Going from "square job" to comic book artist and writer with R. Alan Brooks
R. Alan Brooks is Denver-based writer, artist, and professor. He teaches graphic novel writing for Regis University’s MFA program, and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. He’s the author of the graphic novels “The Burning Metronome” and “Anguish Garden”, and his award-winning weekly comic for The Colorado Sun, “What’d I Miss?” has been praised for its direct engagement with social issues. His viral TED Talk on the importance of art has nearly 2.5M views. Alan also has graphic novel work featured in the Denver Art Museum's recently renovated Western exhibit.
In this special bonus episode of How Art is Born season 2, R. Alan Brooks and guest host and MCA Denver Digital Producer, Dele Johnson, discuss Alan's love for comics, his time as a hip hop artist, his decision to close down his insurance agency to pursue his dream, and more!
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Bonus episode preview clip
ABOUT R. Alan Brooks
R. Alan Brooks teaches graphic novel writing for Regis University’s MFA program, and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. He’s the author of “The Burning Metronome” and “Anguish Garden” - graphic novels featuring social commentary. His award-winning weekly comic for The Colorado Sun, “What’d I Miss?” has been praised for its direct engagement with social issues. His TED Talk on the importance of art reached 1 million views in 2 months. His graphic novel work is featured in the Denver Art Museum's renovated Western exhibit. He hosts the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art's "How Art Is Born" podcast, as well as his own “MotherF**ker In A Cape” comics podcast, and has written comic books for Pop Culture Classroom, Zenescope Entertainment, and more.
Dele Johnson (00:00:00):
Welcome to How Art Is Born, a podcast from the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, about the origins of artists and their creative and artistic practices. I'm your special guest host, Dele Johnson, podcaster, producer, editor, and radio host. Today I'm joined by Denver based artist, writer and professor R. Alan Brooks. What's up Alan?
R. Alan Brooks (00:00:20):
Hello. Thank you for having me.
Dele Johnson (00:00:22):
Oh, of course. Familiar but unfamiliar at the same time. A little bit for this show, particularly <laugh>. Um, well, to start us off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are?
R. Alan Brooks (00:00:35):
Yeah, we're Justin to the role reversal here, <laugh>. Okay. All right. Well, so, uh, I write comic books and graphic novels. I teach graphic novel writing at Regis University and Lighthouse Writers Workshop and a few other places. I just finished writing a movie script.
Dele Johnson (00:00:53):
R. Alan Brooks (00:00:55):
Like two weeks ago I finished it, so this.
Dele Johnson (00:00:56):
R. Alan Brooks (00:00:57):
Yeah. Um, and yeah, I'm just, I guess, an artist around town.
Dele Johnson (00:01:02):
<laugh> An artist around town. A man about town. Um, you, I definitely have seen you popping up in the media a little bit more lately. Oh, yeah. I, I find that exciting every time I see a new link or a new article or a new interview Hmm. Uh, featuring you because I, you know, I think you deserve all the recognition. Oh, thanks. Yeah, of course. Um, so I'd love to hear about maybe the first time art impacted your life.
R. Alan Brooks (00:01:31):
Hmm. That's a good question. Now I'll say, I, I guess for people who are listening, uh, they should know that you are producer and editor of this podcast if they haven't heard your name before. But, so we're both doing this role, we're both getting into the roles that we're not comfortable in. Yeah. So this is an adventure for both of us. <laugh>. Okay. So, uh, art impacted my life. My father, um, has always been really into books and sci-fi shows and movies. Um, and so I actually, I guess it was comic books like his when I was five. He's a journalist, my dad, and,
Dele Johnson (00:02:07):
Okay. I didn't know that.
R. Alan Brooks (00:02:08):
He, uh, wrote for, uh, he ran the money section at USA Today for like 30 years.
Dele Johnson (00:02:12):
Mm-hmm. So writing runs in the family.
R. Alan Brooks (00:02:15):
Right. <laugh>. Uh, and so when I was five, he wanted to encourage reading, and so he got me into comic books, and he used to read comics when he was younger. He bought me The Flash and
Dele Johnson (00:02:27):
Cool. My favorite hero.
R. Alan Brooks (00:02:28):
Yeah. I read, uh, the, it was, uh, it was a period where Barry Allen was on trial for murdering the reverse flash. Oh, yes. So, uh, yeah. So that's when he got me in the comics. And I think, uh, as someone who liked drawing and liked big words, <laugh>, uh, none of
Dele Johnson (00:02:52):
Need some anoma, a little bit too
R. Alan Brooks (00:02:53):
<laugh>. Right, right. <laugh>, none of that was really kind of like embraced, uh, in my school community. But in comic books, I could have like, all of that. Like I could have, you know, clever use of words and, and good drawing, and it just really kind of drew me, drew me in, no pun intended,
Dele Johnson (00:03:10):
R. Alan Brooks (00:03:13):
Dele Johnson (00:03:14):
There a certain shop that your dad would take you to, uh, to get comics?
R. Alan Brooks (00:03:18):
Well, okay. So actually my, I was, uh, in Asheville, North Carolina when I was five. Okay. Yeah. Uh, my dad was the first business editor that their newspaper ever had. Wow. Yeah. Um, so there, I don't even know, it was probably like seven elevens and stuff like that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But my mother was from Atlanta, and we moved there when I was eight, and that's where I grew up. And so there was a one called Titans Comics. It was on Riverdale Road, and I grew up in between, I grew up in College Park and in southwest Atlanta near Greenbriar Mall, uh, for most of my life. But Titans was like the one, my mom would drop me off there. Oh. And my parents divorced when I was five, so mm-hmm. Uh, and so he moved to dc um, and then, uh, well, he moved to Philadelphia, then DC but in Atlanta, my mom would drop me off at Titans and be like, uh, you can spend $20 or whatever.
Dele Johnson (00:04:11):
Wow. That, that feels like a high budget.
R. Alan Brooks (00:04:13):
It was good. And then she would come back like an hour later and it would be like such a math thing. I would like, I would have a stack and I'd be like, uh, can I get this? No. But if I don't get this one, then I can afford these other two. You know? Yeah. I almost never buy independent comics back then, because they were, uh, more expensive and black and white. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I was like, if I can buy two copies of X-Men instead of buying, you know, uh, teenage Mu Ninja Turtles or whatever. Yeah. Uh, so it's only as an adult that I started reading a lot of those comics that I didn't buy when I was a kid. There was one called, there was an independent comic called X Mutants, and they definitely were trying to get tricks into buy-in, like X-Men fans. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:04:54):
Yeah. A little bit
R. Alan Brooks (00:04:55):
Of bait. Yeah. Like it, uh, and it had nothing to do. They were just, it was just called X Mutants, and it was like, uh, I don't even remember who printed it, but it was a black and white comic, and I bought like one or two, and I was like, what is this <laugh>? But, you know, it fooled me at nine years old.
Dele Johnson (00:05:09):
Yeah. Only, only for a short time though, so I was like, right.
R. Alan Brooks (00:05:12):
Yeah. I saw people Scam
Dele Johnson (00:05:14):
<laugh>. Um, did you have a favorite book at that time?
R. Alan Brooks (00:05:20):
Yeah, you know, X-Men was my favorite for a long time. It was the Dark Phoenix Saga, like right after that period.
Dele Johnson (00:05:27):
R. Alan Brooks (00:05:27):
Yeah. So where before Wolverine was everywhere and on every team, and, you know, like he was a sort of the underdog, and I liked him a lot, but the first books I got, uh, subscriptions to was before I got into X-Men. My mom was like, um, she, you know, in, in Marvel comics used to do her own subscriptions. Like you would order and they would send it out to your house mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so they, but they only, you could only choose for maybe eight titles. And so, uh, my mom was like, looking at the cost and she was like, okay, you can subscribe to two books. And so I subscribed to Avengers and Defenders.
Dele Johnson (00:06:06):
Oh, the Defenders. Yeah. I, I like the Defenders as a team. I know there's, there's been some rotations over the years, but
R. Alan Brooks (00:06:12):
Right. And the TV show is atrocious, but Oh,
Dele Johnson (00:06:15):
<laugh>, it did not do, it, did not do the Team Justice.
R. Alan Brooks (00:06:18):
It felt like B-roll from all the other shows, <laugh>. But, uh, yeah. So in my, and you know, so I would've been like maybe nine or 10 then, and in my mind, at that age, I was like, these teams have the most superheroes, so for this amount I can get the most superheroes. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:06:31):
Mar bang for your
R. Alan Brooks (00:06:32):
Buck. Right. And I didn't even care about Avengers or Defenders. I was just like, most superheroes. And, but then when I got it, I, you know, I had a year of reading both of those comics and I really dug them. Cool. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:06:41):
Uh, at that time, did you have ambitions? Did you have dreams about becoming a comic book writer or artist?
R. Alan Brooks (00:06:50):
Oh, that, you know, it's interesting cuz Yeah, I wanted to draw comics. Um, and I, you know, I drew comics all the time in school. And, uh, art teachers used to insult comics and they hated the fact that I drew them. Um, but I had one good art teacher in eighth grade, Mrs. Carns. And, um, she was basically, she was introducing me to Renaissance artist, and she was like, in the whole class, she was like, this is Albert doer Alan, if you were a Renaissance artist, this is who you would be <laugh>. And it
Dele Johnson (00:07:30):
Was that supposed to be a compliment
R. Alan Brooks (00:07:31):
Or It was Okay. It super got me into him. Okay. Uh, so he's most known for like, uh, drawing, like the praying hands that you see all the time. But like, he did a lot of wood cuts, but they look like comic book illustrations. And, uh, also he signed his name with like, uh, an A and then a D underneath it where it was all together, like the, the top of the D formed the cross bar and the A. Mm. So then I started signing like Alan Brooks, I started signing in my name like that, you know, <laugh>. Yeah. Um, but she, she was, um, sensible and respectful enough to see what I was interested in and give me a connection to the artist that came before then suddenly, like I was interested in it, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so she was cool, but for the most part, my art teachers were garbage. <laugh>
Dele Johnson (00:08:17):
R. Alan Brooks (00:08:17):
Yeah. Um, but yeah, it was such an interesting thing. So I basically was thinking I was gonna draw comics until about 12 when I got more into hip hop. Um, and honestly rapping, so comics were not cool during that period. Like, they weren't Right. That
Dele Johnson (00:08:38):
Was, it was the what the nerds did
R. Alan Brooks (00:08:40):
Yeah. Right. And nerd wasn't a positive thing back then right.
Dele Johnson (00:08:43):
Right And you were in Atlanta. Yep. Which is, you know, a, a black mecca in, in many ways. And, you know, blurred <laugh> was not a thing at all back then.
R. Alan Brooks (00:08:55):
Yeah, yeah. Right. So, like, uh, I did not know any white people, the occasional teacher here and there, but it's an all black city. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I only had one other friend that was in the comics who went to a different school. We're still friends, but like, it meant that he and I could only talk about comics sometimes. And other than that, we would go, we would go years without meeting anybody else who like comic books. Yeah. Um, with the exception of when we would go to comic book conventions and comic book conventions back then were like, I went to my first one when I was 10, it'd be like 300 people at the most mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, now they're like a hundred thousand, but Oh yeah. But like, uh, maybe 300 people and we would be the only kids and the only black people period. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, um, but I mean, people were very nice and they embraced it, but it was, you know, it was rare that we could talk to people about comic books. On the other hand, hip hop, you know, 11 to 12 years old when I started rapping, uh, everybody thought I was cool. Uh, girls talked to me more, you know, kind of stuff. So there was just a different level of, uh, engagement.
Dele Johnson (00:09:56):
R. Alan Brooks (00:09:57):
And I loved hip hop for some of the same reasons, cuz it was a lot of like clever words, wordplay, um, things that would be considered dad jokes. If you put 'em in a battle rap, then suddenly people like them. It's Right. Kind of a weird thing. Yeah. But it's the same like, uh, engine of wordplay is used in battle raps that are used in puns. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know? Um, yeah. So then I just drew in my spare time, but like, became more of a reader of comics and like hip hop was like my life.
Dele Johnson (00:10:30):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It became that cornerstone for you. Um, and, you know, at the, at those times, finding your identity, finding a place to belong mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, is really important. So it, it's interesting that hip hop and music was what really kind of made you, I don't know if is is like a security thing or, you know, it made you feel Yeah. Maybe, uh, a level of confidence. Um, what was, what was your number one song to listen to at that time? Do you, do you remember? Or even an artist?
R. Alan Brooks (00:11:02):
Well, I was deep into Native Tongues, which I know you are. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, so De La Soul, but like De La Soul was like my pinnacle group. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, because they were so themselves. But my top, like my favorite rappers when I was young, when I was really young, it was Kumo d
Dele Johnson (00:11:19):
Yeah. One of the
R. Alan Brooks (00:11:20):
OGs. Yeah. I feel like he, uh, made a mistake by investing too heavily in New Jack Swing <laugh>. So like,
Dele Johnson (00:11:27):
Which is a great period of time. I, I love the new Jack Swing, but it, it didn't last.
R. Alan Brooks (00:11:31):
Yeah. And I think, uh, the beats that he was rapping to don't, like you don't really hear people play his songs much anymore, but he was mm-hmm. <affirmative> much more lyrical than like, he was very advanced lyrically, but after him it was, uh, Rakim Slick Rick and Pasta News from De La Soul. Those were like my top three. And, um, yeah. So, but you know, I would've been like 15 when De Las Soul Is Dead came out. So I was, you know, young teenager sort of finding my identity. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the Native Tongues was like a place, um, like the music that they created was a vibe. It was a whole vibe that I felt like I found myself in that. Yeah. Yeah. So that was really dope. Um, and I think I carry that along for a long time they didn't, they weren't really battle rappers, but, uh, cuz I still love battle rapping. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:12:21):
R. Alan Brooks (00:12:21):
Yeah. I remember when I was like, uh, I went to college early. I went to college when I was 16. Oh, wow. Yeah. And, uh, I came out when I was 19 and then I came back to Atlanta and I was like sneaking in the clubs to battle. Yeah. Like, I didn't even care about dancing or talking to women or it was just like, I just wanted to battle to
Dele Johnson (00:12:40):
Battle. Yeah. Yeah. You wanted to get those bars off. Yeah. Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (00:12:43):
And you know, I did Okay. Like, um, I usually, I usually usually won. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:12:48):
R. Alan Brooks (00:12:49):
There was one dude though. There was one dude, uh, back in the day. There were two dudes that I definitely lost to. One was called Soldier and there was another dude called, uh, Warlock. And, uh, I remember Warlock in particular, he was not dope. And I was just like handling him
Dele Johnson (00:13:07):
R. Alan Brooks (00:13:08):
He went out and got high and came back and suddenly he was dope with <laugh> has never been true with anybody else up there. Oh no. Anybody else that
Dele Johnson (00:13:14):
Performance Enhancing Drugs.
R. Alan Brooks (00:13:15):
<laugh>. Right. Anybody else at Battle that like goes and gets high, they get wacker. They think they get dope cuz they're high. Yeah. But they get wacker. But him, uh, he says something like, I say the things you never say, I jump in a time machine to battle you yesterday. Like you just had a lot of like, wow.
Dele Johnson (00:13:29):
R. Alan Brooks (00:13:29):
Yeah. And I remember that however many years later.
Dele Johnson (00:13:32):
Yeah. I mean, that, that's a great line. Yeah. That is a great line.
R. Alan Brooks (00:13:36):
Especially free styling, but I don't even, yeah. I wonder what happened to that dude. <laugh>. Yeah. But it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of that was like most of my twenties and early thirties was like getting in every battle rap I could, getting in every battle I could be in. And, um, working to make an album and, and went on like small tours and stuff like that, you know. But, uh, as evidenced by the fact that probably nobody listening has ever heard of me as a rapper, <laugh>, you see it on, it only went so far.
Dele Johnson (00:14:04):
<laugh>. Um, so two questions. Um, one was battling your n your primary performance outlet, and then two, what was your moniker? What, what did you go by when you were, when you were battling?
R. Alan Brooks (00:14:20):
I went through a few actually, but, uh, okay. So I battled in battles, but like, when I'm performing like in front of a crowd, they're not usually trying to hear that, you know, they wanna hear songs about different things. So, so then I would do songs, but, uh, when in my twenties I was the fisherman, um, and I, I grew up in, uh, church in the South and it came from like, be fishers of men. Jesus saying that. Uh, and so that was the name that I used and I would, yeah, I would rap and battle under that name. But then, uh, later it became Soul Daddy, which was more, um,
Dele Johnson (00:15:04):
I like that one <laugh>, right
R. Alan Brooks (00:15:06):
On <laugh> that was more people, uh, how people reacted to like my voice and my presence and all that stuff. You know, like people always said, I was like an old soul and that kind of thing. And so, uh, so, you know, when I moved to Denver, um, that's, that's the name that I really went by. And all the albums that I, that are like on Spotify or whatever, or Undersold Daddy. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:15:32):
Yeah. Okay. I might have to go look
R. Alan Brooks (00:15:34):
Into that. Right. No,
Dele Johnson (00:15:35):
Change your life. <laugh>. Uh, so, uh, we've talked a little bit about your early passions in comics. You've talked about, uh, some of your hip hop experience. I, I'm sure that there's more that I'll want to dive into, but, um, I remember my first time ever encountering you and we, I don't even think we ever exchanged words, but was at goodness, at the metal arc on the back patio and just seeing you going all out dripping sweat from dancing <laugh>. And so, I wanna know when dancing kind of came into your life, how you started channeling Yeah. Your energy into that form of expression.
R. Alan Brooks (00:16:15):
You know, it's an interesting thing with me in Dancing, man. Uh, so I mean, in the nineties with hip hop, there were obviously like those like gymnastic kind of dances that everybody would do the jumps and flips and spins, you know? Yeah,
Dele Johnson (00:16:27):
Yeah. And break dancing and Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (00:16:29):
Uh, I learned a little of that stuff, but like, um, I have this distinct memory of being like 12 years old. My mom, uh, took me to a party, like a party of her friend's children. So like, we're all like 12 ish, you know, like in the basement they got music playing and all of us are too nervous and insecure to dance. And my mom was like, what are y'all doing? Y'all need to get this started as she starts dancing and making everybody dance, you know? Okay. And so, uh, I mean, so it's obviously in my jeans mm-hmm. <affirmative>, my dad, my dad knows one dance <laugh> that he can do, uh, very well from the seventies. It's called The Penguin. If you, if anyone anyone knows, look up the Penguin on, uh, on YouTube, it, you see it on Soul Train. It's a, it's a fun dance.
Dele Johnson (00:17:12):
Okay. Cause that's what I was gonna say, like, is is this the Soul Train
R. Alan Brooks (00:17:14):
Classic? It is, yeah. <laugh>, it really is, but, okay. So, uh, but in college I danced a little here and there, but basically after college I think I quit dancing with like, clubs, like trendy clubs mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, which I hate, you know, like those kind of places where you ain't gonna get in here with these shoes, dude. You know, that kind of stuff. Right? Yeah. And I'm like, all right, so I'm gonna pay you 20, $30 to get in and you are gonna approve my garb. You know, like Yeah. It just all seemed offensive to me. Me. Yeah. And then when you get in, like, um, nobody's dancing, you know? Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:17:55):
Everyone wants to look cool. Yeah. Everyone's posted up at the bar Yeah. And their
R. Alan Brooks (00:17:58):
Cliques right at
Dele Johnson (00:18:00):
R. Alan Brooks (00:18:01):
You got it. Yeah. So basically for all of my twenties I didn't dance. Um, and then, uh, in my early thirties, I started realizing I would go to like, there was like a Afro Afro booth thing that would happen here in Denver mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, that I started going to. And I was like, oh yeah, I love dancing. Like, I didn't realize it cuz it had been, because I think it was just associated to me with the, the back club experience. Yeah. And then I was like, oh, there are places that you can go to dance that are not those places. And so, uh, then I started going to this Motown night, uh, DJ mi he would Yeah. Yeah. He would do that one. Uh, and when I first started going, it was like four of us, but then it, you know, like for good friend into a whole bunch of people.
Dele Johnson (00:18:47):
R. Alan Brooks (00:18:48):
And then I started going to solution at me Garch and goodness. And, uh, I just started making it a part of my life and I realized that, and as I got to the point where I was dancing like two to four times a week, but I, I realized that it was like cathartic to my soul, you know, like mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it felt like, and I guess I, you know, come to think of it, when I was younger, I would dance in church. I was, you know, I mentioned I was involved in church. Yeah. Uh, but it wasn't like the same kind of dancer, obviously. But I think just the, um, connection of that movement. Yeah. The movement, something spiritual, you know, like all of that is there mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Uh, but it's interesting that you say that about us not talking and goodness Right. Because this is basically my experience with everybody because I, uh, one I an introvert. Yeah. Uh, so I don't do well at like, the small talk at the dancing venue, but two, I don't drink. So basically I just go straight to the dance floor and I, unless you come to the dance floor, we don't talk. Right, right, right. So I end up knowing people for like years and having no idea what their voices sound like. Yeah. You know, because you just Hilarious. Yeah. You're not there dancing. Right. Yeah. And if they wanna come into my arena, then, you know, we can talk. But like
Dele Johnson (00:19:58):
R. Alan Brooks (00:19:59):
You know, I'll, I'll see people like, you know, uh, even on the show it comes up a lot. Like they're people that I like, oh, we first met dancing. Yeah. But we've never really had a conversation because we just know each other from the dance floor. Yeah. But or
Dele Johnson (00:20:13):
You express yourself with body language. Right. Not words.
R. Alan Brooks (00:20:15):
Yeah. And I just love it. It's, I I really love it. It's a beautiful thing. Uh, I think anything that, I mean, obviously it's a good form of exercise, but anything that's heavy on my soul, if I can just lose myself in dancing, um, it is, it's just beautiful. And I think as a result of that, I don't really dig, um, I don't dig group dances. Like, I, I don't, I don't electric slide
Dele Johnson (00:20:39):
Like, like choreographed. Yeah. Or Oh hey, like electric slide Yeah. Cupid shuffle. Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (00:20:44):
What have you. I let everybody do that, you know, and it's fine. Like you guys enjoy it. Yeah. But like, uh, for me having to like regiment what I'm doing actually reduces my, um, enjoyment of it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And also, um, although I don't mind being on a dance floor and people sort of paying attention to what I'm doing, that is not the goal. So you
Dele Johnson (00:21:04):
Don't wanna be the center of attention. Yeah. So like, if there's a dance circle happening,
R. Alan Brooks (00:21:09):
You got it. I always
Dele Johnson (00:21:09):
Leave. Yeah. <laugh>, it's, that's, that's when you're like, okay, I'm out,
R. Alan Brooks (00:21:12):
I'm out. People are constantly trying to push me in their dance circle or force me to do their soul train line. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, I'm like, you guys got that, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but that's just not it. It, it is, I dunno. It's not the pure experience for me.
Dele Johnson (00:21:23):
Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. I, uh, as, as a kid, uh, soul train lines would form at these like African parties that we would be at where, you know, the adults are having their party and the kids may end up having their own separate party somewhere else. And I always loved the soul train line, but I never wanted to get into dance circles. It felt more performative. Yes. And I think that the dance circles for me always happened at like homecoming dances and like high school and stuff like that mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I grew up in Nevada. I went to a predominantly white school. I didn't want to perform Right. For these kids. Right. But at, at African parties when, you know, everyone is black and brown and we're all coming from the same culture Yeah. It felt more comfortable and we would be in soul train line form rather than like Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (00:22:18):
Dele Johnson (00:22:19):
Enclosed ring of, of a dance circle.
R. Alan Brooks (00:22:22):
That is a whole other thing. Yeah. I mean, like, uh, you know, being in an all-black city dancing amongst other people of color, it does not feel like they're waiting for you to entertain them, you know? Right.
Dele Johnson (00:22:33):
Everyone just wants to express themselves. Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (00:22:36):
Yeah. But sometimes dance circles and white spaces is very, it just makes me think of like step and fetched. Like, I'm not here to entertain you, you know, like mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, but anything that moves it from an expression of my joy to performance makes me enjoy it less. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So like, uh, you know, nobody could hire me as a dancer cuz that's not something I'm interested in. Yeah. It's just about like, releasing my soul. So that's why the dance circles and soul train lines, like I'm, I understand that they're communal and I, that's why I support other people doing them mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I, and I like being there and cheering people on. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:23:12):
But the problem might even pick up a mover too. <laugh>. It's
R. Alan Brooks (00:23:14):
True. Yeah. Right. <laugh>. But the the problem is, is that when I stand there and cheer people on, then they're like, you gotta be part of it too. You know? Yeah. So I'm just like, ah, I'll bounce,
Dele Johnson (00:23:21):
Ah, no, I'm here as a spectator purely
R. Alan Brooks (00:23:23):
Right. <laugh>. But you know, they just saw me on the floor doing like Michael Jackson spins or something. Yeah. And then they're like, now you don't wanna dance. Yeah. So I like, I get their reaction, but it's just not for me.
Dele Johnson (00:23:31):
Yeah, absolutely. Totally understand that. Yeah. Um, so we've talked about comics and, and hip hop and dancing, um, but there, there was a point in time where you were not a professional writer. Yeah. Um, and you know, through various episodes I've gotten to hear bits and pieces of the story. I could put the puzzle together, huh. But now is my opportunity to, to really ask you how you began your journey as a professional writer.
R. Alan Brooks (00:24:10):
Yeah. Okay. The whole story happens here. Yeah. Right. Okay. So when I was younger, I wanted to be a comic book artist. And, uh, I would draw all the time. And like I said, hip hop kind of way laid me. So in terms of my development as a visual artist, it probably stopped when I was 15. Um, and so I just didn't draw for a lot of years. Um, but with music, as I mentioned, I got to the point where I was doing a few tours. I got to the point where I, in Denver, I would do like 50 shows a year, and I would have jazz musicians back in me. Um, so usually a bass player keyboard, a Rhodes player, um, and a drummer, and then sometimes other things. But, so I, I had to generate enough money at gigs that I could pay them and pay myself mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
And so, uh, so I was doing that for a few years and it was going well. Um, but I had a few musicians who were like negative souls, I guess mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, like they were paying their rent off of my gigs, but would still show up and be mad. You know, like, yeah. Like I would like book the gig, design a poster, send out the email list, print the posters, put the posters all over town, uh, do the management with the, uh, venue mm-hmm. <affirmative> to make sure mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like where we, we get paid and, and you know, basically all they had to do was show up to occasional rehearsal and gigs and get paid. Yeah. And since they're jazz musicians, they could largely improv so there wasn't like a lot of weight on them mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And they would still just be like, you know, dicks about everything.
So <laugh>, uh, it kind of wore me down after a while. Yeah. And so, uh, around 2012, I was, I was working, I was working a day job at like a, a student loan place, something like that, I don't know. But, uh, I quit that job and then with these musicians, I was like, man, for all of this pain and aggravation, I could work a square job and make some real money. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I picked the most square thing that I could pick, which was an insurance. Yeah. Yeah. So I, uh, started, uh, an insurance agency and I was selling like, home and auto insurance. It was the first time I worked a job where it was pure commission. Um, yeah. So it taught me like
Dele Johnson (00:26:37):
You only get out of it what you put into it. Yes. Right.
R. Alan Brooks (00:26:40):
Yeah. So it taught me different kind of the hustle, but it taught me that I could survive doing that. Yeah. I didn't have to like, work on somebody's day job necessarily. Right. Um, but the company I was working for at first were very dishonest. So I quit and went to another insurance agency and I moved to health insurance and they were really cool. They were actually probably the coolest as far as jobs go. Coolest group of people I had ever worked with. Um, but it was the only period in my life where I wasn't doing any art and I was feeling like sort of empty. And there was this, there's this thing with health insurance, right? When you sit down with somebody with health insurance, you're like, Hey, uh, this is the policy. They'll say, well, um, can I take this off and save money?
And I'll say, well, if you take this off, if something happens, you will not have this coverage. Oh, I don't need that. I'll be fine. And I'd be like, okay, it's up to you. You know? Um, so they would take it off and then invariably six months later, a year later, they would, that thing would happen. They wouldn't have coverage and they would call me furious Right now, even though intellectually I know it wasn't my fault cuz they chose to take it off. And I explained it to them emotionally, it was hard for me to have people angry with me over something that I don't care about. I don't care about insurance. Like if you're angry with me about like, my belief in human rights, okay. You know, but you're mad at me about insurance. It was just so, it's taking its toll on me.
So I basically did insurance from 2012 to 2016. And then 2016, I was like, I can't do it anymore. So I was at this point where I had to like determine, okay, what is my life gonna be? Um, if I have to choose between these two extremes, one extreme is being wealthy and unhappy and the other extreme is being happy and maybe poor, which would I choose? Now that answer's not the same for everybody, but for me it was, I would rather be happy and possibly poor. So I shut down the insurance agency and I was like, what was my first love comic books
Dele Johnson (00:28:48):
All the way back to Yeah. Those, those days at Titans.
R. Alan Brooks (00:28:51):
Yes. Right. Yes. Oh, well done.
Dele Johnson (00:28:52):
Yeah. <laugh>. Well, you know,
R. Alan Brooks (00:28:54):
Dele Johnson (00:28:54):
the easy way for me to remember that is because Titans is one of my favorite super teams.
R. Alan Brooks (00:28:58):
Ah, nice. <laugh>.
Dele Johnson (00:28:59):
I'll never forget that one now,
R. Alan Brooks (00:29:00):
Right? <laugh>. Okay. So, uh, I went to Europe for a month and uh, I traveled by myself and I had like some anxiety about it. I was like, I don't know how these countries feel about black people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, I don't know whether they're gonna like me as a person, period. But I went to Berlin, Budapest Proc, and London. And in all those places I visited comic book stores. I went to a convention in, uh, west England in a tiny town called, uh, <inaudible>. Mm. Yeah. Which is near Bath or, okay. Yeah. Uh, and when at that convention, that was like the conventions I went to as a kid, it was like 200 people or something. Yeah. And they heard me talk and they were like, you're an American, why are you here? You know, like, you came for this, you know, <laugh>.
But it was, uh, and then in Berlin and I, I talked to the guy who owned the three biggest comic book, the biggest comic book store chain there. It was just cool. Like, it was cool to connect with people internationally over something that I had always loved mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, in, in London, I went to a comic book museum, uh, in Prague. I went to a comic store. I I went to a bar that was a comic book museum. Oh, I liked that. Yeah. I was just walking through the town square. Yeah. They had a sign that said bar in comic book museum. And I was like, huh. And turned out quite the combination. Right. Yeah. Turned out there, there was this artist, uh, Czech artist from the seventies and they just had all of his paintings in there, but it looked like seventies style, like Conan the Barbarian illustrations.
Oh, cool. Yeah. So that was, that was pretty cool. So it was all his art mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and, and Budapest was the only place that did not buy any comics in that language because the guy who owned that store was a Dick <laugh>. So, uh, but yeah, so all of that was re-- I was like, this is what makes me happy, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I decided to do like a Kickstarter and I worked with this artist, um, Dionne Harris and a colorist, uh, Matt Strat by. And so I wrote a script. It was my first time really writing a script. Uh, I had been listening to some writer's podcasts and stuff like that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> read a couple books. And the book that came out of it, first of all, we were trying to raise 8,400 on Kickstarter, um, and we raised like 16,000.
Dele Johnson (00:31:17):
R. Alan Brooks (00:31:18):
Yeah. Which nobody ever gave me money for my rap stuff. So I really, I didn't expect it
Dele Johnson (00:31:23):
and not to that total right? Five figures. Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (00:31:27):
Yeah. And, and, and like when I was looking like somebody shared it in the alumni group from my college on Facebook, that I was not a part of, cuz I'm not, you know, a joiner <laugh>. So I kept seeing all these names pop up and I was like, what? I haven't talked to them in years. You know, and so like, all of that was really cool and, um, inspiring that all these people sort of invested in me in this way, you know? Um, but, so that book was called The Burning Metronome. Um,
Dele Johnson (00:31:55):
I have a copy.
R. Alan Brooks (00:31:56):
Ah, right on. It's outta print now. We're gonna have to get it back, but it's sold out when I did the Ted Talk, but I'm jumping ahead. Okay. So Friend met <laugh>. Uh, so it took like, uh, six months to get out. I did do a soundtrack in the meantime to keep Thai people over. So that's free on YouTube, like it's, uh, instrumental music by, uh, by this brother Lavell. And, uh, I rap on two songs and all the rest is just instrumental neo-soul jazz with actors saying lines to dialogue here and there of the music and so it's just like a free mix on YouTube. Um, but so, okay. So that book comes out, um, and I start doing conventions and I start traveling to every convention trying to meet all the editors at Marvel and DC Image comics, you know
Dele Johnson (00:32:43):
Yeah. The, the big names.
R. Alan Brooks (00:32:44):
Yeah. And, uh, you know, they all shrugged at me, which is fine. <laugh>. And then, uh, the somebody at Regis University got a copy of the Bernie metronome and, uh, invited me to teach in their master's program now
Dele Johnson (00:33:02):
Off the strength of The Burning Metronome. Never met you. Don't know anything about you except for that book.
R. Alan Brooks (00:33:08):
It's, well, they read it and they invited me to teach a seminar first, so I think they could see how I do. Okay. Yeah. And then, uh, well the trial run there. Yeah. Which I didn't know. Yeah. I didn't know that that was a trial. I thought they were just inviting me to do a seminar. Yeah. And then I did a seminar and then they were like, I wanna talk to you about teaching. And I was like, really? You know? Yeah. Cause I've never taught before. Yeah. So, uh, so that book made me a professor, uh mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which is crazy. And then, um, then also around that time, uh, the Denver Post was having troubles because, uh, uh, hedge fund mm-hmm. <affirmative> bought the Denver Post. And so they cut the staff by two thirds. Uh, the journalists were like picketing outside the building, I remember.
Yeah. Yeah. Uh, so some of them left and started their own paper called The Colorado Sun. Yeah. Um, and they kind of like checked around for like, who's a comic book person in Denver. And they found me, uh, and one of, one of the two founders, well actually I met both founders the first time we met at Mutiny in a mutiny information cafe. Yeah. And, um, they were like, Hey, we're starting this paper, um, we're wanting to know if you're interested in doing a comic for it. And I was like, give me a week. And so I came up with a pitch for it, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I had never written like a weekly comic. Yeah. And I, I was like nervous about how, how short cuz you know, I had written this long form thing. Yeah. But like, you know, the weekly comic is like, you get like one, like I I do one page, some people do three panels, I don't even know how. Right.
Dele Johnson (00:34:40):
Yeah. And I mean, gosh, even some, you know, newspaper comics is maybe even one or two panels
R. Alan Brooks (00:34:45):
Right, right. Like Farside or Yeah, like classic. Yeah. Yeah. So I was like, I don't know how I'm gonna do this, but, uh, but I pitched this thing called what I Miss. Um, the premise is basically a black man, his twenties, his white neighbor, she's in her fifties. She was in a coma for 30 years, hence the name What I miss. Ah, okay. Uh, and they, I don't know if I was ever aware of that detail. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So that's like, uh, that was the only reason I could think of, of why they would be just out talking about things. Yeah. Yeah. And, uh, but we've moved away from that, uh, in the years since, like, it's there, but it's not like, it's not, it's not so much him filling her in, it's just their friendship. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But the reason I chose them is cuz if you have a short burst once a week, and that means you can only really have like one or two main characters mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And if the main, main characters are the same demographically, like if they're both black, then it becomes a black comic. Or if they're both women, it becomes a woman, you know? So I thought, well, if I get two characters who are, um, sort of dia uh, who are demographically opposites, opposites, then um, it makes for more enriching conversations that can come from different perspectives.
Dele Johnson (00:35:59):
R. Alan Brooks (00:36:01):
So, you know, we've been doing that. I think we're like hitting five years on that. And that comic is one. Oh, and Corey Redford is the artist on that one. Okay. Yeah. She's really dope. And, uh, we've won two journalism awards for it.
Dele Johnson (00:36:15):
R. Alan Brooks (00:36:16):
Thank you. Which is, when I got the first one, I was like, I didn't know I was a journalist, but <laugh> <laugh>. But the funny thing about the first, the first, so it's from a society professional journalist. My father is, uh, I'm doing air quotes for people who are listening. He's, uh, retired from journalism. He retired from USA Today, Uhhuh <affirmative>, but he's still writing, like he wrote, he wrote a column for, uh, Washington Post Man Does stuff for National Geographic and different things like that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So when I got the journalism award from the society professional journalist, he got a journalism award from the Society of Professional journalist like a few weeks later. Yeah. Yeah. And I just thought that was like dope and hilarious.
Dele Johnson (00:36:56):
Yeah. I think that's kind of
R. Alan Brooks (00:36:57):
Beautiful. Yeah. And it happened around Father's Day. Yeah. So that was kind of cool.
Dele Johnson (00:37:00):
R. Alan Brooks (00:37:01):
And I'm named after him, so, uh, I go by my middle name, but he's, uh, Rodney Alan Brooks.
Dele Johnson (00:37:07):
Okay. So that's always been burning question for me
R. Alan Brooks (00:37:11):
Me. What's the "R"?
Dele Johnson (00:37:11):
Yeah. Or, or more so Yeah. why the, the R. Alan. And I, I wondered if it was maybe just, you know, you're classing it up a little bit as a, as a professional writer now <laugh>, um, you know, so many riders who go by like initials or some variation.
R. Alan Brooks (00:37:29):
Well, I mean, really practically speaking, like, uh, most of my life it was just Alan Brooks, but in order. Uh, but there's such a common name, so Yeah. In order to be Googleable mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I use my first initial, so R. Alan Brooks, suddenly you can Google me
Dele Johnson (00:37:42):
Yeah. And top result.
R. Alan Brooks (00:37:45):
<laugh>. Yeah. Cuz if you go Alan Brooks, like, uh, it's countless. Yeah. And it's also a more famous Rodney Brooks than both me and my father. He's like a robot robotic scientist. Oh yeah. And so, like, if I was gonna be Rodney Brooks, that guy would beat both of us, you know, <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, but yeah, so, uh, the comic happened and then, uh, it's just led to other things, you know, like it's led to this podcast, it's led to, uh, um, the TED Talk that I did mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's led to me having stuff in a Denver art museum. All these things that I never would've thought were possible. Yeah. Especially with comic books.
Dele Johnson (00:38:23):
Yeah. It's opened up a whole new world. Yeah. So maybe let's, let's go a little bit into that. Now you have, uh, you have work on view in the Denver Art Museum.
R. Alan Brooks (00:38:35):
Yes. Which in true rapper fashion, I want to dedicate to all my hatin' ass art teachers when I grew up <laugh> <laugh>. Okay. So, uh, Lauren Thompson at the Denver Art Museum, uh, very cool person. She reached out to me when they were renovating their Martin building mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, they, they wanted to do a western section and then they wanted to have another section that was specifically Black Western. And so her idea was like, um, it would be cool to have a comic that tells the story of Nat Love mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so she asked around and some people at the museum, here's another dance floor connection, a guy that I know from Motown. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, his wife works at the museum mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so she was like, Alan is the one. Yeah. And so that came from the dance floor. Yeah. Uh, so Lauren reached out to me, we talked about what we could do.
And so, um, I read Nat Love. So Nat love's a cowboy from the 18 hundreds. Um, there was a fictionalized version of him in the Netflix movie, the Harder They Fall. Yes. Yeah. Love that movie. Yeah. It was funny. I found that really enjoyable. Yeah. Yeah. And it's funny we didn't know about it, but the exhibit opened at the same time pretty much that the movie was releasing. Oh yeah. Which was just a funny coincidence. Yeah. But I read this dude's bi autobiography, it's a public domain now, so you could just download it. And, uh, it's really fascinating because it was during a period where cowboys were selling their stories. That's the term. Tall tales come from that. Yeah. So basically cowboys were living their life. People in New York were telling the stories of cowboys. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and Cowboys were like, they're making money off our stories.
Yeah. When you start telling our own stories. Yeah. Um, but they're known for exaggerating, um, right. Cuz that's kind of like what they were doing. Like that's what they were supposed to do in a sense. Right. They're trying to top each each other. Yeah. So when you read Nat Love's Autobiography, you don't know how historically accurate it is mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and so at first I was getting caught up in that, but then I was like, eh, this is, this is the autobiography. A different art museum is not like a history museum. Like Right. I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna tell the story as you told it. Yeah. It's not Museum of Nature and Science. Yeah, yeah. Right. So, uh, then I was like, but they can only afford to pay me for maybe like seven or eight pages mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, cuz it, drawing a comics page takes like 12 to 20 hours depending on what you're doing on each page.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so I read his book and I had to distill it down to like six or seven big moments. Yeah. And, uh, layout wise, I was looking at this, uh, uh, this Jim Steranko, he's a Marvel comics artist from the sixties and seventies mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, really known for doing Agents of Shield, but he did this story called, uh, Outland, which was an adaptation of a Sean Connery movie, uh, where it's, uh, in why there's Port. It was landscape poetry versus landscape. Yeah. Yeah. So he drew it in landscape. Um, so it looks epic like a movie. It's Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:41:37):
Everything is very cinematic. Yes.
R. Alan Brooks (00:41:39):
And I, so I, I took that for inspiration. I think his is way better than mine, just so you know, but <laugh>, um, but he do, he would do like one big image and then smaller inset panels to like, give other details. And I thought that was a great way to tell that love story. Yeah. So, um, so I did that, um, worked on it a few months and so they, it's a permanent exhibit in the museum, um, basically until they ren changed the building again mm-hmm. <affirmative>, so it's on a touch screen there. And, uh, it was just, it was just beautiful. It was touching, you know, like Yeah. Uh, it opened, um, that, well two years ago now because we're in 2023
Dele Johnson (00:42:18):
<laugh>, who can believe it? Right.
R. Alan Brooks (00:42:19):
<laugh>, uh, and my best friend that I mentioned who was in the comics when I was a kid, he flew into town for the opening mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it was Wow. Yeah. So it's great to have him. There's, that's really cool. Yeah. Uh, my mother and father didn't travel at the time cuz they were still concerned about Covid. Sure. But my mother came in 2022. Yeah. And so she got to it.
Dele Johnson (00:42:37):
She sat in on a recording of the show
R. Alan Brooks (00:42:38):
As well. Yeah. Yes. Right. Yeah. I forgot you met her. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, so she got to see it and then, uh, my dad is coming in February, so he's gonna see it. Cool. But, uh, so that went well. Then, uh, a year later, which was last year, uh, they approached me again about, uh, conve, uh, exhibit that they had opening called Saint Sin Lovers and Fools. It was Flemish art from the 15 hundreds, um, largely religious iconography, but in that art, so, okay. That's, I was thinking like, what's the knock on Windy way? All right. So in the Bible, the three Kings, you know? Yes.
Dele Johnson (00:43:18):
Okay. So, hey, and today is January 6th, which is Three Kings Day. Oh,
R. Alan Brooks (00:43:23):
I didn't know. That
Dele Johnson (00:43:24):
Actually is a Christian holiday. Oh, wow. Does Mark the end of the Christmas period. So most very, uh, Orthodox or Yeah. Traditional Christians would celebrate from the 25th to the sixth. Huh?
R. Alan Brooks (00:43:39):
Yeah. Okay. So it's not just Insurrection Day
Dele Johnson (00:43:42):
<laugh>. No, it's not just Insurrection Day, although the two aligning maybe makes more
R. Alan Brooks (00:43:48):
Sense. Right. Okay. So, uh, in the Bible itself, they're not called kings. It doesn't say they're three of them. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, they're just called the Magi and we don't know how many there are. Um, theologians think that people decided it was three kings because they gave three gifts, gold, frankincense, and Mer mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But, uh, the Bible does not say anything about three kings and Christian Lo over the next a hundred years. They, they just decided they were kings and they gave them names. Uh, one of them was supposed to be an African king named Baltazar and Christian Art. For the next 1500 years or so, they painted this African king as a white person with a black servant.
Dele Johnson (00:44:28):
Oh, what a surprise. Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (00:44:30):
So this art for this exhibit at the Denver Art Museum was some of the first art to ever show him as a black person. Wow. Yeah. And so, so, uh, when Lauren was reaching out to me from the Denver Art Museum about it, she's basically like, um, I think it would be interesting to do something with Valar mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, what might his story be, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I was like, oh, that's cool. And so she was like, so you just think about it and, you know, so I thought about it and I pitched her a story. Yeah. And, uh, she dug it. And so this, the approach I took basically was like Bath Isar appears in the present day and he gets to reflect upon, like, he gets to see the centuries of art that depicted him as white mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but he also gets to tell the story of meeting the infant Christ from his pers perspective mm-hmm. <affirmative>
Specifically. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, which I, I've never seen. Um, so that's the story that I told. And again, they only had money to pay me for like seven pages or something. So I did. Yeah. Yes. I did a pretty short story, but, uh, in drawing that story, I've never drawn so many camels <laugh> in my life. I was like, I, if I never have to draw another camel seems like a tricky animal of, of all the animals as well. Oh man. It was all kinds of like photo references for that. Oh, surely. Yeah. Like, uh, but uh, you weren't drawn at like Campbell Joe off the cigarettes <laugh>. Right, right, right. And no sunglasses, cigarettes, yeah. <laugh>. Okay. So, uh, they were like, how do you wanna just display it? And um, we were talking and I was like, oh, it might be cool to have like a old school like book.
So it feels, you know, like a leather bound book. So it feels like it's part of the exhibit. Yeah. Um, cuz I don't think touchpoint would work for, to accompany art from the 15 hundreds. Right. And so, uh, my girlfriend helped me research, uh, companies that create those books. So there's a book, um, I think it's in, there's a company in Scotland who, um, basically whenever you watch a movie and they have like the book of old Yeah. They make that prop book. Yeah. And so, um, we, Denver Museum was down, we contacted them, they took my story, they printed it in a few pages and then created this prop book. Um, it's like goat skin leather. It's like $700. It's like crazy, you know? Yeah. Um, but it's perfect for the exhibit. Yeah. You know, um, so it's like so many things have blown my mind like to come from being a child where, um, everyone I knew, I mean, other kids thought I was stupid for reading comic books and then teachers hated that.
I read comic books and like Society at Large looked down on comic books. And now at this age, comic books are, uh, the thing that made me, a professor brought me into museums to museums mm-hmm. <affirmative>, Denver Art Museum and this one, you know Yeah. To be able to do this podcast with you, like Yeah. Uh, and it's led to me doing a Ted Talk, like all these crazy things that, um, I just never, like, if I could tell the 10 year old version of me all the stuff that comic books would do for me, I don't know that I would believe it. Sure. You
Dele Johnson (00:47:38):
Know, it almost doesn't sound real. Right. It's like a story from
R. Alan Brooks (00:47:43):
A book, right. <laugh> Yeah. Comic book. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:47:46):
So you've had this meteoric rise, let's call it. Um, and you're publishing your own stories. Uh, you've got newer books coming out. You've got the Anguish Garden Yeah. Series. Um, which I've been reading. So thank you for those copies. Nice. Um, I've been enjoying it a lot Hmm. And myself being a comic book lover. Yeah. Uh, I am curious, you know, you try to reach out to the big names in comic books and to Noah Veil mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but at this point, if you had the opportunity to write for one of these big names, if you wanted to mm-hmm.
R. Alan Brooks (00:48:29):
Dele Johnson (00:48:30):
Who would you choose?
R. Alan Brooks (00:48:31):
Oh, that's an interesting question. Well, okay. So for me, um, all, all my comics typically have some kind of like social commentary or like, my art is my way of contributing to a better world, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so my only interest in expanding my reach or fame is, you know, one so I can take care of my family, stuff like that. But, but really to have a greater positive impact on the world mm-hmm. <affirmative> to reach the art, to reach the world with my art. If I could do it like Banksy, you know, I sure would be
Dele Johnson (00:49:07):
R. Alan Brooks (00:49:08):
Yes. But, uh, you know, it doesn't seem like in the cars for me. So, um, my interest in writing for say like a Marvel or DC is is that like creating a bigger platform to tell the stories I wanna tell mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, that said, uh, if I were choosing between Marvel and DC Huh. That's interesting. I think my first, the first comics I really got into were DC mm-hmm. <affirmative>, most people I think would say Marvel. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I feel like mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But, uh, I feel like I love Marvel. I love both, but they're different. Like, uh, DC's, Brian Mihael Bendis in an interview I read years ago, he essentially said that the DC comics are about the mask and the Marvel comics are about the people under the mask mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which I thought was really interesting. Yeah. Um, cuz he is like, it doesn't matter how you write Clark, it matters how you write Superman.
Right. Um, but with Spider-Man, it doesn't matter how you write Spider-Man, it matters how you write Peter Parker. Right. So that was really interesting. Um, so I think DC characters will be, are, are more interesting to me because, because there's a lot more room to define things with them mm-hmm. <affirmative> that haven't been, uh, personalities and experiences that haven't been defined. Yeah. Like Tom King right now is doing an interesting thing with like, you know, sea level DC characters. Yeah. And, you know, you get really cool stories. There's a guy, Mr. Terrific, you familiar with him? Oh
Dele Johnson (00:50:42):
Yeah, very much so. So, so for me, like one of the things that I've always made sure that I've done is know about like the black and brown characters in these comics. I've always wanted to see myself. Ah-huh.
R. Alan Brooks (00:50:54):
<affirmative>. Nice. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:50:55):
So Mr. Terrific. Right? Definitely. Definitely.
R. Alan Brooks (00:50:58):
So, okay, Mr. Terrific. I feel like, uh, is often used poorly. Um, he has such an audacious, ridiculous name, like Yeah. Uh, but he's named after No Fear, right? <laugh>. So he's named after Fair Play <laugh>. Right. So he's named after, uh, uh, a Golden Age character who is also Mr. Terrific. It's a white character. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and then this, Mr. Terrifics is supposedly inspired by that, Mr. Terrific. Right. Um, and there was a, when they did the new 52, there was a Mr. Terrific series that, uh, I didn't really care for. Um, but every issue, it was like, I'm the third smartest man in the, in the world or whatever. Right. <laugh>. And it's so ridiculous for him to say it. Like, how is that judge? Did you take a test? Like, what is that? Right. Yeah. And so I would, I would really love to write him like Frazier.
Dele Johnson (00:51:53):
R. Alan Brooks (00:51:54):
Interesting. Yeah. Because the arrogance that it requires to call yourself Mr. Terrific. Yeah. And to announce that you're the third smartest man in the world. Right. I think could be really fun. Yeah. You know, it could be like a comedy adventure
Dele Johnson (00:52:05):
And in many iterations, a tech billionaire Right. Of sorts. Some sort of really, uh, visionary type of person. Large personality.
R. Alan Brooks (00:52:13):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, he's black Tony Stark in a lot of ways. Yeah. But yeah, so like, I think it could be a, a fun kind of thing, especially if he had somebody who wasn't as pretentious as him or was smarter. Hmm. You know, like that would really burn him up as
Dele Johnson (00:52:25):
Like, as like a foil as his adversary. Uh,
R. Alan Brooks (00:52:27):
Uh, I think, uh, a comedic foil. So it could be like his cousin who's like Oh, sure. Who's like real hood. Yeah. You know what I'm saying? Yeah. So it doesn't like, uh, play into the social conventions. He plays into Uhhuh <affirmative>, but it's clearly smarter than him. Yeah. Because if he says he's the third smartest man in the world, then there is a two and there's a one. Right. You know, so like if the cousin's number two <laugh>, like that would just burn him up. Yeah. And I think that could be really fun. So like, that's an example of what I think could be fun with DC characters, because there's so many of them are just, um, a costume and an idea for powers. Mm-hmm.
Dele Johnson (00:52:56):
<affirmative> a mantle.
R. Alan Brooks (00:52:57):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And so like, you know, whereas Marvel, I think has spent more time investing into the personality of their characters. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there's not as many that you can pick and be like, just do your own thing with.
Dele Johnson (00:53:08):
Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. Um, you know, I guess one thing that I associate with like masks and comics and things, there's always, you know, I mask is like a shield, it's like a protector. It's a way to maybe disguise yourself, protect yourself. Mm-hmm. Um, it evokes ideas of fear for me. And obviously it wouldn't be an episode of how Art was born. Um, if I didn't ask you about, um, how you deal with fear, maybe perhaps how you've dealt with fear in, uh, your comics writing career thus far. Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (00:53:43):
That Ryan, by the way. Oh, I did It didn't see Skills.
Dele Johnson (00:53:46):
<laugh>, Paula and I didn't know it. Right.
R. Alan Brooks (00:53:48):
<laugh>. Okay. Yeah. So I definitely feel fear I'm wired differently than a lot of people, I think, because I feel most of my fear after I'm done. Uh mm. So I don't feel it during the process. I feel it. Right. When it's done, then I'm like, it's time to submit. No, it's terrible. Like, it hits me. All right then. Yeah. So like I mentioned earlier that I just finished this, uh, movie script. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> like working on the thing. I'm like, yeah, this is fun, this is good, blah, blah, blah. And then at the point where I'm supposed to send it to the other producers, I'm like, no. No. Really. Yeah. Uh, and what I've, I don't know. What I've learned from myself is there's nothing wrong with me for feeling fear. It's just part of the process. And if I embrace it, it's part of the process.
It means that it doesn't stop me. So like, I feel the fear and I still send it, you know, I still send it to the printer. I still send it to the producers. I still send it to the artist. Um, and then eventually it goes away. You know? Yeah. I think a lot of us are constantly trying to talk ourselves out of fear or pretend like it doesn't exist. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But you can't really do that. Like, what Fear tells you isn't true, but it still is there. It exists. Right. So, one of the saddest things in my life is that I've know so many brilliant artists of different, different disciplines who will never put anything out because they're so afraid, you know? Um, I feel like the world is being robbed of beauty. And so I did spend some time studying fear and put together like this workshop seminar to like teach people how to manage fear.
And it's something I've been teaching here and there. I teach it at Regis, at Teach It at Light House. Um, I'll be teaching in a Regis Tomorrow effect. Oh, wonderful. Uh, and also, uh, we're doing a video of it, like, uh, have a, it's, it's, oh, I guess it's done now. It's just, we're gonna premiere it soon. But like, uh, just a video. Cuz I, I basically, I wanted other creative people that have something to be like, these are ways to walk through fear and still create by heart. Cuz I think we just, I don't know. I feel like most of the advice is just like, you just gotta keep going. You just gotta ignore it. <laugh>. Like, you know, I think it's, you have to manage it.
Dele Johnson (00:56:04):
Yeah. It can't just be that simple. Right, right,
R. Alan Brooks (00:56:07):
Right. You gotta do something to get Yeah. So, um, yeah. So it's basically just ways to help people. But like for myself, it's really like fear is, is a constant companion. And instead of trying to deny it, just accept that it's there and move forward. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:56:27):
I love that. And, you know, I think I'm gonna try to employ that in my own life. I, I think, you know, fear for me mostly manifests in like imposter syndrome.
R. Alan Brooks (00:56:36):
Dele Johnson (00:56:37):
Um, and like yeah. The fear of putting things out, how will it be accepted? I usually will feel good about things as I'm working on them, but Yep.
R. Alan Brooks (00:56:44):
Dele Johnson (00:56:45):
It's done, then it may just stay on a hard drive or in a file on my computer or on my phone.
R. Alan Brooks (00:56:52):
It happens. So many that's our, that's the tragedy. Right. But here's the other thing with imposter syndrome. Like, I look at, you know, all of us, anybody who's creative has opinions about the art that comes out. Right. And, you know, we might not say names, but all of us have something where we're like, that is garbage <laugh>, why is that out? Right. But for me, it's like, okay, if I think that that thing is garbage and those people are not ashamed to put that out mm-hmm. <affirmative>, then why am I ashamed to put my stuff out? Yeah. What's stopping me?
Dele Johnson (00:57:16):
R. Alan Brooks (00:57:16):
Yeah. And I think, um, I think we're all imposters in terms of however imposter syndrome is defined. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> because nobody has done something until they've done it. Right. But for some reason, we feel like there are people who have like the real knowledge, like they're the real people. There's a story about Robert Kirkman that I, I may have told us podcast, I don't know. But, uh, so Robert Kirkman's, creator of The Walking Dead, um, he created the comic book and he created Invincible. And, you know, he's done a lot of big stuff. But when he was pitching, uh, walking Dead, the comic to Image, at that time, horror had not sold well in comics for about 30, 40 years. So the editor's like, well, you know, man, I don't know about zombies. Like, they, they usually don't sell. And so Kirkman's like, oh, I forgot to tell you the hook. Uh, the Zombies are an advanced team for invading aliens. And so <laugh> Yeah. So the editor's like, huh, okay, well let's try that. Yeah. So then the book comes out, six months later, it's doing well, editor comes back to Kirkman and he is like, Hey man, I'm glad walking Dess doing good. Yes. But he is like, I don't see anything about the aliens. And Kirkman was like, oh, I just made that up. So you were printed <laugh>, You know
Dele Johnson (00:58:33):
What a Legend.
R. Alan Brooks (00:58:33):
Right Now it says something about his audacity. Yeah. But I think it also says like, um, everybody's making their best guess. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> like the editor, the gatekeeper, whoever it is, they may have some knowledge about their profession. They certainly do, but they don't know what's gonna be a success or what's not. Right. You know, like how many people turned down the Beatles, or, or like, I know for a fact that Dune, um, that he could get nobody to publish it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, nobody would publish Dune. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and eventually what he did was he got a company that printed auto manuals to publish it.
Dele Johnson (00:59:09):
R. Alan Brooks (00:59:10):
Yeah. And so, like, and that book now, you know, however many decades later, all these movies, you know?
Dele Johnson (00:59:17):
R. Alan Brooks (00:59:19):
So I mean,
Dele Johnson (00:59:19):
Now Dune is in the zeitgeist. Right,
R. Alan Brooks (00:59:21):
Right. Yeah. And it might not have been if he had listened to all those people. Right. So I think, you know, like people, everybody's making their best guess. So if we feel like an imposter, like, you know, there may be things to work on as an artist and, you know, we can accept, uh, feedback mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which I think is healthy, but I think, um, there's really no such thing as an imposter. Like everybody is just trying, everybody has to do something a first time. Yeah. You know, so like, what does it even mean to be an imposter? Like, who's the real person? Yeah. You know? Yeah.
Dele Johnson (00:59:55):
Unless it's in that spy sense, he is an imposter. <laugh>. Right.
R. Alan Brooks (01:00:01):
Dele Johnson (01:00:02):
Um, well, Alan, it's been an amazing conversation with you. Yeah. Likewise. I'm happy that we've had an opportunity to have it. Um, so before we close up, um, I just want to hear from you about, uh, what's on the horizon. Um, and then of course we have to hear about your, your geeky pleasures. What are you into lately?
R. Alan Brooks (01:00:21):
It's almost like you produced this show or
Dele Johnson (01:00:23):
Something. Yeah, I guess I, I might know a thing or two. Really. Yeah, that's right. You know how it goes. I'm just flying off the cuff right now. <laugh> <laugh>.
R. Alan Brooks (01:00:29):
All right. So, uh, I mentioned the movie thing, uh, that actually came from somebody I knew from the dance floor too. Uh, it is spiritually the sequel to the Breaking movies from the eighties, uh, Boog Go Shrimp. Shrimp who played Turbo in those movies. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, he's attached. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So if we can get the Rios, it'll be breaking three. If not, it's gonna be his whole movie Beyond Street Cred. It's al already on I M D B S Beyond Street Cred. Okay. Um, so I just finished the script for that, so I'm excited about that. Um, I am launching a Web Tunes comic. Uh, you familiar with Web Tunes?
Dele Johnson (01:01:05):
Uh, loosely. Okay.
R. Alan Brooks (01:01:06):
Yeah. So it's where, uh, I would say most young people in the world get their comics cuz it's free. Yeah. They're all designed for scrolling on the phone. Yeah. So it's, it'd be hard to adapt a existing comic and put it into that format cuz it has to be that square.
Dele Johnson (01:01:19):
Right. It has to already fit the, uh, yeah. The dimensions there.
R. Alan Brooks (01:01:22):
You got it. Yeah. So, um, I'm doing that one with an artist in Bangladesh named Sachi Chama. And, uh, an artist here, Lonnie m f Allen, is going do the Colors, Uhhuh <affirmative>, that one's called the Drug Dealer's
Dele Johnson (01:01:37):
Ghost. Oh, interesting.
R. Alan Brooks (01:01:39):
That's a good reaction to that name. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (01:01:41):
That's No, I like, I I I like that. I like that.
R. Alan Brooks (01:01:43):
I'll tell you briefly, the idea is basically, you know, the scene that you see in movies, it's always the scene where, like the drug kingpin is about to take out one of his, uh, lackeys mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that guy is like, uh, you know, tied up hands behind his back on his knees. Drug kingpin is holding a gun, and the kingpin is like, you know, this has to be done. Yeah. And the person is, I don't
Dele Johnson (01:02:04):
Have a choice. Yes. You you, you're making me
R. Alan Brooks (01:02:06):
Do this. You've seen it. Right? Oh yeah. And the person who's about to die is like, just promise me my family will be safe. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we've seen that scene dozens of times. Right. The idea of this comic is, uh, the guy gets executed, he's in the afterlife, he's chilling, and then he sees one of his family members
Dele Johnson (01:02:24):
And they're not doing well.
R. Alan Brooks (01:02:25):
They're in the afterlife. So they've been killed. Oh. The Kingpin did not keep their promise. So now this story is about him figuring out how to go back to Earth and take his revenge Yeah. On the kingpin who killed his family. Yeah. Um, and strangely it's a comedy. I I'm not, I don't think I explained it well. It's a comedy, but
Dele Johnson (01:02:42):
It's a comedy. Yeah. I can, I can see some dark humor coming out of this whole supernatural, uh, setting.
R. Alan Brooks (01:02:49):
Yeah, you're right. So, uh, the character designs have happened. Uh, I got a logo and, um, I've written it, so now I'm just gonna try and get a few episodes in place before we get them on Web Tune. So I'm excited about that one. Yeah. And, uh, I think I know I'm gonna write another graphic novel this year. Yeah. I just dunno what it is yet. Oh yeah. Bernie, me on two is being colored. Oh,
Dele Johnson (01:03:14):
R. Alan Brooks (01:03:15):
Part two. Yeah. And, uh, I have a Paton, I'm teaching, uh, I'm gonna start teaching classes, comic book writing classes on the Patreon for people who, um, can't afford like a university thing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative> and also for $5 a month people can get on. And I'm about to start Patreon exclusive comics. Oh, cool. Yeah. There's one that I wrote that, uh, artist in Florida's doing for me. He's, his name's Aries. And that one you'll only be able to get on Patreon until mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I'll post like a page week and stuff like that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, so yeah. Cool. Right on. And then there was the
Dele Johnson (01:03:50):
R. Alan Brooks (01:03:51):
Dele Johnson (01:03:51):
What are you, what are you into, what's bringing you joy?
R. Alan Brooks (01:03:55):
Well, there's always weird Al but we <laugh>, we've covered that extensively. <laugh>, I watched something ridiculous lately, like, what was it? Huh? Were you gonna say <laugh>? We'll edit you out saying if you
Speaker 3 (01:04:08):
I was thinking of South Side, but that's Oh. Or the Motown
R. Alan Brooks (01:04:13):
Show. Okay. Yeah. No, that's good. Thank you. They're two guys who are from Chicago who make a show called South Side, which is set in the south side of Chicago.
Dele Johnson (01:04:23):
R. Alan Brooks (01:04:23):
Yeah. Uh, have you seen it?
Dele Johnson (01:04:25):
Uh, I haven't seen it, but I am aware of
R. Alan Brooks (01:04:27):
It. It's really funny. It's good, I guess, like, surprisingly good. It reminds me, uh, it re Okay, so it's Hood and Intelligent mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which is basically how I grew up. Yeah. You know what I'm saying? So, yeah. Um, it's not like this, uh, monolithic view of black people. It's like a whole bunch of people with strong personalities mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and it's, yeah. It's really fun. And then those same guys also do a show called Sherman Showcase. Okay. It's a mockumentary.
Dele Johnson (01:04:57):
Oh, I love a, I love a good
R. Alan Brooks (01:04:59):
Documentary Okay. Of a fake Soul Train show. Yeah. So, uh, and the, the music of the imaginary artist on the fake Soul Train Show mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, Fonte Coleman is one of the composers Oh, dope.
Dele Johnson (01:05:11):
Yeah. Uh, from Little Brother.
R. Alan Brooks (01:05:13):
Yep. Yeah. And, uh, Foreign Exchange. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, so that, that one's really funny and silly. Uh, I'm enjoying that. Uh, one of the actors from there was on, was in the Top Gun sequel.
Dele Johnson (01:05:26):
Oh. Jay Ellis?
R. Alan Brooks (01:05:28):
I don't know their names.
Dele Johnson (01:05:29):
This is Tall, tall Guy played Lawrence and Insecure as well.
R. Alan Brooks (01:05:33):
Oh no, no. Oh, different one? No, uh, it's a shorter kind of port brother. One of them is named like Diallo, like they had those kind of names, but I can't remember. But, but yeah, so he was in there and, uh, while he was filming it, he told Tom Cruise about their shows and Tom Cruise liked South Side. Yeah. And then called into the writer's room to tell him how much he liked the show. Wow. Yeah.
Dele Johnson (01:05:54):
So that's, he got the co-sign from Tom Cruise. That goes a long way in
R. Alan Brooks (01:05:57):
Hollywood. Seriously. Yeah. Yeah. So, no, I'm really digging those shows and, uh, yeah, I don't know man. I tend to like a lot of silly stuff cuz I write a lot of heart stuff, but, um, yeah. Oh, oh, glass Onion. I really love Glass Onion.
Dele Johnson (01:06:13):
Glass Onion was great. I I thought that, I thought that that was a great, it's not a sequel necessarily. I mean Yeah. You still got your main character. Right. Um, but yeah, I thought that was a great way of, you know, doing another sort of knives out thing Yeah. And not replaying all the same beats.
R. Alan Brooks (01:06:33):
Right. Yeah. Yeah. I really enjoyed both of those Knives Out movies. That was inspiring to me. Uh, just in terms of how he could take what was familiar and flip it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, Rian Johnson. Yeah. You know, writing and directing he could take Yeah. Take familiar beats and make them fun and fresh and have such engaging characters. I really, I really enjoyed watching that movie. And I was like, you know, I know a lot of people don't like his Star Wars movie, you know, that's,
Dele Johnson (01:07:00):
Yeah it's hotly contested as a, a topic of controversy in
R. Alan Brooks (01:07:05):
Not like Star Wars fans,
Dele Johnson (01:07:06):
Any nerdy room for sure. Right.
R. Alan Brooks (01:07:08):
But Star Wars fans hate everything, so, uh, yes. With the exception of the Mandelorian, like for the most part.
Dele Johnson (01:07:13):
Right. Like that's why I struggle to identify as a Star Wars fan. Yeah. Cuz I don't wanna be lumped in with all those terrible incels, but.
R. Alan Brooks (01:07:20):
Yeah. Yeah. <laugh>. That is the extreme. Right. But, uh, so I really like that. And he did a movie, Rian Johnson did a movie called Brick Back in the Day. Okay. Which I had seen years ago. And I did not like it. And then I watched it again after watching Glass Onion, like, maybe I like it now. And no, I don't like it <laugh>, but what, but would it, what it does for me is like, okay, he made this movie I did not like Yeah. And was able to grow into the person who did these movies that I love mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that's inspiring to me as a creator. Yeah. So that was my long answer to that <laugh>. Wow.
Dele Johnson (01:07:54):
That's dope. Well, now I have some things on my list and hopefully some listeners have some things on their list to check out as well. Right on. Cool. Well, Alan, thank you so much, uh, for being our guest today on How Art is Born for this special. It's an honor. This episode <laugh>. Uh, so yeah. Thank you. Special, special thank you to today's guests are Alan Brooks. Uh, thank you. To our listeners. Please be sure to subscribe to How Art is Born, wherever you get your podcast. For more episodes, share it with a friend if you can as well. And if you can leave a review, it really helps us out. Check out MCA Denver on YouTube and subscribe there too for behind the scenes clips from today's episode. And don't forget to visit MCA Denver's current exhibition, The Dirty South, which is only on view for a few more weeks. It will be leaving us, um, Sunday, February 5th. So come by while you still can.