Brian Wood is a Multiple Eisner Award-nominee comic book creator whose first comic, Channel Zero, debuted in 1997. He continued creating original series like DMZ, Northlanders, The Massive and The Couriers while moving up to the big leagues and writing for some of the biggest pop culture titles such as Star Wars, X-Men, Conan the Barbarian, Hellboy and Lord of the Rings. He is a writer, an illustrator and a graphic designer who has been a serious and well represented member of the comics industry for almost 20 years.
Recently, Wood partnered with Image Comics for the new monthly series Starve. The first issue debuts on June 10th and looks into the life of Gavin Cruikshank, one of the world’s most famous chefs. He runs a food-centric television program called Starve, which is an arena sport that pits chef against chef for the pleasure of their super rich patrons. As the series opens, Gavin finds himself on the brink– what he once considered a noble profession has been tarnished, and now Gavin wants to wipe the stain from his name. The Beat recently spoke to Wood to discuss Starve and his career.
Seth Ferranti: Where did you come up with the idea for Starve?
Brian Wood: I feel like I had the idea forever, but it definitely came out of my personal obsession watching cooking shows. These days I limit it to Top Chef, but for awhile I was watching anything I could get my hands on, from original Iron Chef to Jamie Oliver to Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain was an indirect source of inspiration for Starve. I originally pitched the series to Vertigo around the time DMZ was ending. It was going to be my next big multi-year epic, but then Anthony Bourdain approached them with Get Jiro!, so I was edged out.
Ferranti: You’ve had a long career in comics working as a writer, creator, illustrator and designer. Which of these roles do you enjoy playing most?
Wood: I always enjoy doing design for my books. It’s my last remaining visual outlet after I stopped illustrating and working a day job in design. However, writing is clearly the thing that gets me the most excited considering the amount I do. In this last year I’ve really branched out, writing the upcoming 1979 Revolution video game and working on commissioned pilots for two television shows. It’s new and exciting stuff for me.
Ferranti: Out of all the books you have created which is the one that resonates the most for you today?
Wood: This is always a tricky question, because different books mean different things to me. Take Demo – Demo means Becky Cloonan, probably my oldest friend in comics and someone I love dearly (even if I hardly ever see her…) Then, you have Local and The New York Four, which I did with Ryan Kelly, whom I collaborate best with. I’m really proud of the work we do. DMZ is the longest project I’ve done and for that reason stands out. I was single when I started DMZ, and by the time it ended was married with two kids! That’s crazy. Plus Riccardo Burchielli – you work every day with someone on a comic for 7 years, they basically become your family.
But speaking strictly personally? Northlanders is, I think, my best writing and where some of my most personal writing happened. I miss that book every single day.
Ferranti: What is the difference between writing for huge established characters like the X-Men as opposed to creating your own stuff?
Wood: For maybe the first 10 years of my career I was pretty much a creator-owned guy, that was what I did 98% of the time. Then I decided to jump in with both feet and see how the other half lived, and did Conan, X-Men, Star Wars, Eve, and a few others. At one point, I got fired off Supergirl. In retrospect, I’m glad I did all that, but its not what I’m best at and ultimately not what gets me out of bed in the morning. It never gives the same sort of warm fuzzies that working on original material does. As you can see from this last year, I’m back to mostly creator owned again with one exception on the horizon. I found a project too cool to pass up.
When I work, I ask myself, “What do you want to leave behind?” That sounds morbid and probably a little self-indulgent, but I want to be known as the DMZ guy and not the Star Wars guy. The work for hire is fleeting, it comes and makes a lot of noise, but then, in most cases, vanishes. Good original material is eternal.
Ferranti: What comics did you love growing up?
Wood: I only really got into comics as a college student. As a kid, I used to pick up Groo at the newsstand, and I love Groo, but it was just a once in a while sort of thing. In college I discovered, at the same time, Vertigo and Fantagraphics. I read Preacher, Hate, Dirty Plotte, Minimum Wage, and Sandman. Kind of an odd mix!
Ferranti: What popular culture title did you most enjoy writing?
Wood: Moon Knight, which may sound like a surprising pick considering everything I’ve done, but that book was beautiful and effortless. Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire were amazing to work with and there was no heavy duty continuity to deal with. I’m fiercely proud of those 6 issues. Beyond that, I had fun on Ultimate X-Men and Star Wars, and let’s not forget DV8, one of the last Wildstorm books ever, art by Rebekah Isaacs and Fiona Staples.
Ferranti: It seems like all the pro writers end up at Image after their work at Marvel or DC. Why do you think this is?
Wood: I’ve been around long enough to see how its cycled. I started off at Image in 1997, and for a long time Image was the stepping stone on your headlong rush to Marvel and DC – the Big Two was the goal for EVERYONE and it was seen as the epitome of ‘having made it’. Its only been in the last few years that its seemed to reverse. Nowadays, new creators seem to be getting tons of work at Marvel and DC while the more established are back at places like Image and Dark Horse and are doing their ‘real work’. Not to diminish anyone’s work anywhere; I just find the cycles to be interesting.
Ferranti: Where is Starve going to take readers?
Wood: This is the story of Chef Gavin Cruikshank dealing with a creative crisis when he finds his beloved TV show “Starve” turned into this amoral spectacle of a reality show. He attempts to right the wrongs committed while simultaneously dealing with the damage he’s done to his relationship with his wife and adult daughter over the years. It’s a sort of darkly comedic family drama with this celebrity chef thing as a backdrop. We’ll follow Cruikshank as he enters his own show as a contestant and fumbles around trying to make things right.
There is another narrative thread: a society dealing with food scarcity, environmental damage, and urban blight. Here, I handle the topics in a very different way compared to how I deal with things in books like DMZ or The Massive. This is me writing in a more bombastic style that I have recently. It harkens back to my older books like Supermarket and The Couriers in that respect.
Ferranti: What would you tell someone to make them want to read Starve?
Wood: I’d have to suss them out first. Because some people are like me and are REALLY into the foodie thing, the cooking show thing, and this is rare territory for comics, so its easy to entice them. But, I’m discovering, some people have zero interest in that stuff. So for them it would be the redemption story, told with a nasty streak of humor. I sometimes describe Starve as The Running Man meets Anthony Bourdain as played by Iggy Pop. That usually works.
Ferranti: Who else worked on Starve with you?
Wood: Danijel Zezelj, who I’ve worked with often, on DMZ, Northlanders, and The Massive, and Dave Stewart, who has colored my Conanand The Massive. Danijel and Dave collaborated on the excellent Luna Park OGN for Vertigo a few years back, with spectacular results.
I also like to point out that all three of us are owners and creators on this book, and its all just as much theirs as mine. Its been a great partnership.
Ferranti: Can you list your website and social media contacts?