Ed Brisson is a very busy man. In addition to his ongoing for-hire work — including excellent runs on New Mutants, upcoming work on Heroes Reborn, etc. — he’s also been involved in several creator-owned projects. First came December’s launch of Catch & Release, another entry in the Murder Book series, and now he lands at AfterShock Comics to release Beyond The Breach (with artist/frequent collaborator Damian Couceiro).
The book is described as a “sci-fi road trip adventure” that touches on themes of “perseverance and finding family in unexpected places.” In it, a woman named Vanessa dumps her cheating boyfriend, only to wind up in the woods at the exact moment The Breach arrives, which is described as a “bizarre anomaly in the sky” that transforms the area into a “nightmare-world populated with strange, extra-dimensional creatures.” Fans of Brisson will recognize the balance of big action and horror, but with a real sense of heart beating under all those larger-than-life scares.
Before the book hits shelves on July 14, we touched base with Brisson, where we talked about his inspirations, working once more with Couceiro, writing amid COVID, great horror in the 1980s, and much, much more.
AIPT: What’s your elevator pitch for the book? I got a very Stranger Things meets Land of the Lost kind of vibe. With just a dash of Gremlins.
Ed Brisson: I’ll be honest, I am the worst at elevator pitches. I’m not sure how I have a career because I can never boil things down to one sentence.
But, to sum it up the best I can: Beyond The Breach is the road trip from hell. It’s about trying to escape your problems, only to find yourself in the middle of much, much larger interdimensional displaced problems. It’s like The Wizard of Oz on bath salts. Night of the Living Dead meets E.T. meets The Road.
AIPT: Is there something funny or magical or outright weird about the ’80s as a whole that makes you want to revisit some of those films/pop culture vibes? Press for the book mentions it as “channel[ing] ’80s fantasy films.” Any in particular beyond the mention of The Beastmaster?
EB: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think a lot of folks lean toward Spielberg’s 80s stuff, in terms of influence — you see it in Stranger Things and ilk, for sure. For me, I think a lot of the influence comes largely due to growing up in that era and digesting buckets upon buckets of it. I was always a movie junkie, particularly horror and fantasy and was a fiend for any trashy horror novel I could get my hands on, plenty of Stephen King, Richard Laymon and just anything that had killer cover art, I was a sucker for a great cover. It all felt like contraband and I couldn’t get enough.
Something that’s been lost over the years is that a lot of the stuff that was being pumped out in the ’80s felt more dangerous — there was less regard for “can kids handle this?” and more of a “let’s just make some crazy s--t” mentality. Time Bandits, one of my biggest early influences, is an obscenely subversive film in the guise of kids’ entertainment. Beastmaster maybe goofy as hell, but it still has moments throughout that are both heartbreaking and horrifying. And so, if I’m taking anything from that era, it’s all of that. Trying to do a weird-o story that’s filled with heart. Something that can be truly horrifying and heartbreaking but can take a moment to laugh.
AIPT: What was it like working with Damian Couceiro once more? You both have that connection from Old Man Logan, so does that “history” make it easier to collaborate? Do you push each other more creatively?
EB: Damian and I have a history going back to about 2005. He’s the first artist I ever tried pitching books to publishers with. He and I did a crime story before Murder Book, which I later folded in with the rest of Murder Book. We’ve done a couple creator-owned series before this (Cluster and The Big Idea) as well as a handful of stuff at Marvel.
Because of our long history, I find the collaborative process very easy. He and I are very in tune with one another and tend to be easy going, yet still challenge each other. We have no problem tossing out stuff we’ve already explored and starting from scratch if we think that there’s a different/better approach. There are no hurt feelings, no ego. Just the two of us trying to tell the best, most engaging stories that we can.
AIPT: The book tackles things like family and how those extra kooky bonds are formed. Do you think that idea of family is especially relevant in 2021 given the isolation and disconnect we’ve all dealt with this last year? That sense of COVID loss, if you will.
EB: You know, that’s a good question. It’s something that was certainly at the back of my mind when I was writing it. Families are complicated. Vanessa’s already dealing with the loss of her mother and the loss of her relationship with her sister — over some serious shenanigans, mind you — and now she’s in the middle of this event called The Breach, which is the most horrifying thing that she’ll ever experience, yet still has this worry about never being able to repair her relationship with her sister. I think that we’ve all faced a little bit of that now that we’re 16 months into this pandemic, separated from family and those we care about. I think it helps put our dramas into perspective and that’s something that’s certainly happening in Beyond The Breach — although, in the book it’s monsters rather than a virus.
AIPT: I love the slightly campy quality to the humor here — even amid some really scary or intense happenings. How do you balance finding humor in such bleak circumstances?
EB: I have a habit of going bleak on some books and am trying to pull that back here because I don’t think this book works if there’s no hope. An earlier draft of this, one that I’d been tooling around with for about a year before we really started, was a story that was Vanessa on her own, trying to survive in a landscape where everything was trying to kill. I was dead set on having the first issue completely silent and trying to tell it all through the art, but it ended up being far too dark and depressing and so I scrapped it and went back to the drawing board, looking for that balance.
I think bringing in characters like Kai and Turtle (who we meet in #2) certainly help. They allow me and Damian the opportunity to balance the dark with a little bit of levity and fun while never undercutting the seriousness of the situation at hand.
AIPT: Was there a particular reason for this “configuration” of main characters? It’s not just that they’re thrown together so randomly/abruptly, but they still feel like some slightly “normal” take on the usual family dynamic.
EB: I think initially, the idea was to put Vanessa in a position where she’s back in a similar situation that she was trying to escape from. She’s just spent the last year caring for her dying mother and finally has the opportunity to do something for herself and is almost immediately has someone else thrust into her care. She’s now got the overwhelming responsibility of caring for recently orphaned Dougie, trying to keep him safe from these horrors that have descended upon them. And while she can kill all sorts of interdimensional creatures that might threaten them, she’s unable to have any direct or meaningful conversation with him about what’s going, specifically with what happened to his parents. Which, let’s be honest, a lot of us come from families that are similar. We can face all sorts of adversity, but when it comes to sitting down and having an honest and difficult conversation, a lot of us fail each other.
Kai, the fuzzy alien that we meet right around the same time is here for a few reasons. Mostly, I just really like him! He’s a fun little dude to write, who adds a layer of needed humor and I just love the design Damian came up with. But, aside from my own infatuation, we really wanted to make this world feel complex and he helps with that. Yes, things are trying to kill our characters at every turn, but there are also creatures stranded here who’d lay their lives down to save those in need of help. And that’s Kai.
As the book goes, the core “family” will grow and change. We’re both very interested in exploring how groups adapt in this environment and how each new personality helps or hurts along the way.
AIPT: I always find it interesting when a book, movie, etc. decides to do away with technology. Is that just easier to tell a story or is there some larger commentary involved here?
EB: I think that there’s always a larger commentary when you remove technology. Personally, I pretty much only talk to my family through text or chats. I’m about 3,000 miles from my closest family member, so if we were to lose the ability to communicate by email, chat or phone, I don’t even know how I would talk to them. So, going into the book, it felt only natural to remove all comforts and figure out how our cast can survive an invasion of this magnitude without everything that they rely on in our day-to-day lives. More terrifying that losing internet and cell service, to me, is losing cars and other modes of transportation. That’s the thing that really just sticks you in place and reminds you of how spread out we really are.
AIPT: Do you have long-term plans for the book? Is this just a few issues or a miniseries, or could you see it evolving into something more long-term and expansive?
EB: Right now we’re focused on making these five issues as great as possible. However, if folks are into it and there’s a demand for more, Damian and I have plenty more stories to tell in this world.
AIPT: Why should anyone pick up issue #1?
EB: It’s been a long time since I’ve done creator-owned and I’m happy to be back doing it with Damian. I’m hoping that anyone who’s read down this far is already into what we’re bringing to the table. The more folks who come aboard for #1 and #2, the more likely we’ll continue beyond #5. So, give it a taste, see what you think!
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