TR Interview: Jeffrey Brown of "The Incredible Change-Bots"

By Chris Cummins in Comics
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm
You mentioned the Balls and Microwave vinyl figures. Were they ever officially released?
They were never officially released. It got to the point where they had been listed in Diamond. The prototypes were all designed and everything. It was all set to go into production and then the deal fell apart. It's still something that might be possible down the road, especially now that I've got a second book coming out, and the first book will be coming back into print in the spring too. Maybe somewhere down the road we'll get the resources together to make it happen.

One of the first things I was introduced to your work through was Death Cab for Cutie's video for "Your Heart Is an Empty Room." How did you get involved with them and what was that process like?
A friend introduced me to Aaron Stewart-Ahn who was one of the directors and is also friends with Nick Harmer who is the bassist for Death Cab. I met Aaron at San Diego Comic Con and we ended up hanging out through other mutual friends and really got along. He and Nick had already come up with the idea for Directions--the idea of having a low budget video for each song packaged as a DVD album. And so they just invited a ton of directors and illustrators, animators, different people whose work they liked to pitch videos. Everyone who was invited could pick one song and then write a summary of what the video would be. So I chose "Your Heart Is an Empty Room" and they picked my video. I also heard that not many people submitted for my song either. (Laughs) I don't know how much that helped. It all worked out. I worked with an animator in California. It was kind of a tight schedule. I think it was October when they chose all the people who would be participating and signed the contracts and the videos had to be finished by January. So it was one of those times where I dropped everything else I was working on and really focused on that. I think for never having done it before and for what I was trying to do with it turned out pretty much how I envisioned.

When the first Change Bots book came out, there was a great animated trailer. Would you like to do an animated series with the characters?

I would love to have something like that happen. There's been something kind of in the works that I guess I'm not supposed to talk about exactly. I don't know if I can talk about it now. There's a studio that was shopping it around. So far nothing concrete has happened but I would love for something like that to happen. I think the proposal that they were shopping was a slightly different take then what the books are. Like the toys I think there's interest there, it just hasn't reached the right critical point I guess.

If one were made, would you prefer it to run on Saturday mornings or on Adult Swim? Would you be involved with the writing of every episode or would you have a role where you oversaw things?
I go back and forth on that. I've tried to make the books a more all ages. I mean there's lots of I guess innuendo but I've tried to stay away from anything explicitly adult with them. So I think I envision maybe something on the Cartoon Network, but not necessarily Adult Swim. But in as far as how involved, on the one hand I think I'd want to control it but on the other hand I think my interest is so much more making comics then taking on something like that which would be a pretty big undertaking. Not just in terms of me being able to do more Change Bots comic. But whatever other work I might want to do might get swallowed up by working on a show like that. I think I would be happiest if someone else was driving it and I could come in and write an episode once in awhile. That kind of level of involvement. And then also let the books be their own separate things. Not necessarily have a direct continuity between whatever the cartoon was and the book stuff.

How did you get involved contributing with Marvel's Strange Tales?
I hadn't been asked to contribute for the first series, which I was really disappointed with because it was my childhood dream to draw for Marvel Comics. But they had gone through I think four or five different editors, and by the time they got to Jody LeHeup who was the last editor the lineup was cemented. I know various people had suggested me to the editors at different points. It turned out there was a two-pager that the artist wasn't going to be able to deliver in time for the third issue of the first series. I think a few people had kind of bugged the editor about me, saying if there's a second volume to make sure they ask me. I guess Jody had seen some of my work, so he called me up and asked if I would be able to finish a two-page strip in time which I think gave me two weeks to do it, another one of those drop everything and finish this one thing really quick. So I said "of course" and when they did the second volume they asked me if I would do another four-pager.

Are there any other mainstream comic characters that you'd like to write for that you haven't had the opportunity to yet?
Most of Marvel (laughs). Growing up, X-Men was far and away my favorite and I would love to do more X-Men stories. Fantastic Four was another favorite. Although I did the two-pager that's just enough space to do a short gag with them. So I wouldn't mind doing more with them, especially with The Thing. I loved Walt Simonson's run on Thor and I'd like to do some Thor maybe. Those would be the top ones.

Recently you did a story for Fraggle Rock, would you be interested in doing any other smaller press indie work outside of your own material?
I wouldn't mind doing a Hellboy story sometime. I don't know, there's so much out there. I wouldn't mind doing something Star Wars someday either.

Your works have featured everything from a Dune drinking game to ruminations on Dungeons & Dragons, so is it safe to say that you consider yourself a nerd?
Yes. I mean I was in the theater at midnight to see Lord of the Rings; Dune is still amongst my favorite films. Being a parent has cut into the time and budget for some of that stuff. But I did recently buy some packs of Magic cards in hopes of getting a dragon because Oscar, my son, is really into dragons right now. So I dipped back into Magic. And I still read all the Warhammer 40,000 books. I guess another I wouldn't mind doing is Warhammer 40,000 comics. Although Boom finished their license with them awhile back so I don't know when that opportunity will arise. Yes, I'm definitely a big nerd.

Do you have any collecting habits -- either that you are passing the torch to your son or picking up for yourself?
I try really hard to get away from my collecting tendencies. Just because it tends to eat up so much money and time. I do still buy hockey cards sometimes, and comics obviously. Last year my summer goals were to collect the Flex Mentallo series, which I did, and Secret Wars II along with all the crossover issues.

That's a pretty big undertaking.
I managed to do it all at Wizard World Chicago. All in one show.

Thanks to Jeffrey Brown for his time and Leigh Walton at Top Shelf Productions for arranging the interview.

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