It’s been a long time since I finished a first issue of a comic that I not only, immediately read it again, but also became frustrated that I didn’t have the next issue(s) on hand.
Next month, Dark Horse will publish Brian Wood’s Briggs Land, which is simultaneously being developed at AMC. And it should be.
With this title, Wood has truly written a “binge” worthy read.
Here’s the pitch:
“BRIGGS LAND is the story of the nation’s largest and most secretive antigovernment movement. A hundred square miles of rural terrain, founded and managed by the Briggs Family, who’s political ideologies have been slowly corrupted over the years and now fully embrace gun-running, drug smuggling, money laundering, and a half-dozen other RICO predicates. If you think of The Sopranos set in militia culture, you get an idea of the family drama that is BRIGGS LAND.
But that just scratches the surface.
It’s a story of an organized crime family, but one you’ve never seen before.
It’s the story of a mother coming to grips with the fact that her family is falling apart right in front of her eyes.
It’s a series about how the individual rights of average people are placed at the mercy of corporate interests, political corruption, and human greed.
It’s a story of post-9/11 religious extremism, lone wolves, hate crimes, and post traumatic stress disorder.
It’s about the beauty of nature, the preservation of life lived out of the hustle and bustle of mainstream society, and the balance of nature and society and our role in preserving that balance.
And, it’s about guns. It’s also about America, and those two are one and the same.”
It’s a smart book, geared for intelligent readers that are involved with politics, follow the news and the issues that exist in this country and the world. It’s also damned entertaining.
Brian took some time to discuss the book. Read this comic; it’s not only good, it’s important.
FOG!: I loved the first issue. How would you describe the series?
Brian Wood: Thank you! I describe the book as a crime series, a “Sopranos set within a militia community”. Which is both accurate but a simplified description. What we have is an American family drama set against some of the most divisive and hot-button times in this nation’s history, incorporating politics, extremism, gun violence, and terrorism. Its right in line with the types of comics I’ve done throughout my career, although I’m often casting my gaze ahead into an fictionalized near future world. Briggs Land is real life, right now.
The book has a great team: Mack Chater, Lee Loughridge, Tula Lotay. I’m blessed to have them with me, helping to make this a reality.
What was the genesis of Briggs Land?
I had this folder of research that I had been building from the rejects of my DMZ and Rebels research, and after a while I started to eyeball it thinking there was probably a story to be found in there somewhere.
Rebels was about a 1776-era American militia, and Briggs Land is about a 2016-era militia. These are two very different things, one being associated with honor and freedom, the other with nativism and guns and illegality. I was fascinated at how we went from one to the other, how our culture has changed.
Were there any real-life inspirations for the Briggs family and what kind of research did you do?
If you look at the news, there’s a lot of real life inspiration these days, specifically the Bundy family and the steady reports of increased militia activity in this country that’s, I think, come as a response to both the Obama presidency and the growing class and power divide in this country.
I found most of my inspiration, though, from two specific sources: Ruby Ridge, and Timothy McVeigh. I feel that, together, these two accounts represent extremes on both ends of the spectrum, including law enforcement.
Briggs Land is also being developed by AMC, with you writing the pilot. Unlike other comic shows on the network like The Walking Dead or Preacher which had a large body of work published before adaptation, Briggs Land is in development even before the first issue premieres. Will the show be a direct adaptation and how much, if any, will the work in one medium influence or affect the other?
Its a little early for a definitive ruling on that, but since I’m writing the adaptation, its pretty close to being direct, allowing for the natural sort of drift that is required of any adaptation that moves from one medium to another.
The good thing about comics is that comics moves much faster than television, so while I started writing Briggs Land #1 (the comic) at the same time as I started to plot out Briggs Land the TV pilot, I’m not up to issue 5 and 6 of the comic and am still working on the pilot. So there is a growing body of work, and will only keep growing and providing material for the show.
I can’t stress what a unique experience I believe this to be… not only that its a remarkable experience, but I can’t think of another instance of this in comics, where the TV deal is done before the comic deal, but both are written at the same time by the creator.
Its both stressful and mentally taxing but hugely rewarding creatively. It feels like the start of a new career. Maybe it is the start of a new career… certainly a new aspect of it. I’m quickly coming up on my 20-year anniversary of making comics professionally, and after so many scripts and so many weekly deadlines it’s easy to start to feel a little tired, a little burned out. This is a spark of excitement, the chance to use some different muscles. The chance to stay curious and engaged and learn something new.
With a 100 year history of the land being owned by the Briggs family. We also have mentions of the family patriarch being involved with a Presidential assassination attempt. Will the narrative be linear or will we see different eras of the Briggs family throughout the series?
It’s pretty linear and in-the-now for the foreseeable future. I can see a lot of story potential in what you just describe, but if and when we do that it’ll be a couple years down the road. This is a complex story with a large cast, and I’d like to focus on that and develop it before I start veering off. It may be a case of writing some annuals, or a side mini-series, something like that.
Most of your comic work is constructed with a beginning, middle and end. Do you have an ending for the comic and in addition to executive producing the series, will it be challenging to have other writers writing their version of your story before yours is completed?
I gave a general ending… I have the event that will conclude the story but its defined only broadly right now. But it is an ending, one that I’m in no rush to get to. I have dozens and dozens of story ideas for this series.
As far as other writers, should Briggs Land clear all its hurdles and end up as an actual show on the air, I’ll be locked in as both its creator and an executive producer. I’ll have a role in the writer’s room, whatever form that will take. This isn’t a case of AMC handing me a check and sending me on my way… I’ll be present. I’ll be on set. So while I’m not afraid of other writers coming in and working on the show, I’ll be there as well.
The comic is of course ours and ours alone to do, separate from anything else.
Do you have a favorite character in the series to write and why?
Well, Grace Briggs, the lead character, is the heart of the story and the focal point for everything that happens, and so she’s always going to be a favorite.
Her aside, though, its Caleb Briggs, the moody and conflicted eldest son. I can’t say too much without spoiling things, but he’s going to cause some pretty epic waves and a lot of trouble for this mother.
Below check out a preview of issue #1