Proof #25 CoverProducing an independent comic book isn’t easy; Alex Grecian can attest to that. Grecian, alongside series artist, Riley Rossmo, has produced nearly twenty-five issues of Image’s PROOF in about two years. With the down turn in the economy over the past year, the comic book industry has seen a number of changes from the rising prices of books to the changing order threshold levels at Diamond. PROOF’s slowly growing success has been almost as mythic as its cast of characters. Currently, PROOF is in the middle of a 6-issue storyline entitled "Julia." The story connects PROOF’s own origins to 19th Century oddities and myths like Julia Pastrana and Spring Heeled Jack.
Newsarama spoke with PROOF creator Alex Grecian about the series, his experience with creator-owned properties to date, his plans for the future of PROOF, and beyond.
Newsarama: Alex, you're coming up on the two-year marker for PROOF; looking back at your foray into publishing a creator-owned series for two years, what sorts of lessons have you learned? Was the journey a tough one?
Alex Grecian: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it pays to know as much as possible about making comic books. I’ve seen accomplished comic book writers have their creator-owned projects derailed because they had no idea what goes into putting a comic together. The more you know…
Proof #25 pg 1Of course it’s tough at times. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve always put the comic out, every single month, and the problems sort of end up falling by the wayside. The issue that seemed insurmountable when we were trying to get issue five to the printer now seems insignificant.
NRAMA: From a creative perspective, has PROOF fundamentally changed since you started in 2007? Or was the direction for the book mapped out this far?
GRECIAN: We’re still working within the rough plan I had worked out from the beginning. We’re a bit behind because we took a detour with the second arc, “The Company of Men,” which wasn’t part of the initial plan for this series.
What’s really changed is our level of craftsmanship. I think PROOF was a pretty damn good book when we started, and we were turning out the best work we were capable of, but we’ve had a lot of on-the-job training over the last couple of years and I think what we’re doing now is worlds more sophisticated.
NRAMA: How has your relationship with PROOF artist Riley Rossmo grown? Has the way the two of you work together changed over the past couple of years?
GRECIAN: My scripts are probably a little shorter. At this point, I don’t need to spell everything out for him. I probably never did need to do that, but it took a while to feel completely comfortable letting go of the control. I know now that, if I tell him what a character is feeling or thinking, he’ll nail the facial expressions and body language without me stepping all over him.
Proof #25 pg 2NRAMA: Right now, PROOF is in the middle of a large arc, "Julia," which reveals that several legends of the 19th Century are interconnected. What inspired you to draw upon Julia Pastrana and Spring-Heeled Jack?
GRECIAN: I’ve been in love with Julia Pastrana since I was about 12 years old. I discovered her, along with a host of other human abnormalities, in a big leather-bound book that a friend of the family had in his library. Whenever we visited him, I would drag that book down and sink into a leather chair and not look up again until it was time to leave. I don’t know why he had that book, since his tastes were otherwise pretty mainstream, but that book introduced me to Julia, to Johnny Eck and Schlitzie and Prince Randian and Major Mite and Zip and so many others. I wish I knew what the book was called. I’ve looked for it in used bookstores and online and never found it.
Years later, I finally saw Freaks and it was like visiting old friends, watching Eck and Randian and some of the others in the film.
Julia Pastrana especially touched and fascinated me as a kid, though, and that didn’t go away over time. Her life story resonated more with me as I grew up. She was a particularly lovely human being who dealt very well with her lot in life, but fell for the wrong guy. The notion that a man could bring himself to stuff and display his dead wife and child… Well, that’s the sort of thing that’d make a good comic book. And the link to PROOF was obvious.
Springheel Jack (as I prefer to call him) wasn’t as natural a fit. I wanted to stay as true to Julia’s actual history as I could, since there were so many fantastic elements in it. I wanted to ground her weirdness in her reality. That didn’t leave a lot of famous cryptids I could work with for that arc. So I ended up massaging Jack’s history a bit in order to get him to fit. Everything’s there, but his timeline’s a little off. He was actually operating before the events of this story and then again after, but not so much during. I cheated a bit and telescoped his history.
NRAMA: Are readers in for any big surprises involving Gulliver/PROOF's origins? Are readers being led to a larger culmination?
GRECIAN: Oh, absolutely. We’ve sprinkled lots of clues throughout the run, so far, but as of issue 25, everything’s building toward an event called ‘The Cryptid War’. Issue 25’s probably a really good jumping-on point because things begin to ramp up for the main characters quite a bit from this point.
Proof #25 pg. 3NRAMA: What sort of buildup is on the horizon for the Chupacabra aiding Colonel Dachshund? What can you share with readers?
GRECIAN: If she is helping him…
Both Nadine (the chupacabra) and Colonel Dachshund (the cryptid hunter) are sort of collaborating (or at least cohabitating) right now, but that can’t be an easy alliance for them and I think they both have their own agendas.
NRAMA: How many man-hours have you put into research of myths, legends, cryptids, and such?
GRECIAN: Tons, but that’s spread out over my whole life. I’ve always been fascinated by this stuff. Right now, I’m sitting in my office looking at three big bookcases crammed with research material, much of it about cryptids, fables, urban legends and folklore. Those informally shared stories are our society’s myths and have a lot of power. They resonate for all of us in ways we probably don’t even realize. I think we’re all drawn to the weirdness around us. That’s why ‘The Weekly World News’ actually sells in grocery stores.
NRAMA: What have you been researching lately?
GRECIAN: Lately? Let me look at the stacks of books that are actually on my desk her: weather patterns, the history of torture, quantum physics (specifically the behavior of quarks), demonic possession, secret societies, conspiracies and hoaxes, Victorian society, forensics procedures, housetraining puppies and Adobe InDesign. But those last two aren’t for anything I’m writing.
NRAMA: How far ahead have you planned for PROOF? Would you like to keep the series going? Or is there an end planned?
Proof #25 pg 4GRECIAN: There’s an end to PROOF’s current character arc. Once we discover whether there are more like him out there, the story we’ve been telling all along will be ended. But that doesn’t mean the series will end. It just wouldn’t be quite the same after that.
NRAMA: What other projects are you working on currently?
GRECIAN: I have a miniseries called SILVERBACK that I’m currently working on, as well as two original graphic novels, called ROCKETBOTS and SQUEAK! respectively. Those should all be coming out next year. I’m contributing to an anthology of fairy tales that will also be out sometime next year and I have a couple of other projects, at least one of which is just going to be huge, that I don’t think I can talk about yet. It promises to be a big year.
NRAMA: With PROOF's unique themes and characters, has Hollywood taken an interest in your property? Would you want to take PROOF to a larger audience via film or television? Or are you happy just making good comics?
GRECIAN: Well, the news that Samuel L. Jackson is in talks to produce and star in a TV adaptation was leaked to the media a few weeks ago. I don’t really have anything to do with that though.
While I’m interested in writing all kinds of things, my dream has always been to work in comics and I currently get to do that, so there’s no chance I’ll be jumping ship to work in another media. I’m happy writing comics as long as there’s a readership for them.
And I do hope I’m making good comics.