Briggs Land is a comic series by Brian Wood and Mack Chater that focuses on “a nearly a hundred square miles of rural wilderness that harbors the largest and most secretive antigovernment secessionist movement in the United States. When matriarch Grace Briggs wrests control of the operation from her incarcerated husband, she sparks a war within the community—and her immediate family—that threatens to bring the full power of the federal government down on their heads.” The series has is in development as a TV series for AMC with Wood on board as writer and executive producer.
I talked with series artists Chater about working on the project and working with Wood specifically.
DAN WICKLINE: As an artist, how do you approach a book like Briggs Land that is more character and dialogue driven then action based.
MACK CHATER: My approach for Briggs Land is the same for any genre I’m working on. The story always comes first. What is being said? What is important on this page? How can I make sure the page is clear and visually interesting for the reader? Since the mood of the book is more realistic, Brian and I made a conscious decision not to use standard comic book tropes we are accustomed to seeing (breaking the panel borders, speed lines, etc.,) from the start. This presented some challenges to my design approach.
DW: How detailed are the scripts you get from Brian? Does he get down to the minutia or is it more open for you to get creative?
MC: Brian’s scripts are great. They are easy for me to interpret with exactly the amount of detail and direction needed to allow me the creative freedom to work how I like. Obviously, there are specifics within the script, such as locations, vehicles, guns, etc., that I need to adhere to. However, with Brian’s impressive experience as a writer, the scripts make my job both enjoyable and creatively rewarding.
DW: What is your art process? Do you do thumbnails, then pencils and then inks? Do you do detailed pencils or roughs and inks? And how long does a page normally take you?
MC: My process has evolved over the course of the project. Initially, I would create thumbnails of page flow, panel sizes, etc., for myself. Next, I translated those thumbnails to layouts, which were sent to Brian and Dark Horse’s editorial team. The team sent back notes, and then I’d start working on penciling pages. The penciled pages were sent back for approval. After approval, I’d move onto the final inks.
I have a couple of issues under my belt, and the process is much quicker now. I work up layouts, get notes, and then move onto inks from there. After arranging a page layout, I’m able to ink a page in roughly two to three hours and I like to try and get through a couple of pages a day.
DW: How much research do you have to do for a series like this? With it being such a grounded-in-reality series, is there any added pressure to make sure that the things you draw are as accurate as possible?
MC: When I first was asked to be part of this project, Brian sent me a great a great guide detailing the world of Briggs Land and its characters. Brian also supplied me with a large reference folder full of images: locations, characters, vehicles, guns, movie inspiration, etc. We also discussed the mood of the book, as well as cinematic influences and inspirations, to help give the book that “lived in” realistic feel.
Obviously, living in Northeast England doesn’t afford me the luxury of nipping out to get specific photo reference, but I speak with Brian most days, and he can get me any references if I can’t! I find getting the vehicles, guns, clothes, and locations correct most rewarding. I enjoy having readers tweet me and say things like “that looks like my hometown” or “I know those guys!” This really makes all the hard work and effort getting the details right, worthwhile!
DW: How did you get into drawing comics? Who were some of your influences growing up?
MC: I’ve always drawn and wanted to tell stories. I worked in the video games industry for almost 20 years, and have always drawn in my job. Alongside that, I’ve always done little bits of freelance work in illustrations and comics. Eventually, I got the opportunity to make drawing comics my full-time job and have been doing so for almost two years now.
I have LOADS of influences, too many to mention! The main influencers, the ones that consistently inspire me on a daily basis, are people like Mort Drucker of MAD Magazine, the French artist Moebius, Alex Toth, and the magazine illustrators of the 50s and 60s.
And here is an 18 page preview of the first issue of the series showing Mack’s work in all it’s glory.
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