LIEFELD & GRAHAM Talk PROPHET vs. PROPHET
Since Prophet returned to shelves this past January, Brandon Graham and a cadre of artists have charted a very different course for Rob Liefeld’s headgear-wearing warrior. After seven issues though we’ve seen that it’s a dramatic, but faithful, reinterpretation of the concept the character was born from in 1993. And it’s no better explained than the covers to Prophet #27 and #28 showing the original in a style far unlike what '90s comics fans are used to.
“Prophet #28’s cover was mostly a nod to the 1st Prophet cover that Dan Panosian and Liefeld did many moons ago, but it's on an issue that starts off acknowledging more of the older Extreme universe,” Graham explains. “I like the idea that the Earth Simon Gane drew in Prophet #21 is the same Earth that Youngblood and Supreme were on in its distant past.”
“It's fun to look at the old Extreme books with the idea of thinking about what something might turn into in 10 thousand years,” says the writer, who stepped in to draw this week’s #26. “I was thinking that even stuff like Prophet's tear tattoos would become something new after that much time. The idea is that with this whole army of John Prophet's the tears work to show rank like stripes on a general's sleeve.”
And if re-introduction of the “original” Prophet might seem like something a corporate-owned comic like those like Marvel or DC would push to increase sales, Rob Liefeld is the first to say it was all Brandon’s idea.
“I'd like to state that Brandon was in no way shape or form obligated to restore Prophet to any former semblance. None. He operates with a clean slate,” Liefeld tells Newsarama. “That said, he has always looped me in to what he planning and when he revealed his plan to tie the past with the present, I thought it was a great move. The best part of it is that is doesn't remove any of the special qualities that Brandon has established so far, the plus is that it gives tremendous weight to the past and specifically to the emotional investment that fans of the original have in that material. I've often compared what Brandon is doing with Prophet to the acclaimed Swamp Thing arc, the "Anatomy Lesson" by Alan Moore, it's that revolutionary in what he's doing. Alan Moore expanded the IDEA of Swamp Thing and that's what Brandon has done with Prophet, he's expanded the IDEA and in doing so, created a ridiculous amount of new possibilities.”
Previous issues of Prophet have shown a younger clone of the titular character bear witness and act as a catalyst for the revival of the long-dead Earth Empire, but this story is a personal one.
“This issue is mostly about old man Prophet trying to find one of his old old friends whose parts have been scattered across the solar system,” says Graham. “Also I'm excited to see Giannis drawing more elements that Simon had drawn before. Some of the same aliens and tools show up.”
“The main thing is that each artist working on the book is focusing on one main Prophet of their own,” Graham reveals. “So When Simon returns on #32 he'll be drawing the same Prophet that he drew in his first issue. Giannis will draw the old man Prophet's story and Farel Dalrymple is doing all the issues about the Prophet with a tail. I like the idea of each artist’s style representing how the character they're drawing sees the world(s) around them.”
In the five issues so far, Graham and the artists involved have really pushed Prophet (and the readers) into some crazy alien worlds — even an alien world that happen to be Earth, in a distant future. As we discover, keeping the creativity that high to imagine these new worlds, new societies and new kinds of life in every new issue is something done by Graham and the artists working together — and sharing duties — to bring these strange new forms of life, well, to life.
“In the first few issues a lot of it was just talking to whoever was drawing the issue and throwing around ideas about what they'd want to draw,” the writer tells Newsarama. “Simon and Farel's issues were especially collaborative. Giannis' issues are getting more complicated so I've been trying to help out by giving him layouts of the issues that he can keep or rework into something better. It's great working with guys who are used to making their own comics because everyone on Prophet is used to doing everything. Bunch of writer/artists up in this business.”
Much like the artists he is working with on Prophet, Graham worked near exclusively on books he both wrote and drew such as King City, so giving the reigns over to other artists to bring his stories to life is a change the Oregon-born creator is trying to get used to.
“I mostly just think of myself as someone who makes my own comics. I'm never going to be one of those dudes who used to draw,” the writer/artist explains. “In Prophet, it takes a lot of weight off of me to write for Simon, Giannis and Farel. I can just throw them the bare bones of ideas and know they all know how to make it work.”
“The style I'm writing Prophet in has changed how I write. In the past everything I did had a lot more wordplay and jokes,” admits Graham. “Plus I think it's helping me to get used to turning things in every month. I've noticed that it's making me be more effective on my personal work.”
Although Graham’s work on Prophet is work-for-hire for the title’s owner Rob Liefeld, Liefeld and Image have remained truly hands-off in the production of the book and bucked the stereotypical nature of work-for-hire in comics.
“I think the major difference from what I understand of how Marvel and DC work is how hands-off Liefeld and Stephenson are with Prophet,” Graham says. “I check in with them if I have something I'm excited to show or a question about something dramatic I want to do, but for the most part we just make the issue and send it over and they read it when it's done. I think the overall story line has even changed pretty dramatically from what I'd originally told them. It's an ever evolving beast.”
Although still a relatively young comics creator, Graham has worked for a variety of publishers from Alternative Comics to Oni Press and even TOKYOPOP’s ill-fated “world manga” line, and the relationship he has with Liefeld and Image publisher Eric Stephenson about Prophet has been refreshing — especially in light of recent headlines about the clash between creators’ rights in comics..
“I've been nothing but impressed by how Liefeld and Eric Stephenson and the rest of the staff at Image have treated me,” the creator points out. “They've been enthusiastic and supportive of everything I've thrown at them. It's cool. And if I can get on my high horse for a moment, I'm really proud that I'm able to work in a creator's universe who is excited about what I'm doing with it. I read about Kirby's son being upset about how his dad was treated at Marvel or Alan Moore asking people to leave his creations where he left them at DC. So yeah, do unto others and all that. “
For Liefeld’s part, he’s enjoying the ride Graham has taken Prophet on and enjoys just how different and imaginative the series has become.
When asked what’s next for John Prophet and his clones, Graham remains coy but optimistic about the future of this super soldier.
“[My goals are] changing as it goes. The initial idea was just to do something that was self contained every month with some of the barbarian and Sci-Fi elements that first got me excited about making comics,” he explains. “As it goes on I'm getting more into the possibilities of where it could go. “
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