Waste and Wisdom with Drew Morrison of “Brokenland”

“Brokenland” #2 features the erstwhile, blob-like Meeso in a strange dreamworld. We interrogate waste, learn a few things about Meeso’s character and take a not-so-nice journey through our small protagonist’s psyche in a very engaging second issue. 

I recently chatted with Drew Morrison about the origins of this strange little creature, as well as creative process as a sole creator, life and some media inspirations, too.

Brokenland #2 Cover
Cover by Drew Morrison

First off, thanks for your time, and congratulations on a successful Kickstarter campaign for “Brokenland” #2! What’s next for the book and for you? (Sleep, I hope.)

Drew Morrison: Thanks for reaching out!  It was more of a challenge to get the project funded this time around, but we made it in the end. I recently drew a first draft of “Brokenland” #3 and have gotten started on the pencils. Trying to strike while the iron is hot. We just welcomed a second baby to the family so I’ve given up on the idea of good sleep entirely!

Tell me a little about what inspired you to create Meeso and the world of “Brokenland.”

DM: Meeso was born out of a very open-ended illustration assignment in college.  I wanted to create a strange little character who was cautious, eager and a bit unhinged. In hindsight I think Meeso came out as an expression of both my insecurities and my hopes. After I made and sold prints of Meeso for some years I realized that people from all walks seemed to relate to this character, so I ran with it.  

The world of BROKENLAND started with those prints. The story is derived from an amalgam of ideas that I stored away while living in NYC from 2001 – 2012. Living there made me more aware and Meeso is a lens through which I started to investigate the world visually. Meeso is going on a warped, introspective journey where ecology and conscience meets urban living meets alchemy. I wanted to make a genre-bending story and hopefully that comes through in the work.

Being the sole creator of a comic is very different than working with a team. What’s your creative process like? Do you script first and draw second, or is it more amorphous than that?

DM: I’ve never made comics with a team but I imagine that has its own challenges. The main challenge I stare down is finding time to go through each step in the creative process with the same amount of vigor and devotion to quality. I set a rule that it doesn’t matter if they take a long time to create, I want to be equally proud of the writing, drawing and coloring. It all has to be cohesive.  

There’s a long list of ideas and scenes that I want to include in this first 4 issue arc. From that list I narrow down what I’m trying to include in an issue and then I start thumbnailing. So the rough process is largely wordless and visual, like the story itself. I find that thinking in images from the outset helps drive the vision of telling this story without dialogue. I make rough pencils from the small thumbnails on letter-size paper and sometimes end up cutting pages up to rearrange panels with glue. Changes in layout, scale and pacing happen in the final pencils as well. I probably could have just described it as very amorphous! 

Meeso in their original form, by Drew Morrison

“Brokenland” #2 features a very strange, very internal journey for Meeso, and they seem to have lost some of their cheer. What inspired the wizard/lizard, in particular?

DM: Yes, issue #2 was tough to work through because I want to slowly peel away some of Meeso’s innocence. Old Man Moth (the wizard/lizard) is a kind of Shaman/Elder archetype who sees an opportunity in the doughy, naive Meeso. He wants to find out if Meeso gives a shit about anything, and perhaps he’s tested others before. It’s like a psychiatric study conducted through the mystic arts. My mom definitely influenced the Old Man Moth character, in her resourcefulness and her trust in older ways of life. She was aware and outspoken, and I always admired that about her. In every story or film I’m always drawn towards that character, the one who shows the protagonist what they need to see. 

You thread environmental themes through both issues of “Brokenland,” and the cycle of waste is peppered with some interesting musings on both creative utility and overwhelm. Did you plan to do a book about this, or did it evolve out of the story?

DM: Waste is something I’m fascinated by so yes, I wrote the story with these themes in mind. It’s like – are we going to talk about this? The evidence is in and has been in. I’m guilty of wasteful habits and I want to change them. I think it’s helpful when we start to look at the parallels between the life cycle of living things and material things.

In my 20’s I became what you’d call ‘Eco-Militant’. Being outspoken about wasteful behavior alienated me from everyone in my life, including family. What I’ve learned across time is you can only control your own habits. I don’t understand how someone can have children and unabashedly contribute to trashing the world they’ll inherit. At the same time, it’s a privilege to ‘be green’. There is comedy in this, especially if you start personifying the options.

Brokenland #2 interior page, by Drew Morrison

Do you have an end/length in mind for “Brokenland,” or are you figuring that out as you create?

DM: This first arc will be 4 issues long, roughly 100 pages. I’m fitting the first story into that framework so I can actually get it finished! I love adding obscene amounts of detail to each panel, perhaps to a fault, but everyone enjoys it. The first issue took many years to buckle down on and complete and No.2 took around 4 months. I’m aiming to release No.3 in early 2021, but it has to be right. 

What inspires you to create? What do you listen to, read, watch, etc. when you’re drawing or when you’re filling the well?

DM: I like music that’s complicated and repetitive, so electronic is a mainstay. It helps me stay focused on drawing, especially if I’m inking. To list a few I love Amon Tobin, Clark and Aphex Twin. Lightning Bolt is always good to ramp up energy. Dan Deacon’s latest album really blew me away. Aesop Rock is an incredible storyteller. I can’t have any visuals going when I’m drawing or I get distracted! I enjoy watching sci-fi, westerns and some crime drama (especially if Batman is involved). Color Out Of Space, The Lighthouse and Hardcore Henry are recent viewings that were creepy and awesome in very different ways. My daughter and I watch a lot of Pixar and Superhero movies! 

What’re some of your favorite comics/comics that you love that you’re reading right now?

DM: Last year I binged on “Head Lopper” and “Hellboy,” which was a blast. “Little Bird” was fantastic.  “Wonder Woman Dead Earth” is frickin’ great – Daniel Warren Johnson is a beast! The drawing is the most important element for me. Anything Geof Darrow has drawn just floors me. His collaborations with Frank Miller (“Hard Boiled,” “Big Guy”) are some of my absolute favorites. I’m always on the lookout for new stuff from Jim Woodring, whose work I hold dear.

Any other projects you’re working on that you want to plug or talk about?

DM: Nothing else is cooking at the moment. We’ll see how the first BROKENLAND arc goes and I’ll decide if I want to make more Meeso stories after that. I’m forming some ideas around a collection of short horror comics I’d like to make. I also have an idea for a sci-fi/revenge story that involves alien abduction and childhood bullying. Normally I have a day job in construction/fabrication but given the current circumstances, I’m trying to stay home and grind on comics as long as I can afford to!  

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