Celebrating 10 Years of “Criminal” with Ed Brubaker (Interview)

Apr 20, 2016


Ed Brubaker is a well known name in the comics industry having worked for the Marvel, DC and Image. He’s written characters like Catwoman and Daredevil along with well known series like Gotham Central, Fatale and more recently The Fade Out. We were lucky enough to talk with him about his hit series Criminal that’s soon coming out with a 10th anniversary issue. Without further delay please enjoy 10 questions with Ed Brubaker.

Geeks WorldWide: Throughout the Criminal series you had to create some incredibly morally ambiguous character perspectives; is that what your goal was when you began to write this series?

Ed Brubaker: I don’t know if I’d say that. I mostly follow gut instinct when I write. I think most good crime stories are focused much more on character than plot, which is probably why I’m so attracted to writing crime fiction. I’m always more interested in creating interesting characters and exploring what they’ll do when they get into bad situations, or when they bring bad situations upon themselves.criminal-2-comic-5

I think, though, as far as main characters go, in Criminal, most of them have a strong moral code, although they don’t follow the law. But Leo and Tracy, at least, are both decent people who do bad things. But they both have a sense of justice underlying a lot of their decisions

GWW:-Follow up: Heroes as archetype, heroes with so many gray areas; what draws you to that type of storytelling?

EB: It’s probably because most real people are complicated. Most of the people I know have done things they’re not proud of, I know I have, so it gives me a chance to explore that a bit - the way people have complex sides to them. Everyone is different than you really think they are. There’s something fascinating about that.

GWW: How do you feel your work compares to other works within the genre of “crime comics?”

EB: It’s not really up to me to say how our books compare to other crime comics. I think just looking at the few crime comics that are out there, none of them are really doing the same thing we do. Stray Bullets and Southern Bastards and me and Sean’s books couldn’t be more different, and I’m a big fan of both those comics.

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GWW: Was there anyone whose work you turned to for inspiration during this run, or works you’ve noticed since the end of your run that really seem to have been drawn heavily from your work?

EB: I don’t really know what you mean here. If you’re asking about Criminal, it’s certainly influenced by all the noir movies and crime novels I’ve absorbed in my life, but it’s never like me trying to ape anyone else’s style. I think when I started writing I wanted to be like Ross Macdonald, but you grow out of that stuff and develop your own voice, hopefully. Most of the inspirations I have come from real life or research. Even the Criminal story The Last of the Innocent, which is like a dark Archie comic, is really just me examining nostalgia and grief in the years after my father died.

GWW follow-up: “I myself have noticed some interesting parallels between your work and the work of Frank Miller in Sin City, particularly between the characters of Lawless and Marv. What are your feelings on some of the inherent similarities between these works?”

EB: I guess they have the same haircut.


GWW: Looking back at the series on as a whole is there anything you’d go back and do differently based on things you’ve learned in the past 10 years? Was there anything you learned about storytelling from the Criminal series that really helped you moving forward?

EB: I mean, you only see the things you wish you had done differently or better, when you look back through your own work. But it’s out there, so you have to stand by it, and hope the readers don’t see the stuff that bugs you.

Every story you do influences the next thing you write. For me, it’s usually that I want to write something totally different than whatever I just finished. Or different enough, structurally, or a different narrative style. I think it’s important to always try to push yourself and not just lean on the things you know you can do. It helps you grow and have better ideas, when you try things you’re not sure you can achieve.

GWW: Your comics are always critically acclaimed and successful in the eyes of comic readers. Do you ever feel the burden of being such a prolific creator? Are you ever scared the next story won’t find an audience?

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EB: Not scared exactly, but I certainly want each book to be as good or hopefully better than the last one. Me and Sean’s books keep finding bigger audiences with each project, so we’re incredibly lucky that way, and I never want to let our readers down.

It seems like our readers respond the most to the stuff that I think most people might not be interested in, but I just really want to write no matter what - Last of the Innocent, and The Fade Out - and I think part of it is doing something unlike what else is out there, and part of it is that people respond most to work they can tell the creators are passionate about. Like, no one expected Sex Criminals or Saga or even Walking Dead, to be hits, but they are.

So for me it’s always about what I feel most passionate and excited about writing. I look at each project, the bigger ones we do, as kind of like serialized novels. So I hope the readers follow us from book to book, like you would a novelist. So far, it seems to be working out.

criminal-coverGWW: It’s no secret that you have a particular genre in which your style really lends itself too. Do you have plans to maybe tackle a genre you don’t feel comfortable with or may present a challenge for you?

EB: Sure. Someday I want to write a romance comic. I’ve done a few homages to them in other comics, but never anything that was just a big romance story. And I’d like for me and Sean to do a sci-fi someday, but right now there are a lot of sci-fi comics on the shelves, so I’m in no hurry to get there.

GWW: If you could cast your own Criminal TV series or movies based on the first volume of the series who would you cast?

EB: I never think about that. Working in TV you learn not to dream cast.

GWW: If you had decided to never be a writer what do you think you’d be doing instead?

EB: Pushing up daisies.

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