Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brent Schoonover - The Artistic Hitman For "Mr Murder Is Dead"

A couple of years back, Before The Door and Archaia officially announced their collaboration to publish two graphic novels.

One was "Lucid" (by Michael McMillian) and the other, which took some time to complete, was called "Mr Murder Is Dead".

"Mr Murder Is Dead", created and written by Before The Door's long-time friend Victor Quinaz, is a detective story within a story, styled in the pulp noir style reminiscent of Dick Tracy.

The specific style and period setting required an artist who could visually bring that era to life. And Minnesota-based illustrator/ comic artist Brent Schoonover was called to task.

Brent has also created comics of his own. The "Horrorwood" mini-series was published by Ape Entertainment, and "Astronaut Dad Volume 1" by Silent Devil.

Archaia-published "Mr Murder Is Dead" was specially launched during this year's SDCC, with a special panel held offsite at the Nerd HQ. The panel was presented by Before The Door and Archaia together with guests Michael McMillian, Victor Quinaz and Brent Schoonover.

The finished product is a beautiful, unique package in a horizontal format, sized 9" high by 11" wide in size.

Since I couldn't be at SDCC this year to perv those BTD/ Archaia biceps nor meet Victor Quinaz and Brent Schoonover in person, I had little choice but to traverse the digital way in order to get an interview with Brent.

Here is how Brent slayed readers with his unique artwork in "Mr Murder Is Dead" (amongst other things):

1. How did you get to work with Before the Door/ Archaia / Victor Quinaz for "Mr Murder Is Dead"?
Brent: I had worked with our editor Paul Morrissey on a previous project and he was at the first C2E2 con in Chicago. I had a sketchbook with me that had some Dick Tracy drawings in it and the drawings were the fit they were looking for on Mr. Murder. After getting home, I did some sketches for them and they asked me to come on board.

2. "Mr Murder Is Dead" has a retro-noir feel to it. Were you already familiar with this art style. Or did you have to do some research?
Brent: I was familiar with the style as I am heavily influenced by old comic strip art and mostly older comic creators. But I still had to do my research to make sure we could pull this off convincingly. The goal was to really make the reader wonder if these really were old-time comic strips.

3. What has been the most difficult aspect in working on "Mr Murder Is Dead"?
Brent: Well it really hasn't been anything artistically that was too demanding. The flashback sequences were a challenge I guess, in that we really wanted to to be spot on even if they were only 5 pages per era. The biggest thing was adjusting my work load as I became a first-time father right as the book started. So my schedule was very inconsistent on a daily basis.

4. Were there any key changes in terms of the look/feel and characters' features of "Mr Murder Is Dead" compared to the initial concept?
Brent: We did several different looks for Gould Kane and also Mr. Murder. I'd say Murder was the biggest departure from what we started out with. Basically I wanted him to look like Boris Karloff in his younger days. Very sunken and skeletal features and then the older Karloff looked very regal with this nice mustache. That's how I saw him at first. Then we moved to this very James Cagney real wildfire personality. Neither of those made it to the final design. We just really liked this third incarnation I designed with the loose wild hair.

5. So who's idea was it regarding the Zachary Quinto comic panels?
Brent: Before the Door contacted me. We know we were going to have this great panel happening at San Diego Comic Comic Con that Zach would be involved in. So they wanted to do something special for the fans who paid to come see him and the rest us talk. I picked the spots in the book I thought were best to drop him in and then they went ahead and added some dialogue. I thought it turned out great. He had no clue we did it. When we got back to the green room he complimented me on the detail of his chest hair, which he then showed me in person. He was right. I nailed it.

6. After being an artist for this long, how else do you think you could improve further or reach to another level in terms of your art?
Brent: Just keep drawing everyday. I'll be better next year than I am this year. Not sure how but it'll really just come from repetition.

7. What did you think of this year's SDCC? Did you do anything differently?
Brent: I hadn't been there in six years. It couldn't have been more of a different experience for me. I stayed at a hostel the last time. This time we stayed at a great hotel. Archaia and Before the Door were just fantastic to myself and my wife all week and it couldn't have been a better experience.

8. Did you geek out over anyone at this year's SDCC? What was the experience like?
Brent: Yeah I did a good amount of geeking out. I got to meet Jerry Robinson, the creator of The Joker. That meant a lot cause I feel like we take guys of his generation for granted that they will always be around. Which isn't true. So it was an honor to go over and meet him and thank him for all he's done. There were a lot of celebs we saw as well. Ken Marino from "Party Down" and "Wet Hot American Summer" bought Mr. Murder from us. That was cool. Zac Levi was amazingly nice to me and my wife. As was Scott Porter, whom I met years ago yet somehow remembered me.

9. So between you and Victor and the folks at Archaia, who flexes his biceps in the best way possible?
Brent: Good question. While I haven't done a recent muscle inspection I'm sure Zach has the nicest biceps. I mean he's Spock. He's got the Vulcan nerve pinch. That takes incredible forearm strength. So I'm sure the biceps aren't in bad shape either.

10. How much do you like geek girls?
Brent: Without geek girls there would be no geek boys. No, it's great. This industry and fan base has been overpopulated with boys for a long time. I'm all for anyone who wants in as long as their hearts are in the right place. I think we've some fakers try and get in to and make something new for themselves but I also think real fans can see through that.

11. Please do share with us about your upcoming projects.
Brent: Well, I am a little in between projects. I have a small comic project coming up with writer Phil Hester called "Mythic", which centers on a group of characters that are basically The Ghostbusters for magic.

I also did a book a few years ago called "Astronaut Dad", which was about the space race of the 1960's. The first volume came out and we have been trying to get the second volume out after our publisher closed shop. I think we should finally have it available as a collected edition by years end.

So there's that and also myself and Victor are for sure going to be working together again. He's great, and I loved working with him.


Thanks so much to Brent Schoonover for taking the time with this interview! You can check out more of his artwork at his very interesting website!

And.... *drum roll*.... My time off for a trip to New York for NYCC has been verbally approved and guess what??! I have a press pass!! WHEEEEE!!

Needless to say, at NYCC this October, I intend to stalk the Archaia booth to grab hold of a copy of "Mr Murder Is Dead" firsthand for myself and see if I can find Brent at the Artists' Alley just to say hi!

"Mr Murder Is Dead"is officially released on 13 September 2011. International fans can pre-order a copy of "Mr Murder Is Dead"online through these websites:

And if you still want more about the graphic novel, head to the Official Mr Murder Is Dead website!


  1. Love the man's work! ... totally enjoyed this interview =)

  2. So, this has got to be my favorite part of this interview:

    "When we got back to the green room he complimented me on the detail of his chest hair, which he then showed me in person. He was right. I nailed it."


  3. This is a great interview!! Thank you!!
    I am sorry I didn't get to SDCC to meet him. Hopefully he will make it to WonderCon next year.
    I am also sorry I wasn't there in the green room to witness the chest hair revelation part of story. ;)