Brian Wood Returns to Creator-Owned with THE MASSIVE

Brian Wood is best known for series of his own creation, like DMZ, Demo and Northlanders — all of which were critically acclaimed and helped cement his reputation as an unconventional thinker within the industry. Since leaving DC Comics in 2011, he's taken on several high-profile work-for-hire projects, namely X-Men and Ultimate Comics X-Men at Marvel and Conan the Barbarian for Dark Horse. This coming June, he's returning full-force to the world of creator-owned comics with The Massive at Dark Horse, set in a post-apocalyptic, "post-crash" world where environmentalist Captain Callum Israel strives to stay true to his cause in a radically changed landscape. Newsarama talked to Wood via email about the series, which is illustrated by Kristian Donaldson (Wood's Supermarket collaborator) and was previewed earlier this year in a three-part prologue running in Dark Horse Presents. Plus, courtesy of Dark Horse, we're exclusively debuting both covers of August's The Massive #3.

The Massive #3

cover by John Paul


Newsarama: Brian, The Massive looks to be dealing with some heavy themes inside of a dense, detailed narrative — how did you arrive at the series? What type of thoughts or events helped to shape the story for you, to inspire you along the way?

Brian Wood: Like DMZ and other books I've done… topical, socially-aware… it just kind of arrives in my head fully formed. This is the infamously impossible question to answer, isn't it? It's just the creative spark, not easily explained. I mean, its easy to say something about how I'm aware/worried about environmental issues, but that's not a story. The story just appeared one day, and in this case much more ready-to-go than others in the past.

Nrama: And given that, as you've said, it's a bigger scale of any story that you've written before, what was the development process like? How long did it take you to craft the "post-crash" world of The Massive?

Wood: It's an ongoing thing, its still happening, still being developed. Probably, like DMZ, it'll never be fully explored or completed.

Nrama: You've worked a good deal with Kristian Donaldson in the past — what made him the right partner for this undertaking?

The Massive #3

variant cover by

Rafael Grampá.

Wood: Much of the time, when collaborator-hunting, it has as much to do with timing and other practical reasons as it does creative. I knew he had just finished this book for Vertigo called 99 Days, and I find its always useful to partner with someone known in terms of selling it to the retailer and to the public. In this case, Kristian and I created Supermarket, and worked together on DMZ, both things that will help us when it comes to The Massive.

One thing I didn't anticipate, but ended up being a really bonus, is to what extent his art had evolved from past projects. You'll see it when you see The Massive — its incredibly detailed, precise, fully realized in every way possible. He kills himself over every page, and for the first time ever I have had to ask an artist to draw less background!

Nrama: Northlanders just ended at 50 issues, and DMZ ran for 72 — if The Massive is on an even greater scale than those books, how long of a series are you planning?

Wood: Haha, 30 issues, if sales hold up. We're looking to do more in less time, and hopefully move quickly on to sequels. I have at least one planned.

Nrama: Speaking of DMZ, that comic also took place in a dystopian future. Do you view the two series as thematically similar, or is that a simplification? What work of yours (if any) do you see it as closest to?

Wood: It's the politics and world-building of DMZ mixed with the man-against-nature aspect of Northlanders. All this is by design; I wanted to take the best of those two books, use what I learned, and create a new project that takes it all to the next level. It's like a supergroup in comics form!

The Massive #2 cover.

Nrama: Though the first issue isn't out until June, there has already been 24 pages of Massive content out from the Dark Horse Presents features. How do you see the two relating to each other? Are those stories more of a prologue, or do you consider them essential reading before people pick up #1?

Wood: Not essential, but certainly additive. They are more character studies and backgrounds than literal prologues. I hope people will read them, but if they don't or can't, its okay.

Nrama: Obviously, you're known for creator-owned work, but you're doing more work-for-hire comics than ever, between your Marvel books and Conan the Barbarian. Does that make it even more important for you to spend time on creator-owned endeavors like The Massive? And how are you enjoying working extensively in both worlds?

Wood: Creator-owned is always the most important thing, that's not changed. I'm doing as much of it as possible, but right now it's about 50% of my overall output, as opposed to the 100% it used to be. I could write pages and pages on why this is, but the shortest possible version is that the market's changed and doing what I did back in 2008, supporting a family on creator-owned work is simply not possible. That, combined with the deluge of job offers I got after my DC exclusive ended, it was sort of a no-brainer. Like you said, I've never really done this sort of work before, I figured it would be fun and educational, in a writer's-development kind of way. And it is.

The Massive #1


Nrama: Though you've noted in past interviews that the world of The Massive is effectively apolitical, obviously environmentalism plays a role. How much of an environmentalist do you consider yourself? And how much does that influence the story?

Wood: I'm an imperfect one, like we all are. Always striving to do better. And my personal beliefs, if I'm doing my job correctly, will be invisible to a reader of The Massive.

Nrama: You've discussed how The Massive's main character, Callum Israel, is an older character, as opposed to the more youthful characters of many of your past stories  — do you see yourself heading more in that direction? In that regard, do you see The Massive as marking something of a new phase in your career?

Wood: He's 50. Yeah, its a deliberate shift, but one I was ready to make. I just turned 40 myself, and while I still find a lot of material to exploit in writing complex and contradictory young people, I could feel the passage of time affecting that. At the same time, as I get older I want to be able to talk and write about people my own age, the inherent complexities and contradictions that go along with that. Ideally, I'll do both — Mara, my book with Ming Doyle, as well as another project I won't name, all feature younger characters.

The Massive #1

alternate cover.

Nrama: Like several of your past books, The Massive's print single issues will contain content not available in the digital or collected editions. From a personal perspective, why is it important for you to place a premium on the print product? Given the many different formats that comic books can be published in today, what still makes the print single issue special?

Wood: In this one case, I wanted to do this. I'm not saying that all my print product will be handled this way. I dunno, mostly I wanted to. I wanted to write this extra material and was looking for the most beneficial way to release it. Simply adding it to all formats doesn't make it special, it makes it normal. Adding it to digital, digital sales being what they are, would only reach a tiny fraction of the comic-buying audience. I like print, I like it better than digital as a reader, so that's another part of it. And I wanted to incentivize not only the purchasing of The Massive monthly (which, to be honest, is the best thing to be done to ensure the series continues to exist) but I also wanted to give retailers an extra reason to invest big in it. Retailers are, as I like to say, the true customer in the comics industry.

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