By Cornelius A. Fortune
Graphic novelist Brian K. Vaughan talks about his plans for the future
DEARBORN – An author of immense talent and imagination, Brian K. Vaughan has taken politicians and turned them into superheroes (“Ex Machina”); realized a childhood fantasy where all the men die
(“Y: The Last Man”); and explored the Iraq War from the perspective of three escaped lions (“Pride of Baghdad”). Vaughan has taken these fantastic elements and made them work for the real world in words and pictures, and he’s not ashamed to be called a “comic book writer.”
Nearing the end of the successful comic book series, “Y: The Last Man,” the scribe is looking forward to seeing the work adapted into a film (with New Line Cinema). He has also written his first graphic novel, “Pride of Baghdad,” which was published to rave reviews. He recently was invited by the Arab American Museum in Dearborn (and his friends at Green Brain Comics) to do a reading and signing from the book.
“I try to do as many signings as possible,” he said. “When they mentioned the Arab American Museum was interested, it was too unique an opportunity to pass up – to reach out to people who were affected by the real inspiration behind this book, perhaps a community that’s not familiar with graphic novels, I think it’s always good to reach out to new audiences.”
“Y: The Last Man,” is perhaps his most popular title – it also won him the Eisner Award (the Oscars of the comic industry). Lesbianism is explored in a world without men, and how women as a nation pull together to govern themselves. For Vaughan, this idea was always fascinating to him.
“It was always meant to be just a comic book,” he said. “I wanted to do a story about gender because it’s a topic that always interested me. I wanted something with a little more depth to it.”
Dr. Mann, one of the book’s main characters, is a brilliant Asian geneticist, who holds the key to saving the world, and just so happens to be a lesbian.
“It helps define her,” Vaughan said of her sexuality, “but I think too often there’s that token gay character that gets shoehorned into a story line and they’re just there to be gay and nothing beyond that.
“It was nearly two years before it (her sexuality) was brought up. Her sexuality is (as) important to her as Agent 355’s (the last man’s bodyguard). I think they are women who are more defined by their occupations and their brilliance and their strength. Who they chose to sleep with is a part of who they are but it doesn’t solely define them.”
He has built an array of diverse characters, from African-American, Asian, and even those of Middle Eastern descent.
“I spent 10 years in New York before moving to California,” he said. “These are the people I am surrounded by and I try to have my writing reflect my life. To write a cast of characters who look like me would be not only boring, but inaccurate. I try to capture my world.”
People have often said that his work is cinematic, or filled with pop culture references, and cliffhangers. He doesn’t like these labels: that’s partly why he wrote “Pride of Baghdad.”
“Part of a reason of doing something like ‘Pride of Baghdad’ was just to do something that could truly only be a comic,” he said. “(It’s) too expensive to do live action; perhaps a little too adult to do as an animated family film; it’s really something that can only be a comic book – comic books shouldn’t be a glorified blueprint for a movie. I’m happy for some things to remain a comic, and only a comic forever.”
After 10 years of writing comics, he’s ready to slow down a bit, to recharge and consider his next project.
“Right now I want to concentrate on ending ‘Y’ hopefully as strongly as we started it. Then I want to take a little breather just to collect myself,” said Vaughan.
He also notes that he’s not a writer that particularly enjoys writing, but he loves having written. “It’s sort of like being an alcoholic in reverse, where you have to endure the hangover to get to the fun drunken feeling so you just have to power through that miserable hang over, and just do the work.”