A Renaissance Man: Ed Brisson

Ed Brisson is the brilliant letterer of such titles as Prophet, Peter Panzerfaust, and The Secret History of D.B. Cooper. He is also the writer of several spectacular creator-owned projects, particularly Murder Book (which can be viewed here). Mr. Brisson was kind enough to answer a few questions for the loyal fanboys of the Illumi-Nerdi.

Who is Ed Brisson?

I'm a comic book writer and letterer, living in Vancouver. Make money as a letterer, lose it as a writer.

As a big fan of Prophet, your lettering feels like the final beautiful touch in a phenomenal comic (particularly in the labeling of John Prophet’s tools). What kind of impact do you think a good letterer can make on a comic that an average one could not?

I think that a good letterer tries to match the style of a book as naturally as possibly while trying to remain as hidden as possible. The last thing you want, which a few intentional exceptions, is for the lettering to jump out at people.

What suggestion would you give to a writer trying to get started via IndieGoGo?

I would say that IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are not a place to start. A much as you can, build up a readership first. Both sites are littered with failed campaigns all started by people who thought that anyone could come out of the gate with a campaign and make enough money to do a book.

Get to know people online. Talk to them, show them your work. Put it up for people to read. If people like your work, they're more likely to kick in.

If you've already built up some sort of cred or readership, here's my advice:

-Get EXACT as possible costs for shipping. I underestimated my shipping by HUNDREDS of dollars.

-Try to give someone something at every level. In my opinion, a "thanks" in the front of the book isn't satisfying enough. Make it a physical item that people can hold in their hands. Or, at the very least, a digital copy of the book.

-Don't over-spam. If you're reminding people 5 times a day, knock it off. A lot of reminders at the start of the campaign, then some throughout (try to couple the reminder with a new perk) and then in the last few days. You'll see 90% of the action in a campaign in the first few days and in the last day.

-Be as transparent as possible about what you're using the money for. There's nothing wrong with MAKING money, but be honest about it.

What can you tell us about the horror story that mentioned on your blog?

Right now, not a whole lot.

I've been planning for about 2-3 years to launch a second series of self published comics that would be an ongoing series of one-shot, self contained horror stories. Something between The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt.

I've got one script that's in development. It's been outlined, but I haven't had as much time to work on it as I'd like to. Soon!

What is your biggest influence on the crime stories you write in Murder Book?

Probably the earliest influence was just my home life. My father was a cop and my mom worked for a time in victim services (she was a Registered Nurse). I'd hear stories about their day at work and it was always fascinating to me. So, even from a very young age, I was aware of that "other" side of life.

When I was older, probably in my late teens, I discovered Elmore Leonard. In the month after reading my first Elmore Leonard book, I quickly devoured 30 more of his books and was hooked. The dialog and the characters were... just so good. Elmore Leonard still writes some of the best dialog in literature. Through his work, I discovered Richard Stark (aka: Donald Westlake), Jim Thompson, Carl Hiassen, Charles Willeford, and eventually George Pelecanos, George V. Higgins and Richard Price.

Not too long afterward, I really got into a lot of crime film. Started with the standards: The Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, etc. I tried a lot of the older noir films, and they never really clicked for me. Instead, I gravitated toward things like Straight Time, Dog Day Afternoon and The Mechanic. Eventually, I got turned onto the Italian crime films by a good friend. Things like Violent Naples, The Boss, Milano Calibro 9, The Family -- I could go on. The Italian crime films were essentially modeled after the popular US crime films, but were much grittier, much more violent and often crazily over-the-top. But, I enjoyed the hell out of them.

Obviously in comics, I'm a fan of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip's Criminal, but the bigger influence on me is probably David Lapham's Stray Bullets. When I first discovered Stray Bullets back in the mid-90s, it blew my mind like nothing I'd ever read before. The characters, the setting, everything. The hot summer days in that book, the pages were practically dripping with sweat. David Lapham got across mood and a real, genuine feel for the environment in a way that still leaves me slack jawed.

Why do you believe in comic books?

Because in comics, anything is possible.