Traveler, writer, reviewer, all-round observer. I like anything cool & fast, but occasionally sit at a cafe watching the world go by.
Among the driving forces and influences in the graphic novel and comic world of protagonists and antagonists, Brian Haberlin stands among them. In the past couple of decades, Brian either wrote, penciled, inked, created, or produced several well known characters. Characters such as Witchblade, Shi, Spawn, Cyberforce, Stryke Force, Kiss, Captain Wonder, and many others have been etched into the geekdom pages of its fans.
In 2012, Brian and his team concentrated their efforts to employ technology into graphic novels. To the reader’s amazement, two if his graphic novels, Anomaly and Shifter, came to life and interacted with the person through a smartphone or tablet with the UAR app. Ultimate Augmented Reality technology is an interactive 3D imaging program that utilizes the smartphone’s or tablet’s camera.
The first time I met Brian was in 2013 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York with his debut of Anomaly and Shifter – you can read about it here: Aki Solomos’ reviews & interviews ). Two years later, I came across Brian promoting his newest project, Faster Than Light, the first comic book to use UAR technology. The kid inside me became giddy as I picked up 3 issues for myself -I began reading them immediately after I got home and became enthralled to follow the series’ upcoming issues.
Faster Than Light is a space exploration adventure that brings to mind one main question: Are we really ready for what’s out there? It’s a sci-fi story that will capture your imagination with its amazing images. And the implementation of UAR makes it that much more appealing, leaving you wanting more and wishing you wouldn’t have wait for the next issue.
I finally caught up with Brian between his busy schedule for the following Q&A interview:
Aki: What made you interested in becoming involved with the comics & graphic novel industry? Is this something that started from childhood?
Brian: I was the kid that other kids came to in grade school to have me draw this or that for them. I always gravitated to the fantastic in art, but it wasn’t until high school that some friends of mine cherry picked the very best of comics…Byrne, Starlin, Steranko, Buscema, Adams, Bisley, Sienkiewicz, Talbott, Golden, Rogers, Bolland, etc. Then I was hooked.
A: Do you remember your very first comic or graphic novel you’ve ever read?
B: It was probably Jim Starlin’s work on Adam Warlock…that eventually became part of the whole “soul gem” story – I really liked the cosmic stuff. When I was a teen there really wasn’t much in the way of graphic novels. I think the first one I ever read was Luther Arkwright by Byron Talbott. It was ornate work; adult work; non-superhero. It showed me that comics didn’t have to just be spandex and capes. You could tell any story with the medium.
A: When I interviewed you last time, you were debuting Shifter at NYCC 2013. You mentioned to me that your start in the industry was penciling and inking Spawn, and helping Todd (McFarlane) and Robert (Kirkman) -who inspired you to do your own work.
What was your very first idea? Your very first own work?
B: It goes a bit farther back than that. I had my first job offer from Jim Shooter and John Romita Sr….basically to start as a Romita Ranger/bullpen. But they wanted you to move to NY and wouldn’t guarantee work, so I went to film school instead and got my masters degree in screen writing.
I then went to work at Lorimar TV and we were eventually purchased by Warner Bros. to became Warner TV, but I didn’t like that work so I kept developing my comic work on the side. I’d go down to San Diego Comic Con with my portfolio…stand in line, get reviewed by people who really didn’t want to be looking at portfolios…rejection after rejection.
That is until 1993 when a friend of mine, Rod Underhill, got a table at San Diego in the small press section and asked if I wanted to split it with him. I did and had a huge Green Lantern inkjet banner behind me that I drew and colored and even 3D-modeled glowing green power wings behind him and a power battery, and had an animated Spawn that I 3D-modeled and had running in a loop on a monitor on the table. That’s when everyone and their mother came by and offered me work.
I went with Marc Silvestri and TopCow and started their computer coloring department. So my first work was coloring the cover for the first Cyberforce trade. I eventually ran the creative side of the company and co-created Witchblade while there.
A: You had a hand in Cyberforce, Stryke Force, Shi, Witchblade, Kiss, Spawn, Captain Wonder, and many others. Of all your own works or involvement, which did you enjoy working on the most?
B: I was very lucky to start at TopCow when we shared space with Wildstorm. It was an open office floor plan so you could walk around and see everyone working. So I got to learn from the best first hand: Inking from Scott Williams; Color from Joe Chiodo; Pencils from Marc, Jim Lee, and Whilce Portacio. And then there were the other new kids: Jeff Campbell, Joe Benitez, Billy Tan, Dave Finch, Travis Charest…and everyone was really out to top each other.
After that working with Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo on Spawn was a great learning experience -they are both so knowledgeable about the craft and so generous with their time.
A: Other than those you’ve been involved with, what’s your favorite character? Is that also your favorite comic book or graphic novel story line?
B: My favorite book is Faster Than Light…it’s been a dream of mine to do this book. I actually “ghost” co-wrote an episode of Deep Space Nine with my then writing partner Evan Carlo Somers (who was on staff there) and we batted around a space story that takes place now. Evan passed away several years ago but I’m sure he’d be tickled by Faster Than Light.
On my older creations I still have a soft spot for and will one day see the light of day again are Hellcop, Aria, Stone, Captain Wonder, Area 52, Athena Inc., and the Wicked.
A: You had mentioned to me that Shifter was originally going to be a WWII story. What was that going to be like?
B: It was to be called ‘The Six’. Clayton Henry was going to pencil it. The general idea was, what if the most famous allied agents of WWII (that have since disappeared) were actually robots that someone “ran” from a control chair.
A: I read the first 3 issues of Faster Than Light, the very first comic book with UAR. I can’t tell you how anxious I am to read the next issues and catch up on the story. Can you tell us what’s in store for the upcoming future issues? Where is the story taking us? Without giving any spoilers, of course!
B: EVERYONE DIES! Kidding! After issue 5, The Discovery comes back to Earth for a much needed refit. You see The Discovery was launched in a hurry. Not all her systems were online, and she had no weapons to speak of other than the ingenuity of her crew. She still won’t be a battleship or anything, but she’ll be more prepared to deal with the threats of the unknown.
In future episodes we’ll be going to many more planets, meeting many new creatures and species, and learning more about the dark threat to Earth.
A: Is Faster Than Light an ongoing series, or will there an ending -a finally?
B: It will go for as long as I can keep it going…a minimum of 15 issues. But hopefully more like 200!
A: UAR itself, let alone its usage in graphic novels, was a revolutionary idea. You had previously mentioned to me that it was your business partner that came up with the idea to marry the two. How did UAR came to be?
B: When we started on Anomaly, augmented reality was just coming out but it needed obvious and design intrusive QR codes so I was against it. Then when we were about 100 pages into Anomaly 1, the sdk changed and could recognize and be triggered by any image – that’s when we were off to the races. You see, I wanted the book to be enjoyable without UAR as well, and with no codes on pages you won’t feel like you are missing something if you don’t have a smart device.
A: Are you ever going to revisit Anomaly or Shifter -to continue their storyline?
B: Anomaly 2: The Rubicon is done and will be out later this year. I have some Shifter story ideas but I think some other new titles will come out before it.
A: First there was Anomaly, then Shifter, and now Faster than Light. What’s next for UAR?
B: Fury Formula will have UAR and will be fun as the story deals with a main character with two personalities. And with UAR, you will point at a page and it will change the POV of the character’s other personality. This will be the first time UAR is really used to affect the story and not just be cool DVD-like extras. We are also working on some kids titles that will incorporate UAR in new ways.
A: If you weren’t doing graphic novels or comic books, what work or career do you think you would’ve been?
B: Illustration, fine art, writing or directing.
A: When you’re not working, what pass time do you enjoy doing?
B: When I’m not working it’s family time, hiking, fishing, fossil hunting, reading, watching TV and movies.
A: Let’s say I’m traveling or just wondering around. Where will we find you or happen to bump into you? Do you consider yourself a homebody, or an adventurer?
B: Homebody mostly. Or traveling to shows. But I love traveling with the family when time allows…just hasn’t been a lot of time lately!
Brian, I just want to say, thank you for the interview. Can’t wait to read the next FTL issue and see your work come to life!
Here are some extras courtesy of Brian Haberlin…