For those with arachnophobia, Brett Brooks has a three book series that might appeal: “How to Kill a Spider,” a three part “killology.” [See side bar, "Porterdale artist releases game based on graphic novels."]
At least that’s what the Porterdale resident calls his graphic book series: “How to Kill a Spider,” “How to Kill a Spider More,” and finally, the one still in production, “How a Spider Kills You.”
He admits the books evolved because he is afraid of spiders. The first book in the series suggests ways to kill a spider that sets up residence in someone’s house. Weapons include newspapers, brooms, an old book, fire, a gun. For those who think ‘spidercide’ is wrong, there are also suggestions on how to scoop up a spider and move it back to its natural habitat outside.
He said he was contacted recently by a fan of the graphic novel and told she would be dressed as one of the characters for cosplay at Dragon Con.
In the book, “Dust Bunny,” Brooks’ characters, Dust Bunny and friends are at the comedy club, “The Sink Hole.” They are served by a former “glow-glow” dancer, “Lily L’ava,” whom Dust Bunny questions as part of his investigation into a murder.
“Lily L’ava is the character that will be showing up at Dragon Con this year,” Brooks said. “”She’s a broken lava lamp.
“It’s the first time one of my characters will be a cosplay identity,” he said.
Known as the Southeast’s answer to Comic Con, Dragon Con is an annual multi-genre convention geared towards science fiction and fantasy comic books, games and films. Started in 1987, the event is held each year in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend and draws crowds of over 60,000 people. This year, the convention is Friday through Monday, Sept. 2 through 5.
The convention spills through downtown Atlanta at a variety of venues — The Hyatt Regency, Atlanta Hilton, Sheraton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis and the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. Brooks does not know where he will be stationed.
Porterdale artist Brett Brooks will be seated beneath a huge black and white banner portraying characters from his graphic novel, “Dust Bunny.”
From the Basement
In 2014, Brooks created Basement City Productions. He started attending conventions, including last year’s Dragon Con, to sell books and prints. He’s on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, and has a personal web site, www.brettbrooks.com, and is in the process of updating the Basement City Productions web site.
As a freelance artist, Brooks has
s done work for Disney, Mars, Game Salute, Super Squawk Software and JustMobile Games. Using Twitch.TV, he illustrates how a graphic novel is created, showing “weekly streams of comic page production, sketch work, and color process.” And he’s worked in the films in “Patient,” (2016) “Re Inc.,” (2015) and “Vent” (2009). He just finished work on “Helen and the Greatest of All,” a short film.
He’s also worked for Returnstyle and Giant Step Films. He worked as a coder on “Halt and Catch Fire,” as a set dresser on “Breaking at the Edge,” and a storyboard artist for the short, “Dawn.”
A storyteller at heart
Brooks never expected to become a working freelance graphic artist and storyteller. In fact, he admits, he only took one art class in high school. Born and raised in Ozark, Alabama, he said, “No one knew what to do with me. Even I didn’t know. The thing I tell people all the time, you live in Atlanta as an artist who works from home and you look at where I came from, and it doesn’t make sense on paper.”
Until college, Brooks said, he was self-taught. Before starting college, he worked at a pharmacy, “running drugs to nursing homes in a purple Cadillac.”
In 2001, Brooks began attending Full Sail University in Orlando, where he studied computer animation. “I enjoyed it. It was fun, but it wasn’t my work,” he said.
The need to work on his own creations shadowed Brooks from childhood.
“There is that Christmas morning feeling the first time I created my first original characters,” he said. “As a child, I didn’t understand legalities or trademarks. I just knew Bugs Bunny didn’t belong to me.
“I got such a high out of creating my own characters that it became like an addiction,” he said.
He said the desire to create something new, something that hadn’t existed before it sprang from his mind, was overwhelming, but it wasn’t something that made growing up in Ozark particularly comfortable.
“My parents were supportive, but I’m not sure anyone really knew what to do with me,” he said. “When everyone else is grounded in athletics … I was the only one in my area who did what I did – cartoon characters.”
They might not have understood him, he said, but whenever there was a need for a cartoon design, whether for a yearbook or flyer, “I was the one who got called.”
While at Full Sail, he said, one of his classmates told him about the Savannah College of Art and Design and a degree program in graphic storytelling known as sequential art. Brooks was interested.
“It was all about narrative storytelling,” he said. That included created storyboards, comics, children’s books, “anything that has a chronological story to it.”
He didn’t immediately switch colleges, however. Instead, he withdrew from Full Sail and headed back home. There, he worked at a textile plant, which manufactured the waterproof fabric used to cover outdoor furniture.
Finally, in 2005, Brooks began attending SCAD, where he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Sequential Art in 2009. While at college, he began working at Disney World in Orlando on designing merchandise such as pins, toys and box art, some from well-known animated films, others original to the parks.
Disney laid off the artists in 2008. A year later, they bought Marvel Comics. Brooks said he wasn’t sorry to be let go. “I never saw Disney as a long-term thing. I loved working for them. They were an immaculate company, but [I] wasn’t [doing] my work.
“I’m not sure where my path would have led me if they hadn’t let me go,” he said.
While finishing his degree, he served tables at restaurants and worked at a Birkenstock store. “I came out of SCAD with an idea of what I wanted to be, but didn’t have an idea on how to get there,” he said.
He sent portfolios of his work to everybody, he said, including Pixar and Disney. Becoming a freelance artist was something of an accident, he said. “There was a client, then another client. Then a friend got me a job with online flash video games in Alpharetta. I started getting contract work and they were paying a decent rate.
“I was living in downtown Savannah and paying my bills,” he said.
Freelancing and dedication
Brooks doesn’t own a TV. He hasn’t owned one since 2010, when he became a full-time freelance artist. It’s a distraction he doesn’t want or need.
“Freelancing requires dedication and self-discipline,” he said.
As for being an artist who works out of his apartment in the Porterdale Mill Lofts, he said finding the story is the easy part of creating. “The conception of the idea is the honeymoon; the marriage is the work. You have to dedicate yourself to it every day.
He said he loves the lofts because of the huge windows that provide a lot of light. Being close to the river is also something he appreciates. For someone who works out of the space where he lives, he said, the Lofts have proven to be the right environment for someone who works from home.
“Everyone else in the country, they go home to get away from work,” he said. “When you work from home, you don’t get to go somewhere else. There’s something very familiar about this area. You can’t beat the river in the back and my neighbors are friendly.”
He said he will be reaching out to Diamond Distributors, which distributes to comic stores throughout the country. In the meantime, he continues to finish up the work on “Deuces Wild.”
“Graphic novels are fun because they are like a film,” he said. “I wanted to do a story that has a beginning, middle and end. It was satisfying completing the story line. I think graphic novels are popular because it’s like reading a film.”
Brooks said he grew up on films, that they are his favorite source of stores. “The graphic novel is so close to what a film is to me, I think it makes sense to articulate that for storytelling.”