Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your intergalactic rock-and-roll comic book, The Mighty Riff, at Long Beach Comic Expo 2018! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Brian Coles: First off, thank you kindly for the opportunity to speak to Fanbase Press!
To your questions, in my early 20s I’d interview heavy rock and metal icons for my own website at the time. Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, etc. It was somewhat like the movie, Almost Famous, where a young kid gets to see this big rock world, but on a smaller scale, of course. As a somewhat straight-edge teetotaler, it was quite the paradox being around some of those people in person, but the music was the thing for me. Always has been.
Cut to the last few years, and I have been mulling over the thing I missed the most about my childhood in the '80s and early '90s, and that was the heavy rock musical climate bursting with unlimited enthusiasm, reading Mad Magazine, comics, and the sense of wonder, mostly in sci-fi fantasy. So, The Mighty Riff is an alchemy of those things, a RAD-iculous space rock opera in which this guy - an overweight, middle-age, “never was” rocker - is magically tossed into a situation where he must save the universe from an evil ecstasy burnout space witch, Drooping Molly, and her seer, an equally drugged out Chihuahua named Edie M. So, in a sense, the idea that rock music is the savior becomes a literal reality to this guy. Just as he’s on his last leg on earth, he’s given this opportunity.
But along with him is his young roadie, Trish One Feather, who wishes to go back home. There’s a bit of a tension there, and she must deal with a Juke-Box turned robot – Juke-Bot – who is highly inappropriate but also key to the team, a conduit for Riff’s super powers, which includes a laser shooting “gun-tar.” So, Flash Gordon meets AC/DC meets National Lampoon.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in writing and illustrating the comic, and what have been some of your creative influences?
BC: This is my first long-form sequential art. I have been doing a single or limited panel web comic called The Happy Middle for a little while now, honing my cartooning chops. Once I got a solid grasp and some confidence, I took my love of film and essentially transported it to a comic book. Film is also sequential art. Storyboarding, as you very well know, is that primary layer for planning out the shots of a movie, so I thought it would be fun to dive in and explore with that mindset.
From a writing standpoint, my goal is always warmth, wonder, and whimsy. The three Ws as I call them! Ha!
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
BC: While it could easily be experienced as a nostalgia piece, I want readers to enjoy it in the now. It’s politically incorrect, but there’s a lovability about the world that’s being built here. Something I think we could all use a little of these days. Not taking the wrong things too seriously and celebrating how fun and ridiculous life can be.
The biggest thing is I hope people who consider drawing/creating later in life can know that, even though I am not a “Marvel” artist by any stretch, I am able to put something together after committing a few years of practice and humility into something people can enjoy. It’s never too late. Creatives owe it to themselves and those around them to go for it. We are happier and frankly, those around us will experience the residual effects of that contentment. It’s not selfish. It’s part of who we are. We must be ourselves. Otherwise, who are we?
In the same way The Mighty Riff sticks to his guns, we all should to whatever gives our lives meaning.
BD: Do you have plans to expand the The Mighty Riff world into an ongoing comic book series?
BC: Absolutely. Working on issue #2 now. There are tons of opportunity with the premise. Drooping Molly hatches different musical monstrosities to prevent Riff from saving the universe. So, he comes across many musical tropes in the form of menacing mutations, whether it be electronic dance music, goth rock, and on and on. There’s a buxom pop diva giant named Bea Bouncé, a hyper-powerful German euro-trash dude named Wünder Bread as examples. There will be loads of ridiculous clichés for him to do battle with. It hearkens back to the original Voltron, defending the planet from a “Robeast” each episode. The main thing though is Riff loves music and just wants the soul back. He isn’t killing these creatures, he’s helping them become human again by destroying the ugly side. But in off-the-charts hilarious ways.
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your series into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
BC: As mentioned earlier, I think in terms of film. Thus, a cartoon, Adult Swim-type series would seem to be a perfect fit, or wherever makes sense. There are a lot of mediums/channels out there. Also, music. I mean, if someone could make a theme song for this, that would be great. I have one in my head, but my guitar-playing chops have deteriorated over the years, and they weren’t much to begin with! Maybe Riff is my avatar!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
BC: Yes, in addition to The Mighty Riff and The Happy Middle, I plan to launch a warm-hearted web comic later this year about middle school kid who has school phobia, but also has a mentor in a young lady who’s a bit older but also quirky. It’s humorous, but family friendly, and reflects a lot of the things I struggled with as a young adult. The environment and his safety nets will be quite unique and entertaining. If Peanuts was done by the people who do Bob’s Burgers, that would be a close approximation.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Mighty Riff?
Again, thank you so much for being such supportive, classy, and enthusiastic ambassadors for creative people! Be well.