Today I thought I’d share on how the concepts behind Brute (the comic) came into being and the 30 years journey from initial concepts to comics.

As a child I read a lot of comics and soon was writing my own superhero stories with characters I created. As much as I liked writing the stories (drawing them, not so much), I enjoyed creating characters even more. So when D&D introduced the world to tabletop RPGs, I soon found myself being a ‘gamesmaster’ for my friends and brothers and utilizing those 100 odd characters and universe I created to place our adventures in (based originally on a Marvel RPG ruleset and later GURPS).

One of those characters I’d created in my youth was a pink-skinned, purple haired, dagger-tossing heroine named… you guessed it, Rose. However, at this time Rose was barely more than a picture and concept. I’d never flushed out who she was or why she did what she did. So it was years of going through my more developed roster of characters before I finally got around to dusting off Rose to use in a story-line.

By that time, we’d been going so long we were now playing as the children of our original cast of characters, in a near-future world, based largely on the X-Men ‘Days of Future Past’ storyline where giant robots (Sentinels) fought a war against super-powered people (good and bad) to protect the average person – to devastating effect on all. Here Rose was re-envisioned as a tough-as-nails but haggard veteran who helped guide the team. Clearly, if she was just tossing daggers at giant robots she wouldn’t have survived long enough to be a veteran, so grenades of various utilities were added to her arsenal. Her role ended with her sacrificing those grenades, and her life, to cause a tunnel the heroes were narrowly escaping through, to collapse on their pursuers.

In a later campaign, based a generation afterwards, the players were cast as alien bounty hunters, or in one case, as the grandson of his original character. I won’t get into the plot here, as we will use much of that story in the pages of Brute, but they were assigned to a task with overwhelming odds stacked against them. To make it even more interesting, I decided to bring in another group of alien bounty hunters (NPCs) to compete against them (and occasionally help them) to achieve that task. Hence Brute and Vanguard (Captain Jerrreecko) amongst others, were born.

I always tried to play against over-used tropes. So instead of having the standard big-hulking tough guy or ‘super-man’ that virtually every supergroup has, I made the toughest tough-guy in the group, the least threatening, by imagining him looking like a harmless teddy-bear. While the biggest guy in the group (Rintax) was a pacifist. That version of Brute was far more of a super-hero with flight and photon blasts and a tough-guy cigar always dangling from his snout. But his super-strength and tough-guy demeanor, have remained unchanged 30 years later. Interestingly, Vanguard has remained almost unchanged from his original concept. You’ll find a sketch of that original group (by a young yours truly below).

After that campaign ended, I believe we enjoyed one or two more even more epic galactic adventures and then the group finally ended as we were all now too busy with our careers and budding families. However, all those concepts and characters I had developed over those years stayed with me, begging to be re-told. Especially Brute. There was just something about him that appealed to me at a deep level.

Over the next few years, I made several attempts at writing Brute comics or a Brute novel but none of them ‘worked.’ Despite looking like a teddy-bear, a guy with deep-seated self-hatred and anger issues isn’t an appealing protagonist. You almost want him to fail. However, he is fun to watch clobber bad guys and his dynamic with Vanguard and others was enjoyable.

I don’t remember when Rose was retconned into the cast but it was a winning formula, with her crushing on the cute yet macho Brute and providing balance to some of his less savioury behaviours. I wrote a complete script with this cast (Rose, Brute, Vanguard, Shipwreck, Stretch, Rintax). The cast was fun, the banter refreshing and humourous and the action appealing but still it felt, off. Introducing them as a large group, there was no time to really get to know any of them, and therefore the stories lacked emotional attachment.

I tried again, introducing them one at a time, but for me it still didn’t click, however, there was something about writing it from Rose’s perspective that I liked. Finally, years later, I bought some writing software on sale, and to put it through it’s paces, I decided to take yet another crack at Brute. This time, I made Rose the central character, a more relatable avatar for the reader and overall a more endearing character. Rose had always been the heart and soul of the group. It worked. The stories just began to flow. Soon I had seven issues scripted and about 30 loosely plotted out with a vision for a 300 issue maxi-series.

Now all I needed was an artist. Ironically, it was Owen (Keenan) who came to me. He had a comic idea of his own, which he wanted some help with, but once he saw Brute, he was all-in on making it happen. And a comic series was born!