INTERVIEW: Brian Roll of The Circle

Without question, some of the best parts of New York Comic Con, or rather any comic-book convention, are the indie titles and artists that make up the bulk of the show floor, showing off titles that, in spite of their humble beginnings, bear larger fruits of badassery within their covers. One such title is The Circle, and I was lucky enough to get a moment to stand off in a corner with creator Brian Roll and delve through his brains to discover just how The Circle shapes up. Yes. I hate myself for making that pun.

AP2HYC: I’m here with Brian Roll of The Circle, so for the uninitiated, what is the circle about?

Brian: The Circle is kind of a genre mix, its got horror, sci-fi action, the basic plot is that there was a military program back during Vietnam to come up with a kind of super soldier drug so to speak, and it wasn’t going well. The Vietnam War was coming to an end, so the military decided to nix it. They burned all the records, they killed all the scientists and swept it all under the rug. But what they didn’t know was that one of the scientists were corresponding through coded letters with his Son back in London who was also in University for chemistry and biology.

So flash-forward thirty years and now the Son is manufacturing the drug for recreation and he is selling it on the street.

So there’s a cop in London who’s kind of following him and he follows the drug to Las Angeles where he teams up with a Los Angeles Police Officer. And so it’s basically just them trying to follow the clues and put an end to the distribution.

AP2HYC: What does The Circle refer to?

Brian: The obvious thing is the drug itself, it’s a little white slip of paper, kind of transparent with a circle of powder on it that you slip under your tongue and that’s how it works. But it also refers to the circle of scientists back in the war, and there’s some other hidden meanings near the end of the story that start to come to light of what the circle could also mean.

AP2HYC: So you mentioned that the circle is both a super-soldier serum and a recreational drug, how does it manifest itself in its user?

Brian: It basically turns the user into a ten-foot carnivorous monster. So one dose of the drug lasts for about twelve hours, and it’s basically like people are hulking out, they are running around eating people and all kinds of havoc. It’s kind of, yeah, chaos.

The circle coverimage

AP2HYC: Sounds badass. So one of the things that intrigued me in particular with The Circle is its unique Pulp Magazine format, and you mention that when you were incepting the project it was supposed to be a comic book or a graphic novel, why did you choose a pulp magazine in particular?

Brian: Well, I initially wrote the script as a screenplay, just because it’s kind of the easiest format for me to write in. I started drawing it as a comic and kinda put it on the backburner, and I was working on another project that was based on Pulp Magazines. It was kind of a World War II– set in the same time period as all of those old World War Flying Aces– stuff like that, and I really liked the idea of doing the format like that. But that project got pushed off too, it’s actually almost done, I have another artist and writer working on that, but I liked the format so much that I wanted to pull it up and use it for The Circle. It just seemed like a good way for me to focus on each page. I don’t have a lot of experience doing the sequential thing so this was something that I was a lot more familiar and comfortable with.

AP2HYC: Are there any particular pulp magazines that you were a fan of?

Brian: Y’know what no, not really (laughs from everyone, which is like two people) It’s just, I feel like they don’t get their credit for what they really meant for, I don’t want to say Pop Culture—I mean modern day comics are kind of a descendant of pulp magazines. I think most people when they hear pulp they hear Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction, but there’s this whole history and it’s just pretty rich.

AP2HYC: Great influence to start there, and speaking of influences, you’ve worked for a great number of works, from Marvel to DC and even Lord of the Rings, are there any influences in particular that led to The Circle’s inception?

Brian: I’m actually a member on DeviantART, and I had a friend and  we were just talking going back and forward with stories and stuff, and I was looking through a model’s stock photos that she had, and there’s this cool one of her in a leather jacket with a gun and standing in a dark alley, and it just got the wheels turning and I started thinking of, y’know man it seems like there should be a monster or something behind her and it just kind of snowballed from there. When you read the story there is certainly a lot of influences from Pop Culture, and things like that, some Easter eggs, but I don’t think there was one particular influence. It was just a love of sci-fi and all that kind of stuff.

AP2HYC: Do you want to plug your DeviantART while you’re here?

Brian: Sure it’s just OdysseyArt at DeviantART

AP2HYC: So what can backers for The Circle‘s Kickstarter  expect? Is there some sort of incentive for larger backers?

Brian: Sure, there’s our highest tier, which is gone already, is to actually be drawn as a major character in the book. So that one’s gone but there’s still a bunch left that you can be drawn in the book—you can be a government agent, a SWAT team member, a thug, y’know some of the more generic characters in the background. I’m working on a movie-style poster, and there are four or five styles of print to choose from, trading cards, cardboard character standees, there’s lots of cool stuff.

AP2HYC: So final question, so while working on all of these different properties, you’re working with other people’s characters, and you had mentioned that The Circle to you is sort of like your sandbox in making your own universe, if your Kickstarter is successful and The Circle is published, can we expect a Circle Book Two? Possibly The Square?

Brian: (laughs) No, not The Square, but I actually did start writing the sequel to The Circle already, and there’s actually the police captain in LA, in the story, is a character in another story I wrote. I hope to get to weave them all in and out. There’s actually a character in another universe, I have another one who is kind of a James Bond in the Stars Wars Universe sorta thing. But yeah if The Circle is successful I’d love to keep branching out.

AP2HYC: Sounds amazing I gotta say, thank you for talking with me today and I look forward to The Circle’s premiere.

Brian Roll Interview

You can check out The Circle’s Kickstarter page here and you can comment on this dazzling hybrid between pulp and comic right here in our message boards.

About the author

Chris Davidson