14 Questions with “Monsters of MMA” Creator Bryan G. Brown
The scene opens in the not-so-distant future over New Tokyo Stadium. A packed crowd of more than a million attendees are fervently awaiting the night’s main event, an epic bout between two genetically enhanced combatants – tongue-in-cheekily dubbed Bas Rotten and Kimbo Splice – that will without a doubt satiate their mounting bloodlust. Once the two combatants enter the circular cage, fists, knees, feet and sharp bone protrusions begin to fly, and before long, body parts are severed, flesh is ripped from bone and more blood and guts than a normal human body can hold cover the mat. When the round ends, the fighter return to their respective corners to catch their breath, reattach appendages and, through consumption of what looks like brains, regenerate their torn and mutilated flesh.
And then round two commences…
Welcome to the world of Monsters of MMA. Conceived, written and illustrated by 33-year-old Bucks County, PA resident Bryan G. Brown, a freelance writer and artist who holds a two-stripe blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, it’s a world in which massive mutated mixed martial artists such as Croc Lesnar, Jaguar Dos Santos, Anderson Arachnid, Diablo Sanchez, Chuck Lihell and Cheik King Kongo tear each other to shreds to the delight of the masses in the fictitious League of Combat Champions (LCC)’s controversial superheavyweight “Monster of MMA” division. Fresh off the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Monster of MMA #3 –which, like the previous two issues, is available both digitally and in print – will be debuting at the Asbury Park ComicCon on April 12th.
Brown, a Xeric Award-winning veteran of the graphic storytelling medium, has previously published the autobiographical comic, First Fight (which is distributed by Grappler’s Quest), Ruff & Tumble and The Hope. He has also produced work for The American Heart Association, Revolver Magazine and the New York Press.
MMA Owl: Congratulations on your latest successful Kickstarter campaign! Why did you decide to go the public fundraising route as opposed to privately seeking out funding for Monsters of MMA?
Bryan G. Brown: I submitted MoMMA (Monsters of MMA) to several different companies and was told that it’s not something they’re interested in. I’ve printed the first two issues independently and have received great feedback on it. I knew when I was laying out the third issue that this would be a monster-sized comic so I thought it would be the right project to put on Kickstarter, since this issue is too short to be a graphic novel but it’s longer than a standard 24-page comic. The Kickstarter experience has been awesome because my work has now been exposed to a whole new audience of people who might have never seen my website or tweets.
What drew you to mixed martial arts? At what point did it occur to you to combine your love for the sport with your natural artistic talents?
Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved fighting. The only thing my Dad ever watched was boxing and, in turn, I grew up reading the autobiography of fighters like Joe Frazier and George Foreman instead of collecting baseball cards or watching football games. I loved wrestling as a kid too, but when I first saw UFC 7 with Marco Ruas it was like someone flipped a switch and I was hooked. I drew tons of comics incorporating martial arts and fighting, but I was not an athletic kid. I used my artwork as an outlet to this love for fighting. In 2007, I got into training and, after competing in my first grappling tournament for Grappler’s Quest, I then got the idea of putting my experience into the sequential art form which became First Fight.
Monsters of MMA envisions a world where the line between performance enhancement (through fantastical genetic alteration) and combat sports has essentially been removed. Was this idea the result of art imitating life – steroids, TRT, HGH, etc. being used by fighters?
That definitely factored into it. In Monsters of MMA, you’re basically seeing a complete corruption of regulations due to the amount of demand for bigger, stronger fighters to entertain the masses. Performance enhancers are a big topic in sports today, and I definitely want to touch on that subject in the comic.
You parody famous MMA stars like Bas Rutten (Bas Rotten), Kimbo Slice (Kimbo Spliced), Brock Lesnar (Croc Lesnar) and Junior Dos Santos (Jaguar Dos Santos). I know that Bas Rutten has seen your work, calling it “freaking awesome,” but have you gotten feedback from any other fighters? If so, what was their impression?
I’ve heard from a couple guys, and it was all really positive, thank God; I’m pretty sure anyone in the UFC would destroy me in a fight, including the women’s 135 lb division. I would honestly hope that no one takes offense to these characters and I think of it as paying homage to all of these great fighters that I respect so much.
I have to ask… I noticed in issue #1 that Bas Rotten ate brains between rounds to repair his body after the damage he received against Kimbo Splice. Is this an ongoing thing, the eating of brains? What’s up with that?!
Those are not actual brains; they are merely synthetic meat that is made to look like brains. You’ll see as the comic develops that characters like Bas Rotten like to play up their characters for the crowd. Different fighters may do outrageous stuff to keep up their popularity – which may help or hurt them when they’re in the cage.
You certainly don’t shy away from goriness; body parts fly, fighters’ faces get stripped down to the bone… Hell, in issue #1, Bas’ severed hand still keeps working inside his opponent’s body! Are you constantly trying to top yourself, saying, “What can I do to make this even nastier?”
I don’t feel the need to top myself – I’m merely trying to put something out there that hasn’t been done before. The comic will not always be that gory, but there is a lot of violence in the comic, which is meant to be a reflection of how this future society’s behavior has changed from what it once was.
Issue #1 eschewed the typical comic trope of explaining the situation to the reader, opting to dive right into the action and let the reader figure things out as they went along. Why did you decide to skip the exposition?
In issue #1, my aim was to hit the reader like a hard punch to the gut. With each ongoing issue, more characters and story will be introduced so that you can see the narrative as well as the different subplots within this comic.
Though Monsters of MMA is your latest comic based on MMA, it isn’t your first. First Fight, an autobiographical work which won the 2009 Xeric Award (the Xeric Foundation was founded by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird) for sequential art, chronicles your personal journey through the sport. First, can you tell me about your fighting career and second, can you tell me about translating that into a comic? Did you catch yourself embellishing here and there for dramatic effect?
I very much enjoy training and have competed in numerous tournaments. I wouldn’t really consider myself having a fight career since I am an artist first. With First Fight, I really try to be as honest as possible and don’t think I’ve embellished, and the formula I stick with is to relate what’s happened – not what I’d like to happen. Because I was very factual with First Fight, it probably led to me wanting to do something outrageous and over the top like Monsters of MMA.
Can you tell me about your artistic process? How do you progress in creating comics, from conception to finalization? In your last post on your website, you mentioned a colorist. There was no mention of a colorist in Monster of MMA #1. Is this colorist a new addition? If so, what prompted his or her addition?
On the last two issues I did everything just like I have on First Fight. For Monsters of MMA #3, I hired Barbara Gyuricza to help with the workload since this comic will have over 35 pages of colored artwork in it. It takes so long to do big, in-depth comics like this, and that was another reason to do this through Kickstarter – so that I would have the funds to hire a colorist.
You’ve worked with the American Heart Association, Revolver Magazine and the New York Press. What was it like working with such a diverse set of clients? Has it helped in your creative process at all?
I love the diversity of the stuff that I do. New York Press may be very different than Image Comics, but there are certain guidelines you can give yourself for an assignment that helps you get the right concept while finding a solution that both you and your client are going to love.
What’s the story with Ruff & Tumble? Was it another MMA book? If so, how is it different from your other work?
Ruff and Tumble is way different! I actually did this comic while in college and it’s your typical “super powered dogs vs. robots.” I’d still like to revisit it one day possibly, once I’m done with First Fight and Monsters of MMA.
I’d like to congratulate you and your wife Nicole on welcoming your son Jacob into the world back in September. How has being a father changed your work ethic, and what has been the most surprising thing for you about fatherhood?
I’d say my work ethic has increased if anything since my time is now more limited. The most surprising thing for me may be the amount of enjoyment I get just watching my son develop and grow. His little world is getting a little bit larger everyday and it’s really wonderful to be involved and see how far he’s come in just the last couple months.
You are involved in charitable work, namely through your work in The Hope, an ongoing comic showcasing the positive efforts of Paul Cimins, who is the president and founder of Hope Saves the Day and the host of Autism Radio, which reaches more than six million listeners worldwide. Do you have a personal connection to autism? Why did you choose this particular cause?
I feel a bit of a connection to anyone who is going through life facing different challenges since I myself spent the first couple years of my life significantly hearing impaired. As a baby, I had issues with fluid in my ears and had to get several sets of tubes in order to hear correctly. I ended up not really hearing well until I was several years old which I’m sure had an effect on how introverted I was as a child. Because I couldn’t hear people around me, I became more focused on entertaining myself by drawing and creating a fictional world around myself. I spent years and years as a little kid drawing monsters and it appears that I really haven’t matured beyond that point.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to add? Anything you’d like fans to know?
I am sincerely touched by how awesome people are at conventions and how much love and support I’ve received through social media. Monsters of MMA #3 took longer than expected, but it will be worth the wait.