PopCultHQ had the privilege in chatting with comic book creator/writer Ram Venkatesan. Largely known in the States for his recent work with Action Lab Entertainment‘s Danger Zone imprint, the 2016 five-issue miniseries BRIGANDS.
The author originally from Mumbai, India now resides in London where he’s staying quite active in the comic book industry. Aside from the recent BRIGANDS, the writer wrapped up an original graphic novel titled BLACK MUMBA, which is scheduled for a summer release. Ram also has an ongoing series AGHORI and currently has the project GRAFITY’S WALL in a crowdfunding campaign with Unbound.
The latest news? It’s twofold, actually. First, this coming New Comic Book Day (NCBD) on Wednesday, April 19th will see the release of his series BRIGANDS into its first collected trade. But what’s even more exciting is the news that the second arc to BRIGANDS has been picked up with Action Lab! The next chapter in the medieval saga is entitled RUIN OF THIEVES. Though it’s still too early for a release date to be announced, the writer stated they’re shooting for a debut in the fourth quarter of 2017 (subject to change).
Here’s our conversation with the creative writer as we discuss how Ram got into the comic industry, how BRIGANDS came to life and found a home at Action Lab, and an exclusive look at his upcoming series with the publisher, RUIN OF THIEVES!
PopCultHQ’s Interview w/ Comic Creator
PopCultHQ: How long have you been in the industry and what made you want to tell your stories by way of the comic book medium?
Ram Venkatesan: I’ve been making comics for about 4 years now. I started in India with a dark, supernatural, urban fantasy series called AGHORI in 2012 and I’ve been writing for comics ever since! I didn’t start out with it, though. I’d been writing since I was a teenager and after I quit an engineering job in 2011, I wrote short stories and prose, mostly. I had a few pieces published with magazines and e-publications.
Somewhere along the way, a friend put the idea of doing a comic into my head. And that’s how AGHORI happened. I moved to the UK in 2013 to study writing. It was during that time that I started writing BRIGANDS and BLACK MUMBA. In 2016, I published BLACK MUMBA via Kickstarter and BRIGANDS came out from Action Lab!
PCHQ: How did BRIGANDS find its home with Action Lab? Were they your first choice or had others passed on the project before landing with ALE? Being in England and the publisher based in the States, I would assume that you pitched electronically or did you happen to meet up with them at a con or something of that nature?
Ram V: BRIGANDS was the first time I’d pitched a comic to anyone anywhere. So I was a total rookie. I wasn’t quite sure how to go about the process. I googled publishers and looked at the ones that were publishing books in the vicinity of what I was doing and ones that I thought I had a reasonable chance of placing a book with. I pitched BRIGANDS to a couple of digital-only platforms and to Action Lab and one other publisher. To my happy surprise, pretty much every publisher showed interest in it. Which was very reassuring. I decided to go with print publishers. I remember Dave Dwonch from Action Lab said they were big fans of sword and sorcery, old-school fantasy. And I really felt comfortable working with a publisher who was enthusiastic about what I was going so that’s how it happened. Got my first comic picked up off a cold e-mail pitch!
PCHQ: BRIGANDS made a terrific impression in the comic book community, most sites online often referring to it as a medieval Suicide Squad. From where exactly did this story, this concept originate? What inspired you to create this tale? And I’m personally curious as to whether or not a possible penchant for history was a contributing factor?
Ram V: I’m glad to hear that. I’m pretty happy with what the readers and reviews have said so far! I’ve had a liking for sword & sorcery and lo-fantasy for a really long time, actually. I read all the fantasy greats as a kid – Tolkien, Moorcock, Le Guin and the like. Then I found Joe Abercrombie more recently and I loved his work in the genre. That was really the catalyst for BRIGANDS. I started writing the story in 2014, just little notes and outlines and it turned into a full-blown multi-arc thing from there.
I think a penchant for stories set in a time without technology more than a penchant for history influences my liking for stories like BRIGANDS. I grew up in a family of scientists and engineers. I’ve also always lived in metropolitan cities so the distance from technology is escapism for me.
As for what directly inspired me to create this tale – I suppose I like the idea of examining characters under duress. And a world without technology or with advanced and extreme forms of technology are both just that, instruments to look at human beings living, working, making choices under those conditions! So BRIGANDS was inspired by wanting to tell a story about characters who must overcome their own reputations, more than anything else.
PCHQ: From what I’ve seen, everyone at Action Lab are all a bunch of great, cool, easygoing guys who just enjoy comics (whether making them, publishing them, or reading them) and have an almost family atmosphere among them. They’ve picked up BRIGANDS for an additional story arc,
congratulations on that honor! How has it been working with the Danger Zone team?
Ram V: Yeah, working with ALE has been great and smooth. I haven’t had the chance to meet them yet! It seems to be the way with comics getting made all over the world and by people in different countries and continents. But that says all the more about them that publishing Brigands at ALE has been a professional and enjoyable experience. They’ve all been super supportive and forthcoming with their help and advice for a someone who was doing their first creator-owned comic.
PCHQ: Just as we like to keep our reviews spoiler-free, and with the upcoming release BRIGANDS Vol.1 (available Wednesday, April 19th), let me generalize a bit. In this second volume of BRIGANDS, can we expect the first issue to pick up from where volume one ended or will some time have transpired, opting for flashback scenes or possibly going with a prologue?
Ram V: Volume 2 is titled ‘RUIN OF THIEVES.’ And you can expect it to pick up right where 1 left off. I think Vol. 1 built this sense incessantly moving from one difficult situation to the next. I think that continues with RUIN OF THIEVES to an extent. So, no time jumps, no gaps. But we might take a bit more time with the characters in Vol. 2. Now that we’ve established who they are, it’s time to see what makes them tick and perhaps turn the authorial knife a bit.
I’ve heard it said that characters should want to kill their creators when a story is done. I am certainly aiming for it.
PCHQ: In this second volume, will you be working with the same creative team in Nick Barber, Alex Diotto, Jason Lewis, Rosh, and Kel Nuttall? And please tell me that Mukesh Singh will return for cover art.
Ram V: There’ll be some changes with the creative team on the new book. Both Nick and Jason since Brigands have gone on to do some stellar work with Image, IDW and other publishers. So their schedules have gotten incredibly busy! It was a fun ride working with them on BRIGANDS Vol. 1.
But with RUIN OF THIEVES, I’m going to be working with artist Sumit Kumar, who was someone I was talking to when I first started working on BRIGANDS #1 and I think you’ll see why I approached him at the time. He is an incredibly talented artist and it’s an absolute pleasure to work with him while he still has a schedule that permits it! He is going to be absolutely huge. You’ll see why with Volume 2!
Rosh is continuing his great work on colours. And with lettering we’ll be bringing in Aditya Bidikar who is working on all of my other projects at this time. So it just made sense to bring him in on this series as well.
PCHQ: What can we expect from this next story arc? Are we looking at another five-issue run? And what about a spin-off, one-shot, heck even a holiday special (somehow)?
Firstly, The Myros Comet has arrived and all those little things happening all over the kingdoms in BRIGANDS will suddenly start tying in. There is war coming – and it becomes evident in this world straight from Issue 1. Things are tense. The Myros Pendulum has manifested and that is a world changer in terms of events. There is conflict. Bloody, bone crushing, ear-ringing, skull-shattering conflict.
But also, as things get harder and darker, we get to see more of our characters. We’ll learn more about a character or two- things that’ll make you question your assumptions about them. We’ll see new friendships being built. Perhaps a bit of romance as well. A lot of the BRIGANDS Volume 1 reviews praised the book for being patient, for building a story rather than presenting it all at once. You can expect to see things build and twist and coil even more!
There’s more magic in this arc. I’m not a fan of high magic worlds. So when magic does show itself in the world of BRIGANDS it’s rare and so, you can expect it to be spectacular!
And of course, we get to the heist which is what we’ve been building to… or have we?
We’d would like to thank Ram not only for taking the time to partake in this interview but for also being a supporter in what we do here at PopCultHQ. To keep up with all the latest from Ram and the upcoming release of his second story arc for BRIGANDS entitled RUIN OF THIEVES, be sure to follow the creator online (links below) and stay with PopCultHQ as we’ll bring you the latest developments as they transpire.
And pick up Volume 1 of BRIGANDS this coming New Comic Book Day, Wednesday, April 19th!
Writer: Ram V.
Item Code: FEB171035
A rat-pack of medieval con men, thieves, cut-throats, has-been’s and never-will-be’s are set to carry out the heist of their lives. For some, it is a second chance at a better life. For others, it’s the only chance they’ll ever get. And in the treacherous world of BRIGANDS there are only two sureties to life; the steel in your hand and the promise of a dagger in your back.