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September 30, 2010

Jason Brubaker talks reMIND

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Written by: Jordan
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A while back we gave you a quick introduction to the graphic novel in progress, reMIND. You remember, right? Yes? No? Well, you are about to be reMINDed as we were fortunate enough to be able to “virtually” sit down and talk with reMIND‘s creator, Jason Brubaker. Enjoy!

COMIC ATTACK: Tell us about reMIND and how this project came to be.

JASON BRUBAKER: That’s a long story. It started out as a song that my friend and I wrote about a cat that would always come and hang out at our apartment all day. The song spawned ideas of a music video which I storyboarded. At the time my job was a storyboard artist so that was just how I thought.

I storyboarded a rough concept of a cat building a robot suit and teleporting to an underwater Lizard world to fight a Lizard King with a toaster. Yeah, it’s weird but I really wanted to learn to animate so I thought this would be a good place to start.

Years later after spending all my free time animating clips for this music video about a cat, I started getting animation jobs. The project was never going to get finished because every time I saw dramatic improvement in my animation ability I would reanimate entire scenes and it became a mess. At the end of 8 years I only had about 3 minutes of animation that I liked and a story that had no ending. Eventually I scrapped the idea to make a graphic novel. I pretty much just started from scratch and threw out years of stuff that just didn’t work but the design of Victuals, the robot suit and the lighthouse were pretty much untouched. I figured out a complete story to tell and the characters finally clicked into place.

CA: How did you break into the comic book industry?

JB: Well, I don’t really consider myself IN yet. I mean, I’ve published a few little indie books that I wrote back in high school but nothing that sold more than a few hundred copies locally. I’ve been riding on the dream that this graphic novel will be my serious introduction into the comic book industry.

CA: Your artwork on reMIND is fantastic! Tell us a little about your artistic background.

JB: I started out drawing for White Wolf on the Vampire: the Masquerade books in 1995 and 96. Then I moved to Los Angeles to be represented by Famous Frames, a big storyboarding agency. I worked on a handful of films and hundreds of commercials as a storyboard artist for about 6 years. This taught me a lot of tricks and techniques that I still use today.

After that, I worked for about 4 years in commercial animation on any kind of traditionally animated hand drawn projects. I became the go-to-guy for anything to do with cell animation for several motion design studios. This opened a door to work on the intro of Kung Fu Panda “Po’s Dream” as a compositor and assistant animator under James Baxter. Now I’m at Dreamworks Animation working as a visual development artist. When I look back at my career, I notice that reMIND was the core piece of work, in all it’s forms, that opened the doors to each new venture. reMIND was a good portion of my portfolio to get into Dreamworks too.

CA: What’s your work process like in creating reMIND?

JB: I make tiny thumbnails in the gutters of my script. Then I make bigger thumbnails in a sketchbook with an ink pen. I don’t like sketching with pencil because I get too caught up in details if I do.

My thumbnails are mostly drawn as a double page spread so I can see what the pages will look like together. I blow up the double page thumbnails to an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper and use tracing paper to make another ink pass over it with more detail.

I scan the sloppy inked tracing paper image and print a few panels out at a time which are then put on a light table and traced with all the detail in pencil on the final paper. Believe it or not, I use really nice color copy paper for my final art.

I scan the pencils and in Photoshop I boost the contrast so the pencils look similar to ink and then I start the coloring process which is all in Photoshop too. The textures are all hand painted textures that I scanned and use in Photoshop to enhance the look of the finished art.

CA: Why did you decide to publish reMIND as a graphic novel instead of a multi-issue comic book first?

JB: The reason I didn’t want to publish reMIND as a multi-issue comic is because I don’t ever buy them anymore. I only like getting trades or graphic novels so I figured I should just make it the way I’d like to buy it.

CA: What was your inspiration for the characters in reMIND? Any real life association?

JB: Victuals was loosely based on the cat that would wonder into our apartment long ago and Sonja was loosely based on my wife.  I’m not sure either look or act like my characters though. So I guess you could say they are VERY loosely based on them.

For some reason, I’ve always enjoyed drawing weird cats and when I finally came up with Victuals look it’s been hard not to keep drawing him in my stories. In fact my next GN has a cat that looks like Victuals too but he’s not a main character.

I’ve also always loved stories with really strong female characters much like Miyazaki’s work and I was hoping to get that same sort of feeling that Miyazaki’s movies always give me.

CA: I thought the cat, Victuals, was a great character. What’s the reason behind his name?

JB: It’s kinda a stupid reason for the name.  The song that started this whole thing about the cat was called “Tender Vittles” after the cat food and Vittles became the nickname for the cat in the animation. When I wrote the graphic novel I changed it to the original spelling to not confuse it as much with the cat food.

What can I say, I love the name and it seems like the majority of my audience does too.

CA: Religion seems to be a prominent idea in the story, most notably among the lizard people. What was the purpose of incorporating religion into reMIND, and will it be explored further?

JB: Religion will definitely be explored further in the story. reMIND is primarily about what we choose to believe in and obviously religion plays a part in that. I’ve pulled from hardships in my own life while trying to have a deeper understanding of God and religion and I primarily just want to share some of the things I’ve learned and the struggles I’ve had along the way. I guess you could say reMIND is an amplified version of my life from several years ago.

CA: Congratulation on your funding from The Xeric Foundation and Kickstarter! Tell us about that process and why you think both campaigns have been so successful.

JB: Thanks! It’s kinda hard for me to pinpoint what made it all successful. With the Xeric Grant, I just tried to be as honest as I could about what I wanted to do with reMIND. It seems to me like they are interested in people trying to push the comic industry forward rather than just finding new talent to endorse. I’m so hard headed with how I want reMIND to look and feel. I don’t want it to look like every other comic coming out next month. I want this thing to be special. Yea know? I think they appreciated my attitude towards doing something passionately. I don’t know though, I’m just guessing.

Now as far as kickstarter, I think the main reason for it’s success was from building a fan base and a blogging presence over the last 8 months. When I started blogging about reMIND and my progress, I decided that I needed to do whatever it took to get eyes on my work before it came out. If nobody knew about reMIND then why would people buy it when it’s published? I’m a no name artist so I needed to prove to people that my book would be worth getting when it comes out and no better way to do that than just start posting my progress online in a way that I’d like to see my favorite artists do. I wrote articles about graphic novel creation and made tutorials. It was a slow start but eventually people started responding to it all and by the time I launched the Kickstarter campaign I had already gotten a hand full of dedicated fans.

I’m still blown away with how fast money started coming in though. I honestly don’t understand how the audience grew so fast after launching the campaign but it did and I’m super grateful to everyone who pledged.

CA: Outside of The Xeric Foundation and Kickstarter, how has reMIND been accepted? What is the general public’s reaction?

JB: Well, lately it’s been pretty overwhelming how positive everyone has been. I get emails and comments on my blog daily with encouraging things to say about reMIND. People are really pulling for this thing to take off and I can hardly keep up with it all. I also get a lot of people emailing me telling me that my blog and reMIND has inspired them to go after their dream projects. Artists seem to be especially interested. In fact, Sam Kieth emailed me a few months back saying he loved what I was doing. He’s one of my biggest inspirations and it’s just the coolest feeling to get an email from him encouraging me personally to keep it up.

CA: Have you been to any comic book conventions to promote reMIND? Do you plan to attend any in the near future?

JB: I went to SDCC this year to hand out fliers but didn’t have a booth. Apparently I’m not supposed to do that. I found out after the fact. Sorry, Comic Con, please let me have a table next year so I can be legit.

I plan on hitting as many conventions as I can in 2011 after my book is out. I think Comic-Con will be the first convention for me because it’s the first con after my scheduled release. I already applied for a small-press table and I’m just waiting to hear back. I also want to exhibit at Ape, Wonder Con and Wizard World as well as others if I can afford to go.

CA: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can tell us about?

JB: I do but they are all on the back burner until reMIND is finished. I have about two other graphic novel stories that are loosely written and ready to go when I have time to start focusing on them. So, it will be a while before I start talking about any of it.

CA: In closing, is there anything else you’d like to say about reMIND?

JB: I just want to thank everyone for their support and encouragement so far. It’s been a huge driving factor towards making a deadline for myself and ensuring that it gets finished. Without the constant feedback, I know I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in.

Thanks Jason! We here at Comic Attack would like to wish you all the best with reMIND and all of your future projects!

If you’d like to keep up to date on whats happening with reMIND and Jason, you can follow him here on his blog. Also, if you’d like to get a taste of what reMIND is all about, a portion of the story is available to read here.

Jordan West

jordan@comicattack.net

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