Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Interview with BUCK ROGERS writer, Matt Brady


In my role as "Prof. Challenger" for Aintitcool, here is my interview with former reporter for the good chaps over at Newsarama and current writer of the BUCK ROGERS ANNUAL for Dynamite Entertainment. I had a chance to talk with Matt about his jump from comics reporting to comics writing and his new BUCK ROGERS book. Some exclusive first looks at the Annual are interspersed throughout the interview.  If you would rather read this on AICN, just hit the Q&A graphic at the top of this blog and it'll take you there.

PROF. CHALLENGER (PROF): First off, my hat's off to you for the comic writing gig. Since I don't make a habit out of reading the "distinguished competition" in the comic reviewing world, I guess I didn't realize that you had moved on from Newsarama a year or so ago. Was that part of a plan to parlay your experience in the world of Comics reporting and such into a career actually writing comics or is this more of a side project for the love of it?

MATT BRADY (MATT): Writing, and writing comics, has always been in the picture, somewhere, but that thing called Newsarama tended to eat up any time that I could’ve done it in, let alone, I didn’t want to enter the very gray ethical area of writing comics while covering them for Newsarama. So, after having comics reporting as my day job for just over ten years, I left Newsarama last year. Since then, I’ve been teaching science, and working on some writing projects with Troy. We started on a few cool ideas, and were working on pushing them forward, and Buck really just fell into our laps when Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci asked if we’d be interested. We were, and well, here we are.

PROF: Dynamite has made themselves something of a reputation out there for aggressively pursuing these older properties and licenses and now they're about to be publishing both FLASH GORDON and BUCK ROGERS concurrently. Of all the properties at Dynamite, what drew you to BUCK ROGERS? Did you work up a proposal and approach them or did they offer it to you and your co-writer Troy Brownfield (a Newsarama columnist)?

MATT: Like I mentioned, Nick asked us if we’d be interested at the time when we were talking about another project with him. And yeah, you can’t deny that Dynamite has great licenses, and along with LONE RANGER, ZORRO, and of course, GREEN HORNET, they’ve polished up BUCK ROGERS to make him sexy again for new readers, while sticking true to what made him cool in the first place.

PROF: What was your exposure to the character before this project? Were you familiar with the TV series, books, the old movie serials, the comic strips?

MATT: My first exposure to Buck came from seeing the TV series pilot in theaters – why don’t they do that anymore? Anyway, my brother and I faithfully watched all the episodes of that first season, and then, followed the adventures of Buck n’ Hawk into the second, before some producer at NBC mercifully put a gun to the series’ head. It was actually through the series that I learned about the movie serial, when that episode with Buster Crabbe came on.

But for this Annual, Troy and I did a ton of research – movies, television, comic strips, original novels, and of course, what Scott Beatty has already set up in the series. So I’ve got my bases covered, and can wonder aloud at Buck’s multiple origins and his relationship with Wilma with fans of every Buck era – not to mention the pretty blatant racism of the original novels.

PROF: What about Dynamite's approach to the reintroduction of the characters of Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering makes it work for modern audiences, and why do you think it has taken so long for Buck to finally take on the comic book world?

MATT: I think what ideally helps Buck find an audience, and what sets him and his adventures apart from just about every other space yarn out there, is that, from the very start, Buck was always about optimism – for the future, for humans, for the world. Sure, Kane, Ardala, a beaten-up Earth, crime – all of that was nuts, but Buck had an “I can fix this” attitude about him – in fact, that’s what he said in his last line of #12. He’s not a cheerleader, and he’s not a sap, but throughout his incarnations, he’s of this streak of optimism and hope that he – and the people he’s with – can work together to fix things. And he often charges in without thinking, letting his best intentions lead him. Dare I say it – if they’re looking to cast a new Buck Rogers movie…well, Nathan Fillion would be perfect.

It takes stones to tell stories like that in today’s market, especially when no hero stays on that road for very long, if they ever travel it. I mean, hell, Superman has been a whiny bitch for the last few years, Spider-Man…er…Captain America…anyway, I think that there are readers out there that dig that kind of thing.

Oh, and there’s all this high adventure science fiction-y stuff, and people in spacesuits. People dig seeing people in space suits. With laser guns.

PROF: Is your story going to be a stand-alone piece or part of a larger storyline within the BUCK ROGERS comic series?

MATT: All stand-alone, baby. Scott has, and I mean this, go back and look at the issues, created a pretty seamless twelve issues that started with issue #1, and kept Buck on this roller coaster, non stop. Seriously – go – look. I’ll wait. In fact, when we got the green light from Dynamite, when Troy was doing a polish on the script, I tried to nail down exactly when the story happened, and I believe my first comment was “Shiiiiiiiiiit.”

I think we found a little wiggle room. Either that, or it’s the magic of comics, man. The magic of comics.

PROF: How did you approach the characters? Did you stick with the past year or so in terms of the comics for reference or did you try to bring a bit more of a nostalgic bent to it?

MATT: Since we were playing in the sandbox that Scott had established, we stuck pretty closely to what he had set up in terms of characters. We used his Buck/Wilma dynamic, which echoes a lot of the television series - they’re more colleagues than romantically interested in each other. Huer is the Huer from the series. Oh, and we get to introduce some new and old enemies – we give a nod to the original novels with one, and hopefully create something that will be coming back with the other.

PROF: If you're like me, the best memory of the old TV series is admiring Erin Gray's feisty and sexy as hell portrayal of Wilma Deering. When writing, do you write her with that in mind or, again, are you sticking with the last year's worth of continuity?

MATT: Ah, another one of us whose voyage through puberty was helped along by that episode with the damn space elves that used their mind powers to start to unzip Wilma’s suit? By the way, Erin Gray is a wonderful person – if you haven’t you should try to meet up with her on the convention circuit.

Anyway – we took what Scott started with Wilma, and were able to go into some different directions, given our story. As for how she turns out in those scenes, I just love it, and I have to give the credit to Troy. He nailed her dialogue and infused it with personality that showed a different side than what we’ve seen so far.

PROF: How about the visual approach? Are you and Troy working full-script with regular BUCK ROGERS artist Carlos Rafael or more plot-style?

MATT: All full script. And working with Carlos makes me both happy and sad. Happy, because he’s a tremendous artist who can handle anything you throw at him without so much as a “What the fu--?”; but sad because he’s one of those artists who is clearly on his way up, which means he’ll be moving on to bigger and better, instead of marrying me and Troy (creatively, pervs) and turning this duo into a killer trio.

PROF: How thrilling is it to see your script bought to life visually?

MATT: It’s amazing. With the Newsarama gig, I’d heard about it so many times that I was totally jaded to it. But when Nick sent over a few pages from Carlos…like I said, I teach now, and after school, I ran around showing anyone I could find.

And then going back and explaining what it was from, and yes I did write it, and yes, that’s great that your dad knew who Buck Rogers was, and wow, I didn’t know that you used to collect comic books, and yes, really, this is one that my pal and I wrote.

It was more good than bad. So much more good.

PROF: To me, Buck Rogers reimagined for the modern audience has such potential for exploration of new worlds and fantastic imaginary vistas with the wonder of a man of today transplanted to the world of tomorrow. Do you find it easy to put yourself mentally into the mind of a character like that to get reactions and motivations that readers can identify with?

MATT: Ding-ding-ding-ding! We have a winner. That was EXACTLY the approach we used on this story. Again, not to downplay what Scott has done with the character, Troy and I put ourselves in the mindset of “What if we were Buck Rogers?” and the story basically jumped at us.

PROF: If someone has been on the fence, so far, about picking up the new BUCK ROGERS series, what would you say to encourage them to pick up the BUCK ROGERS ANNUAL?

MATT: The space suits and lasers wasn’t enough? Well, best we can tell you is that it’s a pretty cool, emotional story that really adds some depth to Buck, and does put a human side to a lot of the whiz-bang of science fiction. Hey, wouldn’t jumping 500 years into the future be great? Well, yeah…but….

Plus, if things go well, this is where it all starts for Buck.

PROF: What has been the most satisfying aspect of your collaboration with Troy and Carlos?

MATT: Just doing it man, just finally doing it.
PROF: Now that your writing gremlin has been fed, what's next on the horizon for Matt Brady, writer of comics?

MATT: About a jillion more. We’ve got pitches and proposals in with a number of different publishers, and are in talks about minis, ongoings and short stories. Right now, we’re really digging the less-mainstream characters because, well, after covering it for years and years, I think Troy and I feel that the world doesn’t necessarily need just another Superman story, or just another X-Men story – which is not saying we can’t come up with ones, it’s just not where we are right now. Plus, with characters like those at Dynamite, for instance, you’ve got such room to move, whereas, with the larger characters, you can find yourself up against inflexible corporate canon, or butting into the ideas for that character’s next movie, animated series, toy line, 2014 event storyline or what have you.

And of course, we’ve got creator-owned goods in the works as well. Looking for an artist for one, actually, so if you’ve got the more realistic style art chops, we’re looking to talk. I’m at And of course, we’ve got a million other projects here and there. It’s a good time.

PROF: Look for Matt Brady and Troy Brownfeld’s BUCK ROGERS ANNUAL from Dynamite Entertainment in February!

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