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Monday April 12, 2010 4:20 pm

Q&A: Brendon Fraim and Brian Fraim (Vampire, PA)




Posted by Tom Mason Categories: Interviews

Vampire PAThe comic book industry is like a city with a lot of restaurants. If you want to find something good, you need a recommendation. That’s how I discovered the most-excellent work of the twin brothers Brendon and Brian Fraim.

My friend J.C. Vaughn is not just the Executive Editor and Associate Publisher of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, he’s also a comic book writer. He pointed me in their direction because J.C., Brendon and Brian collaborated on the serialized adventure/mystery strip, Antiques, for The Antique Trader newspaper.

Their new project, Vampire, PA is debuting from Moonstone in June. J.C. wrote it, Brendon and Brian illustrated it and Mark Wheatley is coloring it. There’s a great 8-page preview of the first issue over at Vaughn’s website, Well-Defined Productions.

Since I’d already interviewed J.C., it was time for Brendon and Brian to be inundated by emails that would drag them away from their drawing boards.

The Fraims answered my questions jointly, but it’s easy to tell them apart. One pencils, and the other inks.

TOM MASON: Were you always comic book fans?

BRENDON/BRIAN: We’ve been reading comics since we were 10 and knew this was the job for us.

Tom: How did you guys break in?

Brendon/Brian: About 14 years ago, after doing some creator-owned work for a small press association anthology, we were hired by Sean McKeever (yes, THAT Sean McKeever) to illustrate his series The Waiting Place which would be published by Slave Labor Graphics. Since then, Sean has gone off and hit the big leagues, but we’ve been working steadily for a variety of different comic book publishers (Kenzer & Co., Gemstone, Image, Devil’s Due, and more) and for several role-playing game publishers, which we believe we’re more famous for than anything else. We illustrated the comic book sections in the Random House novel Wolf Boy by Evan Kuhlman, illustrated the daily award winning web comic America Jr.

With J.C. Vaughn we illustrated the weekly Antiques: The Comic Strip for The Antique Trader, and then illustrated the 3-issue series The ODD Squad from Devil’s Due with our America Jr. co-creators Todd Livingston and Nick Capetanakis. All of these projects and more can be seen at our website.

Tom: That’s a lot of work on independently-owned creator projects. Is there a corporate character that you’d love to handle?
Brendon/Brian: Any of them, really. We’re at the point now that we would be willing to draw any book from either of the big two. This is our biggest goal and it seems like that would be the next step in our careers.

Tom: Sounds like a plan. So which one?

Brendon/Brian: If we had to choose, our favorite characters are Captain America and so they would be at the top of our list.
Tom: What’s the most frustrating part about drawing comics?
Brendon/Brian: The most frustrating thing we’ve come across is publishers who make us wonder why they agreed to publish a comic book or TPB in the first place if they don’t seem interested in supporting said comic book or TPB. Either making a book bi-monthly when it should be monthly, or pushing back the solicitation date for a book so far that the pre-order sales drop to a point that the publisher decides to cancel the book because of the low pre-orders. Another pet peeve is publishers who aren’t good at their job of publishing comics. Getting listings wrong, misspelling names, using low-res images instead of the high-res for a cover, making promises they don’t keep, etc. People in this industry who only have eyes for Hollywood are annoying, too. Focus on making great comics first, and Hollywood will notice!
Tom: I only know one other set of twin brothers who work in comics – John and Jason Waltrip. How do the two of you work together?

Brendon/Brian: Brendon is the penciller and Brian is the inker. When we first started to draw comics, we both were pencilers and inkers, but since Brendon was the better penciler and Brian the better inker, we decided to go with our strengths and work as a team.
Tom: Are you doing any conventions this year?

Brendon/Brian: We will be at The Pittsburgh Comicon April 23-25, Wizard World Philadelphia June 11-13, and The Baltimore Comicon on August 28-29.

Tom: What about Chicago or San Diego?

Brendon/Brian: We’d like to go back to Chicago this year, but it looks like our car is slowly falling apart and we’ll need to buy a new one. The main reason we don’t do more cons, and only the ones close to where we live, is because we have to pay for everything ourselves which is not always financially feasible. If any convention organizer wants to pay our way to their con, let us know!
Tom: What’s your daily schedule like?

Brendon/Brian: When we’re not working at our part time jobs (we need health insurance just like everyone else), we start drawing, throw on some movie soundtrack CDs or the latest Free Beer and Hot Wings Morning Show podcast, around 8 AM and work until 4:30 PM with a break at noon for lunch. At 4:30 we check our email and send off any artwork to our various editors and/or writers for approval.

Tom: How do you solve disagreements when you’re drawing?

Brendon/Brian: That rarely happens. One of the most common twin questions we get is, “Do you guys fight a lot?” No, we do not.
Tom: What sort of tools do you use? Is it paper and pen or all-digital?

Brendon/Brian: It’s mostly hand drawn artwork. Brendon pencils with a 0.9mm mechanical pencil which uses HB lead. Brian inks mainly with a brush, a Raphael Kolinsky Sable #3. For technical stuff, Brian uses a variety of Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pens. We also use a wide assortment of French Curves and oval templates. The digital aspect comes in when we have to scan the artwork into the computer to send off to editors, or if we need to color something. We’ve never drawn with a digital tablet, which doesn’t really appeal to us.
Tom: What’s it like working with JCV?

Brendon/Brian: We enjoy working with JCV and have done so on several different projects. His panel descriptions can be open to interpretation which gives us the opportunity to do our own thing and experiment with pacing and page layout.

Tom: Are you working full script or is it some Marvel-style hybrid?

Brendon/Brian: JCV sends us full scripts.

Tom: Is that preferable?

Brendon/Brian: It helps to have the dialogue when drawing a comic book story because we can better illustrate a character’s emotions and personality when we know what they are saying.
Tom: Where do you guys see yourselves in five years?

Brendon/Brian: Doing what we’re doing right now, except our mortgage will be paid off!
Tom: What’s next after Vampire, PA?

Brendon/Brian: More RPG assignments from Hero Games, more covers and spot illustrations in Knights of the Dinner Table: magazine, and fan commissions which we always have to do. We’ve also got a creator-owned project that we did with Wolf Boy author Evan Kuhlman that is currently under consideration at Simon and Schuster.
Tom: What are you guys doing when you’re not doing comics?

Brendon/Brian: Reading them! We also watch DVDs, make custom Mego figures, and work at our part-time job.

Cool beans for all. Thanks to Brendon and Brian to taking the time. If you’d like to see tons of their work online, you can check out their Comic Art Commissions page and their Comic Art Fans page. (A word of caution for you office workers: some images may be a little too topless for work.)

[Artwork: a sample page from the first issue of Vampire, PA]

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