James Asmus has played it mostly straight in his still-young comic book career with books like Generation Hope and the currently ongoing Gambit at Marvel, and Thief of Thieves at Image.
In the currently unfolding four-issue miniseries The End Times of Bram and Ben, also at Image, he's tapped much more thoroughly into his comedy roots — he's worked in improv, sketch and stand-up — by having some fun with the Biblical apocalypse.
"This was an idea that came when I watched a bunch of Christian apocalypse movies on Netflix for no good reason," Asmus told Newsarama. "Not just Left Behind — there are a ton of other megachurches who funded their own pseudo action movies about the rapture."
Bram and Ben debuted in January, and is co-written by Jim Festante, who Asmus knows from the world of comedy, and illustrated by Rem Broo. The series centers on Bram, who ascends to Heaven during the rapture in a clerical error before being sent back, and his friend Ben, generally a good person. Bram seeks to use what might seem like an unfortunate situation to his benefit, declaring his candidacy for "antichrist of the apocalypse.""What kept driving me crazy is that the protagonists [in the rapture films] were basically perfect Christians with like, one flaw — "he smokes," or "he got a divorce" — and the villains were all mustache-twirling evil," Asmus said. "All I kept thinking was, if the criteria of this evangelical belief system were true, most of who'd be left behind is just like, everyone I know. People with flaws that aren't plotting the murder of mankind."
Though Bram and Ben — three issues are out so far, before wrapping up with #4 in April — is definitely a comedy, Asmus stresses that it has an emotional core.
"There's a real emotional story of finding out you're rejected by creation," Asmus said. "If something you never believed in you found out suddenly was definitively true, but you found that out too late. My heart would go out to those people, because it seems unfair that you weren't given evidence until you were told, 'too bad!'"Asmus knows that writing a comedy isn't necessarily an easy proposition in the current marketplace, but he's pleased with how the book has been received so far.
"Everyone sort of said to us, 'Comedy doesn't sell. You're going to be in trouble if you're doing a comedy,' It was certainly ordered less than I'm sure if we said it was about a robot apocalypse or something like that," the writer said. "The response to it has probably been the most consistently positive or anything that I've ever written, which at least reaffirms my desire to do something that's not out there already, as opposed to just trying to cash-in with a slightly different version of stuff that's already in abundance."
Not only that, Bram and Ben is an opportunity for Asmus to do the type of character-based comedy that he thinks works best."I just kept thinking about the fact that characters with flaws make the best, or at least my favorite comedy, comes from genuine character stuff," he said. "I realized that having our friends and flawed people caught in the beginning of the end of the world would be hilarious."
The End Times of Bram and Ben has featured covers by, in order of release, Jim Mahfood, J.A.W. Cooper, Juan Doe and Ben Templesmith. Before ending up at Image, the series started as a Kickstarter campaign in 2011, making $3,155 from a $2,200 goal. Asmus says he feels "very fortunate" that the book ended up where it did.
"Truthfully, I have no doubt that two-thirds of the people who even gave this book a shot were willing to try us because of the level of quality Image has been putting out, in the last couple of years especially," he said. "So I'm incredibly grateful to be under that banner."
Though Bram and Ben is coming to a close next month, Asmus is still working on the ongoing Gambit series, and is writing an as-yet unannounced work-for-hire project."It will surprise a lot of people, but honestly I've never felt more cut-out for a job than I am for this," he said. FACEBOOK and TWITTER!