Mark Crilley, writer and artist of "Akiko" and "Miki Falls," introduced readers to his latest project in January with the first installment of "Brody's Ghost" on "MySpace Dark Horse Presents." The story continues in February with the second of four eight-page comics, and CBR is proud to debut part 2 exclusively before it appears on "MDHP" next week! We spoke with Crilley to learn more about Brody, the ghosts who haunt him, and what to expect from the first "Brody's Ghost" graphic novel, due from Dark Horse in June.
In the first "Brody's Ghost" strip, the titular hero shows off his fighting skills while saving a woman from being robbed on an elevated train. Soon after, two spirits - a young woman and a samurai - critique his performance. This month, Brody takes on a different challenge, visiting the scene of a murder in an attempt at solving the crime with his psychic powers.
CBR News: We've seen a bit of Brody in action, and with this second installment we see a little more of what he's about. But what more can you say about our hero?
Mark Crilley: One thing to keep in mind is that these "Dark Horse Presents" eight-pagers are not the beginning of Brody's tale, but rather little peeks at what is to come. The "Brody's Ghost" series is planned as six graphic novels, the first of which debuts this summer. In that volume we'll meet Brody as a fairly ordinary young man living in a decaying futuristic metropolis. Needless to say, his life doesn't stay ordinary for very long.
How many ghosts are following him around, and how did he come to be in this situation?
Without giving away too much, I can say that at first he meets just one ghost: Talia. By the end of the first volume he will have met a second, as well as a creature called a 'demi-ghost.' As for how he came to be in this situation, let's just say it was the ghosts' idea, not his.
Does he have any other abilities?
In many ways the whole series is about Brody's abilities and how he gets them. I wanted to do a story in which a guy doesn't have powers magically thrust upon him in an instant - no "gamma radiation" type devices in this story - but rather acquires his powers little by little. I think the closest comparison I can think of is Luke Skywalker learning to use the force in "The Empire Strikes Back." But I want to really get into the nuts and bolts of it. If I do my job right, the reader will be able to imagine that it's really possible to gain psychic and telekinetic powers this way, provided one undergoes the proper training.
What can you reveal about Brody's ghosts at this point?
Talia is the ghost of a teenage girl who died of Leukemia five years before the story begins. The other ghost is called Kagemura. He has a pretty cool back story, but I'd better not spill the beans on that just yet. With Talia, I'm trying to go against the cliche of what a ghost is supposed to be. She's not this sad-faced Victorian wisp but instead a very modern self-assertive personality. The love-hate dynamic between Brody and Talia is a big part of what drives the story forward.
We've seen Talia in both installments so far, and the samurai-looking Kagemura briefly at the end of episode one. What exactly do they hope for from Brody?
A great question, because both of them have very specific reasons for making use of Brody, and to some degree he's a pawn in their respective games. Kagemura's motives aren't going to come out for some time to come, but I guess we can get into Talia's situation since it's alluded to in the second "Dark Horse Presents" story. She needs Brody's psychic powers to uncover the identity of a murderer she's been charged with catching. Eventually we'll see Brody doing the kind of stuff we see in this story: using his abilities to gain bits of information about the murders, and getting himself into trouble - eventually far worse than what he lands in here - as a result.
So, what does Brody think of the ghosts?
At first Brody is completely freaked out by Talia. That's something I really focus on in the first book. I didn't want this to be one of these stories where a guy sees a paranormal being for the first time on page five and then they're having a casual conversation on page six. I try to do it believably, one step at a time. Even after Brody gets used to having ghosts in his life, he has very mixed feelings about them. It's never going to be like, "I love you guys!" Not that kind of a story: This is some seriously messed-up stuff he's having to deal with.
The first strip was a bit of straightforward action, while the second is more supernatural detective work. What was your inspiration for "Brody's Ghost," and what do you think people will most enjoy about it?
I try to make every story I do drastically different from the last thing I did. I started with the "Akiko" series, which was very much an all ages fantasy story: equal parts humor and fast-paced action. I've just come off "Miki Falls," which was my spin on the high school love story genre (though it spins very far away from that genre the further it goes). With "Brody's Ghost" I'm challenging myself to do something along the lines of a superhero story. Brody will definitely never don a cape, but it's got that classic transformation at the heart of it: the guy who's weak and powerless at the start, but gradually becomes a man of truly superhuman abilities.
As for what people will most enjoy about it, I think it all comes down to the characters. Let's face it, if you don't care about the people in the story, then you're not going to keep reading. Although it's hard to convey a character in just eight pages, I think this second story hints at who Brody is, what he's up against, and what I'll be doing once I have more pages to play around with.
What led you to bring this series to "MySpace Dark Horse Presents?"
Well, Dark Horse really came up with the idea. I think they looked at "Brody's Ghost" and saw that we had a fully realized world here, one that lends itself to a lot of cool little stories. I'm sure they feel the same way I do: that if people get a little taste of the various elements in this story, they'll want to make sure they the get their hands on the real books once they hit the stores.
You have a four-month run on "MDHP," the longest of any strip to date, and you've mentioned that it will soon be a series of graphic novels. What can you tell us about these books and when they'll be released?
The first book is slated for June. There's 85 pages of story, and it'll be digest size like the "Clone Wars" books. Anyone who comes on board can rest assured that we're launching into a very well-planned story. No rambling episodic sprawl here: I've got the entire story plotted out start to finish, with absolutely no fat or filler. As for more online strips, I'm not aware of any plans for anything beyond these four stories right now, but I'd certainly be up for it if they ask me.
What can you tell us about the third installment, coming up in March?
It's called "The Test," and it's our first glimpse of Brody's training. We get a much better sense of the samurai ghost Kagemura in this one. Also a tantalizing peek at those demi-ghosts I mentioned earlier. It's all about Brody unlocking his psychic powers for the very first time, and the incredible sacrifices he has to make to get to that point.