An Atomic Moo Comic Book Review

With Creator Q&A!

If you love crime stories, and the rare crime comic, then you’re going to want to checkout Unmade, by Brandon Barrows and Johnnie Christmas. The story is about made man, Al Vacarro, who works for the notorious Castella crime family. However, shortly after he starts working with a psychotic new partner, Al realizes that he wants out of the mob, and he knows how hard that can be. The quality of Unmade is incredible.Image It’s an intense crime story paired with Christmas’s excellent illustrations. Though it is grizzly (the very first panel of the comic opens with a man being beaten to death with a metal pipe) so expect quite a bit of violence. However, if you’re a fan of movies like Reservoir Dog’s or Casino, then you’ll enjoy the mix of action and drama.

Right now you can find Unmade on Comixology for only $0.99, for the digital version, you can also find it on Drive Thru Comics for the same price, or (even better) get a physical copy from Brandon Barrows Comics. I’ve posted a few sample pages below, along with the synopsis, but also check out our Q&A with Barrows below! It’s keen.



Al Vacarro is a made-man, with all the honors and responsibilities that entails. But after a lifetime of violence in service of the Castella crime family, the mob no longer holds any allure for Al. For the sake of his own family and his very soul, he needs out of “the life.” But how does a man escape the only world he’s ever known? UNMADE is a tale of blood and desperation, and these are the last twenty-four hours of life as Al knows it.

Interview with Unmade writer: Brandon Barrows!

Q. When did you first get interested in writing comics, and why?

I’ve been reading comics almost literally my entire life and I’ve been writing for nearly as long. I wanted to write comics for most of that time, too, but I was under the mistaken impression that someone had to “let you” write comics. Probably sevenish years ago, I realized it was actually the exact opposite – no one can stop you from making comics if you want to. And I very much wanted to, to tell the stories that I had to tell that I felt could only be told in a sequential arts format, so I started writing comics.

Q. I know that Unmade is not your first comic, but what difficulties did you encounter when beginning writing, and how did you overcome them?

I am completely self-taught when it comes to writing comics and it was a pretty steep learning curve. Everyone who writes comics has their own individual style of scripting and formatting, etc, but there are things that they all have in common that are necessary for telling a good, well-crafted story and I had to discover most of them for myself by trial and error. I probably wrote 100+ pages of comic scripts that will never see the light of day before I really started to get a solid feel for it and figured out what worked and what didn’t. Practice really is the best teacher, but I wish I’d sought out some of the books out there on how to write for comics as I could have saved myself a lot of time.

Q. Are crime stories your favorite genre, and are there any stories (comics, movies, TV) that inspired your writing of Unmade?

I actually write a lot of crime/mystery and a lot of horror and lately I’ve been fusing them in my writing outside of comics, but I do very much love crime and mystery. I’m really fascinated by both the process of detection and mystery-solving and the psychology of what makes a criminal. There’s many, many different shades of “criminal”, of course, but it seems to be that they basically all fall into the category of narcissistic, desperate or just plain stupid and I enjoy playing with the ideas of what can make someone choose the paths that lead them into a life of crime – or choose to try and leave it behind.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process for writing a comic?

It varies wildly depending on how well-formed the idea is in my head. For long-form works, they usually germinate in my brain for months or even years before I’m ever ready to put anything down on paper. Sometimes, and this is usually the case with shorter works, they spring to mind almost fully formed and when that happens, I sit down and write a very loose prose story to work out the story beats and make sure the plot points are all there and where they need to be. Depending on the proposed length of the comic, these might be anywhere from one to ten pages. Once that’s done, I script the comic from the loose prose story.

Q. Is it difficult to write violent characters, and what are some good ways to write mobsters with out making them clichés?

That’s a great question. I usually don’t write overly-violent characters and Unmade is definitely an exception to that. One thing I like to keep in mind when writing the “bad guys” is that they are human beings (usually), too, and very few people think of themselves as the “bad guy” even if, by everyone else’s accounts, they definitely are. The other thing a writer always needs to keep in mind is what individual characters want, because their goals and how badly they want to achieve them, as much as their personalities, will dictate what they are and aren’t willing to do. The cliché of “mobster as bad guy” is easy to fall into, so you have to remember that they aren’t the bad guys in their own minds—they’re doing what they have to do in order to make a living and take care of their families, as far as they’re concerned—and if you start thinking of them as people making decisions relevant to their situation, you can avoid the clichés, I think.

In the case of Unmade, the bad guy is Benny, of course, but what does Benny want? He doesn’t really know, other than he wants to indulge his every impulse and he probably doesn’t even consciously realize that. But as the story goes along, Benny realizes that in order to keep living the life he’s becoming accustomed to, he needs to stay in the employ of Mr. Castella and he feels that Al is a potential barrier to this and that there are barriers in place for Al himself, too, that will impact Benny getting what he wants. The actions he takes are pretty rotten as far as society in general is concerned, but from Benny’s perspective they make perfect sense. Eliminate the barriers, get what you want. I think that kind of logic is pretty universal, even if the actions aren’t.

Q. In your e-mail you said that Unmade is a “one shot”, but it has an ending that had me asking, “Well, what happens next?” Are there any plans to write more Al Vacarro stories?

It was not originally planned as a one-shot and I would love to write more stories about Al. Someday, I’m sure I will. Johnnie, the artist who drew the book, is the only person I think can do justice to Al’s world, though, and he’s pretty busy these days with a new book he’s got coming out soon, so I don’t know when it’ll be possible to do more stories about Al.

Q. Where can people see/read Unmade and your other stories?

Unmade can be found on:
Comixology, or folks can buy a physical copy from me
I’m also on Twitter, where I send out a lot of links to my stuff twitter, and of course, there’s my website Brandon Barrows Comics.

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