ROB SCHRAB's Hits & Misses: Art and a "Box of Rejection"

 

Rob Schrab hit it big in the 1990s with his cult hit Scud: The Disposable Assassin before heading to Hollywood, where he co-created the amateur TV festival Channel 101, the screenplay for the film Monster House and the cult Jack Black TV pilot Heat Vision and Jack with writing partner Dan Harmon, the future creator of NBC’s acclaimed series Community.

With comedian Sarah Silverman, Schrab and Harmon also co-created Comedy Central’s The Sarah Silverman Program, one of the most utterly wrong things to air on the channel that brought us South Park. Since then, Schrab’s been directing plenty of TV shows, including Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital, Spike’s Blue Mountain State and most recently the “Camping” episode of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, which taught us all about the wonders of Sweetums Candy fumes and German muffins.

But Schrab’s never forgotten his roots in comics – he finished Scud a few years ago with the massive collection Scud: The Whole Shebang!, at Image Comics, and now he’s teamed with Image again for a look at the projects that didn’t make it. But I Can’t Do Anything Else!: The Art of Rob Schrab, which hits stores today, is an all-new hardcover featuring art from dozens of projects that never saw the light of day – some of which might still be coming to a theater or comic book near you.

In this special two-part interview, Schrab talked with us about his recent projects, why he put this book together, and whether he’ll ever re-team with Harmon on Community. And of course there’s plenty of art – and some killer robots to boot. What more could you ask for?

Newsarama: Rob, why did you feel that now was the time to do this book?

Rob Schra: Well, Image, ever since I did Scud: The Whole Shebang, was asking if I could do another book. The all-around experience – completing Scud and the love that I got from Image, was just so fantastic that I wanted to not disappear for comics as long as I did the last time.

 

My schedule has gotten filled up between directing and pitching stuff, and I don’t know who it was – it might have been my fiancé Kate – said, “You should put together a book of all your drawings.” I have all these sketchbooks filled with pages and pages of drawings, all the stuff I did between Scud-s.

While (Dan) Harmon and I were developing ideas, I was sketching – I’d either take the pictures to meetings and go, “And here’s what the creature looks like, and what the world will look like,” or I’d draw to give Harmon an idea of what I was thinking, or drawing because I just like to draw.

People would come over and look at the sketches and think they were cool, and then they’d just go into a box. And at one point I was cleaning out my office and I found this box and went through it, and I went, “I’m ashamed that no one’s seen this stuff.”

I took a page from Jim Mahfood, who does these mixtape art books, and I said, “I’m going to do something like that – put all these pictures together into a book, and just get it out there.” And I was thinking, “What should I call this?” And I kind of came up with a title that was completely truthful about my life and career: But I Can’t Do Anything Else!

There’s literally books and boxes full of sketches, and I’ll find stuff from 2003 or 2004 and go, “Wow, that was a great idea, but the script never moved forward!” or “Wow…that idea wasn’t so great.” But every one of those ideas was rejected. And I was thinking, “This is a box of rejection.”

One way to look at that is, “That’s really depressing.” But another way to look at it is, “I’m still here, I’m still doing it, and even after all this rejection, it’s not getting me down, and I’m having a great time doing what I love.”

Nrama: So what all will we see?

Schrab: There are a lot of movie ideas, a lot of robot drawings. There’s a spec script I put out a few years ago called “Tentakills,” which was a killer octopus movie like Tremors in the Midwest, where the sewers were infested with these killer octopus tentacles that would grab you through the sewer grate and drag you down and eat you alive. And it was kind of this Shaun of the Dead horror-but-humor-but-kind-of-touching thing.

 

It almost got made, some producers were interested, but it happens all the time in this business – they call you back and go, “The guy above me didn’t like it, we’re not moving forward.” And that’s the heartbreak of this business, but it’s also the thrill of this business, because you never know – the next idea you come up with could be the biggest, the coolest, the one that sets you apart from everyone else.

Or it could be you spend six months to a year on an idea, and they go, “Eh, we’re not moving forward.” That’s the gamble you take every time you pull out your laptop or your sketchbook.

There was a comic book idea in there I will do some day, about a guy with a vampire car he can only drive at night and runs on blood and it’s in kind of a Death Race 2000 world, because I wanted to do something with a lot of speed and action and no robots, because I’d kind of done that to death. There’s like three pages of that in the book, but finding some time to sit down and draw it is always a challenge. This would be at least 90 pages long, so that’s at least three months if I’m going to draw it.

There’s some Western stuff, and some kid-animation art in there – there’s this one pitch I pitched to Hanna-Barbera before Warner Brothers took it over back in 1998 or so called “Super Agent P.I. Grandma,” about a kid whose grandmother was like a super-spy, and there’s some drawings and storyboards in there too.

There’s sci-fi, horror…a lot of robots, a lot of monsters, a lot of aliens. If you’re into that stuff, this is going to be a real page-turner! It’s going to be an oversized book, all in color, about 56 pages worth of art, in a hardcover.

 

I’m pretty excited about it! For me, personally, it’s a great milestone to look back at and go, “Wow, this is 10 years of stuff and I was plugging away the whole time.” You know, I made some mistakes, and I had some successes, and this kind of represents...

…it’s like Devo put out two albums, Devo’s Greatest Hits and Devo’s Greatest Misses. I liked Misses better, it’s great stuff that didn’t break through. This is “Rob Schrab’s Greatest Misses.” Nobody but a handful of a dozen or so people has seen these drawings or concepts. For fans of my work, or movie/TV-behind-the-scenes stuff, this is a great look at how that process works.

Nrama: Are there going to be complete summaries or anything like that?

Schrab: No, I wanted to cram as many drawings in there as possible. So you’ll be pawing through the book, and you’ll see a drawing, and there’ll be a logo like “Shark Hotel” next to it. And there’ll be no explanation what that’s all about. The only explanation I’ll give for any of these drawings is, “These are the ideas that didn’t punch through.”

I did that on purpose because I wanted to maintain a sense of mystery. If you’re paging through this book and you come across something and you go, “What’s up with that? That’s a cool idea! That’s a cool image! What’s that about?” and it interests you enough, hopefully you’ll go to my blog or come up to me at a convention, and that’s when I’ll tell you about that idea.

I’m curious because I’m wondering if the drawings tell the story just in the look. That’s one of the challenges I have when I come up with a design for a creature or a protagonist or something – how much of the story can you get just looking at the image? And I want to see how much people can get.

 

If enough people want to know, “What’s up with this thing?”, that will help me go, “I will consider doing that thing next.” Whenever you’re done with a project, the hardest thing to figure out is the next thing you want to do, especially if you have a lot of ideas in your shoebox. I think this will definitely be an interesting experiment – maybe I’ll do a follow-up book saying where everything comes from. I just want to see how it works.

It’s sort of like a movie trailer where you just see pictures and there’s no narration, and you say to yourself, “Wow, I want to know what that’s about.” This book is like a movie trailer for upcoming projects I want to do before I die. If I get hit by a car tomorrow, at least those ideas are out there, they exist somewhere.

Next: Schrab talks Children’s Hospital, Parks & Rec and doing something original in Hollywood.

But I Can’t Do Anything Else!: The Art of Rob Schrab is in stores from Image Comics now. Schrab appears at Meltdown Comics in LA on April 14 for a special book launch party – for more information, visit www.meltcomics.com.

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