Brian Mitchell does DIY comics the size of a pack of matches, which is cool by itself, however during our interview he expressed influences as diverse from Franz Kafka to Dave Sim to the Pander Brothers. Which makes him really cool to me. Check out our chat.
Who are you and where are you from and where do you live now?
My name is Brian John Mitchell & I make comics the size of a pack of matches. I’m from Raleigh, NC & after some semi-extensive traveling I have ended up back here with the realization that every place is just a place & I can do the important things to me pretty much anywhere.
Ahhh, one of the great secrets of life. Do you remember the first comic that you read?
I’m not sure if it was the first one I read, but the first comics I got was a three pack that had an issue of The Thing #5 in it. This was back in the early 1980s. It was from Woolworths.
Oh yeah, I remember getting those from Woolworths back in the day. I got a bunch of old Charlton Comics that way. When did you know you wanted to be a comic creator?
Well, I knew I wanted to be a comic creator when I was 11. But I couldn’t draw & even though I was aware of there being a half dozen people involved in comics it didn’t seem like I could really do it & I fell out of comics when I was in high school because there was a definite social outcast thing with comics in my area at the time (still is I assume as a metro area of about a million people can only keep two comic shops open). So I didn’t really think about doing comics again until there was this co-worker at a video store that was into comics when I was 20 & so I did this one called “Shimmer” & I didn’t know what to do with it so it just sat in a closet until earlier this year actually. When I was 25 I started doing these little doodle comics for these one off zines I did for my girlfriend & eventually that turned into Lost Kisses. So I kind of just fell into, “Oh, I’m making comics now,” without a real intention to do so or much awareness of other people doing it.
Who are some of your major influences?
Well, my influences vary a lot. Because I’m mainly “just a writer” my influences tend to be writers & most notably I would say folks like Franz Kafka & Robert E Howard as super important to me from the non-comics field. From within the comics field there’s Stan Lee (his 1960s stuff I stand behind), Frank Miller, Dave Sim, Sam Kieth, & of course Will Eisner. Also I’m a big fan of all the golden & silver age sci-fi & horror stuff. & it would be negligent not to mention that I read virtually every Marvel comic from 1983-1988. Art wise I have to say I have come to love it when people have their own unique style. I will always love the Pander Brothers for being the first thing to shake me into the idea that all artwork doesn’t need to look like John Byrne or whatever.
You are quite prolific as a writer with many books under your belt, but it is interesting that you mentioned Robert E. Howard because I wanted to ask you about your book. R.E.H. It sounds really intriguing. Tell me a little bit about this tale.
Well, Robert E Howard is mainly famous because he created Conan & more or less the sword & sorcery genre. For years he’s been critically dismissed because 90% of the work you see with his name on it is actually written by someone else. He’s actually a pretty great writer when you read a story actually written by him that was a completed manuscript. Anyway, so R.E.H. is about his life & his real day to day life was taking care of his dying mother with him getting less & less time of his own more or less every day of his life for the final ten years or so of his life. So it’s worth noting here that I quit my day job in 2008 so I could pull my grandmother out of a nursing home & take care of her at home (she died October 23, 2011) & so that experience just dramatically increased my admiration for Howard as a human being & with R.E.H. I splice my life & his life together into pseudo-auto-biographical tales.
Pain into art is a good way to cope. Let me take a step back and ask you about making matchbook size comics. Did you always have this DIY philosophy?
Yeah, pretty much. When I was 16 I first discovered zines & had some short stories appear in a few. When I was 18 I dated a girl who did a zine with her sister & I met a couple other people doing zines when I went to college & so then I started a zine called QRD (now online only) & that was a standard 8.5×5.5 music interview zine. I had this spinoff violent poetry zine called Random Kisses that was the size of a business card & made from cutting up one piece of paper & assembling it. The first couple of issues of Lost Kisses were done that way as well & then I realized I could lay them out to make them easier to assemble. But it’s a mix of being cost effective & self-reliant to doing everything myself. I try not to be a control freak, but I know I am….
You’re a creator, of course you’re a control freak, we all are. So I went to your website and you’ve got a bunch of different titles. I’d love to talk about all of them, however this column being only so long, tell me which of your tales that you love the most to create?
I really have a lot of fun with XO & could probably write an issue every week if the art could get done at that rate. However, I really think the R.E.H. might be the best actual work. I also like Worms a lot because that story doesn’t have a long form plot written & I get to be surprised with what happens.
Lastly, where can the fans contact you and find your work?
www.silbermedia.com/comics is probalby the best place to start. I have a whole world of content I create & a lot of it they can check out for free. Thanks for your interest & support.
Hey man, thanks for a great interview. Take it easy.
By Andre Owens
“Matches Sized Comics: An interview with Brian Mitchell.”
Thanks, you too.
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!