Dan Brereton’s done it all. After more than twenty years criss-crossing the comics medium doing, writing, drawing and painting for everything from revived classics like the Black Terror to icons like Superman and the Simpsons and back to his own creations the Nocturnals, he’s now taking a breath to collect himself and his art into a 144 page full color tome of his greatest works – both in and out of the comics medium -- called Dan Brereton: The Goddess & The Monster. Coming out as a hardcover this August from Image Comics, Dan Brereton: The Goddess & The Monster shows Brereton looking back over the span of his career to pull his favorite from comics, film work, and even personal pieces he did for his father.
Brereton, who’s currently finishing up an issue of The Punisher and a Red Sonja Annual, spoke with Newsarama about the genesis of the book, and the task of sitting down and figure out what in – and what’s out.
Newsarama: This collection is a long-time coming: a collection of pieces from your twenty-plus year career – and not just in comics, but film and even some personal work. What led you to say – “Yeah, it’s time to do this!”?
Dan Brereton: I have been waiting about ten years to do this book, maybe longer, but to be honest, it had never occurred to me to approach Image until about a year or two ago. Luckily, they didn’t miss a beat in supporting the project. Until that time I had been waiting and wondering how I was going to do it- either through another publisher or on my own. Now I have material for more than one volume, which is nice since I would like to do more.
Nrama: So after you decided to do it, how’d you go about figuring out what would be in it – and what wouldn’t – to fit in the book?
Brereton: It wasn’t easy. I’ve got so much stuff after 22-plus years. Lots won’t fit into the book, and one limitation helped in my choices; many paintings just don’t exist in my files. I didn’t always have a scanner or access to have transparencies of my work shot and many paintings won’t make it into this book as a result for that very reason. Also, as the bulk of my work is not covers but interior pages, those are already collected elsewhere. I also wanted to concentrate on work that wasn’t completely outside the scope of the book’s theme, though an admittedly broad one. One helpful decision in gathering images for this book was to separate most of The Nocturnals- related art to its own future volume, The Art of Nocturnals, which will mostly likely follow The Goddess & The Monster, possibly as soon as next year.
Nrama: The title of this, “The Goddess & The Monster”, speaks a lot about the nature of your work – you draw some pretty horrific stuff, but you do it in a way that’s still beautiful. Can you tell us about how you choose what to draw and how to draw it?
Brereton: The title pretty much sums it up for me, with few exceptions. I’m not sold on the description of “horrific” as much as I would say “monsters” are a big part of what I do; monsters encompass all genres, and of course horror is a large component. Having drawn monsters all my life and depicted the female form for more than half of that time, I feel they are the two sides of the Illustrative coin. Of course, you need some sort of hero in any story, and I have spent considerable time and effort depicting and dreaming them up, but the monsters are infinitely more interesting. The Hero is something for us to aspire to, but the Monster in many cases is himself or herself a fallen hero.
Nrama: Image told me of some personal work appearing for the first time in this book. Can you tell us about those entries?
Brereton: Yes there are some portraits of Frankenstein I’ve done for fun. There are a few pieces painted as gifts or cards for family members, as well as concept stuff for stories. There is one piece in the book done for my father of a pack of wolves led by a red-eyed devil of a wolf. The most personal work exists as sketches in notebooks and sketchbooks, more than finished paintings. Being so busy, there generally isn’t time for personal work, so you try to funnel the things you like to do into the professional work. I do a lot of commission work and try to encourage patrons to ask for things that inspire rather than the same “stock” characters. Given more time, Id probably paint more figure studies, portraits and landscapes on the side, but mostly I’d want to tell more personal stories and create new characters. It would be great to do a Western.
Nrama: Outside of comics, you’ve been keeping busy doing some cool projects like artwork for a Wild West park, some move concept art, and as well as some album covers. Can you tell us about that side of your work that comics fans may not see, and how it affects you as an artist as a whole?
Brereton: To be distinguished for ones work in comics to the point where you’re invited to participate in other media is a wonderful , unexpected boon to a comics artist- I pitched and developed a show for Disney TV Animation in 2005, which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been involved with. I did the concept art but I also wrote the pilot script, so to have that kind of broad control over a project was deeply satisfying. In the late 1990’s I was tapped by Rob Zombie and we did some work together in the film and music arenas, and now and then the odd jobs come up to do album cover art for TOTO or creature concepts for toy companies. Its wonderful to branch out and to know your work is out there influencing other creative types and projects. Its also be great fun to work with talented people who you know ‘get’ your work, sometimes in ways you never suspected; I never would have expected Disney Worldwide Publishing to see Nocturnals and imagine I would be the right artist for a book about Romans versus Celts. But that’s what happened when I was hired to illustrate L’Ultima Battaglia in 2003.
Nrama: We talked to you back when you were working on that for Disney Europe – any chance of seeing that come out here in America?
Brereton: L'Ultima Battaglia aka The Last Battle, is not scheduled for release in the states at this time, but Disney does own Marvel now....
Nrama: Speaking of Marvel, you’ve been popping up a lot there recently, doing some work on Iron Fist as well as a great set of pages in Punisher. How’d you end up hooking up with the House of Ideas?
Brereton: In 2006, I was approached to work on a project before the Immortal Iron Fist work came up, and then began pitching my own ideas. Somewhere in-between I began working on a string of various projects. The Marvel work has been great. I was asked to do a cover for the Amazing Adult Fantasy omnibus a few years back, recreating a classic Ditko monster cover and it was a blast. I grew up reading Marvel comics almost exclusively, and working on Thor was brief but very sweet. The Punisher has been a perfect fit so far, with Rick Remender writing stuff that plays to my strengths, which is extremely important and rewarding. Marvel is swelling with great characters and I’m kind of chomping at the bit to get my hands on as many of them as I can. Its also a lot of fun to work with talented writers and editors who want to see you do well. It was great to be able to do as many creator-owned projects as I’ve done in the past, so I don’t mind at all working with a pantheon of characters who inspired me so greatly as a youngster and lifelong comic book fan.
Nrama: Before I let you loose, what do you have planned next, Dan?
Brereton: A slew of stuff -keeping me up all night, every night. I wrote the script and did a fair amount of painted art for Red Sonja Annual #3, which is set to hit stands any week now. I’m currently illustrating Punisher #21, which should hit close to the release of The Goddess & The Monster. Rick wrote the script and its tailor-made for me. I have several creator-owned projects in the works, where I’m handling mostly writing chores. Newcomer James Harren and I are working on a sort of savage cross between Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hayao Miyazaki called Aki ( Autumn), which is going to shred. As I said before, Id also like to do an Art of the Nocturnals book down the road. Alex Horley and I are working on a YA graphic novel called Frankenstein At The End of the World. It is looking fantastic so far. I’m also writing and doing art for a monster book I cant discuss yet.