EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Comic Book Artist Tommy Lee Edwards
Superstar artist Tommy Lee Edwards talks to us about his latest project (Brandon Generator) with writer and director Edgar Wright, looks back at his work on movies like Batman Begins and Superman Returns, comments on the planned big screen adaptation of Turf and much more.
Tommy Lee Edwards is perhaps best know for collaborating with Mark Millar on 1985 and with J. Michael Straczynski on Bullet Points over at Marvel before teaming up with British chat show host Jonathan Ross for their critically acclaimed limited series, Turf. However, he has also contributed artwork to blockbuster movies like Batman Begins, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Star Wars, while his latest project is The Random Adventures Of Brandon Generator; a collaboration between the artist and writer/director Edgar Wright. He talks about all of that and more in the following interview and you can find even more details about Brandon Generator (as well as details on an upcoming live Q&A) at the bottom of the page.
How did you become involved with Edgar Wright on The Random Adventures Of Brandon Generator?
The project came about last summer, as I was approached by Microsoft, to create some kind of online interactive story. After months of brainstorming, Edgar came on board with the character, title, story, and more. He and I were both really intrigued by the whole premise of telling a story in a new way while sharing authorship with the public.
What has the collaboration between the two of you been like so far?
It's been good. Extremely challenging. Brandon Generator is so much more work than we had ever imagined it would be. I storyboard each episode based on Edgar's rough story structure. After we get ideas thrown at us from the public, Edgar tightens up the script and we figure how to fit everything together. We revisit the boards. They evolve as we go, as does the animation my team and I are creating. Then it evolves even more with Julian Barratt's voiceover, the sound, and the music. It's very very collaborative, with lots of back and forth.
For anyone who may not know, can you tell us what our readers what they should expect from the series?
The audience should expect to experience 7 and 8 minute long animated shorts about our struggling writer-artist Brandon Generator. Hopefully viewers will be excited by the visuals, especially as we crank out each episode in a matter of weeks. Edgar and I want people to be inspired by Brandon. We want people to want to help him. It's all about sharing creativity. At the end of each chapter, the user has the opportunity to contribute to the following chapters through drawings, writing, audio messages, uploads, and more. When people see the next episode, they are typically shocked at how much of the public's contributions we've utilized.
How have you found working with fan submitted content and using that to influence your artwork and the story?
It's extremely challenging, given the quick turnaround for each episode. I actually reached out to five of the episode two contributors and had them draw specific frames for a fun sequence in the beginning of part three. People uploaded photos of themselves as candidate designs for the "mystery girl" character. Edgar and I chose one, and I've drawn her likeness into the story.
How has working on The Random Adventures Of Brandon Generator differed from your previous comic book projects?
Although I typically work with a writing collaborator on my comics, Brandon Generator is much more like a series of short animated films. The project started out as a "motion comic" idea, but I wanted to push beyond that. So on top of storyboarding, designing, animating, and drawing most of Brandon Generator, I direct the animation team I've put together. This includes only three other guys. Don Cameron and Daryl Bartley on 3D models, and Scott Benson the After Effects master. Even though most of us are spread out and working from different locations around the globe, I don't have that secluded feeling I always live with while making comic books.
You've also been involved with films like The Book of Eli, Batman Begins and Superman Returns. Can you tell us a little about that and whether you'd be interested in doing something similar in future?
The work I did for Superman, Batman, and Harry Potter and stuff is part conceptual, but eventually mostly licensing. That's not a lot of fun. But working as the concept artist on movies like The Book of Eli are wonderful. Working with the film's director, and helping to shape their vision is an amazing challenge. I love it. I teamed up with Albert Hughes again as I was doing concept art on his live-action version of Akira. Some stuff like this people won't ever see, though. Kind of like the Master of the Universe movie I was designing for Warner Brothers and director John (kung fu panda) Stevenson.
There was talk of Turf becoming a movie (directed by Matthew Vaughn). Can you give us an update on what is happening with the adaptation?
We've got other plans for Turf right now, which are personally and professionally really exciting for me. More on that down the road. Jonathan Ross and I are actually instead developing our next comic into a film with Matthew Vaughn. The series is called Golden Age, and we are working on the third issue right now.
Will you and Jonathan play a big role in the development of the film?
Yes. Jonathan will probably write, and I will do the kinds of stuff I've done for other people's movies by providing visual inspiration.
Are you and Jonathan Ross planning on working together again for a follow-up to the first volume?
We have a sequel idea for Turf planned out. We'll see how we feel about it and our schedules next spring when we finish Golden Age.
What else are you working on at the moment?
Brandon Generator has pretty much taken over my life all day every day since January. After we wrap up the final chapter in July, I'm jumping back into Golden Age. And hopefully getting some more sleep.
The Random Adventures Of Brandon Generator combines the very best creative talents, pushes the boundaries of what’s possible on the web and the innovative project is a new approach to storytelling. It has been designed to showcase the most stunning, visually rich and immersive experiences possible using IE9 and web standards-based HTML5 technology. It also takes advantage of the unique functionality that Internet Explorer 9 provides. This includes the benefit of hardware accelerated text, video and graphics for smooth performance and the unique pinning and Jump List functionality in IE9 which will provide notifications for new episodes, direct links to social feeds and unlock future exclusive content. As a result, the story will not only be as beautiful as traditional film but also includes interactive elements and multimedia for a richer, more immersive experience. To watch Episode Two and get involved, visit www.brandongenerator.com. On June 28th, Tommy Lee Edwards and Edgar Wright will be doing a like Q&A on the Internet Explorer Facebook page which you can visit by clicking HERE. This will be the perfect opportunity to find out even more about their collaboration (not to mention sneaking in a few questions about Ant-Man and Turf!).
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