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DF Interview: Brandon Barrows ‘Hammers’ out a career in comics
By Byron Brewer
Brandon Barrows was reviewing comic books for a fan-based cosmic comics site when we first met, I editing copy there and reviewing comic books as well.
He told me he also wrote comics, and when I read his works I was blown away with the creativity and complexity of the worlds he created for his characters, my favorite being former superhero-turned-noir-gumshoe Jack Hammer.
As do many, Barrows forges on in the comics indies, creating characters and attracting readers. Dynamic Forces caught up to him in a smoky bar often frequented by Hammer, and put the thumb screws to the scribe.
Dynamic Forces: Brandon, tell us how you became interested in creating comic books.
Brandon Barrows: There has never been a time I wasn’t, as far as I know. One of my earliest memories -- when I was probably two or three -- is of my dad taking me to the convenience store and letting me pick out a comic book to read before a car trip my family was taking. I’ve been an enthusiastic reader and collector ever since then.
DF: Do you remember your first published work?
Brandon Barrows: If you mean strictly comics, I did some mini-comics in high school with friends, but I don’t really count those, I guess. My first serious attempt at making comics was a mini-comic I wrote and drew myself over the course of about a year that I released at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009 called “Comics I Drew at Work”. The first comic I had published by someone else was a story called “Motherhood” in one of Fan-Atic Press’s SLAM BANG! Anthologies.
DF: I guess I know you best for your character, Jack Hammer. Tell us about this hero and his world.
Brandon Barrows: Jack Hammer is my detective comic series from Action Lab and it’s about a Boston-based P.I. (and former superhero) named Jack McGriskin, living in a world that’s identical to ours in almost every way, save for the existence of a small number of super-humans.
DF: Part superhero book and part back-alley noir, is it difficult to come up with stories which lend themselves to both for Hammer?
Brandon Barrows: It can be, yes. JH is three parts hardboiled detective fiction, two parts super-powers book. Potential readers should know up front that it’s not a superhero book, it’s a detective book first and foremost, and P.I. stories in a world where powers are a fact are what [artist] Ionic and I tell. That being said, some of the stories I’ve wanted to tell I’ve eventually decided against because they would have relied too heavily on one side or the other of the Jack Hammer coin, if you will. It’s important to me to strike a balance between the two types of fiction and if I feel a story idea doesn’t, or can’t be made to, represent the two in the mix I’m looking for, I’ll just bag it and move on to the next idea.
DF: As good as you do super-gumshoe yarns, you are also good at SF. Tell us about Voyaga, which is kind of a homage of sorts to ‘50s-style science fiction.
Brandon Barrows: You hit it on the head; Voyaga is my love letter to 1950s sci-fi. It’s about an astronaut sometime in the near-future who is supposed to be the first person to leave our solar system and through a series of events beyond his control, he winds up a thousand years in the future … still on Earth, and it’s not any sort of Earth he could have imagined. The tagline for the book is “an alien on the world of his birth”, if that tells folks anything.
DF: As long as I can recall, you have worked with an artist simply known as “Ionic.” Can you shed any light at all on this talented illustrator?
Brandon Barrows: I’ve heard rumors that he’s actually part of the Internet – some sort of covert government-sponsored program designed to raise the artistic bar for the comic medium. I’ve also heard some claim that he’s a reincarnation of one of the Renaissance masters and, having conquered fine art during his former life, has turned his talents to comics. And those are just the two most believable of the things I’ve heard about him.
I guess I don’t know any more than you: that Ionic is an awesome artist and I’m very lucky to work with him.
DF: Tell us about The Altar in the Hills.
Brandon Barrows: The Altar in the Hills and Other Weird Tales is a collection of my prose weird fiction, published by Raven Warren Publishing. Aside from comics, I write a lot of prose, and the book collects seven pieces (2 novellas, two short stories and three flash fiction pieces) of Lovecraftian weird fiction. Some of the stories are previously published, some are new to the collection, but anyone who loves Lovecraft or his Mythos as much as I do should enjoy it.
DF: You work for a number of publishers. What is the secret to marketing your work to so many diverse companies?
Brandon Barrows: I won’t go into the quality of work, even though it’s great advice, because so many others have given that it to aspiring creators. So here’s my tip: do your research on what companies publish the type of work you’re doing or want to do. One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to find publishers for their work, whether comics or otherwise, is using a scattergun approach and just sending it to whomever catches their eye. Even if your comic about a brilliant serial killer outwitting the authorities at every turn is the best comic a submissions editor has ever seen, they’re not going to publish it if the company specializes kid-friendly comics, for example. If you’re planning to submit to a publisher, you probably are already at least semi-familiar with their output, so look at your project and ask yourself objectively if it will compliment their lineup. If it doesn’t, you’re wasting your time and that of the publisher.
DF: Brandon, you also write poetry, yes?
Brandon Barrows: Yes, I do. I’ve had about forty poems published in various magazines and more forthcoming. Almost all of it is science fiction-, fantasy- or horror-inspired. I was actually the featured poet of the February 2014 issue of Scifaikuest, a magazine devoted to sci-fi poetry.
DF: Will we see any Barrows bylines in a Marvel or DC book anytime soon? Is that even a goal?
Brandon Barrows: I don’t think about it, really. Telling stories I want to tell and sharing them with others is my only real goal as a writer. That being said, there are characters I enjoy at both companies, so if either Marvel or DC is looking for a writer and wants to discuss a project with me, I’d be happy to engage them.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Brandon Barrows for taking time from his busy schedule to answer our questions.
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