“Strangelove: I Want to be Chrome” creator Brenden Swan talks horror, manga, and love with robots (interview)
In June, comic book creater Brenden Swan launched an Indiegogo campaign for Strangelove: I Want to be Chrome, an all-new one-shot graphic novel written and illustrated by Swan himself. We got a chance to have a friendly back and forth with Swan, who was gracious enough to respond to our questions on the Strangelove project.* As always, the answers below are represented “as written.”
The Splintering (TS): Your art is clearly anime/manga-inspired inspired. What are some of your favorite anime/manga?
Brenden Swan (Brenden): Like my taste in music, I prefer anime/manga from the 70s and 80s. I’m not as much of an anime person, though, I usually stick to manga. Some of my favorite artists include Leiji Matsumoto, Hirohiko Araki, Shirato Sanpei, and horror creator Kazuo Umezu. As for Western comic book artists, I’ll add Tim Sale and Keroscoet.
TS: You’ve described yourself as an old-school SEGA fan. Are there any SEGA influences in Strangelove? (Some of the art looks to me as though it has a slight Zillion flare to it)
Brenden: It wouldn’t surprise me, ha. Some of those old Sega games had artwork that was probably just as much as an influence as those mentioned in the above question. Of course, I didn’t see the Japanese artwork until much later since … well that was retro games for you, changing the box art. Just to add some good game art, Phantasy Star II/III, Alisia Dragoon, and anything by Treasure.
TS: The Indiegogo page for Strangelove notes that the book is for fans of the “bizarre.” How bizarre we talking? Disconcerting bizarre or darkest-corners-of-the-Internet bizarre?
Brenden: More of the former. While Strangelove is a horror story, the “bizarre” comes in the form of an eerie mood. The kind of scare that is not about gore, but more in the formation of an atmosphere. (Although, there is some blood.)
TS: Since the world is now confronting a reality with “love robots,” that comes with quite a few ethical questions. Would you consider Strangelove to be a morality tale?
Brenden: This is ultimately where to idea for this comic came. However, Strangelove doesn’t take a side on which is correct. It does deal with the question of can a man love a robot? Not morally, just the ability to do so. And if so, then what is love? I hope readers ponder this after they finish the book.
Do you have a personal favorite “rise of the robots”-type science fiction story?
Brenden: Strangely enough, the idea of a “killer” robot comes more from a killer doll. Namely Chuckie from Child’s Play. The idea was, well we’ve seen a killer child’s doll, so let’s do a killer adult doll. But for a more robot dystopian story, one of my first manga was Grey by Toshihisa Tagami, a world ruled with robot patrols and towns that seem to be in a never ending war with each other. The big difference with Strangelove though, is the conflict of Beauty No. 2 is more small-scale, focused only on Robin and his girlfriend Emi.
TS: As a writer/artist all wrapped into one, have you ever thought about partnering with other creators on a project? Do you consider yourself a writer first, or vice versa?
Brenden: Sure, If I can get Nasser Rabadi back into making comics, ha. I’ve always been more of the lone wolf type of creator, but I’m open to working with others should a good opportunity present itself. I’ve always thought of myself as an artist first, and that goes for my favorite comic book creators that both draw and write. I always consider them artists first, probably because I consider the art the most important thing in if I buy a comic or not.
TS: What types of pages do you prefer to draw? Splashes, heavy action, etc.?
Brenden: I don’t think I have a specific type of page. More like whether or not a page comes easy. By that I mean when the idea of how I’m going to translate the image in my head onto paper is more effortless. I will say that the characters on the page also influence whether I like to draw it more than others. Beauty No. 2 being my favorite to draw in Strangelove, followed by scientist A. Stone.
TS: Veteran comic book writer Chuck Dixon is on record saying that comics took a hard turn towards superheroes several decades ago, and that the industry would be healthier today if it had not largely abandoned other genres, like horror. Do you agree? How would you describe the current state of horror comics?
Brenden: I’d have to agree. I’ll always be a Batman fan and X-men fan (still mostly 80s), but it’s no coincidence most of the comics I read are from Japan or Europe and not superheroes. Not too many years back, I also got into reading the old Tales from the Crypt comics. I wonder what it would have been like to have been around when a new issue of that was coming out.
TS: Horror films often rely on the unseen, “jump scares” and sound design to build suspense. What about comics as a medium do you think is well-suited for telling the story of Strangelove? Is there anything about comics that you find limiting?
Brenden: I think the biggest component comics lack is music. However, I think sound effects can work in a similar way. Comics also have a very unique way in which they are read, where the pace is determined by the reader. Comics also have a time bending aspect to it where multiple events or a progression of time can be told in one static image. Maybe it’s just me but these two things are what makes comics more engrossing to me and what makes it the perfect medium for Strangelove.
TS: A year from now, how would you describe success for the Strangelove project? Do you have any follow-up projects in the works?
Brenden: Strangelove is a way to get my foot in the door. To show what I’ve got and build notice. Following Strangelove, I’m aiming to focus on one large book. A book filled with many stories separate stories but with the unifying theme of human relationships. Building off the success of Strangelove, I’ll be able to say there’s more where that came from.
TS: What would you do with the power of the Beyonder?
Brenden: I’d like to say some witty answer here, but it’d probably be the same answer I have for any “what would you do if you had this super power” question . . . something perverted.
We would like to once again thank Brenden Swan for taking the time to answer our questions and to have some fun with us. You can also visit the Strangelove: I Want to be Chrome Indiegogo page here.