Living on the Edge: SCOTT ALLIE on EXURBIA

Living on the Edge: SCOTT ALLIE: EXURBIA

For twenty-something Gage Wallace, it’s been a bad day. Fresh out of a nasty break-up with his girlfriend, he’s now the number one suspect in the explosion of his apartment building – the latest in a run of bombings in the neighborhood. But there’s a silver lining to this dark cloud, albeit a brown furry lining – namely, a talking drunken rat who predicts a better time ahead for Gage. But for now, he’s a wanted man with a broken heart on the run from the law and others who blame him for his home’s explosion.

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That’s the story in the upcoming graphic novel Exurbia, by writer Scott Allie and artist Kevin McGovern. While the artist’s name is new to comics, writer Scott Allie is well known as one of the key editors at Dark Horse Comics, helming the successful Hellboy line of titles as well as other books. But Allie has also written comics, from The Devil’s Footprints to the recent Solomon Kane title.

The book, which is scheduled to be released this October, is one-part romance and one-part science fiction with more than one chase scene, and we talked with Scott Allie by email about it.

Newsarama: Hey Scott, thanks for talking to us.  I wanted to talk to you today about your upcoming book, Exurbia. First off, what does the title mean?

Scott Allie: Exurbia, as I understand it, is the outlying area out past suburbia, but still dependent on the city nearby; or it can mean a formerly urban area that's fallen in to disuse. I'm making that up, but that's basically what OUR Exurbia is. It's across the river from what used to be the thriving metropolis of Fat City. Fat City fell into the river, taking the economy with it, and so the town we call Exurbia is left with nothing except a lot of buildings that could fall down at any time.

NRAMA: Fat City fell into the river? Withstanding the name itself, what happened to it exactly?

ALLIE: There was an earthquake. One of Gage's friends, Norbert, was obsessed with earthquakes when they were kids, and he predicted that an earthquake would come wipe them all out. It spared their town, but destroyed Fat City. So now they have a bridge that goes to nowhere.

NRAMA: Exurbia focuses on the life of Gage Wallace. Who is he, and why should we pay attention to him?

ALLIE: Gage was a very driven, idealistic kid, and that got the attention of a local activist, who saw Gage as being the future of his own anarchist movement. Something tragic happened to that movement, so to speak, and it broke Gage. So he's a very driven, dedicated, and caring guy, but the things that happened when he was real young beat the enthusiasm out of him. And I think a lot of people can identify with that. Why you should page attention to him is that something's about to snap him out of his dysfunction, and we could all use that.

NRAMA: Seems like life isn't working out for Gage - what's going on with him in the book?

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ALLIE: Enough things go wrong for him in a very short period that he has to buck up. His girlfriend leaves him, his apartment is destroyed, he becomes the sole confidant to the town's talking-Rat messiah, but the big problem, the reason he HAS to remember how to function, is that the police think he's the town's own terrorist, the Mad Bomber, who's killed dozens of people by blowing up local buildings. Gage is trying to elude the cops, to prove his innocence, and dodge the bullets of the angry townspeople. He deserves none of it, but he needs to remember that he is actually worth a damn if he's gonna get out of it alive.

NRAMA: I see a bad break-up, explosions, earthquakes - crazy as that all sounds, it can't beat a talking rat. What's up with the rat?

ALLIE: The Rat came about as a character in a real weird way. Kevin and I had been doing stories related to Gage, and we wanted to build a whole town around him. Kevin did a record sleeve for a friend's 45, and he drew this Rat smoking a cigar. I loved it, we started talking about his story, and decided that he was part of Gage's world. The Rat is just a drunk, a wino with a big mouth, who has a certain way with words that makes all the hopeless people of the town take note. They think he's speaking real wisdom, but a few people, Gage among them, see right through it.

NRAMA: There’s a lot of different elements here – sci-fi, fantasy, gritty urban drama, crime, and even some talking animals. How would you describe the book as a whole

ALLIE: Kurt Busiek said it was Scorsese's After Hours reimagined by Terry Gilliam. That feels right. If I had to pick a genre, I'd say humor, but that doesn't cover it. I wouldn't say it's influenced by the Coen Bros, but it has something in common with them—take a Hitchcockian Wrong Man sort of plot, but make it really, really the wrong man—a suspense story where the hero is so ill-prepared that it becomes a comedy. Mine's just the sort of Mad comics version of it, as opposed to what the Coens do with Big Lebowski or Man Who Wasn't There.

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NRAMA: Although you're primarily known as an editor, you've done more than a few great comics in your time such as Solomon Kane. How would you describe your writing aspirations, and how do you balance it with such a demanding job as being a lead editor at Dark Horse?

ALLIE: I'm really driven to write comics, but I'm not driven to have a writing career. I want to write the books I want to write, I want to tell certain kinds of stories, and if I can come up with one and get it out there like Exurbia, that makes me real happy. Or if I recognize something in an existing property, like Kane, I want to do that. I'll always make the time to write something I really care about; but the idea of a writing career where I had to find things to care about in order to pay the bills, that would be depressing. Whereas I have no trouble approaching editing that way, although I'm lucky enough now to only edit books I feel passionate about.

NRAMA: Speaking of your past work, this seems like a departure a bit. A majority of your work has been in the realm of horror but this is something far different - what led you to create Exurbia?

ALLIE: Well, honestly, it's the mantra of Dark Horse—Few people only go see horror movies, or romantic comedies, or sci fi films. Mostly people see, or read, or listen to various genres. Right now I happen to be on a horror movie binge, but the last three movies I saw in the theater were Public Enemies, Star Trek, and The Hangover. The book I just finished last night was a crime novel by James Ellroy. So it makes sense that I'd write things other than horror. I feel a special affinity for the genre, but it's not the only thing I like. A lot of my horror stuff tends to take place in the past. Exurbia expresses my take on the modern world, a place I find slightly more absurd than horrific.

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