Last time we caught up with writer Bryan J.L Glass he was about to unleash a dark and mystical new chapter of his hit series Mice Templar on the world. Well this time he is set to get FURIOUS in his new creator-owned super heroine series for Dark Horse Comics which is out this week. Created with Mice Templar artist Victor Santos we were keen to find out what separates FURIOUS from the other post-modern superhero books on the block so we caught up with BJLG to find out what it is about FURIOUS that makes him FURIOUS!
Post modern superheroes are increasingly common now, and the book will get inevitable comparisons with Powers and Michael Oeming’s The Victories, how do you feel FURIOUS sets itself apart from the others and how do you feel about these comparisons?
BJLG: To be compared to either of those two books would be an extraordinary honor! Both are outstanding in their own unique ways. Yet FURIOUS is as unique as the title heroine herself. Those other titles are crime procedurals and conspiracy theory held together by an extraordinary ensemble of characters. While the leading heroine of FURIOUS supports the entire series and concept atop her own troubled shoulders, particularly upon the compelling nature of her flaws. She is wounded and scarred, and guilty of perpetrating the vast majority of her own damage. She desperately believes the addition of superpowers will offer her a means to redemption, yet they prove merely to exacerbate her capacity to flout authority and destroy others in the process.
Like many of us feel in our darkest hours, FURIOUS knows what she’s done and is desperate to undo the worst of it. Like a train wreck or auto accident, FURIOUS is best observed in slow motion.
What made you want to create a superhero book after so long working on fantasy books like Mice Templar? Was it something you’d always wanted to do or did it just fall in your lap as a result of Dark Horse’s new superhero initiative?
BJLG: FURIOUS has existed for me in multiple forms for decades. Her name, appearance, and the powers themselves have always wavered, but at its heart every previous incarnation of this tale has been that of a woman at the height of her success, dismantled to the truth that resides in her core. The world thinks they know her, and have labeled her accordingly. She believes she knows herself. But her truth lies at the bottom of a lifetime’s worth of layers.
The new superhero initiative at Dark Horse is what allowed FURIOUS to finally see the light of day. We could have explored her journey at Image Comics, but editor Jim Gibbons just made the opportunity DH offered me and artist Victor Santos far too good to pass up.
While I enjoy the fantasy genre and am extremely proud of the award-winning work I’ve done on Mice Templar, I’m personally driven by multiple genres: superheroes, supernatural horror, science fiction. I hope to make my mark on all of them. But for now, superheroes are the bread and butter of this industry and there are editors who haven’t been able up until now to see past the fantasy label. FURIOUS is set to change all that.
The book is quite heavy on narrative and exposition rather than all out action (although it obviously has plenty of that), how important is it for you to make FURIOUS into an existential hero rather than just another cape who beats up villains? Or is that just a reflection of the kind of more cerebral superhero books you prefer?
BJLG: If FURIOUS were just another character inflicting beatings on the villains, this book would not be concerned with its heroine’s internal journey. But it is her very desperate desire for redemption that punctuates the violence. And that, I believe, is what will compel any audience who takes a chance on reading her. With every act of violence in pursuit of her stated desire, she falls that much behind her goal. That’s her pathos, her drama, her reason to even exist in a narrative form. Otherwise she’s just violence for the sake of violence.
I would also argue against the “exposition” descriptor, as that is often associated with needless descriptions: a caption, thought balloon or dialogue that reinforces what the reader already knows. In the case of FURIOUS, she maintains a running monologue in her head, as I consider her internal mindscape as important or more so than the outer landscape of action and plot. She muses. She internalizes. She tears herself apart from within as much as she tears apart her situations on the outside.
I definitely prefer characters with layers and depth. But the almost “Dear Diary” approach FURIOUS takes is just one of several approaches that could have been taken. In this case, I feel it grants the reader a chance to understand her heart, and dares them to take her perilous journey with her.
When creating FURIOUS how important was it for you to have a female lead? Does it give you more scope for writing and does it help to separate from the mainstream by having a strong female lead? Does it ever limit the kind of stories you want to tell?
BJLG: I definitely do not consider myself any kind of expert on the female of our species, as my wife still finds ways to surprise me every day. But as this series explores the impact of the media on an individual’s life, how males and females are represented and handled are quite different. I could have told the same thematic story featuring a male lead, but nearly every situation and beat would be presented in such a different context that it would no longer appear to be the same story.
Deep down, I think I sympathize with her plight more so than if it was presented as a male counterpart. I feel she breaks my heart a little more. And it allows me to explore so many aspects of the media that still enforce a division between men and women. Her very name “Furious” is a label she’s given against her wishes. To me, that typifies the current fight for equality: women do not want to be labeled by men. How Furious fights against that should be even more interesting than the villains she’ll face.
I said in another interview that I never set out to create a series to satisfy the current fandom demand for “strong female characters.” So many companies are now trying to position themselves as the publisher answering the call. FURIOUS is simply a case of my being in the right place at the right with the right book, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
FURIOUS feels like quite a reluctant hero, and is constantly battling with being called “FURIOUS” instead of her chosen name of The Beacon. The idea that a superhero doesn’t get to control how the media portrays her feels like quite a fresh point of view in superhero comics, was that intentional? And will you explore that more as the series develops?
BJLG: A great follow-up question: FURIOUS‘ battle for identity is at the very heart of this series, and another way it differentiates itself from the comics you referenced at the start of the interview. As the series progresses, and more of its background story is revealed, the search for identity is paramount. Celebrities of all stripes, from performers to athletes, desperately try to control their own press, while the Internet has given us an era where a simple toss away line or phrase can destroy a reputation within hours.
Old Media versus New Media is another strong element that will be explored as FURIOUS progresses! And how the very same forces that can make you a hero one day are the same that can destroy you the next.
You never shy away from violent stories or imagery in your books (I especially think of some of the recent scenes in Mice Templar) how important is creating shocking and gritty stories to you and is it more or less easy to be shocking in the superhero genre than in fantasy?
BJLG: Some of the more violent scenes I’ve scripted have caught those who know me off-guard, as I’m generally considered a fairly happy and pleasant fellow if you ever meet me in person.
That said I never set out to shock with violence for the sake of shock. I tend to dislike ultra-violence in my own entertainment. But I appreciate and understand the effectiveness with which director Quentin Tarantino typically applies violence: something is being said. He’s making a statement about the character, the situation or a culture at large.
For me, the violence needs to matter. FURIOUS is a violent book about a character that struggles with their capacity to do violence. Her physical violence is an expression of the anger within. In her youth she was enabled and exploited. As an adult she became an exploiter for her own desires and agenda. Then brought face-to-face with the reality of the monster she became, she hates herself. Superpowers promise redemption, but she’s not that far removed from that reflection, from the monster she was. Thus every violent outburst is an expression of the battle within.
How do you compare working with Victor Santos to your long time collaborator Mike Oeming? FURIOUS feels like a much more natural fit for his style and it feels like he is really expressing himself in this world rather than trying to follow Oeming’s work like he was on Mice Templar. How involved is he in the creative process and how are you planning on pushing his artistic chops in future issues?
BJLG: Working with Victor Santos on both titles is a pleasure. I would have to say the primary difference between working with Victor as opposed to Mike, is that Oeming and I were friends long before we ever collaborated on anything; since 1989. My relationship with Victor began professionally when Mike chose him as his replacement on Mice Templar. I feared there would be communication problems not only because Victor didn’t speak English well, but because I was so used to my working rapport with Mike. One of the first things I asked Victor was if he’d like simplified scripts, and he said absolutely not. He wanted me to make no difference between writing for him and anybody else in America that I might work with; Victor Santos lives in Spain. That eased my mind, and our professional relationship has transformed into a valued personal one even though we’ve yet to meet face-to-face.
Creatively, Victor does not participate in the direction of the story or character development. But I have him carte blanche in designing everything, and he’s on fire doing so. He also requested a free reign in designing the visual storytelling, and I was smart enough to get out of his way. Thus he’s brought a truly unique visual aesthetic to the series that should make the book look as different from anything else on the shelves as I hope it reads differently from what anybody expects.
The first five issues are nearly finished at the time of this interview, and I can only say Victor gets more amazing with every issue. I’m actually trying to find ways to grant him even greater leeway, so expect future volumes to be visual feasts prepared by a master chef, because when Victor starts cooking, we all get to enjoy it!
Finally can you give us any kind of indication of where the story might be headed in the next few issues? Is it an ongoing series and will we be meeting many new and diverse characters in the upcoming issues?
BJLG: One of the first challenges editor Jim Gibbons made me understand is that I had set up a lead character as the first superhero of her world, thus there is a decided lack of super-powered baddies. Suffice to say, crazy women, madmen and corrupt civil servants will only take FURIOUS so far. Yet her very appearance is about to change her world. She is evidence that a human being can fly, and there are those who will not rest until they unlock how she’s done it. This first volume of FURIOUS is akin to a prologue discovery of gunpowder set against a much larger story that will ultimately teeter on the brink of nuclear annihilation.
But we’ve many issues to tread before we ever reach those apocalyptic highs and lows. For this first miniseries, we’re focusing on our heroine, everything she fights for, and everything she fears–herself most of all. To say anything else would be spoiler!