Brian Posehn is best known as a stand-up comedian, and for his roles in Just Shoot Me and The Sarah Silverman Program. It’s clear from his public persona that he embraces geek culture in many ways, including comic books. It was not surprising then when Marvel announced that their new Deadpool series would be co-written by Posehn (with his friend and collaborator Gerry Duggan). What was surprising was how well Posehn’s comedy transitioned to the comics page, and how well he managed to capture the character. I took the opportunity to speak to him during his appearance at this year’s Emerald City Comicon to find out more about his career and how he fell into the world of comics.
What brings you to Seattle?
Really just this con. I’m not doing any stand-up. A lot of times when I do conventions, I try to combine it with a stand-up date, but not this time. This is one of my favourite cities, and Gerry [Duggan] did it last year and had a really good time. I did this con five years ago, and it was tiny then — it was nothing like this. Gerry told me it was really great, and I enjoyed the first time I came — I really just enjoyed being in Seattle for three days. So, we’ve been signing a lot of Deadpool, and we brought some Last Christmases to sell, which we blew through really quickly.
I love cons because you get to promote your book, but I also get to hang out with my friends. This is one of the only times I can get to see Tony [Moore] or Rick [Remender] and all these other guys that we love hanging out with. It’s a social thing as much as it is promoting.
And we have legal weed here now.
Yeah, I don’t know what you’re talking about. [laughter]
Obviously you’re quite invested in the comics scene — how did that come about? Was it through your comedy?
It was just through hanging out, really. Gerry and I were going to the cons and we met Kieron Dwyer and Rick years ago, and we just started hanging out with them — we love them now. We always wanted to do this. Gerry and I met at a comic book store that he worked at, and I was a regular customer at. We had always wanted to work together on something, and we figured we’d eventually end up doing a comic. Last Christmas just came together from that. We had originally written it as a screenplay, and everyone had passed on it — they were like [adopts snobby voice] “No thank you…” — and then we were like, “We should turn this into a comic!” So, we put our own money into it and put it out.
The Marvel thing really just came about through Rick pushing for us to get the job, and hanging out with Marvel guys the last couple of summers at ComiCon. We met Axel Alonso four years ago, I think, before he was the main editor. So, we knew Axel, and we were hanging out with Lee Loughridge and Shawn Crystal and all these really funny guys. We had a lot of fun just BSing with them. So, Axel knew who we were, and he knew we’d done a book before, so when opportunities came up, we were in his mind. Deadpool — of anybody in the Marvel Universe — makes the most sense for us to write. So, we were talking about doing a miniseries at one point. But the higher ups decided not to do it since there’s no money in miniseries. When the opportunity came up to write the ongoing book and take over, we were totally into it. I didn’t realize how much work it was going to be! We had to jump through a bunch of hoops, like pitching the ideas that we were going to use and really prove ourselves to Marvel. They weren’t going to give us the book blindly. It’s been a blast — a lot of work, but fun!
So, it was never a plan to move into comics, it just happened?
Yeah, almost like everything I do. Like, falling into a heavy metal project with Scott Ian, and getting to be in a horror movie. Even TV acting, I just fell into. I moved to LA to write, and I’ve just become a lucky bastard. I just dumbly go through life and then fall into, you know [puts on dumb voice] “OK, I’ll write comic books!”
Do you think it’s the fact that nerd culture is becoming more mainstream, and you’ve talked about that, and metal, and horror movies in your stand-up? So, people see you as being a figurehead of that culture?
Yeah, and I think the fact that it was organic is part of it, too. I never went, “Hey guys, I’m the geek comedian! I hope you all like me…” Instead, I just talked about what I wanted to talk about, and people related to that. They were like, “Oh, wow, he’s like a fat, older version of me!” [laughter] So, that’s how I got an audience — I hate to use that word, though.
So, let’s talk about Deadpool. How are you approaching the character — are you trying to put a personal spin on him?
We want to make it our spin, but we also want to keep to what people love about the character. We didn’t want to scare anybody off. There are a couple of things that we’ve done, that we have reasons for, though. People were a little bummed that he doesn’t talk to himself anymore, and break the fourth wall, but that’s going to come back, and we’re going to have an organic reason for that. But, to us, we always wanted it to be a big action book where crazy shit happens and Deadpool is Deadpool, and then we get to write funny jokes. We get to have him say crazy stuff, and have fun with how other people react to him. We’re just hoping that people like it — and so far they have, which we’re really thankful for. We have lost some people by not doing the monologue stuff, but I think if they stick around, they’ll be surprised to see how we bring it back in a cool way.
How is writing for comics different than writing for stand-up, or TV, or cinema?
Well, with Last Christmas — the first thing we wrote — Rick Remender, our artist, kinda walked us through it. It’s more work writing comics than it is writing a screenplay because you’re describing everything on a page. With a screenplay, it’s just a set-up and then it gets right to the dialogue. With comics, you’re planning all the panels in your head, so there’s a lot more work involved. But, loving comics and getting to finally do that is a lot of fun.
What’s the partnership between you and Gerry like? How do work on your ideas and the script?
We collaborate on the plots first and then, once we get those done, we get a really tight outline put together. We’ll even have joke ideas in the outline. Then one guy will take the lead on a script and we’ll pass it back and forth until we’re happy with it. But, we keep revising, and sometimes Tony’s art will come back and we’ll rewrite the jokes to fit the art.
So, it’s almost like the classic Marvel method?
Well, we’ll finalise the script, but we’ll sometimes just tweak the jokes, like if Tony adds a certain expression in a character’s reaction, that might prompt us to add a joke there.
Is it difficult to pitch the humour at the right level? Sometimes your humour can be close to the knuckle, so do you ever run into trouble?
No, I kinda naturally do that. When I’m on Conan O’Brien or whatever, I know what I can get away with, and what I can’t. I like to push it, though — I’ll take it right to the limit of what I can get away with it. There’s been a little bit of that, with us trying jokes with Marvel. It’s important to me, though, to stay with what I think is funny.
What things have Marvel rejected?
We’ve actually been more surprised at some of the stuff we’ve gotten away with! One thing that didn’t happen, that showed up in a slightly different version in issue four, was that I wanted to have the Kardashians killed. I know that’s the most original thought — a lot of people want the Kardashians to be killed — but I wanted to have the lighting rig fall on them during the Lincoln versus Deadpool fight. We don’t name them as the Kardashians, but if you look at the page, it’s clearly them. That was the one concession I’ve made — “All right, I won’t call them by name…” I would even pitch them and be like, “What if we called them the Car-crash-ians?” but they wouldn’t even let us do that.
What comics are you reading yourself at the moment?
I read everything! I read a lot of the New 52, and I read most of the Marvel books. I’m more into writers than I’m into characters. I follow my friends — I still read a lot of Brubaker, Remender, I read Matt Fraction — all the guys that I really think are talented and stay on top of their books.
Do you have any plans to work with other writers, or maybe do a book by yourself?
No plans, but I’d love to, and I’d love to do a book by myself. I’m writing a book right now — a regular book about my life in comedy — and I’d love to do a comic somewhere down the road. I love working with Gerry, though — we work really well together and we’re really close friends. That partnership will always be there, I think.
Just Deadpool for the foreseeable future, then?
Yeah, it’s a lot of work, man. And doing stand-up, and everything else I do, and being a dad… Some of these dudes, man, some of them do three or four books a month. I have no idea how they do that, and I don’t wanna do that. I like life and sleeping!