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An Interview with Jonathan & Timothy O’Briant of MAPS.

April 11, 2016 • By

MAPS: VOLUME ONE

When was the moment in your life where you decided that you wanted to be an artist?

Timothy: I started thinking about art as a career path back in high school. At the time I was pursuing a career in music either as an artist or in production. In college I focused mainly on video game design which allowed me to work in many different disciplines. For my final project I decided to make my first comic book. I fell in love with the art form mainly because of the independence it gave me. There was no budget, no big teams and no prohibitive software or equipment to purchase. The only prerequisite for comics is literacy. Support your local educators.

Jonathan: I’ve played music for years and have always enjoyed the act of creation, funneling that energy into comics gave me a (comparatively) easy way to get stories and ideas into a finished product to share with the world.

What is MAPS about, and what inspired the two of you to create this?

Jonathan: Maps is about the joy of discovery that is so prevalent in young people’s lives. When you’re young everything is new and magical. It’s easy to forget how spectacular the world is as you grow older and all these wondrous things become commonplace. Elwood is the personification of intrepid explorers who don’t only want to see everything the world has to offer but are compelled to always move forward no matter the obstacles.

Timothy: The intent was to create an “all ages book” that was self-contained and could be read despite knowledge of the rest of the series. My brother Jon came up with the idea of a child who was traveling from dimension to dimension on a quest to find his way back home. The idea resonated with both of us and we started the fun of building characters and worlds.

What challenges did you face creatively while making the first volume of MAPS?

Timothy: The most interesting challenge of Maps is blending Jon art style with my own. When creating Maps my brother is in charge of the layouts, even to the extent of drawing all the pages on the final art boards. Then I come in and filter all that information through my own artistic lens to find the final product. What you end up with is completely separate from what either of us would do on our own.

Jonathan: Most all of my projects prior to MAPS had been by myself. Learning to collaborate is tricky in any circumstance but especially with someone you are as close to as a brother. The project grew to be much greater than it was as an idea in my head, but there was a pretty steep curve in how to present different opinions and goals with the book without devolving into arguments over costuming, coloring, etc.

Exploration of the known and unknown plays a big narrative in MAPS. How did that effect how you visualized the worlds that Elwood journeys too?

Timothy: Jon and I don’t always agree on the nature of the universe and how it affects daily life but it’s something we are both fascinated by. The initial idea of having a new universe in every volume was a conceit to allow us to play with different genres and story tropes. That’s Jon’s territory. Once I have the setting and the story I have the task of making them complement each other. All the world design is to try and create the illusion that these are real places that exist whether or not our character are present. If we have a chase scene through a house I need to make a complete floor plan of that building. There is a need for internal logic within the story even if whole rooms are never seen. We can’t expect the reader to fall into the story if they are constantly wondering where and how we got there.

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Timothy, not only do you serve as the artist on MAPS, but you also handle lettering chores as well. What do you do artistically to make lettering MAPS a painless process?

Timothy: Nothing. The hand lettering comes from two ideals I have that I can’t defend or recommend. First I want my original pages to be actual comics someone could read, therefore the words need to be on the pages. Second is the idea that every mark you see on a page of Maps came from my brush or pen. If I was going to be rational about any of this I probably wouldn’t be in comics.

Outside of MAPS, what other creations are you working on?

Jonathan: We’re currently working on an action comedy called Battle Battle, that draws a lot of inspiration from my love of old manga and the Street Fighter video games.

Timothy: In addition to working on Maps I also do color art for Hellbillies by King Bone Press.

Who are your influences and what influences you to create?

Jonathan: My influences come from all over the place, Cy Twombly, ee cummings, Dr. Seuss, Daniel Johnston, Chuck Jones… from the comic side of life I adore Roger Langridge, Michael DeForge, Jim Woodring, and anything weird and wildly animated.

Timothy: My first story influences came from video games and cartoons. Final Fantasy VII and Dragonball Z were big. Music has always been an important part of my life and a huge source of energy. As far as comics go my main pillars are Paul Pope and Moebius.

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Tell us where people who enjoy Maps can find you all on the internet.

Timothy: You can always find us at strips4.com.