Interview: Jared Barel on Brielle and the Horror

Guest Post

A few months back, I reviewed the first issue of Brielle and the
, which you can check out in our archives. I had the great fortune to find the first issue while at the Wizard World Philly Con a few months back and was blown away by both the uniqueness and the quality of the book. As con season begins to wind down, Jared found some time to speak to me about the genesis of this work, his studio and what comes next…

Jared, you have a background in both film and graphic design. Do you feel they complement each other when it comes to producing a comic book?

My experiences in design and film have definitely proven a complement to each other. Both disciplines are visual mediums, and in their own ways they’re both about telling stories and packaging those stories in a way that is pleasing to the audience. In a sense, it is a marriage of the storytelling abilities of both art forms that allow us to tell the story of Brielle and the Horror in the way that we do.

The three main partners of the company all have varied backgrounds ranging from legal to film. How did this help the creative process?

Our varied backgrounds have only proved to complement our collective creative process. The collaboration of our experiences in and out of the creative fields is what keeps our productions new and exciting. LBS (Loaded Barrel Studios) is more than just a studio – it’s a business, and our experiences outside of the creation of our books (from marketing to business and legal) are what allow us to maintain the business the way we see fit, and to bring our books, our style and our vision directly to our ever-growing audience.

Loaded Barrel seems like a pretty close knit company with the family and friends angle. How did you all get together and come up with the company?

It’s funny, because there was no moment where we just decided to form Loaded Barrel Studios…. It just kind of happened. Jordan and I had grown up playing in rock bands together and had moved to writing and producing short films together. Our other partner, Alex Goz, was my roommate all throughout college. Alex had been into photography for a while, so when we decided to base the artwork for Brielle on photos, making him a partner seemed like a no-brainer.

When we went into production for Brielle and the Horror, we had lots of people working for us and we needed a name. I think it was when we booked our booth at the 2007 New York Comic Con that we hit a point of no return and the company became really tangible. Following the success of that show and others since then, Loaded Barrel Studios has become something our whole team really believes in and something that more and more people are starting to really believe in.

You jumped into the comic world with Brielle. What made you choose this industry as the one best suited to tell this story?

My brother and partner (Jordan) and I were discussing ideas for our next film when I brought up this character named Brielle that had been floating around my head for about a year at this point. The idea of a girl who has something evil inside her (and I don’t want to give away too much more than that) seemed to lend itself really well to comic books.

We had a vision for a horror story that combined elements of mystery and superhero genres … all under the guise of a high school drama. We wanted to take all of these genres and turn them on their heads.

People have used photo referencing in comics in the past, but you’ve taken it to another level. Why did you choose to produce the book in this fashion?

When we set out to make Brielle and the Horror, we wanted to find a way to combine the graphic quality and artistry of comics with the realism of film. There’s a huge influx of comic books being adapted for the screen; many of those, like Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins, have successfully taken the source material and made it more “real.” We asked, what if we could do that from the beginning? What if we could make a book that felt “real” from the beginning? Additionally, in the horror genre, believability is an important asset when trying to evoke fear in the audience. The supernatural and horrific is that much more profound living in a world of tangible characters.

Exactly how complicated is the process of translating film to pencil?
We start out the production of our books much the same as everyone else: with an idea that Jordan and I mold into a working script. The script then enters a stage of preproduction, similar to a film. The book is story-boarded, we cast the characters, scout locations, prepare the costumes and props, et cetera. Once everything is in place, we begin the shooting portion of the production.

I direct the shoots much like a film set while Alex shoots stills of the actors acting out their roles. The photos are then laid out as the panels (or frames, as we call them, to keep the film motif) of the comic page. Using a technique I developed, guides are transferred from the photos and then every frame of the book is hand drawn. The inked drawings and photos are then combined where the color from the photos is manipulated to color the drawings. Finally, digital effects and lettering are layered over the composites and the final pages are sent off to the printer.

In filmmaking, a director may set up the same scene with different shots to give them more options when editing. Do you use the same approach, or is it more or less one take?

Like in film, when we shoot Brielle, we go in with a good idea of what we are looking for in terms of shots and framing. However, also as in film, when we get to the set and everything is real and no longer just a thumbnail in a sketchbook, we begin to see more options and different ways of telling the story.

Part of the fun of our creative process is the interaction between myself and Alex when we are on a shoot and play off each other’s ideas to create the best options for when I begin laying out the pages and ultimately drawing. Having the options of different shots or angles is important, as well, for when we lay out the final pages. Piecing together the photos in a comic book format is much like putting together a puzzle: sometimes the pieces just don’t fit and it’s imperative to be able to have a backup plan.

That process has to make the turnaround time between issues longer than most.

Developing the first issue of Brielle and the Horror was a learning experience to say the least. We had an idea of what we wanted the book to be, and it took many months of experimenting to get it right.

Do you think the delay between issues hinders its chances for success?

The extra time it takes to create one of our issues is what gives Loaded Barrel Studios the ability to bring our audience something new, something they haven’t seen before and something that is up to our standard of quality. However, now that we’ve found a process that works for us and still leaves us much room for creativity, we’ve been able to produce a 24-page book from concept to finished art in five weeks – so you can expect future issues of Brielle real soon.

What’s been the most difficult part of doing the book?

The development of the process. We went into this project with an idea of what we wanted the book to look like. No one has really done a book quite like this before, so there was no basis for comparison and no model to work off of. At times we didn’t even know if it “was” going to work. But the hard work did pay off and the difficult parts are behind us … hopefully.

How do you go about finding “actors” for the book?

The stars of the book were cast in much the same way we’ve cast our previous short films: weeding through head shots and holding auditions. Many of our stars have become essential members, not only of the book, but of our team. As Loaded Barrel Studios continues to grow, so too does our family, and we hope to work with this team on many projects to come.

What’s the ultimate destination for Brielle? Ongoing? Film?

It’s designed to be an ongoing series of six-issue story arcs, each arc to be collected as a trade paperback and each trade could hopefully be adapted to a movie.

Given the background of your studio partners, it’s conceivable that you could just make the film yourself. Could you see yourselves doing a film with the current cast and creative talent, or do you envision a bigger budget, all-star cast?

Right now, Jordan and I are in the process of writing the first Brielle and the Horror film. The difference between doing a film yourself and doing a film with a studio comes down to one main thing: MONEY. Although we could make a movie ourselves, Brielle is a big story that is deserving of proper funding so we can make a movie with the same standards for quality that we hold for our books. As for the cast and crew, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I first noticed the book at the Wizard World Philly Con. Was this the first con you attended?

We debuted Brielle at the 2007 New York Comic Con and sold 1000 copies in 48 hours. The cons are a great experience. In no other business, creative or otherwise, can you interact directly with your audience. It’s great to see kids and adults purchase the book one day and then come back with a bunch of their friends the next day to make sure they buy the book and meet the stars, too.

Seem like pretty decent sales numbers. Were the Philly and San Diego cons as successful?

We attended San Diego and met with some great people, but didn’t exhibit there. In Philadelphia, though, we sold close to 1000 copies in only 20 hours of show time. The great thing about these sales numbers at these cons is that we get to see who we’re selling to and we get to hear the great feedback new fans have for us right away. We have a great story to tell and we’ll get to tell it to the world, one fan at a time.

How do you manage to get the word out about a book like yours in a sea of Boba Fetts and larger publishing companies cramping your booth?

When we exhibit, we’re not there to compete with the larger publishers. We’re there to meet new fans and bring our book to the world. We’re doing something new and a little different, but at the end of the day, we have a great story to tell; when you have something truly great the word gets out.

What filmmakers and comic creators are you a fan of?

I had the pleasure of meeting my comic hero, Todd McFarlane, in San Diego. I grew up copying his images on skateboards and blowing up frames of Spawn into giant paintings. When we set out to make Brielle, the challenge was how to take all that I learned about art and comics from Todd and combine it with all that I learned from my favorite filmmakers, like Quentin Tarantino, Bryan Singer, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and so many others.

You have some space left over, so pitch Brielle to our readers!

Brielle and the Horror follows 16-year0-old Brielle Hicks, who is struggling with horrific flashbacks and horrible nightmares … including those depicting the night of her father’s brutal murder. With every dream and every flashback, Brielle gets closer and closer to discovering the truth about her past and the evil that destroyed her father.

Brielle and the Horror is like nothing you’ve ever seen and nothing you’ve ever read. If you think this book isn’t for you, just ask the thousands who have already discovered it. For more, or to order your own copy, check out

Thank you for your time, Jared, and good luck.

Now what are YOU waiting for? Click on the link above and order some comics!