This week we sit down and talk to the one and only Brian Coles. If you like comics, and we’re sure you do, you’ll want to take a peek at what Brian Coles is up to click here.
What was your reason for getting into comics? That is, how did you end up involved in comics?
I always loved film and initially studied it in school. This was 20 years ago. After putting off my own creative needs for too long, I decided it was time to find a way to express it. I enjoyed comics as a youth and while making a film was unrealistic, I realized comics were simply a great brother/sister art form to film. The film has to storyboard and comics are essentially that. I read Scott Mccloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art as a recommendation from a dear friend in the business, Derek W. Lipscomb (The Maroon, Owl Eye Comics) while I also diligently practiced drawing. So after a couple years, I dove in and created a webcomic (The Happy Middle) as a sandbox to hone my craft that’s given me the confidence to start a comic book – The Mighty Riff. I have a deep love for classic heavy rock and used to interview bands when I was younger, like Iron Maiden, Dio, Ozzy and all that so it was a synthesis that made sense. It’s an homage to that style of music, as well as the sensibilities and media of the 80s.
Who would you say is your comic book inspiration as a writer? As an artist?
Tying into the previous answer, I cull inspiration from a film so the writing aspect comes from that more than a specific comic. Since The Mighty Riff is a silly, intergalactic rock opera, it doesn’t follow strict dramatic guidelines but there are characters, struggles, and arcs of course. I felt humor was a good place to start. I can get away with a little more as there’s more room to breathe and figure things out. People won’t scrutinize it like they would a darker style. So it is a good starting point. That said, with each panel, page and issue I expect to always improve and offer the best I can for the reader.
Artwork inspiration comes from people like Sergio Aragonés, MAD Magazine in general and some of the television cartoons I see nowadays.
Before comics, what did you do? If you’re still doing it, what are you doing?
I help market small businesses and do consulting, mostly based on website development, logos and such. My schooling ended up switching over to marketing/advertising. And I will tell you, if you understand the creative side of advertising, you know how to communicate in ways you may never have imagined. It’s some of the best art out there, even though it’s “commercial,” it can still be brilliant.
What was your first work in comics like?
I started out writing for Afro Stache Studios in their Poverty Pack superhero parody universe at the invite from one of the creators, Derek, who I mentioned before. I found it to be a perfect fit for my brain and that really added momentum to my eagerness to get going on my own comic.
How many years have you been working in comics?
From the first thing, I wrote to know, about 5 years. I’m busier than ever, doing the webcomic, The Mighty Riff has launched, and I also help edit The Maroon.
Tell me a little bit about your work. Where does it draw inspiration from? Where do you come up with your ideas?
Everywhere and everything! Ha! I have a duality thinking deeply about life wanting to explore the meaning and express it and then there’s the part of me that is always looking for the “perfect” joke. So as I start out in the humor realm, which I know will always be there, I will flow toward more serious things as I become more developed and confident. My ultimate goal is to combine what I call the three “W’s” – wonder, warmth, and whimsy. I think the best movies, the ones that appeal to me anyway, like Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones series, Back to the Future, the top-notch Marvel stuff, the recent Wonder Woman – do all those things well.
My biggest inspiration though is my wife, who is a great editor and encourages me with a lot of patience! She’s memorized every line from “Empire”, so she gets it.
Who have you worked alongside in the industry?
Afro Stache Studios, Owl Eye Comics. Derek W. Lipscomb is a phenomenal artist and has great writing instincts on top of it. He knows comics like no one else I know.
Growing up, who was your favorite character or team? Who is it now?
Iron Man, the 80s mullet years! Ha! That was my guy. I also bought all of Grendel, Lobo for a time. Right now, honestly, it’s a tough call. I think Rey from the new Star Wars trilogy is fantastic, as is Wonder Woman on screen. In comics, I don’t have a fave now. I am so busy doing my own stuff, it’s tough to keep up! I would say The Maroon though, having been so close to it.
Do you have any advice for a new writer or artist who is just getting into the business?
This is an extremely important question to me as I really want to encourage people who MUST create to do so. A few key things: surround yourself with quality, supportive people who have it together. Listen to constructive criticism but remember, single negative comments are just that. Look for trends in feedback. I’m not a Marvel artist by any stretch but I am better than I was last month because of the people I surround myself with.
Also, deeply important, be professional, treat people with respect and carry yourself with dignity and be open to opportunities. Finally, “get out there!” Go to conventions. Create your own series. Get into the mix. It’s like physics, you’ll bump into things and things will ricochet around in directions you would never imagine. But it’s all just a “dream” until you put yourself out there. It’s never too late to start. I am proof of that. If you aren’t living your life, whose life are you living?
Where do you see your work taking you?
Part of this industry and the blessing of the internet is that you never know where it will take you. But one thing is certain, things will spiral out if I keep at it. So, if you’re reading this, keep at it! It’s a great adventure. Don’t look back, keep moving forward. It’s the journey.
What are you up too next?
I have a webcomic sequential art series that I plan to launch in fall/early winter of this year. It will be accessible to everyone as it will just be online for free. I will compile it into a book if people want it but it’s an important thing because it deals with the social awkwardness of a young man who has some phobias, many of which are about people and the world around him. It’s humorous, quirky and hopefully inspiring. He’ll have a unique relationship with a girl who is older than him, a platonic one, and they learn about how to get through life together. It’s very Peanuts meets Bob’s Burgers. There’s a unique environment that I am thrilled with, but people have to wait to see it! Teaser!
Where do you see the direction of the comic industry heading in 20 years?
I can’t help but admit it will likely become more and more digital oriented. Everything is. But how quickly and how that will affect its format is tough to predict.
How can people get a hold of you?
They can reach out to me at [email protected] Please do!
Where can we buy and/or see your work?
They can buy issue #1 of The Mighty Riff at Comix Central for 99 cents! I am always up for cons in SoCal. SD Rocket Con April 28th and then Long Beach Comic Con in fall.
To view his work:
Any last words for the industry?
Be there for each other. An environment is everything. Be true to yourself but carefully listen to those that can make that truth shine brighter.
I want to thank you guys at ComicBasics.com for the work you do and the opportunity. You are a big part of what makes this community so great!