Brian K. Vaughan: I Hate Inside Jokes!
Interview conducted by Aristidis Kotsis
Edited by Dimitris Sakaridis
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to announce that I interviewed Brian K. Vaughan, something that is still very hard for me to believe! I would like to thank the editors of COMICDOM and, mostly, BKV himself, for allowing this to happen. I am afraid I wasn't able to get anything specifically newsworthy, but I still think that the man says some very interesting things.
For those who don't know, Brian K. Vaughan is the man who, seemingly, came out of nowhere and managed to create three highly successful titles (Y: THE LAST MAN, EX MACHINA, RUNAWAYS). He not only earned the respect of the whole comics community, but also awoke interest in a much more "mainstream" audience. I'm very glad he found some time in his tight schedule to answer my questions.
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: It's less "inspiration" and more an addiction. I've just always been driven to write.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: How did you start working in comics?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: The Reader's Digest: I was in the right place at the right time. When I was a sophomore at New York University in the film and dramatic writing program, I was part of something called the Stanhattan Project (named after Stan Lee). A former Marvel editor named James "the Professor" Felder decided that he needed to look outside of comics for new talent, so he started this informal writing workshop at NYU to teach the ins and outs of the medium and the industry to young writers (Joe Kelly was also a graduate). James liked my work, threw me a little job or two to help get my foot in the door, and I spent the next three or four years pitching every editor under the sun, honing my skills on whatever gigs I could land, and slowly crawling up the ladder to whatever modest rung I'm currently hanging onto.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Since you started working as a screenwriter, would you ever consider giving up your career in comics to working for TV or Hollywood again?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: No, never. I'll always be a comics writer first.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: You use a lot of "cultural references" in your comics (references to movies, plays, TV, books and comics). Are you trying to make the stories feel more "real" or do they just function as "inside jokes"?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: No, I hate inside jokes. I just try to capture the way contemporary people talk.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: How thorough are your scripts? For example, are you the one who dictates the layout of the page, the shape, size and numbers of panels etc., or do you prefer to leave this stuff to the artists?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: No, my scripts are very detailed. I like to give artists as much information as they might need, as well as the freedom to diverge from my directions if they have better ideas.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Which one of your works is the most "personal"?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Y, EX MACHINA and RUNAWAYS are all very personal to me.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Y is getting closer to its last year. Did it eventually turn out to be any different than what you originally planned or have you stuck, more or less, to your original plan?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Pia Guerra and I took a few "side trips" during our journey, but for the most part, she and I stuck very closely to the roadmap we laid out at the very beginning.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Many people feel that PREACHER was an inspiration to Y. Is there any truth in that?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Absolutely. Garth Ennis is a good friend and a huge influence on my writing. He taught me the importance of saying a lot with very few words.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Do you believe that those elements in the female personality we usually regard as "gender differences" would remain, even in the absence of all males or do you think that women would lose those elements in a world like the one that Y takes place?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: I really think much more unites men and women than divides them. Males and females may be different, but not as different as individual men and women are from other members of their own sex. It's useless to make sweeping generalizations.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: What's the status of the Y film? How do you feel about comic books turned into films, in general?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: All I can say is that I turned in my first draft, and the development process is going very, very well. I'm not normally a huge fan of comic-book adaptations (I think comics are a superior medium, not just glorified screenplays for an eventual film), but if the creators are involved, I'm not entirely opposed.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Do you have any sort of background in science and technology? Was it easy for you to write a comic like EX MACHINA, with so many technological references and terminology?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Ha, thank you! No, I'm a dimwitted film student. I just love to research, and I think I have a good ear for technical dialogue that sounds authentic.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Do you think that in creating a comic so politically charged as EX MACHINA, you may alienate the part of the audience that may not share your own political views (or at least what they may regard as "your views" by reading the comic)? Do you even consider the book to be a vessel for your political opinions?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: No, EX MACHINA is NEVER a vessel for my political views. The book is a drama/thriller, and telling dramatic stories is always my primary concerns. There are obviously politics in the book, but it's not my platform to preach. The mayor's politics are completely different from my own.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Why did you choose L.A. as a location for RUNAWAYS?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: I wanted a setting that was part of the Marvel Universe, but also its own unique corner where I could tell less continuity-heavy stories.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: How different is writing a comic like RUNAWAYS which has no pre-planned ending, compared to your other works?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Not that different, honestly. Each book presents its own unique challenges.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Was the manga-sized format of the RUNAWAYS collections your choice? Do you think that it has helped in the comic's success?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Not my choice, but I love them. Older readers hate them, but the kids love them, and our book is all about siding with the youth!
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: How would you feel about some other writer following your work in RUNAWAYS? Have you even considered the possibility?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Sure, and Zeb Wells is doing a beautiful job with the upcoming YOUNG AVENGERS/RUNAWAYS crossover. Adrian and I created the Runaways, but we're happy to share our children with creators we love.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Do you feel that the central theme in RUNAWAYS is more important than the specific characters themselves? For example, do you see the entire Runaways team being replaced by a new team of kids, in the future?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: I could definitely see the team being completely replaced in the future. The only constant is change.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: What are your plans for the new ESCAPISTS series?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: THE ESCAPISTS is a kind of modern-day successor to Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY, but because this is an all-new story, you won't have to read that (brilliant) book to understand and enjoy our series. Very loosely inspired by my experiences growing up in the comic-book Mecca that is Cleveland, Ohio (hometown of Superman creators Siegel & Shuster, Brian Bendis, Harvey Pekar, etc.), our story follows the behind-the-scenes adventures of a bunch of aspiring young comics creators, as they try to breathe new life into a Golden Age superhero known as the Escapist. I think it's an even stronger first issue than Y: THE LAST MAN #1 or EX MACHINA #1, so I really hope fans of those series will shell out just four quarters and give this book a shot.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Was the story in the limited series first supposed to be published in THE ESCAPIST anthology?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: The first chapter of this all-new storyline (with killer art from Philip Bond and Eduardo Barreto) debuted in the final issue of the old AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST anthology, but I think most people missed out on the beginning of our tale because it was in Issue #8 of a quarterly magazine with a hefty nine dollar price tag. Thankfully, Dark Horse has very coolly decided to re-release our entire 24-page first issue for just ONE BUCK, to make sure everyone can easily jump on board this six-issue miniseries. It goes on sale July 12, but I encourage everyone to pre-order with their retailers TODAY, since the cheap price and glorious cover from Mr. Miller will make copies disappear hours after they hit stands.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: What can you tell us about PRIDE OF BAGHDAD? What are you trying to achieve through it?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Inspired by the true story of four lions who escaped the Baghdad Zoo in 2003, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is a kind of modern-day ANIMAL FARM set in the current Iraq War. I've had a hard copy of all 128 lettered and colored pages sitting on my desk for months now, so it's frustrating that you guys can't read it tonight, but DC is more behind this book than any project I've ever worked on, and their publicity department wants to release it in a way where it will get maximum mainstream exposure, so Niko and I appreciate your patience. I know I've said this a lot, but I think this might be the best thing I've ever been a part of, so hopefully, it will be worth the wait. Lavish artwork is by Niko Henrichon, and it's lettered by the great Todd Klein.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: It seems that you enjoy creating characters more than writing previously established ones. Is this true? Do you feel more restrained when writing a character that's not yours (or "yours", as the case may be)?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: It's not that I feel more restrained, it's just that I feel a closer connection to characters of my own creation. I love making new things.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Is there any superhero comic that you would you like to write?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Not particularly, no. I've been writing superheroes for ten years, and I've gotten to play with all the toys I want.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Is it true that you are working on a Dr. Strange mini series? What can you tell us about it?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: It's true, but I'm afraid it's a little too early to discuss. I can say that the magnificent Marcos Martin is penciling, and I'm very excited about the mini.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: What are your favorite comics at the moment?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: CONCRETE, SCOTT PILGRIM, QUEEN & COUNTRY, PUNISHER, STREET ANGEL, OPTIC NERVE, EIGHTBALL, anything by Joe Sacco, Alan Moore, Bendis... too many to name.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Are there any artists that you haven't worked with that seem like ideal collaborators for you?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: Mazzuchelli!
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Since Y and EX MACHINA are going to end in the next two or three years, do you have any new creator-owned works planned?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: I do, but I can't talk about them just yet.
ARISTIDIS KOTSIS: Any other questions that you would like me to ask you? Do you have anything more to add?
BRIAN K. VAUGHAN: I don't think so. Great questions, but it's 4:19 a.m. and time for bed!
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