Q&A Artist Feature: Comic Book Creator R. Alan Brooks and The Burning Metronome
It’s 5 o’clock on what seems like just a normal Friday afternoon but there’s already an almost palpable. artistic, and lively vibe buzzing within the eclectic walls of Mutiny Cafe as I walk through the front door. Scattered groups of colorful people mill around in an all-embracing dance of a shared love for everything from books and comics to classic rock posters and painted artwork hanging above flyer covered windows looking out onto Broadway. The place reeks of brewing coffee and inspiration; the perfect atmosphere to meet comic book creator creator, R. Alan Brooks. I take my seat next to him at a corner table inundated by the late day sun in order to talk about his latest creation, The Burning Metronome.
You recently released your first graphic novel, The Burning Metronome. What is the significance behind the title?
Well, as music geeks know, metronomes keep time in music. So the idea of one that’s burning conjures the image of time running out, which I like.
Is this your first major writing endeavor and if so, why a graphic novel?
I’ve been reading comic books since I was 5, and only decided to try writing them a few years ago. Comics are a unique medium, because when you’re reading one, you’re essentially collaborating with its creators to determine the pace and rhythm of the story. You decide how quickly the page turns, and how much time you spend looking at the art. There are methods comic creators can use to encourage you to speed up or slow down, but ultimately, it’s up to you. Even movies can’t do that. And that’s something that I love about comic books.
I’ve known you a while now, particularly as a hip-hop artist. What was this writing process like for you? Did the ideas come as easily?
Generally, ideas come pretty easily, but the execution of those ideas is the real work. Any artist ,aspiring or professional, can often pluck ideas out of the air, but it doesn’t matter if we aren’t willing to do the work to craft those ideas into finished products. So, once I have an idea, the next step for me is to mold it into something that is entertaining to people besides myself. Because, after all, I can only buy so many copies of my own book.
Graphic novels are like comic books in a sense that they use sequential art to drive the story, but this format tends to lead to more stand-alone stories and complex plots. So what is the story within The Burning Metronome?
The Burning Metronome is about six courageous explorers who find themselves trapped in a world where they encounter the strangest creatures they’ve ever seen: human beings. It’s basically a supernatural murder mystery with social commentary; kind of a Twilight-Zone-meets-Usual-Suspects type of story.
Did the comics you grew up on or ones you are currently reading have any influence over your own work?
Comics like Watchmen, Kingdom Come, and X-men all featured social commentary, and strongly influenced me as a kid. More recently, Ex-Machina, Hawkeye, Black Science, and Kill or Be Killed and others have made me more aware of what can done with genre storytelling in comics.
Who did you work with on this project and how did that relationship come to fruition?
I wrote the script and my partner Matt Strackbein did all the color art and lettering. Matt and I met just under 2 years ago at a birthday party for a mutual friend and we immediately began to talk about ways we could collaborate. Frankly, I was lucky to be able to work with him because his design work has appeared around the world, and he’s been published by Dark Horse Comics.
What do you hope readers take away from the story?
Once you read The Burning Metronome, my first hope is that you’ll enjoy it. My second hope is that you’ll find some encouraging and different ways to look at your own life, and that you’ll feel enriched for having read it.
You were at Comic Con in Denver this year. What was that experience like as a writer and what was the fan reaction to The Burning Metronome?
Wonderful. It was crazy to connect with so many people who were enthusiastic about something I created with Matt, and have them so excited about what we were doing. It was so cool and emotionally fulfilling that I frankly can’t imagine it having gone better.
Have other reviews and fan comments exceeded your expectations?
So far, so good. Ha! People have been very generous with their feedback, and I’m very thankful.
Sometimes there tends to be a steady stream of new work hitting the market without much of a break between projects. Are you currently writing a follow up or working on any other projects?
I’m actually outlining the second story arc of The Burning Metronome now. Also, I’m writing Falling Deep, a comic that Gerhard Kaaihue is drawing. That’s a secret agent story, which is really an exploration of love and divorce.
In addition, I’m continuing to write a children’s comic called The Adventures of Captain Colorado for Pop Culture Classroom, an educational non-profit that puts on Denver Comic Con.
Finally, I’m on my second draft of a film script for a director in Atlanta.
There seems to be a resurgence in both the comic book and graphic novel industry and it’s sort of the cool thing to do now. What is the scene like here in Denver?
It’s full of talented and generous people who all support each other’s endeavors in really dope ways. I love being part of this community.
Copies of The Burning Metronome for purchase can be found at various comic book shops, at Mutiny Cafe, or online at: www.theburningmetronome.com
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