Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: For our readers who may be unfamiliar with Higher Universe Comics, what initiated the publishing company and what defines a Higher Universe book?
Brandon Rhiness: Higher Universe Comics initially began when I met co-founder Adam Storoschuk in the early 2000s. We met through a mutual friend and immediately hit it off since we had mutual interests in comics, movies and music.
Adam was an artist and I was a writer. He showed me drawings of characters he created (these later turned into the Misfits), but he wasn’t a writer so he didn’t have stories for them. Since I was a writer, we decided he’d come up with the characters and I would writer stories.
We ended up creating this whole universe of characters and stories; however, years passed before we actually got around to making comics. Around 2011 we decided that we couldn’t just talk about it and keep all these stories in our heads. We had to produce something.
So we hired some artists and began making our comics. I would write the comics and the artists would draw them based on Adam’s concept drawings. Next thing we knew, we had some published comics!
I think what defines a Higher Universe comic is that we’re not held back by any editorial input. There’s nobody above us on the totem pole, so we can do what we want. Our comics vary in lengths because we don’t have to worry about pages counts. However long it takes to tell our story is how long the comic is.
And we don’t have any formula for storytelling. We don’t do everything is 6-issues story arcs or anything like that. We have some on-going series and we have others that are just a single issue.
It really gives us freedom to do whatever we want with our comics.
BD: What can you share with us about the creators with whom you have worked and Higher Universe’s previous publications?
BR: We started off fairly local in our home city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The first few artists we worked with were from here. Brittni Bromley was the artist on the original Stargirl comic. We met her from a post we made on Kijiji.
We eventually expanded our search to the entire world, and now we have artists from all over the globe working with us, including Carlos Trigo in Spain, Trevis Martinez in the Philippines, and PD Dedelis in Poland. These are just a few of the people we work with.
The first comic we published was Stargirl, and it was quickly followed by Misfits. Since then we’ve done more, including Ghoul Squad, Skull, Alley Cats, and The Boy with a Balloon for a Head.
BD: One of the comic book series under your publishing line has been The Boy with a Balloon for a Head. For readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise?
BR: The Boy with a Balloon for a Head is about just that…a boy with a balloon for a head. LOL
It’s a 3-issue limited series. Throughout the entire story the “balloon boy” doesn’t speak. Things just happen to him, and it reflects how people make judgments about someone without bothering to learn the truth.
The story has been described as sweet, but incredibly bleak at the same time. A couple people have said it brought them to tears. I wasn’t expecting that!
The whole story came about because Adam made a sketch in his art book one day of a kid with a balloon for a head. Something about it stuck with me, and I ended up writing a story about it and we turned it into a comic book.
I think “Balloon Boy” is our best-selling series!
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working with artist Trevis Martinez on the series?
BR: We have a pretty strict process that we use with all our comics. I will write comic book script, then send it to the artist. We’ll set a schedule of a certain number of pages to be done every two weeks.
So Trevis would draw, say, three pages of the comic, based on my scrips, and turn them in every second Friday. Then, I would pay him for those pages and he’d get started on the next three pages to be due two Friday’s from then.
I would then send his finished pages to PD Dedelis, the colorist, and he’d have them done in the next two weeks.
The colored pages would then be sent to Nick O’Gorman to be lettered (have the word balloons and sound effects added.)
Having this tight 2-week schedule makes things so much simpler. The comic progresses like clockwork and there’s little pressure on anyone because they have set deadlines that are reasonable. And after a certain time, you have a finished comic!
BD: Higher Universe has recently started venturing into film production. What has been your experience thus far, and how has it varied from your work in comics?
BR: It’s been great so far! We made one short film called I’m in Love with a Dead Girl and produced three episodes of a web series called Mental Case. We also published a Mental Case comic book.
We have more projects on the way. In addition to the HU produced films, I have a lot of other scripts, both shorts and features, that are being produced all over the world.
Comics and films are both creative mediums, so in a way they’re quite similar, but there are differences. Mainly that films are way more expensive to make. But I’ve learned a lot from producing everything we’ve done and they each help to promote the other. Anything that gets us attention, brings focus to everything we do.
For example, at the premiere of Dead Girl, we had a table selling our comics, which opened us up to a whole new audience.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you are able to share with our readers?
BR: I’m just putting the finishing touches on my first “children’s” book. I have that in quotes, because it’s made to look like a children’s book but is actually meant for adults. It’s called You’re the Reason Mommy Drinks.
I think it’s pretty hilarious and will probably make a good gift for mothers. LOL. Keep an eye out for it!
We also have some new comics coming out next year, including Chainsaw Reindeer, Elvis the Zombie, Kill Rabbit and Bunnyman vs. Sledge. Bunnyman and Sledge are two low-budget horror movies that I saw. I contacted the producers and got the licenses to have them appear in a comic.
So we have lots of cool stuff coming out.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Higher Universe Comics?
BR: We always like hearing from cool people, so feel free to contact us. Our website is www.thehigheruniverse.com.
You can find Adam and I on Twitter at: @brandonrhiness and @adamstoroschuk
You can visit the Facebook Higher Universe Comics page to keep up with what we’re doing. We also have specific pages for some of our comics and film projects so feel free to search and see what you can find!
We hope to hear from you!