Is the Land of Ooo ready for Brandon Graham?
Comic fans know Graham’s surreal, witty work writing Image’s Prophet and writing and drawing his own book such as King City and Multiple Warheads. But now he’s bringing his brand of insanity to Cartoon Network for a very special episode of Adventure Time featuring a character fans have been curious about for years: Finn and Jake's brother.
Co-written and storyboarded with veteran Adventure Time artist and Forming comics creator Jesse Moynihan, Thursday's “Jermaine” is the first-ever spotlight on Finn and Jake’s brother, who’s only previous appeared in brief flashbacks and a few mentions. Who is Jermaine, and what’s he been up to while Finn and Jake have been battling the Ice King? We talked to Graham to find out, and to discover what brought him to the world of animation. We also got an exclusive look at some behind-the-scenes art and some of Graham’s upcoming work.
Newsarama: Brandon, tell us about your episode, "Jermaine."
Brandon Graham: Suuure, Jermaine is Jake and Finn's brother. He's the only one of the three brothers who is the birth child of both of their parents. Jake is the result of a demon biting his dad's head and Finn was found in the forest. Jermaine is the normal, talking dog brother.
In the episode, Jake meets Jermaine in a dream and decides that him and Finn should go visit their childhood home.
So, we get to show more of where they all grew up and what's happened to it since then. Do doo doo!!
It's got demons and a singing bear in it. I'm really happy with how it turned out.
Nrama: How did you come to work on this episode?
Graham: I got to meet Adventure Time's creator Pendleton Ward at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle and I really liked the guy. We hung out and drew on coasters in a bar. I still have a picture he drew of me on my wall.
Pen had seen my King City book and offered for me to try out for the show.
They had be do a storyboard test, and a proof that you can tell a joke or draw a monster test.
Nrama: How aware were you of Adventure Time prior to working on this, and what appealed to you about working on the series?
Graham: I'm old friends with Tom Herpich, who has worked on the show since the early seasons. Me and Tom were part of the same gang of cartoonists called MeatHaus back in NYC around 2000-05.
Tom's comics are some of my favorite things on paper. Cusp, Gongwanadon, and White Clay are all fantastic books worth tracking down if anyone hasn't read them.
Something I really like about the show is how driven by the storyboard artists the episodes are. You can really tell who worked on what.
And past that the stuff they do on it is really in line with the kind of stuff that I enjoy and try to put in my own work.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about what you did for the episode.
Graham: They gave me a rough outline of what could happen and then I did the storyboards/dialog for the start and the end of the episode with impressive dude and Adventure Time veteran Jesse Moynihan doing the middle of the episode.
Being a fan of the show, it helped to have a set idea to start with because without that I would want to touch on everything I love about it.
I got a couple things in that felt like fan art. I made sure to add BMO – even though she isn't a major part of the episode.
Nrama: What was the experience of working with the Frederator crew like?
Graham: They were all great. It was terrifying to watch through my computer as the rough passes I did were read to a room full of the impressive people who work on the show.
After I did the boards I was on the east coast and ran into Michael DeForge, who is another cartoonists whose work I'm a huge fan of (Lose, Ant Colony) He works on the show.
He had just done the clean ups on some of the props I'd done, so it was cool knowing that such an impressive artist was tweaking what I'd done. It was in the best hands.
Also I went into the studio with my pal Robin and interviewed a bunch of the crew on Adventure Time and Steven Universe for Robin's Podcast.
Soo many smart and talented people are in that crew. It's gross and no one likes it.
Nrama: And what was it like collaborating with Jesse Moynihan?
Graham: Jesse really brought some depth to the episode that I wasn't expecting.
There's a Bruce Lee scene from Enter the Dragon where Lee is training a student and he says "We need emotional content!" Jesse brought all of that while I was busy seeing what kinds of fart jokes I could do.
Nrama: What parts of the episode do you feel are the most "you," i.e. reflecting your style and sensibility?
Graham: It was nice to see how much the final episode used drawings from my boards. I feel pretty happy about getting Jermaine into a bear suit and some of the magical items that show up near the end of the episode.
Nrama: Do you have plans to do more work on Adventure Time, or work in animation again?
Graham: Nothing concrete. Comics is really my main thing but I'm certainly glad to have the chance to work on an episode. Hopefully it won't be my last.
I felt like last year was my victory lap. I did the Adventure Time episode, the Inkstuds tour, did an issue of Adam Warren's Empowered and worked on a Kanye West thing – that who knows if it'll ever see the light of day. That was all amazing, and I'm glad to do it, but It certainly s l o w e d down my personal work.
Nrama: What's next for you, in comics and elsewhere?
Graham: I've got a comics magazine that I'm putting together called Island . #1 is out in July.
It's a 112 page-a-month book with 3 full 20-45 page comics by a rotating group of artists/writers.
#1 has Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly) Ludroe, A prose piece Kelly Sue Deconnick (Bitch Planet/Pretty Deadly) by and I'm doing more of my Multiple Warheads in it.
We've got like 30 artists from all over the globe lined up to be in it so far.
I'm also working on a shared universe fantasy series called 8house. (that starts in June) Along with Marian Churchland, Xurxo Penelta, Emma Rios, Hwei Lim, Fil Barlow and Helen Maier.
And I've got the end of Prophet that'll get announced (again) soon.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Graham: I feel a little too blessed these days with the people I get to work with and the complete freedom I have to do it in.
I think comics as a community and art form is in a really interesting place right now, where readers seem excited to see new ideas.
It's daunting in that the only limitation seems to be living up to the opportunities.