INTERVIEW :: Ivan Brandon on VIKING

October 9, 2009 at 11:59 am By:

viking_01-fcIvan Brandon is no stranger to writing comics, from the creator-owned The Cross Bronx (with Michael Avon Oeming), NYC Mech (with Andy MacDonald) and the eisner-nominated hit 24/7 anthology from Image, plus more recent stints in Comic Book Tattoo, Secret Invasion: Home Invasion, and Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape.

But with his newest series Viking, he and artist Nic Klein have created a story as grim and grisly as anything in recent memory; one that’s pushing both form and format. Those of you who missed your chance to meet Ivan at this year’s HeroesCon (listen to this panel featuring him, Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and Jonathan Hickman, courtesy of the Dollar Bin) can try for the next best thing here on the blog, although we recommend actually buying the book for Maximum Brandon Effect (MBE).

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HEROESONLINE: When is Viking set? How much of Viking is based in something close to “real” history? The depth of some details makes me think you’ve done a ton of research into Norse and Viking history.

IVAN BRANDON: I’ve been intentionally vague about the time, etc… for a number of reasons. For one, I wanted most of that kind of information to be relayed organically. There are no captions in the book, we’re of a moment with those characters and I really want that moment to dominate the experience, so there’ll be visual or verbal clues as to the when and where, but there’s never going to be a bulleted explanation. It’s very much NOT a book about history, so I wanted to avoid anchoring it to real events… all you have is these characters and what they’re going through. But yeah, Nic and I have both done a lot of research and we more often than not try to keep things authentic unless there’s a compelling story reason to stray. Nic could probably teach a class at this point.

HEROES: How long is this series going to run? If you keep killing characters at the rate you’ve been keeping so far, you’ll be out of people by the end of 5 issues.

IVAN: Well, the first season is 5 issues and beyond that we’ll see. I’m trying to really stress the humanity of these characters, so the focus is less a journey to save (or destroy) the world and more about these characters dealing with what they are and what they want to be. People will come in and out of their lives the way people come in and out of mine, although maybe violence will factor into the “out” moreso for them than it would for me. Anything can happen, anyone can die and hopefully we can handle all of that in a way that people will feel compelled to go through it with them.

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HEROES: I think this is one of the most grim, violent comics I’ve read since Preacher, and the publishing format–“Golden Age” size, with the art filling every corner of every page–just makes it that much more sense-assaulting. How did this larger-than-normal format come about? Did you want more space for the story, or was it a chicken-or-the-egg thing?

IVAN: I’ve been flirting for a while with the idea of doing a non-standard format… I really dislike that people have this expectation that every story needs to come in this particular kind of package… it’s not a book about Spider-Man, why should it look like one? In this case there was already a lot of risk going on… we were doing a semi-painted period drama in a market that is definitely not asking for one. We were going for an atypical approach in terms of design and aesthetic and I had this new artist that I knew was going to really surprise the audience, so it just seemed like the right time to go all-in, you know? If we’re gonna take the risk, let’s just go all the way. Logistically the format presents obstacles, we have to work much farther ahead, etc… but I think the finished effect is more than worth the trouble.

HEROES: One thing I wasn’t entirely clear on is the geography of the story: Greenland and England are referenced, and at one point the grandfather references “sailing across the world”, but I bet “the world” is much smaller in their minds than we know it to be. Is this set in Norway? If so, where does the family of Egil and Finn come from originally?

IVAN: Yeah, their perception of the world doesn’t span very far. I’ll say this: they’re in a country west of Norway in season 1. Where they’re from and where they’re going are things I’ll leave the story to tell.

HEROES: What’s the deal lately, you’re kinda blowing up the last couple of years? Secret Invasion spinoffs, Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape, now Viking, and it sounds like from your Twitter feed that you’ve got any number of big projects on the horizon? What can you tell us for the future?

IVAN: Not much, unfortunately… and I hate to say things like that, because it sounds like I’m being coy, whereas I’m excited and dying to say, but it’s just not my place to announce things when it’s a work for hire situation. I have a creator owned superhero thing I’m working on… something that hopefully stands out from the rest of the superhero work as much as Viking stands out right now from some of the more kitschy Dungeons and Dragonsesque Viking genre stuff that’s existed in the past in comics.

Beyond that I have several things in the works, a couple at Marvel, a few at DC… really weird and exciting gigs that are nothing like the things I’ve done before and that are hopefully hard for readers of my work to wrap their heads around. I’m trying to do completely different projects every time, I don’t want people to have this preconception of what my work is going to look like before they get to it. I’m trying to surprise people, most of all myself.

Many thanks to Ivan for taking the time to talk with us! There are three issues of Viking out as of this writing, with the fourth to ship in mid-November. You can check out a preview here!

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