While the industry was at a standstill, comic book readers were starved for content. Fans searched everywhere for new material released outside the traditional distribution system, and creators who recognized the demand for new comics have supplied it.

Brutal Dark was specifically developed to fill the void in both the market and the creators’ schedules. Christopher Condon and Jacob Phillips’ Image series That Texas Blood was just months from release when the comics industry shut down. Instead of idly waiting for it to reopen, the pair created a series of 10-page comics funded through Patreon. I had a great conversation with Christopher and Phillip about the genesis and development of the series, which you can read below.

Brutal Dark cover

Was Brutal Dark always intended for digital release through Patreon or did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your plans?

Christopher Condon: There were actually no plans at all for Brutal Dark before the pandemic – in fact, it was a reaction to the pandemic. It was originally a screenplay I had written in college but had put on the shelf. I loved the story and didn’t know where or when it would come to fruition. When the pandemic hit and That Texas Blood was (at that point) indefinitely put on hold, I didn’t want our creative flow to hit a standstill. I emailed Jacob and proposed doing this comic as a digital-only stand-in until That Texas Blood was able to hit shelves. Luckily, not long after we announced Brutal Dark we were notified of the June release for our comic – so now we inadvertently have two comics on the docket. I hope people enjoy both!

So, yes, the plan was always to go digital through some sort of online platform. Patreon just seemed the best option for us at the time and we haven’t been disappointed. 

Jacob, are your two comics with Chris the first series you’ve illustrated, or have you drawn any other comics before now?

Jacob Phillips: Yeah, they are my first 2 series. I did do a one-shot with Rachael Smith which was my first ever professional comic job but That Texas Blood is the first comic series I’ve worked on as the solo artist so it’s all very exciting! 

Does drawing and coloring a comic give you more control as a storyteller?

Jacob: That’s a good question. Honestly, I don’t know because I have never had anybody else colour my work but I definitely think of it in terms of linework and colour from the start. There are times when I’m like “I’ll leave that for the colour” which I wouldn’t be able to do so much if I had a colourist. I guess I like having absolute control over the visuals and it all goes towards how I tell the story.

How does the short length of the chapters affect the pacing of the story?

Christopher: I think Jacob may have an answer to this as well, but I wanted to just say that the length of the chapters affects the pacing tremendously. When conceiving of the series, I figured that eight pages were about the approximate amount of pages for a first act (give or take, of course). This then led me to approach this series as a serial, like Flash Gordon or Radar Men from the Moon. I wanted to reach an endpoint with every chapter that would leave both the characters and the audience wondering what’s next? A serial format seemed to be ideal. 

Jacob: Yeah, I really like the short chapters, snippets of the story but it definitely throws up challenges. Luckily Chris does most of the work in the script. I think it’s just about being smart with the storytelling and making sure you’re making it an easy read. 

Brutal Dark page

How deep are you into the production of the series?

Scripts are currently being written but I have the story as a whole mapped out. 

Jacob: At the time of writing this, I am about to start penciling Chapter 2, two weeks after chapter 1 came out. So on my end, I’m cutting it pretty tight! We are definitely not ahead on this one. 

Have you shared how long the series will run?

Christopher: We have stated that the comic will be approximately 15 of these short issues – this is a tentative number, of course, as I’m still scripting. If anything, it will be more not less. 

Will you keep the Patreon running after the series concludes? If so, how will the Patreon change and evolve when that happens?

Christopher: That, I do not know. I guess we’ll get there when we get there!

What has the reaction been like to Brutal Dark, particularly at a time when readers are hungry for new comics?

Christopher: Honestly, the reaction has been amazing. People have been loving Jacob’s amazing work and they’ve seemed to be digging the story. I just hope we can deliver to them a story that is worth their time and money. I hope we deliver! 

Brutal Dark clip

Follow the pair on Twitter @ChristophCondon and @jacobr_phillips. The first issue of That Brutal Dark is available now to Patreon subscribers, with a second installment on its way.

Matt Chats is a twice-monthly interview series featuring discussions with creators or players in comics, diving deep into industry and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and  Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at [email protected].