Breaching THE MASSIVE with Garry Brown & Brian Wood

Since its debut last summer, The Massive has charted a seafaring course that’s taken it across the world – but the world is unlike anything you or I know. In this future time, it’s post-apocalyptic, post-crash, and post-everything; an ex-mercenary looking for redemption charts the sea vessel The Kapital, looking for its sister vessel (from which the series takes its name) and looks to find its way in this fragmented world. To visually bring across this desolate reality, Brian Wood worked with his frequent collaborator Kristian Donaldson, but after Donaldson’s departure in The Massive #3 Wood was left looking for a new co-captain. And he found it in recent Kubert School grad Garry Brown.

The Massive #9

Brown’s been working in the industry for years on projects for Marvel, DC, Boom! And Dark Horse, but his stint on The Massive is his first chance to do more than just an issue or two in one place. Beginning with last September’s The Massive #4, Brown has taken over for Donaldson and charted his own course on the series’ visual aesthetic. With The Massive #9 coming out February 27th, Newsarama spoke with Brown, as well as Wood, about the artistic approach to the series and how they work together to firmly establish Callum, his crew, and the world of The Massive in this well-worn world.

Newsarama: Garry, you took on The Massive after the departure of Kristian Donaldson as series artist. How was it for you to take over from an artist who has such an intense and specific take on the series and its characters?

Garry Brown: It was a little intimidating. Our styles are utterly different so i was concerned about it being too much of a departure for the readers, luckily that wasn't the case. Kristian's got crazy skills, i saw some of the wireframe models he constructed, it was pretty mind-blowing. The level of intricacy was crazy. He put some serious time and effort into constructing the environments.

Brian Wood: Once Garry came on, the book really changed. It had to change; it had to reflect Garry’s strengths as an artist, and with his style came a greater emotional weight. I look at issue #4, Garry’s first, and I honestly don’t think I would have written that story with Kristian on art. It would have been something different entirely. So in that sense Garry really made the book his own... what he brought to the table redefined it. 

 

Nrama: Garry, Your style has evolved a bit since your days at the Kubert School. Did you consciously adapt or determine a specific way to draw The Massive?

Brown: I attribute the style change to me penciling and inking at an increased pace. At the Kubert School i was pretty focused on being a penciller. I liked inking but it seemed to be easier to get hired just be a penciller. My first 3 narrative jobs (Marvel and DC) were all penciling. Then at Dark Horse i got hired for pencils and inks. While I was working on Dark Matter I was really finding my feet stylistically. Trying to develop a faster style that wasn't too crappy looking. By the time I got on The Massive I had honed it a bit more. I'm still trying to refine the style, I don't see that stopping.

Nrama: When you were first propositioned about doing The Massive, what kind of research did you do into the series to see if it’d be a good fit for you?

Brown: It was pretty early on in the process, I think all I'd seen were a few teaser images and a brief synopsis from interviews from Brian. When i was contacted about doing the project, Brian and Dark Horse editor Sierra Hahn sent me over the pitch treatment and some scripts so I could get a feel for what was expected. I was pretty excited to be involved.

Wood: Garry had emailed me several times with samples of his work, and to his credit he kept at it, updating me with new stuff. I think I first considered him for some Northlanders, maybe? I liked his work immediately; it just took a little while for an opportunity to open up. 

 

Nrama: How did you find how you would ultimately approach The Massive, Garry? Did you do any rough style tests, or talk with the editors or Brian at all? And if so, what were those talks and preparatory work like?

Brown: Yeah, sort of. I did a test page from one of the scripts, it was 3 panels from issue 1 I think. I penciled and inked them to show what my take on the characters and style would look like. I was just coming off a Mass Effect one-shot where I only used a brush, for The Massive I wanted some more lines so i started using a nib again.

Other than that he prep was more thematically. Brian told me that for the most part the pages would have high panel counts (7-9 panels per page) to emphasize the spectacle of the double page spreads. Also that no wide shot was too big/too far. Most of the notes I’d get on the layouts would be 'pull back more!'. Really going for an almost nature documentary look with the wide shots.

Nrama: From reading the comic and following Brian’s blog, I can tell he’s giving you some very exotic but thoroughly sourced and researched places to draw in the series. What’s it like working on such a research-heavy series without being weighed down by that?

Brown: It's actually very liberating to have all the research and specificity of the scripts. Brian knows exactly what he wants, right down to the building type. So i get to the actual drawing quicker as it's all right there for me. I spend less time searching for ideal locations, etc. 

Interior Sketch

Wood: I’ve always felt that it’s the writers job to provide the reference, especially when its something as specific as what we’re doing in The Massive. An artist’s job is hard enough, time-consuming enough. The last thing they need is to spend hours on google trying to figure out what the writer’s asking for.

Nrama: Brian’s as much a designer as he is an artist, and he’s contributed several pieces to The Massive. What’s it like working with a writer/designer like Brian on this book?

Brown: Working with Brian is a great experience. Since he's an artist it's easier for us to communicate exactly what we want and if it comes to it he can sketch something out to better get the idea across. It's a more fluid experience because of that.

Nrama: The Massive is your first long-term project after years of doing minis, fill-ins and covers. What’s it like to be able to settle in to something for an extended amount of time like this?

Brown: It's great, i love it. The thing with one-shots and miniseries' (if it's an original series) is that you don't really get enough time with the characters. By the end of the mini I’d just get comfortable with the characters and designs and then it'd end, right when I'm in sync with them. So with a large scale ongoing, i get more time with everything. More time to develop intricacies etc. Plus I really enjoy the pace and work schedule. I get bored pretty easily so it's great to be working every week and involved in such a great project. 

Interior Pencil

Nrama:  I read an interview from you back during your final days at the Kubert School where you said your goal was to get a job at DC or Marvel. You’ve done Batman, you’ve done X-Men… and now you’re at Dark Horse. Can you talk about expanding your horizons as you’ve becoming a working artist?

Brown: I've been really fortunate with how my career has developed so far. I've accomplished some of what I set out to do, but my career goals are ever expanding. There's a lot I want to do and be a part of. Just getting hired was a huge goal of mine, now it's more of having a constant career. To that end I try to be as professional as possible and leave my ego at the door.

I've been working for Dark Horse for over two years now, i think. It's a great environment to be a part of. Everybody's trying to make the best book possible. Plus I'm still holding out hope for a Hellboy story.

Nrama: Looking at your work it has a real hand-crafted, brushy feel – so I was surprised to find out you do most of your work digitally. Can you talk about your process and your lengths to give the series a worn-in look?

Brown:  Actually I only do layouts and pencils digitally. I have a Cintiq set up on my studio. Then I print out the pencils blueline and ink traditionally. It's just a lot faster to do the pencils and under-drawing digitally. The ability to resize and manipulate a drawing on the fly is excellent. It's increased my workflow by about 70%. I'll never go back to traditional pencils but i don't see myself going to digital inks.

Nrama: When did you start doing your sketches and pencils digitally?

Brown: It started because i was getting more regular cover work and less narrative work at the time. I pencil, ink and color the covers and the Cintiq seemed like a good upgrade for that purpose. Coloring on the screen feels great to me. I tend to do looser, more painterly colors. Then i got more narrative work and started doing more and more drawing digitally. I've done a few covers 100% digitally when time was tight. It's been about 2 years now since i went digital.

It's all actually Kevin Mellon's fault. He came to the Kubert school and talked to the class about working in comics. He also talked about his Cintiq and how great it was. 

Interior Inks

Nrama: Can you pick out one page that you could show us the digital blue lines then your finished inking work, and kind of walk us through what you did on that page?

Brown: Garry Brown: I added the layout too (which I also do digitally) Just incase you wanted to use it. Feel free not too.

Layout: I do the layouts digitally on my Cintiq. My layouts are not too detailed, I'm just going for storytelling and making sure that the 'camera' angles are varied enough. I use the re-size too a lot during layouts. I'll reduce some panels or flip them etc. It makes the process much faster.

Pencils: My pencils vary from pretty tight to really loose depending on how long I’ve been penciling. The further i get into the issue the looser they become. I'll add a layer and spot blacks with a 'marker'. I leave that layout grayed out a bit so it doesn't confuse the pencil lines. I try not to make the pencil lined definitive as my inks invariably differ. I pretty much stick to exactly the layouts we (Sierra, Brian, Jim) agreed on. Edit note, in panel 5 I forgot to make that person point. Changed it in the pencils.

From here i flatten the image, convert the line art to blue and print it out on Dark Horse board for inking. I have to trim ever piece of DH board i use as it's slightly too big for my printer. Doesn't affect image size but it's very laborious.

Inks: Pretty similar to the pencils. Slight differences, mostly due to the organic nature of inking. For inks i use a no2 brush, some nibs, pens for tech stuff and a whiteout pen.

I guess panel 6 is a good example of why I prefer to ink traditionally. More specifically his right shoulder. Just a bunch of brush strokes.

Nrama: What's been your favorite moments, characters or scenes to draw so far in The Massive?

Brown: I really like drawing the flash back pages. Mostly because the environments are so diverse that i get to draw everything you can think of. I think one of my favorite scenes to draw was from issue 6 where Mag is somewhat of a hitman and gets on a tram in Germany with his target. Really liked the pacing of that scene plus there was no dialogue so I had to be clear on the storytelling. 

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