Posted - 04/14/2014 : 3:27:28 PM
Creator/Writer for Mixtape
Published by: Media 11:11
Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur/Jazma VP
Rich: How did the idea come to you for "Mixtape"?
Brad: Well the origins of Mixtape can be found on page one, panel one of issue #1. I was packing my things to move to NYC from Canada five or so years ago, and was in my basement going through old boxes of books, magazines and so on, and one of these boxes was full of old mix-tapes. These were tapes I’d made, or people had made for me. I hadn’t listened to many of them since high school, but I dug up my old tape deck, popped them in and started listening to them, and each tape and each song seemed to unlock a memory. Innocuous things, like parties at friends’ places, or cruising main street, or whatever – the songs were like keys to these doors that had been closed for years. It really got me thinking about that period in everybody’s life when the music you love and the friends you listen to that music with are as important to you as they ever will be.
Now, the storyteller in me knew there was something there – a movie or a TV series – something I could use for some project, but I didn’t know what. Then while still packing I unearthed my old comic book collection and went “ah-hah! A comic book!”
Rich: What does Grunge mean and how does it apply to your comic book?
Brad: It’s funny to say so now, because it makes me sound like my parents talking about Woodstock or the Summer of Love, but “Grunge” and the whole “alternative rock” explosion was an exciting time. It was the passing of the torch from classic baby boomer rock to my generation – Generation X. And maybe it’s nostalgia on my part – it all went down as I was transitioning from high school to college, which is an exciting time, period -- but even then it felt exciting, like every week you were discovering a new cool band. With Mixtape I wanted to capture at least some of that excitement while not making it purely a “nostalgia” book. It helps to go into Mixtape knowing the things that are coming to our characters – Nirvana, Lollapalooza, Grunge – but this first Mixtape arc only covers September 1990 thru January 1991, so there’s lots of material yet to come. Ultimately I wanted Mixtape and its characters to feel ‘real” no matter when you were a teenager.
Rich: Who are the five teens in "Mixtape"?
Brad: The five teens in Mixtape are Jim (the rebel), Terry (the music geek), Lorelei (the arty chick), Siobhan (the rich girl), and Noel (the preppie). Each issue centers around one of them, with the other characters in supporting roles (assuming they appear at all). Then the next issue one of those supporting players becomes the main character and the others are there in the background. And while each story is self-contained, reading them all gives you a sense of the larger story being told. Rather than focus on just one character we give each of them their moment in the sun and spend a little bit of time in their shoes.
Rich: Why will we love or hate these five teens?
Brad: I hope people love these characters because they’re us. One of the things I really wanted to focus on with the characters in Mixtape is to make them seem familiar, like people we know or knew in High School and were probably friends with. They’re not your stereotypical jocks or nerds; they’re not preppy kids or stoners. They’re the cool crowd who don’t try to be cool or even realize that’s what they are. Each is an archetype – the loner, the geek, the princess, the artist, the rich kid – but I wanted to subvert expectations of what those types really are. Example being the character of Siobhan who when we meet her seems that privileged popular girl. Only when we get to know her better and see her story, realize just how adrift and alone she feels. I was more focused on capturing a certain feeling with the characters that I think we can empathize with each and every one of them, even when they do incredibly stupid teenage things like we all did.
Rich: Why make a comic about music?
Brad: Probably because everyone said “comic books about music don’t work” – I wanted to prove them wrong because I knew it could work, and could work well. Fact is no matter your age or when you were a teenager, music is never as important to you as it is when you’re 16, 17 years old. And to me personally music and comic books have always gone hand in hand. When I was a teenager in the 90s, I’d regularly go to the record store and buy a new cassette or CD, go to the comic book store and buy the latest issue of Hellblazer or Sandman, then go home and read my comics while listening to whatever R.E.M. or Pixies album I just bought. So for me those two forms of entertainment have always gone hand in hand. I figured no matter your comics fandom there had to be some music you love, and a comic combining a love of both those things would appeal to everyone. And judging by Mixtape’s audience it has – everyone from guys in their mid-late 40s to college age girls all seem to “get” Mixtape.
Rich: How did you decide to use the 1990's as the time era?
Brad: There were a couple reasons I chose the early 1990s as the setting. First because I lived through that period – I was the age the characters in Mixtape are when the story begins. So I was familiar with the period and the music, but also that world before the internet became a thing, before everyone got cell phones and social media, when things seemed “slower” by today’s standards. Learning about music was thru word of mouth or magazines. Record stores were still abundant and if you wanted tickets to a concert that meant lining up to buy them or buying over the phone with your parents’ credit card (if you were lucky). But the other reason I chose that era was because musically it had a dramatic arc, with the underground music scene bubbling over and becoming, for a few short years anyway, the mainstream. But then that whole scene imploded, pop music returned, and that “alternative” music became underground again.
Rich: What can we expect in the future from "Mixtape"?
Brad: I mentioned already that the 90s alt rock era had an arc and that’s the arc I want to follow with our five characters; to take them through that 5 year period when the music they love becomes the mainstream, then collapses. Their journey is mirrored in that music also. The first story arc which is called “Left of the Dial” (comprised of Mixtape issues 1-5) really covers just the first part of that journey; that “coming together” over a shared love of the music of the period. Future storylines will take the characters from high school into college life, and chart them over the years as they try – and ultimately fail – to keep their friendships in a world that’s gradually pulling them apart. The ultimate endgame of Mixtape takes the characters into the present day where one of these five has died and the pothers are reuniting for the funeral. That’s a story element introduced in the first page of Mixtape #1, and we get a return to that present day on the last page of Mixtape #5. So there’s a nice circular structure to this first storyline. I have started scripting the second arc - “Daydream Nation” - and have plotted out the series from there. While I’ve been putting Mixtape out on my own and with Media 11:11 on the digital end of things I’m looking to simplify the process somewhat, and hopefully get another publisher on board, so I can get the book out on a more consistent basis.
Rich: How has being a screenwriter helped you to write comics?
Brad: On a purely technical level, a comic book script and a film or TV script aren’t that different to write format-wise. They both have a structure; both use visuals to tell a story. On another level, just having been a working screenwriter the last 15 years has given me the confidence and – one hopes – the skill to jump into a different medium of storytelling like comic books are. Having learned and executed story structure, character arcs and turning points in one medium is fairly easy to translate into another, though both provide unique challenges.
Rich: What is the "Picco Incident" and what is your part in it?
Brad: The Picco Incident is a sci-fi thriller about the aftermath of a passenger plane crash on a rural farm, and the mysterious events that transpire following it. I co-wrote the screenplay (and recently did some additional work on). The producers would kill me if I divulged more than that but you can watch a teaser trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SQ9qtz8zog
Rich: What would you like to accomplish next?
Brad: Comic book-wise? I’d like to keep going with Mixtape – I’ve really enjoyed working on it and have been happy to hear that people have enjoyed reading it. That said I do have other comic book projects I’d like to get off the ground – one that I’m working on now is part of an anthology called “Low Cost” that I’m doing with some artists based in Spain. I also have another music-based comic book project – more a graphic novel --I’m outlining that’s sort of a spiritual cousin to Mixtape, though it takes place about 20 years earlier and focuses on one character. There are also a couple of pitches I’m circulating to some comic book companies because they’re proposals for characters they own the rights to. Movie/TV wise I’m in active development on two TV series pilots that I’m really excited about also. They’re both very different from one another so it’ll be interesting to see which one people gravitate towards. But like Picco, I’m not at liberty to divulge more about either.
Rich: Which character in "Mixtape" do you most identify with?
Brad: I don’t really identify with one over another. They’re all “me” in their own way – I think each has some aspect of my personality in their genetic makeup, be it Terry who “geeks out” over music like I do, or Jim who feels isolated from his friends even when in a social situation with them, or even Lorelei, who is struggling to define just who she is. So it’s impossible to pick just one character as my favorite; I enjoy spending time with all of them.
Rich: Is music an important part of your life, what kind do you listen to?
Brad: Music remains a big important part of my life, and has always been a part of my work, to the point where I make a “mix tape” or playlist for whatever project it is I’m writing. Songs that set a tone or mood on the story in question helps me stay focused, but also helps me get “into” the story I’m trying to tell. It doesn’t necessarily have to be music pertinent to the era – in fact I find it helps if it doesn’t. A WW1 project I’m working on right now has a playlist culled largely from 60s British Invasion and 70s glam rock. As far as what kind I listen to; mostly rock, from all eras including the present. And while some would think I’m more a 90s fan than any period I tend to lean towards 70s-80s rock and pop. I think I may be too “close” to the music of the 90s to really let loose and listen to it without emotional baggage. 90s music immediately makes me think of that Mixtape script I should be writing.
Rich: How can someone contact you?
Brad: My website is www.bradabraham.com, and people interested in keeping up with Mixtape can follow the Facebook page www.facebook.com/mixtapecomic. I’m most active on twitter though, and people who want to can follow me @notbradabraham
Rich: Any words for the fans of "Mixtape"?
Brad: Thank-you for taking a chance on a black and white comic book about teenagers and their feelings. Thank-you for staying with it as we struggled to keep putting issue out. Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement. Mixtape is just getting started and I hope you’ll stick with us for what will be quite a ride.
Mixtape #5 arrives in early May! The digital version can be purchased through https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/brad-abraham/id720683181?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 at itunes as well as previous issues.