Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming launch of Bro-D Can’t Be Broken! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the story’s premise, and what was its inspiration?
Benjamin Humeniuk: Thanks for asking! Bro-D Can’t Be Broken is about Bro-D and M-Ander, two gifted young adults whose life mission is to save victims in a mass crisis situation, kind of like super first-responders. They’re ill prepared for their next assignment, however: defending the capital city of a slowly-uniting humanity against an unstoppable demigod who wants to drag us back into the dark ages.
To be honest, the idea came to me after seeing an awesome Shonen-style anthology—Cry Punch--where indie artists did their own takes on giant fight comics. I started to imagine what kind of story I'd want to tell in that vein, and, for me, I envisioned an invulnerable young man, fighting a sprawling battle, who kept his feelings from his crush until it looked like she was almost lost. I liked the contrast of physical invulnerability and how that doesn't correlate to being strong by keeping your emotions buried. To really thrive, we HAVE to be vulnerable-- and it snowballed quickly from there into a workable story frame!
BD: How would you describe your creative process in bringing this story to life, especially in having to balance both the writing and illustrative duties?
BH: Oh lord, it was a ton of iteration. I think most comics readers are familiar with how a project starts as a pitch, then an outline, then progresses from script to thumbnails to pencils to inks to colors, et cetera, et cetera. One thing I didn’t realize was how many drafts this would lead to—and what an advantage that can be in terms of honing your story. I think all told, Bro-D went through somewhere between 40 to 60 iterations? I was rewriting sequences in the thumbnail stage; I’d often re-dialogue panels after inking them—the story was only fully fixed once the colors were done. I would have never made this many tweaks if I had a creative partner on the book—that would have been irritating!—but since it was just me, that meant it was easy enough to tweak the art, the captions, whatever, if a better idea struck me en route.
I don’t know how monthly comics writers do it. To basically get one to three shots at a script (at best) to get it right? Madness. Those have to be creators who deeply know their craft.
BD: What makes Band of Bards the perfect home for the project?
BH: Put simply, they want to make Comics that Do Good. Even more simply—BoB at its core is the passion project of Tim Stolinski and Chris Benamati. I think more than any other indie publisher/small press currently active, BoB’s co-publishers are personally active and personally known in the North American indie comics community, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. To understand their vision of creating comics that embody and honor diverse characters while also seeing the two express that passion in a personal way is huge. I think BoB is set up more to function like a punk record label than a legacy direct market publisher, and that approach to being personable, full of gumption, leveraging street teams and merch and community solidarity? I wanted to work with that group. I wanted to be part of their story. I’ve loved seeing the creators and stories they’re continuing to sign on. They’re at the nexus of a rising class of talent, and I can’t wait for it to all be unleashed.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Bro-D Can’t Be Broken’s story will connect with and impact readers?
BH: I’m a legacy comics reader who idealizes Calvin and Hobbes and the 1980s output of Alan Moore and Frank Miller. I’m also a high school teacher who works with a diverse student population that scrolls Webtoons and pirated manga on their phones. My hope is that this book can be a meeting point between both audiences.
For teen readers, it interpolates Manga-inspired imagery and focuses on two eighteen-year-olds who have mutually unspoken crushes and a strong desire to prove themselves in the making of a better future. For veteran comic readers, I’ve crafted the story with narrative elements from the '80s British Invasion school of writing, a humanist lens on the future, and a classic flat color palette.
Really, it’s got some meaty themes. Our lead characters are from the less-represented corners of fiction. It's my tribute to Neon Genesis Evangelion, Star Trek, and "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut." My hope is that multiple kinds of readers can see themselves in it and come away with a better love for vulnerability and self-sacrifice, which is one of the core topics of the book.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
BH: Indeed! I've booked work in a few indie anthologies this year, so you'll see my art in a story written by Stonie Williams in Cthulhu Invades Neverland, as well as in Monsters, Magic, and Mother-in-Laws for a story written by Devin Arscott with layouts by Bill Masuku. I'll also have a story in Dren Productions' Eldritch Tales anthology.
I’m also lucky to be doing more work with Band of Bards this year! This spring, I’ll have a solo story in their Amongst the Stars sci-fi romance anthology, edited by Elyse Russell and C.J. Hudson. Then in the late fall, I'm teaming with writer Travis B. Hill on a post-apocalyptic one-shot from BoB called A Last Goodbye. And between those and Bro-D, I think I'll be covering multiple sides of love, relationships, and meaning in future-set comics!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Bro-D Can’t Be Broken and your other work?
BH: Bro-D is meant to be read in a large format and enjoyed more than once-- I think readers will find it worth their time and money, and if you like comics in some form, I really believe you'll find something to love in this story. And if readers can't find it in stock at their LCS, they can also grab a copy straight from Band of Bards.
And though Bro-D is my first graphic novella aimed at a YA-and-older audience, I've also got stories for middle grade readers and below! My Waking Life graphic novels are a fantasy dramedy adventure inspired by the work of Little Nemo creator Winsor McCay, available digitally and in print from Comicker Press. And my four-volume The Magnificent Makers series from PowerKids Press teaches young readers how to create their own home science projects while following the comedic misadventures of an after-school Maker club.
I like seeing people of all ages become steady readers - young people most of all. With luck, I can keep building a body of work that speaks to that mission-- and that's just entertaining to read!