Interview: Brandon Graham -- Prophet: Earth War

Brandon Graham has been notable over the last few years not only for his imaginative creator-owned and illustrated books (like 'King City' and 'Multiple Warheads') but for his multi-creator projects such as '8House' and 'Island'. Predating the latter two works was Graham's sci-fi epic reboot of Rob Liefeld's 'Prophet'. The main series wrapped up last year, but is set to return with a final mini-series 'Prophet: Earth War' in January. Brandon Graham was kind enough to answer questions about Prophet's return as well as his other current works.

Asa Giannini: Over the initial 24 issues of Prophet, the series saw a slow but deliberate shift from very limited scope to a much grander take on space opera culminating in the return of Troll and Badrock. Do you see this final six issue series as a continuation of this grander story or a return to the more individualistic style the book initially had?

ProphetEarthWar02_CvrBrandon Graham: It's really a combination of the two. The first three issues are all kind of self-contained stories that build up to the second half. So we can focus on both the smaller character stuff and the larger cosmic god-being stuff.

I think scale is also important with the larger ideas, I think they work as best if we also show them in relation to mortal creatures lives.

AG: In terms of format, how does this series compare to the initial run? I noticed in the solicitations for January and February that Simon Roy is providing covers and the art is by Ron Ackins and Giannis Milonogiannis, will future issues contain material by Farel Dalrymple, Roy, or any of the other contributing artists from before (including yourself)?

BG: The first three issues are mostly one artist per issue. Issue one is Giannis with some Simon art (colors by Joseph B and Liv Visel), then #2 is Ron Ackins with Paul Davey on colors for that issue. Both Ron and Paul's work is different from the usual Prophet style but I was really interested to see what they would do. Then Grimm Wilkins is on #3 (with colors by Joseph B and Liv Visel), Grimm's work reminds me of a slightly more cartoony Simon or Farel. I'm so impressed by the work he did for Prophet so far.

I especially enjoyed working on the 3rd issue. It's an assassin mission with the female Prophet John Ka, The 10k year old robot, Diehard and the scale alien. Rein-east. After that we're mixing up a lot of the artists on issues. I think I'll draw some pages myself in the final issue.

Also we're running the 5 page back up comics that we had in the main series. The first issue's back up is by Sarah Horrocks, whose approach to comics and paneling I think is really singular and fascinating (, followed by Aaron Conley (Sabertooth Swordsman) drawing a story written by Shannon Lenz. Aaron and Shannon did something set in the Prophet universe. Like a Strikefile pre main story history story. We'll run the 5 pagers in every issue but the last, since that one will run longer than most issues.

AG: What is the challenge of wrapping up Prophet for good in terms of plot and characterization?

BG: Hmmmm there's certainly some stuff to wrap up. I hope we do it well.

The plot for the final six issues is hopefully a fun adventure hanger to get the characterization that I think the series needs to feel like it's come to a good ending.

STK655778AG: Prophet was one of the initial books in the new era of Image popularity, how do you think you have changed in your approach to this world in the time since then?

BG: I mean in terms of sales I dunno if we could claim that next to books like Saga and Sex Criminals, but hopefully Prophet has carved its own spot.

A lot of Prophet has been just seeing where we could take it from month to month, it's certainly changed how I work and hopefully improved my writing.

Over the course of the series we tried some different things, I think there was a point where we paid too much attention to reviews and then learned to say "fuck it" and just do what we thought was best for the book. I think at the start I really thought this was going to be a lot more of a mainstream book than it turned into. and a lot of that was just realizing where my own interests were and that not everything has to be or should be for everyone. You have to make the comics you want to read and for like-minded people.

AG: Is there anything you can tease in terms of plot for what to expect starting January?

BG: We're going deeper into the crystal blessed aliens from early in the series. They're these creepy guys who make noises like breaking glass and grow inside the minds of their followers (The Crystal blessed).

AG: Most reviews of Prophet go out of their way to mention the influence of Conan the Barbarians and European sci-fi, I am curious to hear from you directly what the lead influences were when you began work on Prophet?

BG: There was a lot of looking at 70's Conan and certainly Moebius, Philippe Druillet, Tom Baker era Doctor who, Charles Stross books, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War-was a big influence on thinking about time in relation to war. Also the 80's Anime Gunbuster for me and Iczer-1 was certainly an influence.

I think for me, working with Simon, Farel, Joseph, Giannis and the rest of the dudes was the biggest influence on the type of writing I turned in. I wanted to work on something that was worthy of those guys time. And each of them brought their own influences.

I really appreciated how much science Simon would bring to the conversation, not letting me get away with fantasy in the same way I would on my other books like Warheads.  Talking to Joseph about how color would affect the story in each issue was so much fun. We started to plan for a story that would use color rather than just have it.

STK663711AG: In each of your current projects, Prophet, 8House, and Island, collaboration between multiple artists is central to the format. What about this attracts you and what do you think it adds?

BG: I think a lot of that is just trying to meet the demands of how the industry and my publisher are set up. Past that I've been really enjoying what happens when I work with or alongside artists whose work I'm excited about. I like the community aspect of comics. I like that I get to choose who I spend my days talking to.

AG: Similarly, you have a background in extremely independent work, but all of your current work has been published through Image with a distinctly independent flavor (in terms of inventiveness and subject matter). What attracts you about the opportunities afforded by Image?

BG: Essentially Image is the one place that has backed me in whatever I want to do. The publisher Eric Stephenson and Image creator (and child raised by Image comics), Joe Keatinge have both really put their necks out for me.  They both pushed for months and months to get my book King City through Image.

I think the base model for the company is fantastic. You really get back what you put in there and the staff are by far the best people I've worked with in comics. It's hard to just not gush about it as an ideal place to work.

AG: Lastly, your personal work such as King City and Multiple Warheads tends to be somewhat light and filled with puns while books like Prophet are much more serious (though not without humor). Are these different tones due to the collaborative nature of you projects or do you enjoy talking in different styles?

BG: A big part of that is just the jokes and puns take more time for me and are often things that I come up with as I work on a page. It's a dramatically different thing for me to work on a script or layouts for someone else verses spending 6 or 8 hours drawing a page of my own. Also I do like trying to see what other writing styles I'm capable of and what happens when I work with artists whose storytelling styles are different from my own. It's fun.