Yeah, really stretching it with the pun there. I had a very fun conversation with the writer of Proof, Alex Grecian who is an awesome person.
We talk all things proof, pop culture and many, many undead things.
Read on hemopheliacs!
Eric: How'd you get your start in comics? Alex:
That's actually more complicated than it should be to answer. Ikind of started in comics twice. The first time didn't work out and Ihad to start over later. My first stab at breaking into comics was as an artist. I workedon my portfolio, wrote little stories to draw so I could showcase mysequential skills and took my art to cons. At one con, Phil Hester gaveme a shot at doing a two-page story in the back of a comic he wasworking on. So that was my first published work, but it wasn't greatstuff, so the less said about that, the better. Except for the partabout how nice Phil is. After that, I did tons of pin-ups for otherbooks, many of which were published. But I quickly discovered that I was illustrating my own storiesbecause I wanted to write stories, not because I wanted to draw them. Ijust didn't know any other artists. I was an adequate artist, I think,but never as good as I wanted to be and that part of it wasn't much funfor me. Toward the end of that phase of things, I pitched a mini-series,which I was going to write and draw myself, to Image. I got a responsefrom Jim Valentino, who liked it, but wanted a few changes before hecould green-light it. As I started work on the changes I got head-hunted by an ad agencyand took the job they offered. I stupidly signed a non-compete contractwith them that specified that I not do any comic book work. I shouldn'thave signed that, definitely shouldn't have honored it, but the time Ispent away from the grind of trying to break in actually helped me honea lot of skills. I wrote tons, got paid to write and basicallydiscovered that I never wanted to draw again. I eventually left that agency, after doing every job there in thecreative department (I didn't go near the sales department), andstarted writing comic book scripts and pitches again like crazy. While standing in line at a con, waiting to pitch anothermini-series to an editor there, I saw a guy showing his portfolio tothe editor. His stuff wasn't what the editor was looking for, but Ithought it looked terrific. My wife ran after the guy and got hiscontact info. That was the first time I saw Riley and I only saw thetop of his head. We corresponded for a while after that and put together the SevenSons graphic novel, which we pitched to AiT. After it came out, wepitched Proof to Image, which brings us up to the present and kind ofbrings me full-circle. Finally getting an Image series puts me rightback on the track I was on when I got derailed. Except the art's much better in this series.Eric: Yeah the art is beautiful on the series, riley seems tohave this great noir twist to his artwork which fits not only theseries but the overall theme. Speaking of the overall theme of the bookand its characters, what inspired this fun idea?
Just the notion that, if the government is keeping secrets from us(and we all assume they do), would they have explored the possibilityof a Bigfoot creature in our country? And if they found something,would they have told us about it? The whole Area 51 thing's been doneto death and there are lots of people who think the government's got aspaceship hidden in a barn somewhere, so why not Bigfoot or the LochNess Monster? Of course, the whole thing came from a conversation I washaving with friends when someone said "What if Bigfoot worked for theCIA?" That was the initial inspiration. Once you have that, though, you've got a template for a fun littlestory about "Agent Bigfoot." But that seems limiting and isn't reallymy style anyway. Or you can take that same inspiration and you've gotan opportunity to explore "Tarzan of the Apes," but in reverse. What ifyou took a wild creature out of the woods and raised him among humans,put him to work helping you find and talk to other wild creatures,convincing those creatures that humans are okay? At what point does ourtame Bigfoot qualify as a human? It's the old "nature versus nurture"question within the confines of a pseudo-horror comic book series. Eric: Can you actually elaborate on the seven sons graphic novel? I'm not familiar with it. Alex:
Seven Sons was Riley's and my first project together. It's areworking of an old Chinese fable. In the original fable, there areseven brothers (or five brothers, depending on which version you heardas a kid) who each have a unique power. One brother is super strong,another's invulnerable, another can stretch like Mr. Fantastic, etc.But they all look identical. So one of the brothers swallows the seaand some village children go out on the ocean floor to explore. Butthey stay out too long. The brother has to spit the ocean back out andhe accidentally drowns the children. The villagers decide to put him todeath, but each time they attempt it, the brothers switch places. Sowhen they try to burn him, the invulnerable brother steps in. When theytry to drown him, the stretchy brother just stretches his neck so hishead's on the surface and he can breathe. And so on. They villagersfinally give up. Riley and I adapted that basic story, but set it in the AmericanOld West, using the Gold Rush as a backdrop. The story explores racialintolerance, but in a superhero-Western setting. It came out throughAiT/Planet Lar in October 2006, exactly a year before the first issueof Proof came out. Eric: I'd say reading the series as a whole so far, Proof isprobably more human than some of the protagonists we've met. Which I'msure you did on purpose? Alex:
Protagonists or antagonists? Either way, yeah, Proof is the guyI'd like to be if I were a little more conscious of the world aroundme. Of course, being that careful and that humane has its downside. Wehaven't hinted much at a romantic life for the big guy. But as far as our antagonists go, we've got some stories coming upthat I'm working on now that kind of humanize a couple of ourestablished "villains." I'm really not interested in writing aboutstock characters and once a character's developed to a certain pointthere's lots of room to explore what makes him tick. I think you'll besurprised by how Dachshund or Nadine would act in completely differentsituations than the ones we've seen them in so far. Eric: Lets talk about my personal favorite character for aminute, the dover demon. Just how much fun is a character like that tonot only create but write for? Alex:
Lots! And he seems to have become a sort of fan-favoritecharacter. Which is weird. Issue two introduced two "throwaway"characters that ended up becoming important to the series. I've talkeda lot about how I meant to kill Elvis until he turned out to be cool.The Dover Demon was kind of a device to clue readers in to the factthat we had a lot of stuff worked out and we were going somewhere. Hepredicted a couple of things for Ginger in that issue, but it wasreally about saying "Hey, keep reading. More stuff's gonna happen." But then I saw more that we could do with him and brought him backin issue three. By then we had some response to him from friends andfamily and he started popping up in just about every issue. We've gotbig big surprising things in store for him. There's a reason hepredicts stuff and it's going to turn out to seem perfectly logical andcreepy and shocking all at the same time.Eric: Wait, you were going to kill elvis? Thats it, i'm droppingthe book ;p Seriously though, I take it the original plan was to havethe chupacabra take over his body? Alex:
Yeah. He was a generic small town sheriff in the script, but Rileydrew him with that skinny Elvis body and that tall Elvis hair and hesuddenly had a personality. I decided he didn't look like the kind ofguy who would go into the womens restroom. So he sent Nancy theparamedic in instead. Poor Nancy. But once I knew Elvis wouldn't go in the ladies room, he became apretty interesting guy and we both wanted to keep him around. We'reglad we did.Eric: And speaking of chupathingy (I don't like butcheringits name when I can't spell ;p) who or what was it talking about whenit hinted at something looking for proof and ginger, will we be seeingthis person or creature in the first year of the series? And no sayingwait and see sir! Alex:
Just wait and s-- Oh, um, well... Okay, you're talking aboutMi-Chen-Po. And, no, we won't exactly see him in the first year,although you've seen some of his handiwork already and you'll see moreof him, sort of indirectly very soon. He did send Nadine, thechupacabra to find Proof. And he's done other things that have affectedThe Lodge already. But he'll make a huge splash in person about halfwaythrough our second year (probably around issue 19) when we startticking down to the end of our status quo. Seriously, Mi-Chen-Po's gonna change everything. You don't want to see him too soon. Eric: mi-chen-po is obviously asian in origin? Or am I justthinking too much into the name? You obviously can answer that with ayes or a no without having to spoil anything. Alex:
Yes. Eric: Lets get on to the lodge though. In the office we have avery famous wardrobe, will we be seeing more famous pop culture nodslike that wardrobe in the series? Alex:
Sure. Riley and I love to include that kind of stuff. Riley drew aTMNT head and Hellboy's head in the background of one panel. Thereare lots of pop culture references... Like, the baby fairies are namedafter the three spider babies in "Charlotte's Web." Nobody wrote in tosay they noticed this, but the twin bad guys in "The Company of Men,"one of whom gets his ass handed to him by Proof, are named Dupont andDupond. Those are the original names of the Thompson Twins from"Tintin." We have a back-up story coming up with a very special bearnamed Edward. That's Winnie-the-Pooh's formal name, of course. Whenever there's a chance to make something resonate for readersor for ourselves, we love to go ahead and throw in a reference, withoutnecessarily making it obvious. We want to have fun with this series,but we don't want to date it by using current stuff that nobody's gonnaremember in five or 10 years. Eric: The preview at the end of the trade, all of that is in the future of the book right?
Yes,every one of those panels is something coming up. Well, except for thedodo's panel. That's one's pretty much a done-in-one-panel story. Mostof those images are things from Proof's and/or Ginger's future, butone is from Proof's past. We'll be telling selected tales from Proof'slong history as we roll along.Eric: I'm really enjoying talking to you, which is great becausethe series has definitely been one of my favorite reads since I startedwith the second arc. And awww on the dodo, I liked him. He shouldbecome a returning character. Alex:
I'm having fun with this too. Thanks for asking me to do it. Gladyou're digging the series. I take it you backtracked and read the trade?Eric: Of course I did man, the trade of the first arc of the book is only 10dollars, how can anybody refuse such a deal. And when as a fan you seehow pretty the trade is from a design standpoint, its even better as adeal. Wait....I'm whoring the book just as bad as you now! And whentalking about the trade i'd say some of the strongest scenes in thefirst arc involved what happened to elvis, poor guy. I like how you'veset up both him and ginger as such great folds for a veteran likeproof. Are they both his partners now or just ginger?
Ginger's officially his partner, but Leander assigns agentsaccording to whom he thinks will be most useful on a mission, so itdoesn't make much difference who's supposed to be partnered with whom.There are lots of Lodge agents, though, and Ginger & Elvis seem tobe Proof's favorites. At least they end up paired with him a lot.Eric: Whats on your pull list? The titles that your really enjoying currently? Alex:
Oh, boy, can I add to this list if I forget stuff? I'm gonnaforget lots of stuff. Let's see... Criminal, BPRD, Umbrella Academy,Firebreather, Young Liars, Fables, Savage Dragon, All-Star Superman,Screamland, Transhuman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ultimate Spider-Man,anything Grant Morrison's writing, The Boys, Ex Machina... Tons ofgreat comics coming out right now. Too much to list here, really. It'sprobably the best time to be a comic book collector ever. Eric: What music are you currently listening to?
It depends on what I'm writing. Right now I dumped a whole bunchof Pixies, Eels and Radiohead into an iTunes mix and hit shuffle, butfor the current Proof arc I'm listening to some Nine Inch Nails andangrier stuff off and on too. I like pretty much all sorts of music,except maybe Christian Pop. Earlier today I was listening to the "WalkHard" soundtrack and I just went to see Will Whitmore play recently. Hehas a fantastic voice, really bluesy stuff. Eric: And are there any talks on a proof movie with every other comics property getting picked up by different studio's lately? Alex:
Um, yes. Nobody's signed anything yet, though, and these thingsfall apart all the time, but there are some pretty big peopleinterested right now. Nothing to brag about yet. Eric: And will we be seeing another golem character? Like the one that ginger encountered? Alex:
The third arc, "Thunderbirds Are Go," is partly about Ginger'sreturn to New York. We touch base with her old boss, Belinda, see thatold Rabbi again and finally meet Ginger's boyfriend, Marc (she talkedwith him on the phone in the trade). Ginger has to track Joe, thegolem, down through the sewers of New York. (The sewers of New York,incidentally, are filled with alligators. That's not an urban myth.)This arc ties up all the loose ends from Ginger's solo story at thebeginning of the "Goatsucker" trade. And, since Riley and I haverepeatedly said that there's no hard-core magic in Proof, we'll revealwhat the hell Joe actually is. He can't really be a giant man made outof clay and brought to life with a magic word.Eric: A fellow radiohead fan? Did you like in rainbows? Alex:
I've only heard the single, so far. I'm way way way behind ingetting CDs. There's been lots of cool stuff released the last fewmonths (including the new Flobots and the new Weezer), but I've had myhead buried in research for Proof. It's gonna make catching up reallyfun, though. I've been hinting to my wife that I need some CDs for mybirthday.Eric: A question about the fairies, how soon before we see themales waking up like leander was seen talking to in the preview? Thisyear or are we going to be waiting? Alex:
That scene was from the "Cryptid War" arc, which will occur at theend of the series as it currently stands. So it'll be a while. We willdefinitely be seeing those giant fairies again soon, though. I'mdrawing a special issue that deals with them. Eric: And speaking of fairies, the scene with the chupacabara adopting some of them wasn't just a throwaway gag was it? Alex:
Nope. It sure wasn't. And, not coincidentally, we'll be revisitingNadine and her fairy children in that same story I'm working on. We'lltie up some loose ends, show just how quickly fairies grow, what kindof mom Nadine is and drop some clues about where that particularsubplot may be going. Eric: And what kind of movies do you dig? B horror movie stuff? Like Army of Darkness and Reanimator or just anything? Alex:
Thebest film I saw last year was Michael Clayton. I've watched it twicewithout the commentary and once with, so far. Juno was probably mysecond favorite. The characters in it were so well-written andwell-defined. I also really dug The Hunting Party and No Country forOld Men. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford wasnicely done too. I saw Army of Darkness once and it wasn't really my kinda thing.It was okay, but once was enough. I've never actually seen Reanimatorat all. I'm dying to watch The Orphanage and Cloverfield. I've got themboth here, but they're not films I can watch with my son in the room,so they'll have to wait. And they probably don't qualify a B-moviehorror. This is gonna sound stupid, but part of the reason I like to watchmovies is to learn from them. I pay close attention to how they'rewritten, how they're structured, whether the dialogue works. SpecialEffects don't do much for me. I usually pick movies based on who wrotethem and whether I admire their work or have heard good things aboutthem. My one guilty pleasure when it comes to genre stuff is zombiemovies. I can love even a bad zombie movie. There's just always beensomething appealing about zombies, even before they became so hugelypopular. In fact, the first comic book pitch Riley and I worked on wasa zombie mini-series. But it was set in a prison and, by one of thoseweird coincidences of synchronicity, the Walking Dead cast moved into aprison right about the time we finished that up and got ready to sendit out. Looking at that and the likelihood that we'd be accused ofripping off Robert Kirkman, we decided to abandon that project and moveon to another story. Maybe someday our zombie book will see the light of day, but I doubt it, since there's such a glut of that stuff.Eric: Yeah you're definitely not the only guy who digs zombie films. Ithink as you grow older you appreciate them for quality more then scarevalue. Have you seen the latest George Romero flick diary ofthe dead? If you love zombie movies, I can guarantee you'll love it.That and I just watched a really bad one the sequel to Uwe Bolle'shouse of the dead....why they made a sequel, I don't know. Alex:
I get the feeling there are a lot of us who have always likedzombies, but comics and Hollywood just suddenly caught on to that factand are releasing more of this kind of material to appeal to us. Notsure why it took so long though. I haven't seen Diary of the Dead yet.That's another one of those films you can't watch with a four-year-old.I'd rather spend time with my boy than with zombies. I'm still waitingto watch 28 Weeks Later too. It's sitting here, patiently demanding myattention. Eric: And you guys wrote a zombie series set in a prison? This Iam very intrigued by. Was it one of those "inmates have to fight theirway out of a zombie infested prison deals?" The kind where the leadcharacter is some poor guy who's falsely accused?
Naw, Riley and I aren't that predictable. It's more of a ClintEastwood movie set in a prison, which is then set in a zombie-infestedworld. Anyway, I shouldn't make it sound intriguing since no one willever see it.Eric: And I actually see eye to eye with you on the reasonyou watch movies, I can't get enough of the behind the scenes materialmyself. I wish there was more comic material like that where we couldhear really cool stories from production. Any plans for a "directorscut" of any proof material? Alex:
We're thinking of doing something like that for our second trade.We prefer to put extra material in the single issues to reward ourregular readers, but there's just not enough room to do some things inthe 1-8 pages we have available in any given issue of Proof. The backof the trade gives us almost as much room as we could want, but thenwe're putting stuff in the trade that our regular readers weren't ableto see and that probably sends the wrong message. We're still trying tohash that out. Eric: I know the short story is coming out with the rest ofimage's "monster books" in august, any hints as to what its going to beabout? It's original material right? Alex:
Absolutely. Okay, Image Monster Pile-Up is a one-shot, featuringfour brand-new five-page stories by the regular creative teams of TheAstounding Wolf-Man, Firebreather, The Perhapanauts and Proof. It'smeant to be kind of a sampler, so that people who haven't tried some ofthese books, but are curious, can pick this up for $1.99. It's aninexpensive introduction to four of Image's monster-related ongoingseries. Todd Dezago (Perhapanauts) and I dreamed this baby up and, afterselling Image on the idea, invited Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester toparticipate. We're hoping this generates a little cross-polllination.We first talked about a true cross-over, but it's really hard to figureout a cross-over with Proof. There's just no way to do other dimensionsand superheroes without ruining the vibe of the book. So we hit on thesampler idea instead. Then, of course, Riley and I got ambitious and did something thatprobably negates the whole idea of a sampler by showing Proof's firstencounter with human beings, way back in 1805. He's young and nothinglike he is now. So it's not going to give possible new readers a verygood idea of what the actual series is like. But hopefully it'smemorable and interesting in its own right. Riley and I would very muchlike to tell the story of Proof's education and early life with some ofthe famous people who were responsible for making him who he is today(one of whom is revealed in #9). So the feedback we get from MonsterPile-Up will help determine whether we can move ahead with a separateproject that chronicles that early stuff. There's just no way to fit itall into the regular series without getting rid of the supporting castfor a year. Eric: Speaking of issue 9 it's the one shot right? The vacation/downtime issue? Alex:
Yeah, I'm kind of indulging myself with this issue. My favoritething to do is just put these characters together and let them talk toeach other. So that's basically what goes on in issue nine. Elvis getsto spend the day with Proof and Wayne and learns a bit more about themboth. Ginger meets the staff psychologist, a new character who'll beplaying a big part in future stories. Her name's Isabella Bay and sheand Ginger talk a bit. We tie up a few loose ends in terms of Ginger'srelationship with Proof, some tension because of things that happenedin the first two arcs, and we gear up for the next arc with a coupleof short peeks at "Thunderbirds." Eric: And inviting Phil to do the sampler with you must havebeen interesting, bringing your career full circle having the man whogave you your first real break involved in the same project? Alex:
Oh, yeah. Phil's an incredible creator as both an artist and awriter (so's his frequent collaborator, Ande Parks). I'm not exactlyworking with him on Monster Pile-Up, but it's great to haveFirebreather back on the racks and I'm proud to share an anthology withhim.Eric: And whats next for you, the future of proof and possibly other material? Please Plug Away.
After we finish exploring Proof's past a bit, in the arc after"Thunderbirds," we'll be getting down to business and moving toward ourbig climactic two-arc story. It'll still be quite a while before we getto that, but by then Mi-Chen-Po will be revealed and some of theLodge's secrets will start being answered. I'm much too excited to getto some of these huge revelations, but I'll be sad once we tell thosestories. It's kind of like Christmas, I guess. I've got a couple of non-Proof miniseries in the works and I'mworking on an original graphic novel with frequent Proof contributorKelly Tindall. It's a fun story. I'm superstitious about talking toomuch about projects until they're a little closer to coming out,though. You won't be able to shut me up about this stuff in a couple ofmonths, but until then... Eric: This has been a blast honestly, your definitely now one of my favorite creators and I hope to talk with you more. Alex:
Yeah, thanks so much for inviting me to do this. It's been a lot of fun. Let me know when you wanna do it again, okay?Proof is monthly from IMAGE
Posted originally: 2008-06-23 17:21:32