John Arcudi and James Harren are helping 2014 end with a bang with the launch of Rumble, their new series about monsters, old gods, and what happens when worlds collide that launched on December 17.
Fans who have enjoyed Arcudi and Harren’s collaboration on Dark Horse’s B.P.R.D. know they’re capable of bringing some dark, strange, bizarre creations to life on the page – and we turned to Arcudi to find out just what readers can expect when they get their own series to themselves. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Newsarama: John, tell us about Rumble, the basic premise and the characters.
John Arcudi: It’s hard to sum up, honestly. It’s an action adventure fantasy horror with elements of comedy.
The first issue will introduce you to Rathraq, a sword-swinging scarecrow, and Bobby LaRosa, a mid-20’s bartender in a run-down old city reminiscent of Detroit. By the end of the first arc, readers will see the full scope of two equally strange worlds colliding, with monsters, skinheads, double-crosses, old grudges, and more monsters.
Nrama: Tell us a little more about Rathraq and Bobby -- who they are, where they come from, and what drives these crazy kids together.
Arcudi: Rathraq is an angry kinda guy, if you can call a living sack of hay a “guy." And he’s one of those guys who has a list. He’s out to right some wrongs — that’s how he sees it, anyway. Bobby’s a bartender who wants the good life but can’t quite get there. In other words, a regular guy who has to deal with all this weird crap — and he’d really rather not.
His pal Del, on the other hand, is super into it. A die-hard skinhead who thinks of himself as a real badass, but maybe he isn’t — or maybe he is. We’ll see. Also, Timah Golshiri is a grad student who has a background in academia that turns out to be helpful to Bobby and Del. Still, she needs to find a better class of friends.
Nrama: What are some of the creatures they'll be facing?
Arcudi: A lot of them! Qutrubs, Dyavos, Sec’Juarhs, Rakshasas, a six-headed Lernean, and at least one giant. Some of those creatures you probably know, and some you probably don’t, but after the first couple of arcs, you’ll know all of them.
Nrama: What are some of the major themes your story deals with?
Arcudi: There are a few themes, but one of the ones I’ve been talking about a lot is the desire many of us have to relive former glories, to recapture some day or some period in the past when – in retrospect – everything seemed to be perfect.
For us, that’s impossible, but in the fantastic realm of the Rumble universe, Rathraq may just be able to do that — and it also might be the worst thing for everybody if he does!
Nrama: How did the idea for this book come about?
Arcudi: It’s something I’ve been playing around with for years, so I don’t think I can remember where it really came from. Probably the usual way – an idea here, a visual there, and it all came together.
It’s gone through some growing pains over the years, different takes, but now – I hope – I’ve got it. Actually, with James doing the art, I know we've got it.
Nrama: Do you see this series as open-ended, or something that would have an eventual conclusion?
Arcudi: An eventual conclusion, but that conclusion is a good ways down the road — and depending on how story lines develop, it may last a little longer than we’re expecting. We have no definite number in mind, in other words.
Nrama: What led you and James taking it to Image, and what's it been like working with them?
Arcudi: We took a long time making the decision, so I can’t give you a short answer, but one big reason was Image Comics' publisher Eric Stephenson’s immediate enthusiasm for the book: Immediate and enduring.
They’ve been great, maintaining that same high-level of excitement. You really feel like you have a team that’s going to follow through. I can’t be the first person who’s said this, but that was a big part of the “why Image?” question.
Nrama: So you've worked with plenty of artists who bring forth the fantastic, horrific and grotesque over the years, but what does James bring to the game that is particularly unique and exciting for you?
Arcudi: The short answer is, he’s hugely talented. He can draw like an S.O.B., so that’s important, but his ability to draw big-level action and explosive fights, in a convincing and dynamic manner that I’ve never seen before, is huge for this series because there’s lots of that in there.
Still, he can add a level of wackiness to some of the more freaky and bizarre elements to this story that are vitally important to making Rumble work.
Nrama: Your writing has been defined by an ability to combine the horrifying and the absurd, dating back to The Mask, so I'm curious what kind of world you're bringing us here. I get the sense from the information you've made available so far that it'll be a wide variety of monsters with very human concerns, and a wide variety of tones to the stories. How close am I, and can you give us more of an idea of what to expect?
Arcudi: That’s not a bad description, though not quite complete. The monsters in this story don’t exactly have human concerns, but their reactions to the problems they do have certainly will be familiar to the readers.
James and I do want to explore a lot of different tones, from the scary and harrowing, to the downright absurdly comic. It’s sorta like real life but “amplified,” so to speak. What might be a traffic jam in the real world is a demon chasing you down an alley in Rumble.
Nrama: What's fun for you about finding the human qualities in the not-quite-human?
Arcudi: I don’t know that there’s any other way I could do it — write a non-human character with at least some human characteristics, I mean. I’m human, you know? When I wrote A God Somewhere, my goal was to make the character of Eric Forster inhuman and remote, because I think that’s what the sudden transformation would do to a man or woman.
It’s a tactic or a character that works for a graphic novel, a one-time thing, but you want your ongoing characters to have a personality that you can explore fully over time, a character that you come to at least understand if not actually like.
Why shouldn’t a ghost or monster have a sense of humor? Why shouldn’t they be nostalgic? So it’s fun, sure, but it’s also inevitable — for me, anyway.
Nrama: Give us the hard-sell on this.
Arcudi: It’s a gorgeous book that should feel just as real to the reader as it feels weird! Scarecrow Warrior God, meddling skinheads, conniving monsters, and a scared shitless bartender! I don’t know that I can sell it any harder than that!