w/ Special Guests Park Cooper and Barb Lien-Cooper

This is what happens when you get three SBC columnists, and put ’em in a room together…

After meeting the husband and wife duo at the recent San Diego convention, we began plotting the inevitable team-up column, and the following discussion is the result. Beginnings & influences, and explanations are offered, as well as one of the most awkward definitions of the writing process that you’re likely to encounter. But Park and Barb told me there was something honest about the whole thing, so we ran with it. Part 1 now, part two on Friday in The Mostly Park Show. Enjoy.

Park: Okay… I’m Park, but Barb’s here nearby… Let’s start with you first…What got you into this? Comics, one presumes? Which? Or is that a weak presumption?

Brandon: The first thing that really sparked me was when my father took me to my first comic shop back in 1992, and introduced me to the whole scene, as he used to collect everything back in the day and always regretted not keeping his first issues of Spidey, and X-Men and the like.

Park: 1992? You’re so young. You disgust me. But pray continue.

Barb: So you were definitely a Marvel Boy?

Brandon: Most of my first stack was Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men, and early Image. I followed characters and those were my favorites easily. I don’t think I’d started to really differentiate between companies quite yet, so I followed most of the big guns. Batman appealed to me because of the movie naturally, and the three issue ashcan mini that I got by way of mail order, from turning in the POPs from Batman cereal didn’t hurt.

Park: See, I got into Marvel, then into DC. Barb never really had that early Marvel phase. She started with DC and I slowly weaned her over to Marvel because I needed her to understand who the X-Men were so I could wield my full metaphor arsenal.

Barb: And do you read outside the Big Four now? If so, what?

Park: What’s the Big Fourth?

Barb: Dark Horse.

Park: Oh.

Brandon: Now, I tend to follow creators and if I can get my hands on the books, then I’ll read ’em. I’m not one of those people frightened by the back of the Previews catalog, but it took me years to figure out what was back there. Can you remember what your first independent comic was? That you read, of course.

Park: Heh, he means as opposed to those you write, dear.

Barb: Does Doom Patrol count? I mean, I was one of those pretentious college-girl Vertigo heads. I didn’t start reading indies until Sequential Tart. No, wait, I do know. It was Metropol A.D., by Ted McKeever, published by Epic. Quel ironic. Park gave it to me.

Park: Of course Epic was TECHNICALLY a subset of Marvel, but it’s more indie, technically, than Doom Patrol. Barely.

Barb: No, I take that back. My first indie comic was Will Eisner’s The Spirit, published by the guys before Harris, and Shlomo Raven, Public Eye, by Byron Preiss. Old horror comics, which shows up sometimes in my writing, or used to.

Brandon: I can’t even remember, probably like the Ninja Turtles book, but that was mostly because of the cartoon. I was twelve, I couldn’t even SPELL pretentious…it’s borderline embarrassing just how recently I’ve dived into Vertigo.

Park: As long as you were reading the real Eastman and Laird, and not just the Archie Turtles.

Brandon: Read both actually, Archie also published the Ghostbusters comic…wait, maybe that was NOW.

Park: That was NOW. They also did The Green Hornet, which I read for almost as long as it lasted, and the Married With Children comic of all things.

Brandon: I never really got into Green Hornet, they were just those weird guys that showed up on the Adam West Batman series to me…I knew nothing, forgive me 😉

Park: Oh yeah…

Brandon: Spawn #1 was one of the first comics I ever read, and it was something my dad made me pick up. I was aiming for Spider-Man, I’m sure. Is there any big event that you can tie your “induction” into the comics industry to. Mine is the launching of Image naturally…

Barb: As an adult, Vertigo. As a kid, the Adam West Batman reruns. When I was such a tomboy that I would play with the boys and they’d play Batman and I’d play Robin because I was smaller than they were. I wonder what Fred Wertham would have said about that…

Barb: And I had a cousin who was into comics and he treated me like a little brother so… that’s how I got into DC/Marvel.

Park: I thought you didn’t get into Marvel.

Barb: I read it, I just didn’t like it… couldn’t get into it… such a complicated world.

Park: That’s why we have the Ultimate line, dear.

Brandon: Hell, that was the appeal for me. All those multi-part crossovers with the crazy covers, I loved all of that stuff. I was one of the many reasons that companies were convinced that crossovers were the natural way to spike sales.

Park: As an adult, Sandman, then Vertigo. As a kid, just going and buying Marvel comics and stuff… my cousins bought Marvel… Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up, the Hobgoblin, the Black Cat, Contest of Champions…

Park: 1992 was the year cartoons happened… Batman Animated… and the bad X-Men cartoons which were… well, bad, but they sort of filled Barb in on the characters and the seeds of Claremont.

Brandon: I loved all of those cartoons. I need a DVD recorder so I can transfer the old videos onto DVDs, because I have them all, well most of them…

Brandon: What was the first indicator or the first thing that led you down the writer’s path as it were…

Barb: I started just writing about characters I liked from comics… just to see if I could, because it seemed like it should be easy… and I enjoyed it… Then I showed some to Mark, like a naive fangirl, and he said I should be doing it for real. Or did you want to hear about writing in general, not just comics?

Brandon: Both is cool. I’ve mentioned this in Ambi., but seeing Star Wars for the first time set me off in a way that’s hard to explain. After I saw it (on video of course) I started looking at everything else differently. I started filling in the blanks on Saturday morning cartoons after that, and from there I guess it was a matter of time. Even though I had NO idea what the hell I was even doing.

Barb: In general, I always wanted to be a writer of some type… maybe suspense, mystery… but to me comics is a place to get ideas going quickly, because I want to go so fast… I don’t have to describe the sunset, just tell the artist there is one… it’s the next closest thing to being the director… my artist is my cameraman and art director, I get to be the auteur… it’s advantageous because of my mind’s speed.

Brandon: I was intending on writing a novel until during high school, I went to the Chicago convention, this is pre-Wizard I think, and sat in on Chuck Dixon’s Ten Commandments of Comic Book Writing. The novel soon went the way of the do-do, but I still think about doing one sometimes…

Barb: Why is this so important to you? What gifts do you bring to this? Why are you different from Joe Shlamboy who also wants to make a living from this?

Brandon: Good one. I don’t know how you’d describe it, but it’s what I love doing, and if I think back, it’s the one thing I’ve done consistently growing up, as everything else falls away. I’m different from Joe Shlamboy, because he gave up long ago.

Barb: Is it because you want it more? Or is it because you can do a better job?

Brandon: I’d like to think both, it’s just that people grow up and we’re all told we have this talent, this one thing that we can do better than most others, and for me I think that’s writing. It’s just the one thing I’ve refused to left go, the need to pass this feeling onto someone else down the line and continue spreading this
affliction…I can’t describe it really, sorry…

Barb: That’s cool.

Brandon: It’s important because I have something to say.

Park: THAT’s the right answer… and what do you have to say?

Brandon: LOL. Oh, man, this is tough.

Park: Heh heh…no pressure. It’s a good attitude right there…

Park: Barb believes thatyou have gifts for the world, she just wants you to define them a bit. And feel free to sound egotistical, a writer needs an ego.

Brandon: Because I rock so hard and no one knows it yet…that’s the answer there 😉

Park: Yeah, that No One Knows It yet rankles, don’t it?

Brandon: No, because I think that my voice is individual from others, and whether or not this is an ethnic thing, or an ego thing I don’t know, but I decided a long time ago, that THIS is what I was put here to do, and who am I to argue with that? I write because I have to.

Park: There you go, that’s the Zelaznyesque godlike aspect I was looking for. Well, hoping for. That Neil Gaiman, Oh, hello, don’t mind me, I’m just a little man who happens to write things only works for one man.

Brandon: I don’t know why I have to, but I wake up with this feeling in the back of my head that tells me I should, and then I go to sleep, and wake up, and it’s there again, and you get it. Like I said in my column, we’re all obsessive-compulsives in reality, and this is the compulsion.

Park: Yes, me too… just not the same way as you and Barb. Not quite, anyway.

Brandon: What’s your philosophical explanation for it?

Park: I do the educate the world thing, and that’s a different flavor of thing for me… Barb has one outlet, one focus, and she comes screaming out of it at unearthly speed. Oh, about what yours is.

Brandon: Is your ultimate goal confined to comics writing?

Barb: Yes. This is the medium to which I am best suited. I’ve got a lot of things to prove.

Barb: But yeah, about what you said… that feeling… that will keep you up at night if you don’t write it down.}

Brandon: I want to insert myself into everything, I always joke that if it has words in it, then I’m down to give it a shot. The only thing that I will never step foot into is music. No albums coming from this camp, but I want to do the novel one day, maybe some screenplays, anything that needs an idea to drive itself. Ambidextrous, for real…

Barb: Oh, I did the album thing. I’ve moved on since then. Comics grab me more. There’s so much you can do, so much that hasn’t been explored.

Barb: I’m disappointed as hell with the stupidity and the clichés that I’ve seen in comics, when they could be so much more.

Brandon: Exactly, and I don’t know about you, but I’m at the age where everyone is just completely clueless about what they want to do, or what they’re here for, and I know. Least I think I do. That’s a good feeling, to believe that you’ve found yourself in a way.

Next: More chatter in The Mostly Park Show this Friday as things conclude, and I’ve also just learned that Barb, a fellow Millar protégè, is about to have her dream series, GUN STREET GIRL, start at Modern Tales’ new GRAPHIC SMASH sub-site. More details to follow…

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