Mark F Davis recently interviewed Brendan Deneen with Ardden Entertainment and Atlas Comics. Brendan was gracious as well as informative while giving Mark a candid look at the industry and the future of Atlas Comics.
MFD: Where were you born and raised?
Brendan Deneen: I was born in Hartford, CT and raised in nearby Windsor, CT.
MFD: When did you get serious about writing?
Brendan Deneen: I think I’ve always been serious about writing. I remember an assignment in grammar school where we were given vocabulary words and had to use them in sentences. Instead of writing separate sentences, I used each word in a short story (where a kid got sucked into a video game). Then, for each of these vocabulary assignments, I would continue the story… a new story, a new video game. I must have been 8 or 9, and the teacher was pretty impressed (or at least acted impressed). I wrote my first novel at 18, my second novel at 21, and my third novel at 25. I’m just finishing my fourth novel now, which has taken me over 15 years to write (and rewrite and rewrite).
MFD: Who are your writing influences?
Brendan Deneen: I was (probably too) influenced by Faulkner when I was younger, but I’m also very influenced by Vonnegut. Really, though, I’ve been reading professionally (as a film exec, agent and now editor) for almost 11 years and I think reading SO much stuff by SO many writers (both good and bad) has been the biggest influence.
MFD: How did you break into the comic book industry?
Brendan Deneen: I had been trying to break into the comic book industry since high school. I would send them pitches for obscure characters, like The Shroud, or Night Force, or Arion. I actually got fairly far with DC for a sci-fi comic I created on my own. That was huge for a 15-year-old. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but I kept trying. I pitched SCATTERBRAIN to Karen Berger/Vertigo in 1991, when I was 19 years old! She never responded. Fast forward to 2004, when I was working at Dimension Films. I contacted Rich Emms about books he was publishing when he created AP Comics. We met up and hit it off right away. I pitched him SCATTERBRAIN and he loved it, and he ended up publishing it when he was at Markosia. Then, he somehow got in touch with the rights holders of FLASH GORDON and asked me if I wanted to pitch a version of the character. I was like, “Uhh…..HELLS YES!” And somehow that pitch beat out another A-list creator’s pitch….and the rest is history!
MFD: Could you talk about the Flash Gordon series you’ve written for Ardden Entertainment?
Brendan Deneen: We’ve published one full arc of FLASH GORDON, entitled THE MERCY WARS, which was both critically and commercially well-received, and we have three more in the hopper. Then came the amazing anthology, THE SECRET HISTORY OF MONGO, which takes place right after the events of THE MERCY WARS. The next six-issue arc is INVASION OF THE RED SWORD, which debuts in a couple of weeks (after several unfortunate delays). Then comes THE VENGEANCE OF MING, which is the conclusion of our “Red Sword Trilogy,” followed by KING OF THE IMPOSSIBLE, which is kind of a stand-alone story arc, but will be really, really cool. I think it will depict a Flash Gordon that no one has ever seen before.
MFD: What is your role on the new Atlas Comics line of comics?
Brendan Deneen: I don’t have an official title with Atlas but Ardden and Atlas have teamed up to bring back the 1970s Atlas characters, starting with PHOENIX (which I’m co-writing with Jim Krueger), THE GRIM GHOST, and WULF (the Barbarian). I’m working very closely with Jason Goodman, the grandson of Marvel Comics’ Founder Martin Goodman, and have also been working closely with all of the creative teams.
MFD: The new Atlas is assembling quite a pool of creative talent. Could you speak to that?
Brendan Deneen: Jason Goodman and I have been meticulous about the talent we’ve approached for the three debut Atlas titles. We are brainstorming concepts ahead of time, along with his creative team and the Ardden team, and then we think long and hard about the best writer(s) and/or artist(s) for each book. For instance, after working on the PHOENIX #0 issue, I knew I HAD to stay involved with that title. I love alien abduction stories, and Jim Kruger and I have put together a kick-ass first arc (each Atlas arc will be 6 issues). Steve Niles and Nat Jones are tearing WULF up….some of the most amazing art I’ve ever seen. And we’re about to announce a slightly revised creative team for GRIM GHOST that is really exciting.
MFD: It’s great to see Mike Grell at Atlas in the role of EIC at Atlas!
Brendan Deneen: Mike Grell is a legend, of course. I’ve been a fan of his since back when I was in high school. I represented him when I was a film agent, which was a dream come true (I also represented Kurt Busiek and J.M. DeMatteis, which was also ridiculously awesome). The fact that I now have Mike on as our Editor-in-Chief is beyond cool. It’s surreal, actually. But once you get over the “Holy Shit” factor, you realize that this is someone who has so much to offer, and someone who is genuinely excited to be involved with Ardden and Atlas. That’s pretty damn cool, too.
MFD: What can we expect from the new Phoenix?
Brendan Deneen: As mentioned, Phoenix is a classic alien abduction story with a twist. What’s cool about this iteration is that… true to the title… every time our main character dies, he comes back, more powerful (and less human) than before. So, we plan on killing him over and over again! Mu-ha-ha-hahahahahahahaha!
Seriously, though, Ed Tyler (aka Phoenix) is a really fun character to write. He’s someone who kind of abandoned his friends and family (as seen in the #0 issue) but that abandonment (or at least the perceived abandonment) is really going to end up haunting Ed. And when I say haunting… I mean his past is going to end up kicking his ass! It’s a really cool, almost Shakespearian story, with a very compelling emotional core… not to mention super powers, aliens and spaceships! And the art by Dean Zachary is phenomenal. He’s a superstar in the making.
MFD: Atlas Comics is offering a cool looking 7 inch statue of the Grim Ghost. Do you have any other statues, or anything else along those lines, planned?
Brendan Deneen: My business partner, Rich Emms, has many more statues planned. I’ve seen the early models for Grim and it is beyond cool looking.
MFD: Can you give any information on which Atlas titles might be revived, or which Atlas characters might be brought back next?
Brendan Deneen: We are rolling out the Atlas characters very slowly and methodically. We’ve discussed which title to do next… Planet of the Vampires is probably the top contender… but nothing has been decided. I can tell you that we are going to be announcing a “team book,” which will debut this fall and will star at least four of the Atlas heroes. I’m very excited about that one. But rest assured that we will never do huge company-wide crossovers where you have to buy a ton of titles to understand what’s going on.
MFD: Are there any plans for an anthology book of any sort from the new Atlas line?
Brendan Deneen: We don’t have any anthologies planned right now. We want to focus on getting these characters up and running first.
MFD: Are the new Atlas titles planned as monthly or bi-monthly publications?
Brendan Deneen: The new Atlas titles will be monthly books. Each one (Phoenix, Wulf and Grim Ghost) will have six issues in the first arc. Then will come our “team up” book, which will be “in continuity,” and then the next 6 issue arc will start for each of these characters, and any new characters we’ll be rolling out.
MFD: I’d really like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me, Brendan. My best on the launch, and thanks for helping bring Atlas Comics back to the stands, where they belong!
Brendan Deneen: Thank you for asking such great questions and for supporting the line. It’s hard to be a small comic book publisher these days, so I really appreciate everyone’s support. It means a lot to me and the rest of the Ardden and Atlas teams.
About the interviewer:
Mark F Davis is Vice President of Publishing for Red Leaf Media, LLC. and is also Senior Editor for Red Leaf Comics.
Mark is a contributing writer at Red Leaf Comics and has crafted several tales for The Leaf, Canada’s Greatest Hero at www.redleafcomics.com. His creator-owned properties include: Skyscraper, Depthon –Son of the Ocean, The American Guard, and other heroes from Surprising Comics and can be found at www.surprisingcomics.com.
Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.