In Part 2 of our Feature Interview with Mat Broome, we discuss his plans for his new series DefCon 2055 as both a comic book and animated feature, get a small preview of the highly anticipated DC Universe Online video game, and more!
Click here to check out Part 1!
SACKS: Let’s talk about DefCon 2055. You’re returning to a project that you worked on – geez, 15 or 16 years ago?
BROOME: You’re making me feel old! [Laughter]
It’s funny. It’s not the same as the original but it’s definitely – I’m inspired by the original, obviously – sci-fi world, very Gilliam-esque, very Blade Runner, but this one’s different. Different story. The protagonists have changed. A little smarter world, a little more mature environment. DefCon 2055 is really about a hero’s journey, but the ultimate conflict in this story is himself. There are no stories that I like reading more than this type of story.
A perfect example – I saw Inception recently. I hope that people got out of the movie what I did. The thing that was most amazing to me about the movie was that I was watching the hero’s journey. At no point was I confident that what I was watching was a hero. That is just compelling to me. That was something I really wanted to get with DefCon 2055.
Me and Alan Warner are writing this together, and one of the key things for us is we really want DefCon 2055 to feel like – even though everything is presented in front of you for the journey of the main character, Jaden, you really don’t feel confident that you know which decisions he’s going to make. And I think that is by far one of the biggest differences between the original DefCon and this version.
This one is really about one main character, the support system around him, and how much changes in his journey right before your eyes. And then the final decision that he makes after this journey.
SACKS: Tell me about the world he lives in. It’s not exactly the wonderful world of 2010.
BROOME: There are places in 2055 where basically what you have are landing zones. Landing zones have blossomed out to be marketplaces and food centers and triage centers. They’ve really become cities, because they’re the only places where the budget makes sense to actually dedicate resources in what is now called the United Union.
The United Union basically is made up of 8 of the wealthiest nations across the world, because there’s no such thing as continents anymore. That’s over. This is now really about how global power is holding on to the majority of everybody else.
So in 2055 things are dark but they’re not hopeless. I think a lot of time, tales that are completely hopeless – where one site is completely wrong and the other side is completely lost – I think at times it doesn’t allow the environment to benefit the character or even act as a surprising element.
So in DefCon 2055, things are definitely dark. They’re definitely bad. But we haven’t lost yet.
SACKS: And we have an uncertain hero to lead the way.
BROOME: It’s the best story every! He’s going to save the world!
SACKS: I thought it was interesting how when the original DefCon came out about manga influence in your work. Our conception of manga has changed completely since the original series came out. How do you see the Eastern influence in your work these days?
BROOME: It’s still there, and you’re right, it has changed completely. I have been such a tremendous fan of manga and anime my entire life. It’s been a huge influence on me. And what’s been awesome is that during my career I’ve seen Western civilization have a tremendous impact and influence on anime. It has been a wonderful thing.
Looking at stuff like Vampire Hunter D, Blood Lust, Blood the Vampire, Afro Samurai, we can go down the line. These things are tremendously Western influenced anime. And I think it has really, honestly, improved it. That might upset some people, but that’s how I feel. I actually feel that as the artistic influences have come together, it’s fused into something that’s almost like Anime 1.0.
I look at stuff like Afro Samurai that’s just so fast, so in your face, fists flying to the camera, that’s Western influence. That’s us. But then you look at stuff like the style and the way they’re pushing the bodies and even sitting still there’s just dynamic motion. That’s anime at its best.
That’s really what I’ve tried to push toward with my style, which is one of the things that drove me to that’s just flat-out animation. Because instead of trying to draw the things like they were moving when they were sitting still, I was started to get into the sketching, the composition of the artwork. I wanted to see the stuff move.
SACKS: You’re releasing an animated cartoon along with the DefCon 2055 comic?
BROOME: Yes, it is.
SACKS: Do you ever get to see your kids? [Laughter]
BROOME: It’s either children, family or work. [Laughter] Literally. It’s all I’ve been doing for the last 6 years. Once I launch the site and ship DC, it’s going to be – get a beer. Sometimes it’s like just family and work…
SACKS: So talk about the DefCon 2055 cartoon.
BROOME: The DefCon2055 cartoon is going to be absolutely a blast, I can honestly say. And here’s why I say it’s different. On DefCon 2055 I’m actually doing eall writing with Alan Warner and production art alone. I have an absolutely outstanding voice over actor, Tracy Bush. I have an excellent co-writer, Alan Warner. I have an outstanding audio director, Chad Mossholder, and a fantastic AD, Charley Hadley.
On DefCon 2055, on the production side, I’m literally doing 100% of the production. There’s no ink assist. There’s no color assist. There’s no background painter of 3D modeling artist. That’s all me. I’m doing backgrounds using Maya, Z Brush, some 3D programs and After Effects – thankfully I’ve gotten fast at doing this over the years working at games – and then I’m going back in afterwards and painting things, like Pixar/Disney would do, before final composite. That way I can get the anal detail that I like into the scene like I’m used to from the Image days..
At the same time keep those characters simple and easy to look at. Something that I never really did when did the traditional comic work. But now that I’m able to start and finish all my artwork, now that I’m going to the graphic novel, I can get these rich, deep, ridiculously painted environments and get the detail I like. Because I love detail. I’m an Image brat, so I love detail in everything. But at the same time leave the characters very easy to see with expressions.
What’s special about DefCon 2055 is one person doing all the production and turning out 120 seconds of animation on a regular basis is kind of an unusual thing. The reason I wanted to do that was – I like motion comics, but over the last 6 years while building the site, one of the points of building the site was having somewhere for this kind of stuff to live. Where can I just put up my stuff and not have a bunch of stuff like a dog kicking a grownup in his balls or something.
I just wanted a serious place to put my stuff where, people who really wanted to get entertained by working professionals or really talented amateurs could go see the stuff. So with DefCon 2055 it’s got a home. Now I have the motivation to do it and keep it going because I can put it up every month o
r two and have 2 minutes of original show. And then what I’m going to do is, after I’ve collected enough animation over the course of the year, I’m going to add 10 minutes of original content to that. I’m going to go in and ship it with the book, and actually attach the animation to it as well. So it’s a graphic novel and a movie.
SACKS: Sounds like a fun package.
BROOME: For me personally I’ve been saying this for years, I don’t think the answer is motion comics or graphic novels. I think the answer is graphic novel with an animated movie. I think the animated movie can live virally in the electronic device. It’s easy to see and consume the file and characters while you wait for the graphic novel which has all original panels and stuff.
There’s some repurposing, of course, since I’m drawing this on cell paper from the beginning so it’s easy to reuse some of it. But there’s going to be original panels in the graphic novel that you literally never saw animated. I truly, fundamentally, don’t agree that the two media types can live together and I did about nine months of them trying to live together before it became obvious: I’m going to animate this one as a movie and I can take some of this to save time. But ultimately I’ve got to draw completely new assets for a graphic novel. I can tell you that from about nine months in, that was the right decision.
SACKS: They’re different media. You need to present content in different ways. Look at Watchmen. Film is different from comics.
BROOME: It just doesn’t work. It does not work. You can write the best screenplay in the world for the animation and then you start to animate the stuff for the movie, and before long you realize that this talking head sequence is 5 minutes. There’s no way in the world that you can do a graphic novel – and this is just my opinion, there are others who are going to read this and disagree – but they do the exact same thing for a motion comic and it just does not work.
So one of the benefits that I’ve gotten from just flat-out animating this stuff is that when the camera is not moving around, just the characters in the scenes are, you get to tell a traditional story. Instead of having the characters tell you what happened, you get to see them do what happened. And it’s just different.
Sure, it does mean that you have to spend – and I just did this recently on a scene that I haven’t shown yet – it took me 3 weeks to do this scene and it’s about 17 seconds of screen time. That’s just going to happen on action scenes. You just can’t get around it. But there’s dialogue that’s probably more important, I would argue, for story development, that can run as long as 2 minutes.
I think that’s the thing that filmmakers have known forever. I definitely don’t consider myself an experienced filmmaker. But what I really want to do with DefCon is I wanted to prove that one person could do all of this and put it out on a regular or episodic basis. What I’m hoping to do is really shift that balance back to the creative again. Because if one person can site and do animation- all the production, post-production, Cinema Cut pass, After Effects, model it, paint it, all that kinds of stuff – they’re either (a) nuts, which is probably a little bit true; or (b) I’m hoping it will encourage others to join me and do the same thing. Because I think it’s where the medium should go.
BROOME: Yes! Yes! I cannot wait for us to finally drop that trailer out there. We have seen this finished product, and we knew that we were excited about the trailer and such. We were wondering how people would react.
On the game side itself, I’ve been working on DC Universe as Visual Director for the past 6 years, leading up to the launch on November 2nd, which I could not be more proud of, and could not be more excited about.
SACKS: Everything is converging at the same time for you, Mat. You’ll be free for the holidays!
BROOME: I can almost guarantee you I’ll be somewhere on vacation in mid-December.
I gotta tell you, it’s been absolutely awesome to work on this project. It’s been a tremendous amount of work. Working with Jim Lee again has been the equivalent of a class reunion. That’s the only way to describe it. You see a friend who you haven’t seen for years, you see him coming and going.
But when they asked me to work on DC, it was Jim and the president of the company that had actually spearheaded that. They made the decision that, why do we have a guy who works here with us at Sony in Mat who had been drawing comics by that time for 17 years. He’s one of the art directors here at Sony. He’s probably got more experience to make this game than anybody.
So basically Jim and Sven called me up and said, we know you’re working on these couple of other projects for the studio, but this is where we want you to be. What do you think about that? And I was like, let’s do it.
From that point on, from day one of the project, me and Jim were flying back and forth to the development out of Sony Online Austin. I was also working with this amazingly talented staff here in San Diego where there’s Carlos and JJ and all the guys, and started doing all the visual design on DC. It was amazing. The awesome thing about was not just repurposing what we had drawn for years in comics. Which was kind of funny, by the way. It’s always funny redesigning stuff you’ve drawn for years. But taking it to another epic scale the way that Jim wanted to.
The one thing that was very clear for all of us at the very beginning of DC was we wanted to take this all to another level, scale wise. We wanted it to be the cities, the iconic locations, like you had never seen them before, and on a scale that you had never seen them before. I can tell you from me and Jim and the Sony staff, I think we’ve done that. I think people are going to see these areas in a way that is MMO style, which is just massive areas to discover and explore.
SACKS: It’s a fan’s dream come true to wander around Gotham City or Metropolis.
BROOME: You have never seen Gotham City like this. You’ve read it like this. That’s the important thing. You’ve read it like this. But to see Gotham and see Metropolis together is a really awesome experience. To go to areas you’ve read about for years and they’re there… There’s been a lot of really hard work. Even the hard work that Jim did with putting together the map of Metropolis, the map of Gotham, based on pieces and back references to what has been done before and filling in the gaps. That is literally what we have done on this game.
It is a spectacle to see.
This is the honest truth. I know people are thinking I’m just selling the game, but this is the honest truth. I still go into Metropolis and find parts of Metropolis that are parts of the books that I didn’t even know that they had finished doing the art on, and exported to the game. I quite literally go into areas that I can’t say and go oh my god, that so and so, that’s amazing. Fly around it, go down below it and go “oh my god.” It’s awesome. It’s awesome.
SACKS: No wonder the fans are excited.
BROOME: They’re going to love it. It is absolutely an action-based game. It is not an RPG style. This is not turn based. You push the button and you punch. You push it twice and he punches twice. It is action combat
in milliseconds and it is fast. It is bruising. It is a slugger. I honestly could not be prouder of that game. It is a great investment of 6 years of my life.
One of the terrific things is that over this last year, as things have been coming together and I’ve been getting ready to put the game out, was just that I’m going nuts because I get to see this stuff first and I’m still just this complete fanboy nerd at heart anyway. So I’m just looking at this stuff thinking “oh my god, oh my god!”
Even when we got the six-minute trailer in, I was like “oh my goodness,” I was just flipping out. You want people to see it. For me on DC, it’s like I’m ready to give birth. “Come on, come on, just give them the game! C’mon, just give them the game! What’s a couple months, just let them play now!”
But we’re working really hard getting all the pieces polished and in place. I’m very, very proud to be a small part of a great project, that’s for sure. It looks absolutely awesome. It looks awesome.
SACKS: You have four totally different areas you get to be creative in. When you started at Image all those years ago, is this kind of how you imagined your career turning out to be at this point?
BROOME: It’s kind of funny, one of the things I’ve been saying since I got into the entertainment business at the very beginning. I remember the very first comic job I had. I was very blessed. I got in and I was drawing X-Men for Marvel. I was at Marvel for over a year, and the one thing I said back then was that if I got an opportunity to be creative every day, I’m the luckiest person in the world. That was the only qualifier I had. I absolutely never thought I was going to have a comfortable lifestyle doing this.
I’m definitely still that little boy. I’m more paranoid about not being able to be creative, as opposed to how long my career lasts. I can definitely tell you for sure that I’m having an absolute blast.
But has it turned out the way I thought? I don’t know yet. I’m not done.
SACKS: So I did some research, like you’re supposed to do before you interview someone. I stumbled over the most unexpected work that I saw you’d done, which were some books about the Bible of all things. Fans think of you for your work on X-Men and DefCon and your work for Image. It was surprising to see these Biblically related books.
BROOME: That was something that I just personally have wanted to do for a long time. I’ve really wanted to do Christian material. Just get in there and do some children-level stuff with Bible stories. It was an absolute blast.
I got to HarperCollins, one of their divisions, and it was just absolutely awesome. We did 4 of those titles, and then I did another book with HarperCollins, which was also like a Christian book but it was kind of like a Christian Cool kind of book. That was with the rock group POD. Basically I met with those guys and did the whole rock star thing with them and talked about them and their characters and their interests. We did the same thing – I think it was called POD Nexus. Lie rally those were just like, I just want to do these pretty cool books that are really laid back and light, but there’s a moral message to them and stuff so my kids could read these things and just check them out.
My kids are only 3 and 5. So it’s like some of this stuff I draw, like a fist going through a head and drawing each piece of a brain breaking apart, it’s not exactly age appropriate.
They can’t necessarily play all my games, either. I had to do something that I thought I could sit around and read to the kids, when they would be born. So the Christian and POD stuff that was absolutely a blast. And literally as I’m doing this interview they’re sitting on the bookshelf, at the 2-foot level that they can read and sometimes throw up on and use as dinner plates. But they put a little effort into trying to read it, the five-year-old does.
SACKS: And you get them into comics early.
So I have one final question I ask in all my interviews: what else do you want our readers to know about you or your work?
BROOME: There are a couple of things coming up. The one key thing on the CreatorSafe side – there are a lot of names coming to CreatorSafe. Too many to mention in interviews. The one thing to tell anybody reading the interview is that my focus is going to be on making sure that this community is more accessible than it’s ever been before. And I think that I’ve built an environment to make that possible.
I really want to kill the gray area of entertainment and I want to stop saying things like Insiders and Outsiders. I really want to start saying things like Creators because I think that’s where all of us belong and think we’re much stronger as a village than we are separated in villas.
On the DefCon 2055 side of things, I’ve got some really cool things going on that are going to involve live action, animation and graphic novel. It’s really taking this whole thing to the next level. Things are already in development. I’ll be making an announcement about those things next year. All those things will be able to be consumed as well in much the same way: deployed on a regular basis in an episodic way, but you’ll be able to see the characters you love in any format you want, whether animated, live action or just read them on the print page.
Ultimately I think that’s where entertainment has gone. I’m just trying to get it more to that point on deployment real-time.
I’m getting close. Very close. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more painful, I’m finding ways. [Laughs]