Interview: The Illumi-Nerdi Take Readers “Behind the Writing”

Brian J. Harris and Phillip Butehorn are ready to take you behind the writing as they create a new comic series. At their blog, The Illumi-Nerdi, Harris and Butehorn are looking for readers to get involved and help them with decisions as they craft the new book. Harris and Butehorn sat down with Comicosity to discuss their blog, the new comic, and how readers can get involved with the process.

Aaron Long: Alright, first things first: where did you come up with Illumi-Nerdi and what have you guys got cooking over at the blog?

Brian J. Harris & Phillip Butehorn: A while back we saw that Image Comics and some of the other companies were accepting submissions for original comics, so we thought we’d try our hand at it. After writing for a bit, we thought the best way to get our story out there was to create a blog and try to reach as many people as possible. That was the plan at least. From there we actually started focusing much more on the blog; top 10 lists, reviews of comics, interviews with people in the comic community, and Deathmatches (which is where we’ve found our most success). The Deathmatches are where we get different artists and have them all draw an image that we give them. We get to see all the different interpretations that the artists come up with, and the fans get to vote for the best ones. Recently, we decided to do something no professional or amateur creator has done before. For the remainder of our blog’s existence, we will be giving fanboys everywhere a behind scenes look into the creation of our comic book.

AL: So what is this comic going to be about? Any specific genre or style?

BJH & PB: We have a couple of different comics we’re working on right now: 617 a Lost-esque apocalypse drama and The Untitled Superhero Book (People can now vote for our title. We are really hoping that Shepherd wins). Our unnamed story features a group of teenagers who unexpectedly receive powers and have to come together to fight an impending evil. We know, we know: “heard that before”. But what separates this story from the rest of the pack is that you get to watch the origin story of superpowered teens and you really don’t know what is going to happen to them. How many different Spiderman origins have there been? How many Batman or X-Men or Daredevil? Despite the “brand new origin story” promised by the writers, you know where these characters are going to wind up at the end of the day. Spiderman is always going to do the right thing and swing in to the rescue at the end of the issue. However, with our characters, you don’t know which side they’re going to end up on despite early heroics and good intentions. Some of these kids will do terrific things. But some of these kids are going to do truly awful things with their newfound talents. The main idea of our story is that these characters aren’t simply black or white. They are realistically flawed and as such, they aren’t always going to do the heroic thing.

In most comic books that focus on teenage characters, those teenagers are too mature and have firm control of those powers. The exact opposite happens in our book. More importantly than anything else, we want this book to have a tint of realism. There will be no costumes. For the time being, these characters will be wearing jockstraps, football jerseys, and lacrosse pads. Also, themes will be consistent throughout our book. For example, we will be exploring the meaning of friendship to teenagers, and the evolution of the meaning as our characters grow into young adulthood. Do not fear. This book is not for teeny boppers.

AL: You have had your work critiqued and you mentioned the results weren’t really what you were looking for. What would you say is the biggest single thing you have learned about the creation of a comic?

BJH & PB: Last year at Comic Con, we went to a panel about creating comic books that was supposed to feature Mike Mignola but ended up being Scott Allie (Senior Managing Editor of Dark Horse). One of the most important lessons from that panel was “your first story is never going to go anywhere”. We were told that your first story simply won’t be good enough because you haven’t had the growing pains and the experience required to make a good story. Like any other brash young writer, we pretty much laughed it off and said “yeah, but you haven’t read THIS story”. As it turns out, he couldn’t have been more correct. Especially after getting critiqued we’ve learned how difficult it is to create a comic. Nobody is going to read your first attempt and say “This is brilliant, sign them up!” We have a lot of work to do on our script and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve decided to get some fan input on our bog. Most recently, we had our first ever comic script critiqued by Comix Tribe. Their critique informed us that we needed to give our script a complete overhaul, particularly in panel descriptions and pacing.

AL: You are soliciting a lot of feedback from your readers along this journey, including choosing the book’s title. From a creative perspective, what do you feel are the benefits of getting people involved with the creation?

BJH & PB: We figured if we could get people on board at the ground floor, at the creative stage, and if the fans get to really watch it grow, they would be a lot more involved and interested in the final product. How great would it be to see something you voted for, or contributed to, in the pages of a real live comic? You would feel like you are a part of that comic because, in a way, you are. By getting feedback from fans, instead of just telling the story that we want to tell, we get to hear exactly what the fans would want to read about. It was a great way to generate interest in our story as well as finding out exactly what kind of story our fanbase would most like to experience.

AL: Any final words for Comicosity’s readers about your project and blog?

BJH & PB: We’ve only just begun the fan input stage of our comic book. We’ll be rolling out a lot of new ways we can get fan’s involvement over the next few months. We have started introducing our characters to the blogosphere in our most recent Artist Deathmatch by having the combatants draw our original characters. In a few weeks, we will be publishing our 100th post. Hopefully, that post will consist of a few pin ups for our book. Very soon after, we will be publishing the first few script pages. By no means will those pages consist as the final draft.


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