Comic-Con 2014: Garry Brown’s ‘Massive’ Interview

Brian Wood’s nautical disaster saga The Massive has been a quietly fascinating read. It focuses on a radical environmentalist group called Ninth Wave trying to figure out what to do with themselves in a world where the environment has already destroyed itself catastrophically in a year-long chain of events called The Crash, all while searching for a missing vessel for which the series is named. I’ve talked about it before, but at San Diego Comic-Con, I got to talk about it with one of the actual creators of the book, artist Garry Brown.  We talked about what it’s like to make a book this gritty and real, the unreality that’s starting to bubble up in it, and how he works with Wood.

 

The Massive

 The Massive #4

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Crave Online: The Massive has been fascinating for a long time. There’s something darkly compelling about it. How did it the project come about for you?

Garry Brown: I’d been in contact with Brian for maybe two years. I’d just sent him pages one day and said I was a fan of his writing, and he liked my stuff so he kept me in mind. One day, I was finishing off an issue of Mass Effect and I got an e-mail from Sierra Hahn, the editor, and Brian, and he was like ‘there’s a project opening up if you want to get on it,’ and I was like ‘yep.’ I didn’t even know what it was, and I said ‘yeah, I’ll do it.’

So how did you like it when you found out what it actually was?

Oh, it was great. Obviously, I wish I’d started it, but I started on issue #4. I wish I had, but it’s fine starting on 4, and stylistically, Brian and Sierra were really good about saying ‘don’t try to copy the last guy or anything, just internalize it and make it all your own,’ which is why the characters look different.

What’s the collaboration been like? Do you get any story input or is this you visualizing what’s in Brian’s head?

I think, because it’s so intricately written and taut and it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, he has it all mapped out. Character-wise, you know there were no flashbacks in the first three issues, because he only started doing them when I started drawing it. He said the way I was drawing it made him want to know what happened before that, so he started bringing in flashbacks. So I guess that’s the only way I’ve kinda added to the writing of the book.

How many more issues do we have left?

It only goes to #30. I’m working on the last one now. I just finished #28.

It was very surprising when it turned out that Mary might have some kind of super powers, since it was so grounded and steeped in realism. Were you surprised when you got the script?

No, he told me right at the beginning what the ending was, what the deal with everything was, what the deal with her was. He obviously asked me not to tell anyone, but I’ve known for about two years, and now everybody’s starting to notice and I was like ‘yeah, I knew.’

Is it fun to watch people react to this, then?

I got someone asking me ‘so is Mary a ghost?’ I said ‘where the hell did you get that from?’ A ghost? I mean, I didn’t tell them ‘no.’

I don’t know if a ghost could stop a nuclear holocaust with a blink, or however she did it.

Yeah, that would be a trick.

This is such a bleak book, with a kind of oppressive tone of misery. How do you approach that artistically?

When Brian was telling me about it, he wanted it to be gritty, so I tried to use a lot more hard edges than I did on the Marvel books I was do, to make the lines more scratchy. Especially on this last arc, I’m going even more grim, because it’s the end.

Is there any chance there’s a ray of light at the end?

I know how it ends, but I don’t know who makes it. So when I’m reading stuff, I go ‘what?’ When Cal found out he got cancer, I didn’t know that was happening. I was like ‘oh, shit!’ It doesn’t end bleakly. It ends, I guess kind of… more… I don’t know what the word is…

Maybe hopeful?

Hopeful! I’d say it ends positive.

Just the fact that humanity is still going after The Crash is kind of hopeful, no matter how bleak it is.

Especially during the end, the stuff that’s happening in the last arc – I don’t know how he’s going to pull it off. The stuff I’m drawing and the stuff the characters are talking about…

How hard is it to visualize his stark narration about the historical events?

Oh, he’s great with reference. He’ll tell me exactly what kind of weapons, he’ll link me to pictures of the outfits at the time. He’s like a reference mogul. He’s got shit-tons of reference.

 

Just judging by the appendices of the issues, I totally buy that.

He gave me an entire zip file of stuff for the Viking stuff with Bors Bergsen. I think it was leftover stuff from Northlanders, the Viking reference for the boats and stuff. It’s cool.

What else do you have coming down the pipeline? Are you working with Brian again soon?

I’m working with Brian again on… oh, I can’t really talk about that. I’m also doing Catwoman at DC, starting with issue #35. I’m doing six issues of that.

How drastically different does it feel from doing The Massive?

Stylistically, it’s cleaner, but still more of a noir feel to it, because it’s going to be kind of like The Sopranos.

How do you like drawing her?

Oh, it’s great. I don’t really get to draw that many women. Mary and Ryan are in The Massive, but they’re always in bulky clothes, but Selina’s in sleek business suits.

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Catwoman - Garry Brown