1. Your last name is about as difficult as mine, any good stories about teachers or people trying to pronounce or spell it right?
My fourth-grade teacher would call me "Kniffenberg" for the entire year. He also always wrote it down that way too. Needless to say I would get into it with him over it countless times which would always lead me down to the principal’s office. Personally, I think the man was just trying to drive me crazy. Then again, there were only three male teachers in my elementary school and they were all a bit off their rockers. Over the years I’ve heard and seen some crazy iterations (Nipplebert was a fun one), but for the curious the ‘K’ is silent and it sounds out like Nip-En-Berg. It’s a name of German descent.
Lately I’ve been thinking of changing it to En Sabah Nur because it has a rather nice ring to it.
2. Can you tell us your earliest comic book memories?
Back in 1978 (I was three years old) my parents would shuffle us from Long Island into Queens often to visit my grandparents and uncle at the 2-story apartment building they owned. My uncle was always a guy who liked to be ahead of the times and bought one of the first VCR’s (not Beta, thankfully) and, later on, a consumer video camera (which fostered my love for filmmaking). Anyway, this VCR was HUGE. It looked like a giant tape recorder that could be sitting on a rooftop in a 50’s Batman comic! My uncle had surprised my brother and I with recorded episodes of the Adam West Batman series, which was the first I had ever seen of such a character. We loved them so much we watched them twice in a row! Our father picked up on our interest and went out and brought back a giant Batman coloring book. What was cool about this coloring book was that it was done in a comic book format. I still have that book today! We were so into the show and the book that my dad took it to the next level and one evening surprised us with a Spider-Man comic book (which I can’t remember) and Detective Comics #477 which featured a reprint of an earlier ‘Tec story, "The House That Haunted Batman".
The cover showed a battle worn Caped Crusader at an open doorway, bats flying right at him from the darkness, and a green-gloved hand
(Robin’s) pointing a loaded gun towards him. From that point on, I was hooked! I would get comics every week from wherever I could find them…spinner racks at newsstands, my first direct market store "Heroes World", then moving onto many other stores and more for 30+ years now.
3. What else where you into as a kid in Queens?
I mainly lived in Hicksville, Long Island but since I visited my grandparents in Queens so often as a child and then went every weekend after my parents divorced and my dad took over the building with my uncle, I had the best of both worlds…two homes. I was always playing stickball in the streets and street hockey and involved in other sports and then drawing for endless hours on an untold number of drawing tablets or yellow legal pads. And once my uncle had that video camera up and running in mid eighties, it was all about making movies! That was a passion I developed ever since seeing the makings of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Superman at a very young age.
4. What were your favorite comics growing up that really cemented collecting for you?
At a really young age (late 70’s/early 80’s), the standards were Superman, Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, Justice League of America, Adventure Comics, Flash, Green Lantern, The New Teen Titans (which blew my little mind away), Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Avengers, ROM: Spaceknight, and Micronauts. I was also a huge fan of the team-up titles…DC Comics Presents, Brave & the Bold, Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One. Of course, a bit later were greats like G.I. Joe and Transformers (to a degree).
5. What creators from those days to you remember really being impressed or excited by?
I do remember certain writers’ names and knew that those particular guys (Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Bill Mantlo, etc.) wrote great stories then but I was always drawn to the art. The first artist whose style I recognized was George Perez. Even back then he was amazing with every page drawn. Then there was Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, John Byrne, Bernie Wrightson, Neal Adams, John Romita, and Jim Aparo. I was always drawn to them. Other greats like Jack Kirby, Curt Swan, Dick Dillon, Gil Kane, John and Sal Buscema, I wouldn’t appreciate until a little bit later.
6. I know you are into cartoons, what was better back in the day Super Friends or the re-runs on WPIX of the Marvel Superheroes (the ones with cut out comic animation)?
As much as I loved the old Marvel toons, I’d have to go with Super Friends, which were more vibrant by comparison. However, today I still enjoy the old Captain America episodes as they hold up better somehow for me when compared to the other Marvel toons.
7. Did you like any of the Hannah/Barbera super hero stuff(Space Ghost, Bird Man, Herculoids, Galaxy Trio, etc..)?
Absolutely! All of those old 60’s-70’s Hanna/Barbera toons were just fantastic stuff! Corny by today’s standards, but still fun! Those guys were and are the ultimate cartoon pimps and I was suckling at their proverbial animated teat for most of my childhood and was it sweet, sweet milk!
8. Star Wars or Star Trek?
May The Force Be With You…so long as there are no midi-chlorians to speak of!
9. Are you annoyed yet by the constant fawning over the new Trek movie?
Not really. I have yet to see the new movie, but I did enjoy the original series growing up and "Wrath of Khan" because who didn’t want to run around bare-chested like Ricardo Montalban! It’s kind of cool to see something like that "connect" with so many people on a large-scale, even those who were never fans before, and I’m sure it is especially a great feeling for the fans who were told that their beloved franchise was D.O.A. So, I can dig it!
10. Who are your all time favorite comic characters?
Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Dick Grayson (Robin/Nightwing), Barry Allen (Flash), Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), Thing, Captain America, Ultra Boy, Timber Wolf and Jack Knight (Starman). Oh, and Vibe! He gave me the confidence to rock it B-Boy style!!!
11. Marvel or DC?
I have always been a lifelong fan of both. However in recent years, depending on the output and my interest, I might tend to favor one company over the other. A year ago I would have definitely said Marvel, but I think I’m back to being about equal with favoring the Big Two.
12. Do you read any thing from Image, Dark Horse, or any other independent publishers?
I used to grab just about a little of everything back in my free-wheelin’ comics spending days, because I love all types of comics, but sadly I’ve had to reduce my comics’ spending. That said, I still trade-wait on books like Invincible, Hellboy, Walking Dead and Phonogram.
13. What are you favorite books right now?
From DC….Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, The Bat-Books and Superman-Books (which have really strengthened of late), Secret Six, R.E.B.E.L.S., Flash: Rebirth and Jonah Hex. From Marvel…Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, Incredible Hercules, Invincible Iron Man, Wolverine: Weapon X & Origins, FF, Daredevil, Secret Warriors, Ghost Rider and Captain Britain and MI-13 (which has sadly just been cancelled). For the independents, it’s currently just the aforementioned titles, plus Incognito & Kick-Ass (since they’re from Marvel’s Icon).
14. Do you follow artists or writers?
I tend to follow writers across their various projects. Back in my art-days it was a little bit more of the opposite.
15. What did you think of Final Crisis?
I loved it in all of it’s Silver-Age acid trip, channel-zapping glory.
16. What does the term "event fatigue" mean to you?
Once upon a time it meant that I was going to rip my hair out over collecting all of the tie-ins for said event, but now the term "event fatigue" means to me that the constant status quo changing events that pop up tend to take away from the natural course of evolution and story growth within the titles themselves. I sometimes feel like I can’t fully enjoy a book because I know that the next "event" will most likely change and dictate the terms of what I’m reading anyway.
17. You are a big Legion of Super-heroes fan, what do you think of Legion of 3 Worlds?
I’m really enjoying the series. Granted, the Legion have been getting a little bit overshadowed by the two big "returns" they’ve had in the last two issues, but overall I really appreciate that Geoff Johns can weave story of this magnitude while still honoring, not one, but three Legions from DC’s long history. And I’ve never seen the Legion look so good in such a long time with George Perez’s pencils. I can’t wait to see where they go next with the team within the pages of Adventure Comics. Overall, it’s been really great seeing the original Pre-Crisis in action again! Since their return I’ve been able to stop drinking in the dark while wearing my Matter-Eater Lad costume.
18. I just checked the Marvel Month to Month Sales. Not a book over 100k, what do you think is the main reason comics aren't really enjoying the kind of sales they have in previous decades?
I think it could be due to a variety of reasons. As comic readers, who have been sticking with it for awhile, get older they may become more selective with what they purchase. The economy and rise in cover prices I’m sure has an effect. Also I think that a lot of the younger generation, potential new readers, are not getting into comics because they don’t have access to comics as say you or I did back in the day (plus competing forms of entertainment) and not a lot of parents even think to go to a comic shop or take the time to determine what’s appropriate for their age.
19. Are you looking forward to digital comics?
I think that comic book evolution should always occur and I hope to see it reach a level in format that transcends it’s current digital beginnings, but I prefer being able to hold a comic in my hand and not read off of a screen. I’d also rather own my collection and not rent one each year. Having said that, I did enjoy the Marvel DVD-ROM collections that GIT, Inc. had put out before Marvel launched their digital initiative. They’ve also released some Archie sets which are quite nice.
20. Did the increase of some books by Marvel to $3.99 cause you to drop any titles?
Before that I had dropped down severely in my collecting due to lifestyle changes, but the $3.99 cover charge is a blow I can’t take these days. Pretty much anything that’s $3.99 will have to be trade-waited. I’m picking up a couple of more Hulk issues and Weapon X, but they too will most likely be trade-waited.
21. What do you think the companies should do to increase sales?
As much as I love FCBD, is it smart to mainly hold them in comic shops and advertise on comic-based websites when the people who don’t read or collect them are unaware? What about supermarkets, malls, or movie theaters? I think there needs to be more accessibility and advertising of comics to the general public again. Marvel ran their "Embrace Change" Secret Invasion ad on TV, but it was on ESPN 2 during a Minor League Baseball game! What about creating brief commercials (which they had for their G.I. Joe comics in the 80's) that could be played during their own Marvel cartoons?
22. Does continuity matter?
Once upon a time I thought it did, and it does to a degree, but as these decades old characters continue to be published it can become harder to keep track of it all and applying it at all times I feel restricts future story potential and character growth for these characters. I view it on a case by case basis, but overall a comic that shows a kind of neglect in paying attention to continuity details from time-to-time doesn’t affect me all that much.
23. Do you have any aspirations to write or draw comics?
Absolutely! When I was younger I wanted to enter into the art-side of things, but that fell through the wayside after the death of my father.
I’ve been writing various things for years now, nothing you’ve seen or read, mostly stories and screenplays for filmmaker friends. I would very much like to be writing my own comic as well as for the Big Two.
Right now, I’d like to pair up with the right kind of artist online and see if we can get something accomplished. Seeing that’s how it’s the best way to be viewed as a writer by the comic publishing companies.
Artists, writers…use the internet to your advantage! There are so many ways to research and utilize resources to increase your chances for making the comics that you want to make and/or break into something bigger. Don’t be afraid to take a chance!
24. All time favorite single issue?
If I have to pick one (and that’s very hard) but I’d have to go with New Teen Tiatns #38, "Who Is Donna Troy?" Marv Wolfman & George Perez brilliantly tell a tale that doesn’t involve costumed characters and epic battles, but a smaller story about the lengths one person would go to to help give back his closest friend’s past and identity. A very heartfelt and touching story which taught me at a young age that comics are one of the greatest forms of storytelling because you can do so much in these little panels to make people feel, make them care.
25. When some on asks "Brian why do you read comics?" you answer?
Where else can you go to that married the written word to dynamic visuals in such a way that unleashes your imagination? There are so many wonderful comics, in so many wonderful genres, and it’s just as valid as anything else consumed by a society that craves storytelling.