Review Fix talks with Justin Madson on his return of his comics series, BREATHERS, on what it is about, the recoloring of it and the world of BREATHERS.Â
Review Fix: What was the creative process behind BREATHERS, what made into an anthology rather than singular storyline?
Justin Madson: The reason I chose to write BREATHERS as a collection of shorter vignettes was two-fold. Firstly, I really liked the idea of taking a moment in a character’s life and just really pausing there, focusing on [that] part instead of the whole, looking at these moments as if it weren’t part of a larger story. I felt like I could get more out of my characters that way, without forcing them to bend to a predetermined plotline. But, as you’ll find as you read more and more of these vignettes, they really do paint a larger picture and are all interconnected. They all work together to flesh out this world where the air has become unbreathable.
I also found that, from a creative standpoint, working on BREATHERS as a series of vignettes was an excellent way to tackle such a long project without becoming overwhelmed. Each story has a beginning and an end, so I could start one, finish it, then move on to the next. So, in a way, it was done as a matter of convenience, I suppose.
Review Fix: What was your favorite character arc to write, the drug-addictive detective, the paranoid siblings, the mother and daughter, or the salesman seeking redemption? How exactly did you create the characters and bring them to life?
I have this weird fascination with characters who are fighting addictions. I don’t know why, exactly (or maybe I do and don’t really want to get into it here), but it’s just such a real, deep-seated human struggle that I think a lot of people can relate to, one way or another. I loved delving into the psyche of Marsh, the drug-addicted detective, in BREATHERS. He has completely lost himself to his addiction to the drug known as Filter K, and there really is no coming back for him, no turning it around. He just becomes completely lost in his addiction, and the darkness consumes him. I don’t know what that says about me, that he was my favorite character to write, but there you have it.
Review Fix: Being that BREATHERS is set in a world where the atmosphere is poisonous and an addictive drug is plaguing one of the characters, was there an environmental or political message behind it all or were these just cool plot points to get the story going?
Madson: When I first came up with the idea of having characters live in this world where they couldn’t breathe the air, I viewed this rather grand concept as a backdrop for the story. [It was] this unifying element that would tie all the characters and their plotlines together. Like what’s more human than needing to breathe oxygen? It really does tie us all together, despite everything else, if you think about it. I really wanted the deadly air to be seen as a secondary part of the story. I wanted the main focus to be on the characters who have found themselves thrown into this situation that is clearly beyond their control. I didn’t specifically create BREATHERS for it to be a cautionary tale of environmental change or anything like that, but, obviously, it’s there. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide what meaning there is in it. I think that’s fair.
Review Fix: What made the decision to re-color the whole series? How do you think color will change a series that was originally in black or white?
Madson: A few months ago, Drew Ford, publisher at It’s Alive Press, contacted me, expressing his interest in reprinting BREATHERS in full color. I had previously self-published BREATHERS as a series of black and white Xeroxed mini-comics, so the idea of seeing BREATHERS professionally printed in full color sounded great to me. Drew and I felt that by offering the comics in full color, BREATHERS would have a greater appeal to comics fans who may pass over a black and white book. So, I have been spending a good deal of time adding color to these pages that have been without color for years. It feels good to breathe new life into these comics.
Review Fix: Beside the added color, is there anything that old time fans of BREATHERS could expect from the new series or new fans interested in the series?
Madson: I am very excited to see BREATHERS get the full color professionally printed treatment. As much as I liked the self-published versions of the comics, I really feel like this is the next evolution of the comics, this is how BREATHERS should be read.
We also have some amazing variant covers planned for the series, starting with a stunning offering from Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt for BREATHERS #1. I was so thrilled when they agreed to collaborate on a cover since I am such a huge fan of them both.
Review Fix: Do you have anything else to add?
Madson: I would just like to encourage everyone reading this to go ahead and give BREATHERS a shot and pick up a copy of issue #1 when it comes out in November. And, if possible, help spread the word about BREATHERS to your comic shop and help get BREATHERS a nice spot on their shelves!