Interview: Brian Wood – Part 2: Life After DMZ & Northlanders

Brian Wood - photo by by Seth KushnerOne of the more prolific writers at Vertigo/DC Comics over the past few years has been Brian Wood. With two ongoing series that have yielded numerous volumes of stories, along with several smaller projects along the way, Brian Wood has definitely built up a respectable library.  When news broke this summer that both of Wood’s ongoing series, DMZ and Northlanders were coming to an end (one naturally and one by way of cancellation), it was clear that Wood’s time at Vertigo may be coming to an end.

Yesterday we shared Part 1 of our interview with Brian Wood about DMZ and Northlanders. Today we take a look at some of his other recent work, published and upcoming, as well as get a glimpse of what’s to come.

iFanboy: You also has a run on DV8, before DC shut down Wildstorm.  Were pleased with how that came out? I know you were a big fan of DV8, were you bummed that they seem to be causalities of the end of Wildstorm?

Brian Wood: I was, and I’m proud, but anyone who read the way that book ended knows that it was obviously headed for reintegration with Wildstorm, which was the plan when I started writing it, but along the way it was decided that Wildstorm would no longer exist, so that’s a shame.  I would have written a different ending. I also had a lot of pitches in for more Wildstorm books I had been looking forward to.

iF: The upcoming Tales of the Unexpected from Vertigo has a short story by you and Emily Carroll. What is that story and what’s it about? Was it fun to do a single/self contained short story?

BW: Emily Carroll, an extremely talented artist who I feel nothing but humbled to be writing for.  You know, that was weird timing, with that story, as the offer to do it came at a rather low point for me in terms of the future of my career and I was struggling to get motivated for it.  I went back and found this old outline… do you remember that ABC News special “2100” that had “graphic novel” elements in it that they got a bunch of Brooklyn cartoonists to execute?  A few years back.  I was working on that until I dropped out of the job, and my story for that is what ended up being AMERICANA, what Emily is drawing for that anthology.  A hundred years of in-story time boiled down to eight pages.  I love a format challenge.

iF: Recently announced was the Lord of the Rings: the War In the North comic that you’re writing.  How intimidating is it to write within the world of Tolkien?

BW: Honestly, and I don’t say this to minimize anything, that was a REALLY quick gig that I literally wrote over a single weekend, and then I was done.  Pure work-for-hire, a total wham bam type of thing.  I had fun and the idea that this was LOTR was pretty cool, but I didn’t invest my soul into it.  Even if I wanted to, I didn’t have the time!  But if there was a way I could write an actual comic, a story more than the 16 pages this promo was, I’d be all over that.  So would half the comics industry.

Supernatural #1iF: You’ve also got a miniseries coming from Vertigo based on the TV Show, Supernatural.  What can readers expect from this miniseries?

BW: That’s another thing that dates back farther than people think.  I think right around the time I was wrapping up the writing for DV8, my editor Ben Abernathy asked me about writing Supernatural.  I had been turning the guy down right and left for a few months on all these video game adaptations and I was starting to feel ungrateful.  I like what I’ve seen of Supernatural on TV, and it seemed like I would have a lot of freedom.  Why not? So the fact its finally coming out makes it seem like its connected to this “new 52” thing, but it predates all of that by quite a bit.

iF: What are the challenges of doing a comic based on an existing property like Lord of the Rings or Supernatural? Are you writing it for the show’s fans or for anyone?

BW: Oh man, I’m not even going there.  Writing for the audience’s expectations is a really big no-no in any situation, but I know this show has some hardcore fans and I could bleed myself dry trying to write the most technically perfect adaptation and I would still fail a bunch of them to be sure.  I’m writing it for me, my editor, and the artist Grant Bond.  And I’m staying away from Supernatural fan forums!

iF:  It was announced that you’ve got a story coming up in Dark Horse Presents called The Massive, which appears to have a political angle, although different from DMZ – what is The Massive?

BW: The Massive is the spiritual successor to DMZ, that’s how it was designed, that’s what I was doing when I created it.  I wanted to create a series that readers of  DMZ could seamlessly transfer over to and get the same type of experience, even though its not a literal sequel.  That was about 18 months ago, and its morphed a bit to where I can see a lot of Northlanders in there as well, the way I write that book.  It’s the world of DMZ with the humanity of Northlanders.

The MassiveAnd it does have a political angle, but a little different than you saw in DMZ. It’s about environmentalists, ocean activists, who we are introduced to after the world’s already ended.  You know those disaster movies, like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow?  Those movies end at the point The Massive starts – the reconstruction, the “post- world” as I call it.  And in the case of these specific characters, they failed.  The world ended.  Now what do they do?  What does a person like that do in the middle of a broken world with no way but forward?

It’s more social sci-fi than political.  It’s not American at all, in terms of characters or locales.  And its not preachy or “ripped from the headlines”, even though there is plenty to use from current events, as far as environmental and climate issues are concerned.

iF: Dark Horse Presents has a long legacy/history, how does it feel to be apart of that legacy now?

BW: Earlier I said that Vertigo was the place I wanted to be at, when I started my career.  Dark Horse is a close second, as both of these imprints have strong creator-owned histories and both were a big part of what I was reading when I started being interested in comics as a possible career.  So it feels good.  I have friends at Dark Horse, and you’ll see a lot of work from me being published there in the future.

iF: One aspect of your work that I’ve personally enjoyed is your relationships with your artists. You’ve had great collaborations with folks like Ryan Kelly (Local, New York Four), and Becky Cloonan (Demo), but also with Burchielli on DMZ and all the amazing artists on Northlanders.  What do you owe that success to? How are you able to work so well with artists?

BW: I really try to just stay out of the way.  Becky and I have joked about that before on panels… that I don’t bug her and she doesn’t bug me, which might come off as cold or un-collaborative, but I think its actually a really respectful way to work.  Becky isn’t working for ME; she and I are both working for a client, so if anyone is going to get in anyone’s hair, the editor should be getting in ours.  What I do is trust the artist to do their best and not try to manage the art process.  And in return the artist does the same.

I’ve never understood writers, or artists, who like to get on the phone and kick ideas back and forth and “jam”.  I’m not knocking that process, I just don’t understand it.  Maybe its not in my personality.  I often defer to the artist on some things, like if the panel count on a given page feels too high, I’ll ask them to combine/edit the action to make it work better, or if there’s a fight scene and what I write proves awkward or too difficult to draw well, I’ll ask them to tweak what needs to be tweaked.  But for the most part I like to sit alone in my office and just write.

I also hear from a lot of the artists I work with that I write very clear scripts, not too much happening in a panel, and give good direction, since I am an artist myself, and I like that, and its always flattering to hear.  Overall, I am flattered and feel blessed to work with all these artists, and so many come back for more, so to speak.  I think I write good books, but I will never be a top-of-the-charts seller, and a good artist has their choice of writers to work with.

iF: What else does the future hold for you now that DMZ and Northlanders are ending? Do you have plans for a new ongoing?

BW: I have nothing BUT plans.  Right now I am wrapping up DMZ, Northlanders, and Supernatural.  I’m replacing that with three or four projects, one of which is The Massive.  I believe another will be announced by the end of August, and another at NYCC.  I’m trying to get something off the ground with Ryan Kelly as well, but that may not be until later on in 2012.  It’s a weird time right now, where I am working hard on new projects I can’t talk about.  None of them are for the DCU, though, that much I can say.  It seems like the “new DC” doesn’t see me as being part of their plans.

Overall, this all sort of sets a different sort of stage for me, career-wise.  Up to this point I’ve been almost exclusively a creator-owned writer, but going into 2012, that should be more of a 50/50 thing with company-owned books.  We’ll see how that goes!


  1. I’ve never picked up Dark Horse Presents before, but I may have a reason now.

  2. I have to admit that I was kind of bummed that Wood was not associated with any of the “new 52”, but the fact that he has a lot of plans is really good news. I’d much rather read him doing something brand new than a third-tier DCU book. How great would it be if they let him do a couple of Batman one-shots or something, though?