Writer Brenden Fletcher was raised in a musical household in the farming township of Wainfleet, Ontario. His parents even met while performing in a band. A trained vocalist, guitarist, actor, and composer, Fletcher also created and sang with the Black Canary Band, a companion to the DC title that was released to celebrate 70 years of Black Canary in 2017.
While Fletcher is perhaps best known for his successful runs on both Batgirl (DC) and Motor Crush (Image) with Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart, it was his Gotham Academy storyline with childhood friend and Eisner Award-winning artist Karl Kershl that garnered him international recognition.
Now living in Brooklyn, New York, Fletcher reunited the Gotham Academy team for his current work ISOLA (Image), a magical story about a soldier guard who falls for her queen and stays by her side even when she is magically transformed into a tiger. According to Fletcher, ISOLA is years in the making and spans his more than 30-year friendship and collaboration with Kershl.
SYFY WIRE got a chance to sit and talk with Fletcher about his collaborative work process, his anime influences, and what he's composing for his next comic.
When did you decide that you could actually have a career writing comics?
I'd known for a long time that it was possible to make a living by creating comics, but it always seemed a little impenetrable to us small-town guys from Southern Ontario in Canada. I grew up with Karl Kershl, who has been my longtime best friend. We were both artists. I had always been onstage as a singer and musician, and even though I was in art school with Karl, he was just improving by leaps and bounds, where I was struggling to keep up. So being a comic book illustrator became an opportunity for him when we were quite young.
He very quickly felt frustrated about the stuff that he was being asked to draw, so we started scheming to do our own thing. That's when I started really writing and Karl started working with Marvel. He was doing his [panels] during the day, I would be performing at night, but we would both keep collaborating on projects together. We've got tons and tons of material, and there are people who have copies of some of it, like C.B. Cebulski, who really encouraged us to create one of our bigger projects.
Besides music, what or who inspires the stories you write?
Everything, but we're all anime and manga fans. I had this old pitch laying around from years ago that was inspired by Fuli Culi. I dug it up and brought that project to the Batgirl team. We [turned it into] something different because it took on what Babs brings to it. Like more fashion-forward, more sparkle, more pink, a little more Sailor Moon, but also incorporating Cameron's love of kind of dark and more grounded stuff like Akira.
I know when I talked to Babs she said that occasionally she would put her two cents into the storyline as well.
She will give sort of final notes on a scene before drawing it, like sometimes "This doesn't make sense to me" or "Can you guys do another draft of this?" Or even sometimes making suggestions, saying, "I think it should go something like this."
I think early on we thought that we were going to have more of three hands doing the writing, but timing just doesn't allow for it. Babs just has to be drawing, she just does not have the time to be on these like two-, three-, four-, five-hour-long phone calls talking through story beats.
Do you have a similar working relationship with Karl? Or is it a little bit different since you've got history?
Karl and I have known each other for so long that we hope that no one ever asks to look at our scripts. When we were on Gotham Academy, Becky Cloonan and I had to do proper scripts for DC comics editorial. But me and Karl? We don't do proper scripts for ISOLA until it comes time to send dialogue to Aditya to letter. It's a ton of notes spread across a bunch of documents. Everything changes as we go. Karl is consistently inspired by his work when nothing is carved in stone and he can make changes on the fly as the spirit moves him.
I know it sounds like we're creating by the seat of our pants, but it's been working out well.
You write a lot of rather complex female characters. Do many of the women you write about have real-life counterparts?
Frankie from Batgirl is exactly a friend of ours from Montreal, and that wasn't the intention out of the gate. We just started formulating Frankie and that just started coming out. Both Cameron and I were like "Oh my God! this is totally our friend," and we kinda leaned into it.
I was going to say out of all those new characters for DC, I have the most affection for Frankie, but I also have so much for all the kids of Gotham Academy.
Being a manga and anime fan, how excited were you to be a part of the Ghost in the Shell: Global Neural Network and the Attack on Titan anthologies? Did Kodansha call you directly?
Oh my God. It was amazing! Kodansha came to the Batgirl team with Titan, actually. It was Jeanine Schaefer, ex-Marvel editor (and our future Motor Crush editor), who contacted us about that.
Ghost in the Shell came out of having done Attack on Titan. When I learned that it was on the horizon I told them that Ghost in the Shell is my wife's favorite [anime] movie ever. They didn't buy it.
How did you land it, then?
So, here's a hot tip for writers trying to get comics gigs: Try to bring the hottest artist you can. So I did that. I roped in LRNZ from Italy, who had done a piece for their Akira art book. So they were already into him, and I knew he was a Ghost in the Shell fan.
Are you still doing music? Do you have any plans to create more tracks to coincide with your work?
I'm angling to get at least one piece out for ISOLA in 2019.
It's tough, because everything I laid down feels like a knockoff Joe Hisaishi music. ISOLA's music is so Ghibli-inspired. There is a part of me that just lives that vibe at all times. Plus, we just got back from doing all these shows in Tokyo. I went to the Ghibli Museum for the first time. It was really something.
What else can we look forward to in 2019?
There's going to be one volume of ISOLA every year for the next number of years. There is a third volume of Motor Crush coming next summer. It's very exciting. Once again, very different from the previous two volumes.
And I'm taking on another monthly book for a licensed property that I can't talk about, but I'm really jazzed about it. I couldn't say no. It's a playground I'd been dreaming about messing around with for most of my life.