (geographic history, ask me a question, and the last 2 questions) that are the same for everyone.  I guess the only thing that is similar for everyone is the candid responses and that no one is the same.

Question 19: So are you taking anything away from this 20 Questions that you did not bring to it.  Have your learned anything about yourself or just learned anything during this lengthy conversation?

Yeah, I learned what a nosy s.o.b. you are!
But really, I do enough interviews that I’ve answered most of these questions before, in one form or the other, so there weren’t really any surprises.
Sorry if that answer’s not as interesting as you were hoping for!

Really?  I have not done my job correctly then.  Seriously, someone has asked you the “Cake or Pie” question?  Man, I am losing my touch.  Typically I ask “What is next for you?” for Question 20, but I KNOW that you have been asked that, so to “out of left field” this last question…

Question 20: As alternate fuel sources become available in 1st world nations, and our consumption of less and less petroleum based fuel continues to rise, there will inherently be a stronger economic pressure asserted on the OPEC nations purely through the Keynesian dynamics of Supply and Demand. What effect do you see this external economic pressure having on the mid-east?

Heh, actually, just last week in the studio we had a Hypothetical Island question where one island had an infinite supply of cake, and one island had an infinite supply of pie.  Now you know which island I chose!

As for the future of the Middle East, heh, there’s a lot of people who wish they knew that, aren’t there?

Alternate sources of fuel will be a major blow to countries like Iran, which have leaderships that like to aggravate the Western countries.  They know that they can get away with a lot because on some level we HAVE to deal with them as long as we rely so much on oil.  If we don’t need oil as much any more, it makes those countries less important, which will frustrate them and be a serious blow.  Then you have all those countries that have new governments after the “Arab Spring,” and they’re all wild cards.  Hopefully democracy will put them on a peaceful path and they will be willing to work with us, but they could also turn out to be a Hamas situation, where religious fundamentalists vote for terrorist organizations to head the government.
It’s kind of a crap shoot.
But either way, money talks.  You have a volatile region with new governments that are still organizing themselves and are yet to be defined, and amid a world-wide financial recession you have these insanely wealthy oil companies that have a stake in the outcome, and will feel threatened by any alternatives to their product.  That’s a pretty good recepe for some serious corruption.
Will the outcome of all this be anything significant, or just business as usual?

It’s impossible to know the future, but you might be able to get a pretty good idea about where we’re heading if you look to the past.  I subscribe to a theory that there are four different types of generations of people that repeat each other in a cycle.  Through their personality and actions, one will cause the next, which causes the next, until it starts over form the beginning again.  Each generation lasts about 20-22 years, give or take, and the whole cycle takes about 80-90 years to get through.  If you ever look at history in 80 year chunks, you’ll see that the situation’s kind of similar.  For instance you’ll often hear on the news that “we’re in the worst financial recession since the Great Depression,” which was 80 years ago.

Other things line up like that as well, like examples of heavy financial speculation, such as the sub prime-mortgage loans that got us into this recession came 80 years after the stock market boom of the 1920’s, which is 80 years after the gold rush of the 1840’s.  The Louise and Clark expedition of 1806 is 163 years before the first moon landing in 1969, and the heaviest period of Arctic exploration took place right between those in the late 1800’s.

"Four score and seven years" after the American Revolution, was the Civil War, and 80 years after that ended America was in WWII.
As we approach the 80th anniversary of WWII, it’s probably worth looking to see where the next major conflict is going to come from, and since the Middle East is currently in such turmoil, and since so many other countries have interest in how things turn out there, it’s as good a place to look as any.
But then again, there’s always North Korea, or China, or Venezuela, or….

Heh, so I don’t know, maybe it’s all just voodoo, but all creative people have their crackpot theories about one thing or another.  I guess this is my “Expanding Earth.”  :P

Thanks for the interview, man, it was fun!

No, Thank you for answering 20 Questions!

Seriously, if you want to see the future of comic books, get Reilly’s creator owned comic, Power Play, and for goodness sakes, get Comixology

To recap:

So, much ended up happening last week
The wife’s car got rear-ended causing $5600 in damage
It was not totalled, so the car at least used to be worth $5600
The whole fam-damnly got sick, of which the wife is just now recovering
Well… that isn’t as many things as I thought it was
So, make a note that the first part of this recap should have read, “A couple of things happened last week”
So, there was a SuperBowl this past weekend, and it was a pretty good game
If it were European football that score would have translated to 3 - 2 and been called a tactical counter attacking game
Back to our regularly scheduled posts next week
I only just started an interview and have no more in the bag, so to speak
Have a great weekend