Reilly Brown may be best known as one of Deadpool’s most frequent artists, but the Brooklyn-based artist is on his way to making a new name for himself – as a artist and a writer.
In addition to co-writing Marvel titles like Daredevil/Punisher: The Seventh Circle, Deadpool: Too Soon and the upcoming ongoing Slapstick, Brown is writing and drawing a unique webcomic tied into a cellphone accessories company.
That’s right – it’s called Dash Hudson: Tentacles of the Trident, and it’s underwritten by Ghostek.
Brown compares Dash Hudson to spy fiction like James Bond, but also with a comedy angle a la Adventure Time. Somehow, what you’d expect given his long career with Deadpool.
Newsarama talked with Brown about his currently-running serial, how it came about, and where it’s headed – both in story, and into a possible print collection.
Newsarama: Reilly, what is Dash Hudson: Tentacles of the Trident about?
Reilly Brown: It's a super spy series, in the mold of James Bond or 24, but told with a Sunday comics comedy angle. Actually, it's probably most like Melissa McCarthy's hilarious movie Spy, especially in its sense that it has all these secret agents with personality quirks that make them rather questionable spies.
Also there are talking fish people.
The main character is Dash Hudson, and on this particular caper he's investigating Eight-Glove Marlowe, the giant octopus/ex-heavyweight boxing champion whose crime organization is trying to take over the world.
Okay, after saying all that, maybe it's more like Adventure Time than James Bond.
Nrama: So just who is Dash Hudson?
Brown: Dash is our main character. He's one of the top agents at Argus Intelligence, and he fancies himself a ladies man, but he's not always quite as smooth as he thinks he is. He wants to be James Bond, but he's really something closer to Lupin III or Archer, but with a social media addiction, which isn't the best habit for a secret agent. He tends to get in his own way, but usually still manages to end up in the winner’s circle.
Nrama: How far along would you say you are in the story you have planned?
Brown: That's hard to say, as I'm really just playing it by ear. Since it's a webcomic, I don't have to worry about the space limitations I have to deal with in print, so if I ever want to add a few extra strips in the middle of a story, I can do that.
Although, if I had to guess, I'd say that I'm probably about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through this first story arc. The bad guys have put their plan into motion, so I just have to figure out how long it will take for Dash to save the day. Or ruin the day, whichever the case may be.
Nrama: What can you say is coming up in the serial?
Brown: More action, more seduction, more mermaids, and of course, more bronies. I'm really excited to flesh out some of the other agents who work at Argus, particularly the interns, who I think are a lot of fun. I'm not sure I'll be able to work that into this story arc, but I can't wait to do more with them.
Nrama: How did you get involved with a cellphone accessories company to do a webcomic?
Brown: I got involved with Ghostek when Alex Nero, who's a very talented artist in his own right, started renting studio space in the same building that I do. He was very excited when he discovered our little Brooklyn artist community, and all the talented people who work here. He and Vadim Mikhailov, Ghostek's asset manager, wanted to do something cool and unique, and to go beyond the typical branding that most products do, and make a webcomic with characters and a whole world of their own. The idea is that we'd have weekly updates, which gives them a chance to engage with their customers every week, but at the same time, they were very clear that they didn't want it to be corny or seem like a commercial. It was supposed to be a little more subtle than that, like the type of product placement that you'd see in a TV show, where all the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. drive the same types of cars, or something like that.
So I just had to find ways to work smart phones and Ghostek's gear into the story, which is easy enough considering how much time people spend on social media and texting from their phones.
When coming up with the concept, they said that they wanted it to be a spy comedy series, similar to Archer, but with a kind of Sin City look. That was pretty much it, and I just took it from there. They've really given me a lot of freedom to be as creative as I want with the story, and it's been a whole lot of fun for me, and gotten a great reaction.
Nrama: The formatting of this looks reminiscent of Marvel's Infinite Comics format, which you've also worked on extensively. How would you compare the formats, knowing them from the inside out?
Brown: Yeah, I'm definitely leaning on my experience with Marvel's Infinite Comics, as well as my creator-owned comic Power Play to approach this. Similar to those, I want to make the most of the format I'm working in, so you have panels appearing and disappearing, and some of those semi-animated transitions.
The one thing that we can't do is zoom in and zoom out, or pan the camera within the same image, but that's fine, because it keeps things nice and simple.
When I first started, we were actually using a rather standard slideshow app, which worked well enough, but I was able to convince them to bring my buddy and Ten Ton Studio-mate Doug Hills on to revamp the comics reader, and make something that's really specific for this comic. Doug's played around with this type of comic format as well, so he knew exactly what we needed. I think what he came up with is great, and one of the best comic readers I've ever seen. When you're working on a webcomic, you'd be surprised what a difference it makes to have the right reader.
Nrama: That being said, any plans for Dash Hudson: Tentacles of the Trident to be collected in print at some point?
Brown: I have no idea, since Ghostek isn't regularly in the publishing industry, but I think it would be cool if it happened! Maybe I could convince them to do a convention exclusive or something... They do use images from the strips on their packaging sometimes, so maybe if you buy enough headphones you could piece the whole story together, who knows!
Nrama: You're writing this, Power Play, and co-writing several things for Marvel. Do you see yourself pushing to do more solo writing, creator-owned and work-for-hire, in the future?
Brown: Yeah, between this, and everything else, I've got an awful lot of kettles on the stove right now! I'm not necessarily pounding the pavement looking for more writing gigs, but I am trying to spread my wings a bit more creatively, and open myself up to new things that I haven't done as much of in the past. Dash Hudson is my chance to try making a comic from beginning to end, writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, all on my own, just to see how well I stand as that complete package. Slapstick is a chance to write a story and work with another artist (Diego Olortegui) on art, which is similar to what I did with Daredevil/Punisher: Seventh Circle and Deadpool: Too Soon, but with Slapstick I'm much more involved in the writing process, as I'm responsible for the whole plot, not just the individual actions.
I'm also working on more covers, and character designs for some live action projects, so I'm certainly keeping myself busy with an interesting variety of work.
Nrama: If so, are there certain characters or concepts on your mind you'd be interested in?
Brown: Always! I still haven't done much with the X-Men, and I'd love to take a stab at them. I've got a killer Cyclops story if any X-editors are reading! Daniel Ketchum, call me! Spider-Man is always fun, and I'd love to work with Dan Slott on something over there. And of course, there's never a shortage of fun story ideas in the Deadpool-verse. Did you see Squirrelpool in the latest chapter of Deadpool: Too Soon? Heh heh, I can't believe they pay us for this stuff!
I've been talking to some people at DC as well, and it would be fun to do some more work with them, in some capacity. I think they've got some characters that would work well with my style of storytelling. We'll see if anything comes of it.
And of course I've got some more creator-owned stories in the back of my mind that I'm itching to get to, including returning to Power Play, and others that have yet to see the light of day. In a way, I see taking these writing gigs as warming myself up to tackle some creator-owned stuff on my own.
So who knows where this will take me? Hopefully this will open up some new opportunities.