I spoke with the British creator Brett Uren a few weeks ago about his life and his creation, Kuzimu. His art reflects both Moebius and Giger influences although he’d disagree with the latter. Our interview left me wanting to read more of his comics, and I think you the reader will too.
Who are you, where are you from, and where do you live now?
My name is Brett Uren, I was born in Hammersmith, London and now live in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Known as Leafy Bucks.
Did you read comics as a child? If so, what did you read?
I read quite a lot of classic british comics with what seem now like quaint little names like The Beano, The Dandy or Whizzer and Chips. I also devoured Spider-man and Fantastic Four. If anyone knows which issues of Spider-man in the mid-eighties have an FF back up story where they take on The Vision, i’ll pay double for them (golden memories)!
Did you go to art school or are you self taught?
I used to draw a lot of cartoons as a kid, design video games etc. so I started out drawing characters. I drew a lot of stuff for kids at school, but it was obvious as I got older that something was missing. I lacked a lot of skill. I went to art college and that straightened me out, gave me external focus to compliment my internal creative excesses.
How did you get your start in the comic field?
To be honest it has been a winding road. I tried to sell digital access to my comics via a website I hosted myself. When that got too ungainly I signed up with Graphicly and became their first independently published title. My first real break came with my submission to 215 Ink, which saw my first digital issues with a publisher gain any kind of leverage. They are also the first to put anything of mine out in print. Really now is my start in the comics field proper. Print still has the air of legitimising your title with readers and retailers… for now.
Yes, print isn’t dead yet. What was the first book that you published through Graphicly? And is it the same that you took to 215Ink?
Kuzimu 1 -3 came out via Graphicly under my own steam. Issues 4 – 7 and the upcoming Graphic Novel (collecting all 7 issues) are under 215 Ink. The decision to take it to a publisher came due to the realisation that I simply couldn’t do it all. Slowly but surely, i’m attempting to let more people take elements of the work on, for my sanity!
Its always nice to have an actual publisher handle your work. Who are some of your major influences as an artist?
My first loves are a mixture of trad and comic artists. Kirby and Bill Watterson are foremost in my mind, as are Mignola, Miller, Moebius and Greg Capullo. Kyle Hotz drew a Carnage one shot that really blew me away. But I also love the work of Kandinsky, Constable, Turner, Dali and others. Although I love HR Giger my work isn’t overly influenced by him, though some reviewers and readers seem to think otherwise. I also love the video game monster designs of Masahiro Ito etc. Game artist are unsung heroes of the modern creative arts.
Now that you’ve been publishing for a while, can you give us some insight into how the Indie comic scene is perceived in Britain?
There’s definite enthusiasm within the retailer and creative community, but a lack of coalition. The market is sort running on a ‘by indie kids for them’ vibe that has energy but needs industry support. Many US publishers have the right idea by taking on so many small creator-owned projects (215 Ink, Image, Archaia etc.), but I can’t think of many in the UK that are serious apart from Markosia and maybe my local retailers imprint, Dead Universe. I’m sure it’ll pick up with the influx of fans bringing their kids into shops (we’re around that age now) and those introduced to it via the movie industry/
Let’s get back to Kuzimu. Tell us about the project and what the name means?
Kuzimu means ‘land of the dead’ or ‘spirit land’ in Swahili. In the simplest terms I wanted to explore the concept of the afterlife from a different angle. A more critical and scientific one, where there isn’t a soul, just the electrical impulses in our brains. As a belief in spirits has evolved with us and the country is meant to be our evolutionary motherland, why not take the mythology of Africa and apply it to this scientific view. This may not be apparent to readers until you absorb it a bit.
Interesting. Do you have any other new projects in the works?
Kuzimu has been my focus over the last few years and is ongoing, but I have a couple of side projects that have been brewing in the background. Just anthology stuff but a nice break in style. One is called ‘The Vale’ and based in an alternate version of my hometown, but where monsters and humans are unemployed and drunk, doing odd sourcery jobs to make ends meet. I have another short piece coming up about a crowd-sourced assassin. After that i’m back to Kuzimu, as a recent competition winner got their creature design into the book and want honour the support of any fan i can get!
Lastly, where can the fans find your work and contact you for any commissions?
They find most information about my work on my website - www.kuzimu.co.uk, where they can find links to the book, t-shirts and other great items. Fans can commission art or simply chat with me via email – email@example.com or on most social media sites (The major ones Kuzimu, Kuzimu Comic or Brett Uren). At the moment I have an Indiegogo campaign going to fund my first trip to New York Comic Con this year, where some of the perks include commission sketches and colour art - http://igg.me/p/209802?a=1072610. They can have the art shipped or collect direct from me at the con if i’m funded. I’ll even draw Galactus in a dress if you want, just to finance my first US con appearance!
Great. Thanks for the informative interview.
The pleasure’s all mine, thank you for bearing with my lengthy replies and misspelling. Really great to speak with you today, have a good one.
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!
By Andre Owens
“Kuzimu Creator Brett Uren, An interview.”