Bruce Brown of Springfield first discovered comic books as a child. A specialist recommended them to Brown’s parents to help their son overcome some reading difficulties. Now he not only enjoys reading comic books, he writes them, too. Brown’s latest graphic novel, released earlier this year, is “Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom.”
Bruce Brown of Springfield first discovered comic books as a child.
A specialist recommended them to Brown’s parents to help their son overcome some reading difficulties.
“My mom started taking me to the comic shop on a regular basis. I don’t think she thought decades later I’d still be doing it, but I just love it,” said Brown, 45.
Now he not only enjoys reading comic books, he writes them as well.
Five years ago, Brown wrote his first comic book script for a contest sponsored by Marvel Comics, the publisher that unleashed Spider-Man, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk upon the world. Brown didn’t win the contest, which would have resulted in his story being published, but he did receive some positive feedback from the person who reviewed his work.
That was all the encouragement he needed. Today, he is a published author.
Brown’s latest graphic novel, released earlier this year, is “Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom.” (A graphic novel is similar to a comic book, but the entire story is bound and issued as a complete work rather than serialized in comic book form.)
H.P. Lovecraft was a fantasy and science fiction writer whose influence and popularity have grown since his death in 1937. Brown discovered Lovecraft’s work after collaborating with a comic-writing friend on project ideas.
“I quickly realized why (Lovecraft’s) considered the modern version of Edgar Allen Poe. And whenever I read something I like, I want to learn about the person behind the book,” Brown said.
He became intrigued, both with Lovecraft’s writing and his life. When he learned that the author’s father had been institutionalized when Lovecraft was 3, Brown was inspired to create a Batman-type adventure that is sparked by a traumatic childhood experience.
The story is the creation of Brown’s imagination but includes elements of Lovecraft’s work and personal life. In his research, Brown came across letters that Lovecraft had written that included examples of his dry sense of humor. Brown injected some of that same humor into “Frozen Kingdom’s” dialogue.
The plot involves a mysterious book bestowed upon the fictional Lovecraft after visiting his father in the sanitarium. The book is based on the “Necronomicon,” a book of magic that’s featured in Lovecraft’s fiction.
“So what happens is he reads from the book of forbidden knowledge, and it opens up a portal to this kingdom,” Brown said.
The adventure-filled book is intended to introduce young readers to Lovecraft’s work, but Brown said that adults, especially fans of Lovecraft, will also appreciate it.
At the drawing board
Brown had previously submitted a five-page draft to Arcana Studio, a Canadian publisher, and quickly landed a publishing deal.
“It was probably about an hour after I submitted it. Arcana responded and wanted to sign a contract for it. It happened really fast,” he said.
As the author, and holder of the contract, Brown was responsible for hiring an artist to illustrate the book. Along with dialogue, a comic book writer also describes the action depicted in each scene, and a description of each character. The author and artist must then collaborate on a shared vision, a process that usually requires some initial rough sketches.
Brown’s scripts are driven by dialogue with a minimum of narrative. The artwork, therefore, plays a major role in moving the story forward. For the Lovecraft book, Brown enlisted the services of Renzo Podesta, a respected artist of graphic novels.
“When you work with the high-level professionals, they’re really good artists, and you can just give them the script and they go with it. After a short while, that’s the way it ended up working on this one because Renzo is just a phenomenal artist,” he said.
Brown’s previous credits include co-writing “M Theory,” described as sci-fi pulp fiction, and “Interagents,” a superhero story set during World War II. He also contributed a short story to an anthology that raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims.
His next project, “Jack and the Zombie Box,” is in the works and should be familiar to any parent who’s had a child who became obsessed with a single movie or TV show.
“It means a lot”
Brown has seen his industry change over the years.
Blockbuster movies such as “Spider-Man” and “Iron Man” have introduced a new generation of people to classic comic book characters. The downside to the trend is many publishers, at least the major ones, now judge a book’s merits on its potential to be adapted into a Hollywood screenplay.
“It’s bad in the sense that I think it might cause some hesitancy to try something more riskier,” he said.
He cited the works of Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb as examples of writers whose more-than-slightly offbeat subject matter might not catch the interest of today’s publishers, especially if they were unknown writers just starting out. (Interestingly, both writers achieved mainstream notice in acclaimed movies. Crumb is the subject of an award-winning documentary, while Pekar’s life was the inspiration for the Oscar-nominated, “American Splendor.”)
But Brown doesn’t concern himself much with such things. He’s always looking for his next project, letting his imagination lead the way and doing it all for the love of the comic book.
“I just enjoy writing comics. It’s a unique form of storytelling. And since comics have always been so personal to me, it means a lot to do this.
Dan Naumovich is a freelance writer and business copywriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.