|DF INTERVIEW: FRANK BRUNNER
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By Brian Hofacker
Frank Brunner is a comic book artist/writer, particularly known for his innovative work at Marvel Comics in the 1970s. Renowned for his attention to detail and design, Frank has one of the most influential art styles in the comic book industry. A few of Frank’s credits include artist/writer for Web of Horror, Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella Magazines; cover artist for Man-Thing, Red Sonja and Savage Sword of Conan; and the co-creator (with writer Steve Gerber) of Howard the Duck.
One of Frank’s most acclaimed contributions to comics is his collaboration with writer Steve Englehart on Doctor Strange for the showcase title Marvel Premiere, the popularity of which re-launched the Master of Mystic arts into his own solo title and as a major player in the Marvel Universe. With the upcoming Doctor Strange: The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan due out in October, Frank Brunner took some time to answer a few questions and give some insight into his senses shattering work on Doctor Strange.
BH: You not only penciled the adventures of Doctor Strange in Marvel Premiere but also co-plotted the title with Steve Englehart; how did this collaboration come about? Did you work the concepts together or did each of you specialize in different aspects of the stories?
FB: It's getting harder to remember that far back.... But both Steve and I were unhappy with the direction Dr. Strange was going back in 1970-71, and Roy Thomas had already told me the series was mine if I wanted it. But I was very young and didn't really think I could handle both the scripts and art for my first series. So I looked around and "Behold" after several conversations with Englehart, I realized I had found my scripter! He could dig everything I was proposing and I knew he could handle dialogue, characterization and continuity! And that’s more or less the way it was done, I was the concepts and art guy and Steve handled the rest!
BH: Your scripts for Marvel Premier in the early 1970’s reflected that era's trend toward "cosmic" characters and stories — a trend begun in the Lee-Ditko '60s stories — as well as following occult and supernatural aspects. Now writer Brian K. Vaughan is going to re-establish the Sorcerer Supreme into the Marvel Universe by focusing less on the “Strange” and more on the “Doctor” aspect of the character. Are you looking forward to this new perspective on the Doctor Strange?
FB: Ah, that's a funny question....Lets put it this way, if not for the word "Strange" I don't think I would have been interested in drawing the adventures of just a "Doctor"! LOL...... I mean It was the character's "Strangeness" that appealed to me, not his mundane life as a "Medical Doctor." It was his adventures in other dimensions, and constantly saving the world as we know it, without hardly a soul to thank him! (Usually mankind was totally unaware of the pan-dimensional menaces he struggled against.) And that's where his Doctor's Oath and background was all important and kept him on the good side of the "Force." Not requiring the gratitude of mankind, but rather working quietly behind the scenes, secure in his own self knowledge that good had triumphed over Evil!
BH: Is there any particular tale of the Doctor Strange that you were never able to tell?
FB: Not at the time I quit doing the series, but now and then I think of a story line that I came up with back in the 90's , I was thinking of it in terms of the millennium, like a "Docter Strange 2000" where Clea leaves him and he starts drinking again, hits the bottom, and then has to save us from some new Dark Religious movement! Something like that......
BH: Your plots in Marvel Premiere often dealt with the supernatural and the occult and you were able to use all the great exclamations such as "By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!" and "By the Wondrous Wand of Watoomb!" Who came up with these classic lines?
FB: I hate to admit it, but most of those were made up by Stan Lee. I think Steve (Engelhart) came up with a few too(maybe).
BH: Your designs for Doctor Strange had him inherit the mantle and power of Sorcerer Supreme of Earth's plane then confront Death where he proved himself worthy and was granted the immortality befitting his new role. Did it become problematic to write Doctor Strange as he became more powerful?
FB: I suppose it did. A character that is All Powerful is harder to write! But that’s where Doc was different; I always assumed he made great efforts to remain "Human" and did not use magic to solve everything, nor was he a god. Behind all the magic was a man with deep feelings and sensitivity!
BH: Shuma-Gorath, Dormammu and even Death! You were responsible for pitting the Sorcerer Supreme against some of the most cosmically evil villains. Which do you consider Doctor Strange’s most interesting adversary?
FB: Absolutely, it was the sorcerer from the future, "Sise-Neg" (GOD)
BH: When not battling for the souls of all humanity against vastly powerful extra-dimensional beings like Shuma-Gorath, Doctor Strange tackled hidden evils in small towns such as the pawns of Sligguth. Where did the concepts for all these great menaces come from? Did their creation involve much research into the occult or was it mostly imagination?
FB: Those stories were somewhat based on H.P. Lovecraft's New England mysticism (Cithulu). And to answer the second part of your question.......YES, I was already studying the occult in a general sort of way, both the old stuff, including Aleister Crowley and the "Golden Dawn Society" to modern books like "Real Magic" by P.I.E. Bonewits, and the writings of Carlos Castaneda! (Who mixed ancient indian magic with drugs!) As time went on (as it is wont to do) I lost interest in traditional Occultism .......the meaning of the word explains itself which is "to keep what is hidden....HIDDEN!"
BH: Thanks so much, Frank!
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