Writer Ed Brisson on Captions, Lettering, and Placing Restraints on Storytelling

brissonWriter and letterer Ed Brisson joined the Comics Experience Creators Workshop earlier this year, to discuss his career writing, lettering and publishing comics, including the self-published Murder Book (with various artists) and the recent Image mini-series Comeback, with artist Michael Walsh, as well as the upcoming Image mini-series Sheltered, with artist Johnnie Christmas.

Topics discussed included:


Narrative and thought captions are common in modern-day comics, but Brisson’s work has been largely free of them. He noted that this was intentional, and that from a storytelling perspective, it helps him to preserve some mystery in the story.

“One of the things I worry about — and probably why I don’t use captions — is telling too much of the story,” Brisson said. “I like pulling back, and trying to give readers enough information to get them going, but just enough information to keep them guessing.”

He said ideally, he would like his readers to “spend some time trying to figure out what’s going on.”


Brisson is known for lettering his own work. He said he likes the hands-on approach that it provides, and he appreciates being the last person to handle the book before it goes to press. He noted that it also allows him to tweak the dialogue — or do more than tweak it.

“A lot of times I’ll completely remove huge chunks of dialogue, because the artist is getting the same thing across,” he said. “If you can get it across without needing the exposition or without needing the extra dialogue that’s a really good thing to do. I like it when I’m looking at something where the art speaks for itself.”


Brisson said that when developing a new story, he likes to build in “restraints,” as a way of guiding and developing the storytelling. This was especially true in Comeback, his time-travel mini-series from Image Comics.

“I like time travel as a concept. I hate time travel stories,” Brisson said. “They’re too expansive.”

Sheltered_1_cvr_550So he developed the idea of a world where time travel existed, but could only take you 67 days into the past — making it “incredibly limiting, and in some ways underwhelming.”

“I started thinking about what restraints would be on it, the regulations around its use, who could use it and who couldn’t, how it could be exploited,” he said. “And the story started spinning out of there.”

Brisson said that when pitching the project, several people asked about the technology — how it works and why it’s so limited. But he said that as a storyteller, these questions didn’t interest him, and that he preferred to focus on the characters and the core storytelling.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You go into a big machine, zip zap, you’re in the past. When we started being able to fly, we couldn’t fly 20,000 feet into the sky. We took baby steps. This is the early days of time travel.”

Other topics discussed during the live online session included:

  •  How Brisson broke in
  • How he went from lettering his own work to becoming a professional letterer
  • The pre-press aspect of lettering work
  • Lettering mistakes Brisson sees repeated often
  • The pitch process for Comeback
  • Why Brisson suggests not pitching to editors at conventions
  • The experience of running New Reliable Press, Brisson’s former publishing imprint
  • Getting a book into Diamond as a small publisher
  • Brisson’s comic Murder Book, and the value of putting full stories online, versus the “one page” model
  • The value of social media, and how it’s helped Brisson’s career
  • Early influences, in both writing and art

Creators Workshop sessions take place every month, giving members real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in their comics career.

There’s still plenty of time to sign up before the next session. We hope to see you there.

— Posted by Paul Allor

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