Creator2Creator: An Interview with Brian Wickman, Writer and Co-Creator of GRIT
At Comic Book Yeti, we've been a fan of writer Brian Wickman's work since we first read Big White, last July. When we heard Wickman had a miniseries announced from Scout Comics, we knew we had to get the deets. Read below to also get a sneak peek of the comic's sweet sweet interior art!
JARRED LUJÁN: Brian, thanks so much for chatting with us!
Let’s dive in – could you introduce yourself to our fine readers? Who are you? What do you do? What did you contribute on this project?
BRIAN WICKMAN: Hey! I’m Brian Wickman. I’m a comic book writer from Baltimore, Maryland. I wrote and co-created GRIT with artist Kevin Castaniero.
JL: You described GRIT as a “goofy, pulp fantasy.” That’s such a unique approach to this kind of world, so I’m really curious as to what inspired it?
BW: More than anything, it’s inspired by a sincere love for the genre. I have a soft spot for sword and sorcery stories that demonstrate a little self-awareness, so that’s what I strive for here. Some of the tropes of pulp fantasy are on full display, like Barrow, our main character, is as hard-boiled as they come, but the fantasy world around him is so inherently silly that the humor comes across really naturally. In the solicitation for issue one, I refer to Barrow’s “routine troll hunting gig,” and even that idea just feels goofy. When the story went in a direction that made me chuckle, I just did my best to push those ideas. Kevin’s style really hammers this home too; even the ultra-violent scenes are exaggerated in such a way that they spin more cartoonish than grotesque.
JL: In the preview you gave us, you mentioned that the violence we see is central to understanding the message of the story, one of consequence and responsibility. Is there something from personal experience that inspired that?
BW: I’ve always loved characters who begrudgingly stick with a job because they feel some obligation to do so, and that’s very much how the exploration of consequence came about in this story. Barrow has a reputation for being ruthless and efficient; people revile him, but still rely on him when things go sour. Barrow has a complicated family history that feeds into his motivations for getting into, and sticking with, this line of work, and it only serves to further muddy the morality of it all. I think it would be easy to say, “but these dead goblins had families and now they’re sad,” and present a heavy-handed stance, but it’s more interesting to me to introduce a couple of characters with different backgrounds and ideologies and see how things shake out when you put them through the gauntlet together.
"Despite being a cohesive story arc, each of the [three] issues feels very tonally distinct, and that’s very much intentional for the story that we want to tell."
JL: Working on a three-issue, standard-sized story makes pacing just that much more important. Was that something you felt like you struggled with, condensing to only three issues, or did it wind up just feeling natural to the story you were telling?
BW: Kevin and I originally conceptualized GRIT as a one-shot, but the more time we spent with the world, the more attached we grew and we decided to expand to three issues. Despite being a cohesive story arc, each of the issues feels very tonally distinct, and that’s very much intentional for the story that we want to tell. Issue one is the most traditional pulp adventure of the three, issue two introduces a character that really highlights the book’s sense of humor, and issue three is … something else entirely. This condensed format is the right fit for this specific story, but we’re doing some interesting other things to flesh out the world a bit more. Be on the lookout for some short comics set in the world of GRIT, with art from my pals Simon Kercz, Dillon Snook, and Te’Shawn Dwyer.
"...there’s a lot of fun to be had with fantasy and I’m glad to see the cultural moment tipping away from grimdark."
JL: Fantasy is overflowing with monsters and demons and the usual suspects, but the book really fills itself with more unique forces, like a cult. Did you originally set out to disrupt the typical trappings of the genre? Or did you ever want to stick to the more established elements of fantasy?
BW: I think GRIT is every bit as much a sincere love letter to the genre as it is a subversion of its established tropes. We have a lot of fun tweaking some classic fantasy standbys, but we also tried to think about why these ideas are in place. There have been a lot of great examples of this in the last few years; Simon Spurrier and Matias Bergara’s comic Coda and Nicholas Eames’ novel The Kings of the Wyld come to mind. I think there’s a lot of fun to be had with fantasy and I’m glad to see the cultural moment tipping away from grimdark.
JL: What was your favorite part of working on the book?
BW: I count myself super lucky to work with this team. Kevin and I became fast friends when we started brainstorming together, and I value that above all else. Simon Gough and Micah Myers joined the team later, but they’ve been every bit as important in shaping the feel of the book. We’ve all had a ton of fun putting this together.
JL: Who would you say the audience for GRIT is?
BW: If you love classic sword and sorcery heroes like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser or Conan the Barbarian, or modern pulp comics like Hellboy, The Goon, or Fear Agent, you’ll fit right in with GRIT.
Also, if you want to see a bunch of birds talk trash about a grumpy old man.
JL: One of the things Matt and I noticed is that the book is being put out from Scout. Scout’s had a pretty good record of picking up successfully established Kickstarter books, but GRIT never had a Kickstarter. What, do you think, made GRIT stand out from the rest? Did your work on Big White, with Vlad Legostaev & Rachel Deering, help make things happen?
BW: I like to think that the goblin butt featured prominently on page one has something to do with it, but it’s hard to say. I’ve heard the advice lots of times to just make the book you’d want to read, and that’s truly what we did here. Creating GRIT has brought Kevin and me a lot of joy over the last few years, and I think it just really shows through in the finished product. As far as I know, the folks at Scout actually weren’t aware of Big White until after I had pitched them GRIT, but I will say they’ve since prodded me a few times about what REALLY happens to Cal at the end.
JL: Speaking of Big White, it felt like this heavy, ominous, post-apocalyptic story. And, as previously mentioned, GRIT is very different in tone. Is one easier to write than another? Do you have a preference of one over the other for storytelling style?
BW: I don’t know that one was more difficult than the other, but they were definitely different experiences. We talked about economy of space a little earlier with writing GRIT as a three-issue mini-series, but condensing the world-building necessary for a snowy post-apocalyptic hellscape into twelve pages was a serious exercise in brevity. With a little time behind me, I’ve started to see the through-lines in my work, even though these two projects are so wildly different. While Big White was a heavy story, it was important to me to leave room for optimism, in that case, Cal’s family, and there’s definitely some of that in GRIT, as well. It’s just not in my bones to present wholly oppressive worlds.
JL: Brian, thanks so much again for your time and for talking about GRIT with us. Where can folks find you online or in the convention scene? And when can people expect GRIT to hit shelves?
Folks can use their social media platforms of choice to find me and the rest of the team at:
Brian Wickman – @bmwickman
Kevin Castaniero – @COUNTPAGAN
Simon Gough – @spidey2099
Micah Myers – @micahmyers