By Mike Federali
I want to say this right off the bat: Reilly Brown is a great talent and was very easy going when I reached out to him for this interview. His current project for Marvel Comics is Deadpool: The Gauntlet, a 13 part series with writers Gerry Dugan and Brian Posehn. His comic Saint George with Fred Van Lente also currently features in Dark Horse Presents.
Mike Federali: How is it different for you working on a digital first comic vs. a print first comic?
Reilly Brown: That's a good question. In a lot of ways they're very similar, and some comics creators approach digital comics exactly as they would print comics, just with different page dimensions and a different delivery system. When I'm working on a digital comics, though, I specifically try to do things that aren't possible, or don't work as well in print. Things like overlapping panels, or having more than one panel changing at the same time, or zooming in or out to reveal new information.
When I started working on Saint George, after spending so much time in the digital realm, a funny thing happened– I started to appreciate the printed page more than I had in the past, and had a great desire to make use of the things that I could do in print that I can't do as well digitally. Things like interesting page designs, or double page spreads.
Moving from one medium to the other has been a great opportunity to spread my creative wings.
MF: Do you think Infinite Comics could be a way to introduce more talent into Marvel? Like say, an Infinite Comics Presents.
RB: That could definitely be cool. If an editor had a vision for something like that it would certainly be fun to read. You would have to make sure that the creators involved are interested in the digital format, though. It's a different animal than print, and if someone's not prepared to fully commit to it, you won't be able to get the best work out of them. So in that sense it could be a risk to put someone untested on one.
That said, if there are any young artists out there who are interested in doing something digitally, you couldn't pick a better time than now.
MF: Do you read digital comics, if so, more or less than print comics?
RB: There are certain series that I read in print, and certain ones I read digitally. Typically, if I've been reading a series or a character in print for twenty years, I'll just stick with print. The digital stuff I read tends to be more creator-owned stuff that might be harder to track down at a comic store, or more of an impulse buy if I read an interview with a creator who's project sounds cool.
Plus, I'm definitely keeping my finger to the pulse of any new digital-first series that are done in the same style as Power Play or Deadpool: The Gauntlet. It's a lot of fun to see what other artists are coming up with, and how we're all learning from each other.
MF: What was your reaction to the negative response from some comic shops over The Gauntlet steering print customers to digital and possibly cutting out retailers?
RB: The only negative response I saw anywhere was the one that you guys reported on, where the store manager was making buttons out of the free issue. I thought that was kind of funny. I'm certainly not getting that reaction from many corners, though, because I think most retailers are savvy enough to realize that Marvel's going to put EVERYTHING in print at some point, so this really is something that they'll be able to sell. Other stores took the promotion as an opportunity to promote their store. For instance, for that free issue I did an appearance at Jim Hanley's in Manhattan, and while they gave that one away, and were able to sell a bunch of other stuff as well, like the Dark Horse Presents issues that have Saint George in them.
Honestly, I don't see what there is to be upset about. It's a different medium, so it would be like getting mad at Marvel for making an Iron Man movie instead of just sticking to the comics, and besides that I think it's been pretty well proven by now that making comics more widely available digitally is actually leading more readers into comic stores, which is something that people are having a hard time proving with the movies.
MF: There are some great guests in the Deadpool Gauntlet story. Who was your favorite to draw and why?
RB: Yeah man, we had a really fun lineup. Bob is always a favorite to draw, because he just looks so awkward in any situation. If he's walking down the street, why does he have that costume on? If he's in a fight, you KNOW he's not going to be kicking anyone's ass. And then when he DOES kick someone's all, it's all the better!
I also really enjoyed drawing Blade, which I didn't expect. The few comics I'd read with him in the past I thought were pretty boring, but once I actually started using the character I saw how much potential he has, and how cool of a character he really is.
And then there's Shiklah, Deadpool's new bride, who we developed for this series, and she was a lot of fun to work with, and to discover what she was all about.
MF: Saint George has the feel of old bible story books with a touch darker (less cartoony) violence. How did you research the story and what did you reference visually?
RB: That's awesome, man, that's totally what we were going for. Fred and I are doing a lot of research into the time period, as well as the various Saint George legends. The story takes place at a really interesting, tumultuous time in history, with a lot of very cool things to explore that were actually going on at the time, as well as legends that have gotten inflated over the centuries. The legends and the facts actually play together well in some very interesting ways.
Visually, I'm trying to get as much of an authentic vibe across as I can, to get the feel of what 3rd or 4th century Rome was really like. The turn of the century marked a change in Rome in a lot of ways, both in society and in the military, and it was no longer all about the centurion armor that you see in Hollywood movies anymore. That variety is something that I want to show more of as the series moves forward.
MF: Is there any Prince Valiant in there?
RB: Definitely. Hal Foster is big influence on me. The way that he was able to so thoroughly build his environments, and dress his characters, you really believe in the world that he's establishing. It's a real inspiration, and any time I'm in a rut I flip open some Prince Valiant to see how he would have handled a similar situation. And then I just cry because there's no way I'll ever be as good as he was!
MF: I've seen some buzz on the blogosphere of a possible mini-series for Saint George. Are you open to doing more with the character?
RB: Both Fred and I are definitely interested in doing more. At this point it's mainly about trying to figure out a schedule that works for us, as well as the other projects that we're involved with. There's a lot more that we want to explore with the character as well as the time period.
MF: In a total imaginary scenario, Saint George gets blasted through some portal and ends up meeting another Dark Horse character. Who would you love to see him paired with for an adventure? (Personally I'd want Usagi)
RB: Usagi would be good, but I think Hell Boy would make for quite a team up. The monster hunter angle that's part of both characters, as well as the use of legends would make them a pretty good fit together.
MF: (A little fun…) You've introduced a character that will become the future Mrs. Deadpool in April. Any chance they'll cameo you in the background of the wedding?
RB: Hah, I don't know, that's nothing that I've heard about. That would be fun though. Actually, thanks to Deadpool and Shiklah's trip to France, I was able to make my own honeymoon a tax write off– because, you know, I needed to take photo reference, right? Well, me and my own wife may have made an appearance in the background there.
MF: What's more fun for you to draw, Vampires or Dragons?
RB: Ever since I was a kid I've loved drawing dragons, so there's really no contest there. That said, I got quite a kick out of drawing the scenes in the last couple chapters of Deadpool, where there are hordes of grotesque drooling monsters, and then a bunch of well dressed gentlemen in Victorian suits.
MF: What would be your dream comic to draw?
RB: Honestly, with Saint George and Power Play, since they're creator-owned comics, you're pretty much seeing it. Even with Deadpool: The Gauntlet, I couldn't really imagine a project that was more suited to my tastes and abilities. I'm really lucky to be able to work on so many projects that I love so much at the same time.
MF: In your mind, who is the voice of Saint George?
RB: If I could pick one person to just read the comic to me, it would absolutely have to be Cam Clarke.
MF: Who would win in a battle: Deadpool or Saint George?
RB: That's a tough one. There are old legends where George lives through stuff that even Deadpool wouldn't have a hope of surviving, such as being chopped up into tiny pieces, those pieces burned, and the ashes scattered to the corners of the Empire. Can Fred and My version of the character manage such things? Well, that's still to be seen.
In the end, though, I think it'll come down to the fact that although Deadpool definitely, definitely, definitely, doesn't have the power of Jesus on his side, he does have submachine guns.
MF: This has been a very enjoyable interview so feel free to plug away. Where can people find you online?
RB: You can find me online at:
Deviant Art: http://reillybrown.deviantart.com/
And of course, the Ten Ton Studios message boards: http://www.tentonstudios.com/forum/
Mike Federali is a comic book writer, musician and the organizer of www.tidewatercomicon.com. Follow him on instagram @mikefederali