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Inside the Lodge - Part 1: The Burden of Proof

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Thursday saw the release of Proof Volume 2: The Company of Men.  Broken Frontier marked the occasion by asking a few questions of Proof scribe Alex Grecian.  What follows is the first part of an extensive interview, here Alex talks about inspiration and the creative process as well as the demands of a monthly schedule...

BROKEN FRONTIER: Proof has come out for a year now. It has been on time every month, in fact it comes out on the same week of each month. Any tips you’d like to give other artists and writers how to accomplish such a feat? How does it feel to have completed such a daunting task?

ALEX GRECIAN: It feels good, but there’s a lot of pressure. Riley and I had a commanding lead when we started Proof. We had most of the first arc completed before the first issue came out. So we felt confident we could stay on schedule. Riley’s had a lot of experience working in a comic book store and we talked about how crucial it is to put a book out when regular readers expect it to be out, so we made that a big part of our initial focus.

It also helped that Riley and I both come from an advertising and newspaper/magazine background. You have difficult deadlines all the time and you hit them. In the world of advertising, a client doesn’t care whether you had the flu or your dog ate your presentation boards. You have them ready when they’re due. No excuses.

But doing a monthly book, when you’re just a couple of guys, is sort of like running on a treadmill that’s going a bit faster than you’re comfortable going. You can keep up, but you know that if you trip or slow down you’re going to be in big trouble. The treadmill’s not going to stop for you. We went through a few panicky months when our lead started to shrink, trying to figure out what we could do to put some safeguards in place, some cushion, in case Riley broke his arm or my brain exploded. We’re in good shape again and feeling confident, but there were a couple of months there when we weren’t sure Proof would be out in time. The online community of ProofReaders is great for motivating us. We know those folks are out there reading the book (we talk to them regularly) and we don’t want to disappoint them.

Shipping late is almost inevitable for most comic books. The only advice I could give other creators would be not to solicit your book unless you’re confident you’ll have it ready in time. Otherwise you set yourself up to disappoint your readership. That said, and particularly with the rising prominence of trade-waiting, six months after a book came out, it doesn’t really matter whether it was late or not. If you, as a reader, like a book, especially if it’s a creator-owned book (without an editorial staff and fill-in artists to pick up the slack), you should probably try to look the other way if it’s a bit late now and then.

That said, yeah, Riley and I are happy and thankful that Proof has hit that magic week, month in and month out. I don’t anticipate that changing in the foreseeable future. (Knock on wood.)

BF: I have always been fascinated with Bigfoot. I remember most vividly the old Leonard Nimoy show "In Search of..." It was a creepy show and the ones about fairies and Bigfoot stood out the most. So where did the inspiration for Proof come from?

AG: Like most children, I was always fascinated by the unexplained and unexplainable. I never really let go of that. I only watched maybe a couple of episodes of "In Search of…," but they do stick in my head. My father hosted a radio show when I was kid, in which he explored things like backward messages in music, telepathic abilities, ghosts, stuff like that. He had a very open mind and I think that influenced me to some degree. I have a huge library here (I’m sitting in the middle of it right now) and there’s a big section that covers what amounts to "unsolved mysteries." I’m surrounded by inspiration.

BF: At the time Proof debuted, quite a few books with similar concepts or characters came out. There was the Sasquatch anthology from Viper and Image’s Perhapanauts had already had a short run or two. Was this just simple synchronicity or was there something else going on? I kind of hope that you guys, Josh Howard and Todd and Craig were all out hunting and y’all saw a Bigfoot and rushed home trying to beat the other one to the punch.

AG: Well, I was going to tell the story here about how Todd Dezago got shot while wearing a bear suit, but I’m sworn to secrecy by The Sequential Sasquatch Society.

These things really seem to happen in waves. I had a couple of zombie stories I wanted to do a couple of years ago, but when I shopped them around there really wasn’t much interest. Even by then, the feeling was that zombies had been done to death. So, y’know, you move on to the next thing…

When I pitched Proof, I’d heard of Perhapanauts, but hadn’t seen the book and had no idea what it was about. If I’d known, I probably would’ve scrapped the Proof pitch and Riley and I would have pitched something different. I’m glad I was oblivious, though, because the two books couldn’t be more different and it would have been a shame to let Proof go.

Great minds really do think alike. And then there’s my mind…

BF: Is there any particular book that held a bit of inspiration for you? I mean in some ways The Lodge is similar to BPRD.

AG: If B.P.R.D. influenced Proof, it was accidental. I’m of the opinion that everything you’ve ever read or seen has influenced you to some degree and I’ve certainly read B.P.R.D. But I think it has much more to do with my natural inclination to write crime stories. In a lot of ways, Proof is a police procedural story and if you’re going to write in that genre you need to have a station house. There has to be a jailer to lock up the bad guys and a support staff for your policemen. So that’s where The Lodge came from, really.

BF: You talk about Proof being a police procedural story. Would you care to expand on that? Because it certainly doesn’t read like Patricia Cornwell or even Gotham Central.

AG: It’s really not supposed to, but that’s the germ of the idea we started with. I didn’t want to do straight horror, but I wanted the book to feel a little gritty and to clearly fit in our regular world. The temptation for a lot of writers with a premise like this would be to go too far in one direction or another, pulling in a lot of comedy or impossible technology (jet-setting secret agents tracking The Loch Ness Monster…), so I try to structure it as invisibly as I can along the lines of a police procedural… We have our cops and they’re assigned cases. They go out to interview witnesses and get into trouble. At the end, they try to uphold the law and jail, rather than kill, the perpetrators.

Of course there’s no formula I follow and every story doesn’t begin or end that way, but it’s a mindset that helps keep Proof grounded. That way, Proof is always about the characters, about the hang-ups and travails of these cops, rather than being about "the monster of the month."

BF:Back to inspiration... There seems to be a certain amount of interest in Cryptids of late. What with the whole ice box hoax, the talk of all the chubacabras, and the release of books like The Gwaii and Yeti Vs Vampire. Do you feel responsible for this? What is a Cryptid, exactly? Do you have a favorite of the other Bigfoot/Cryptid books or do you avoid them?

AG: I think a cryptid has to be something that could plausibly exist, even if humans haven’t found the evidence yet. Vampires, werewolves, space aliens, all that… Those things depend on a certain amount of magic or science fiction to get by. And I’m not saying there’s no magic and I’m not saying there aren’t people on other planets. How would I know? But magic and other planets don’t figure into our real-world, day-to-day lives. A giant hairy hominid bounding onto the road in front of your car, though? Well, it’s not impossible to imagine.

Todd and I have become friends since Proof debuted and I do read Perhapanauts now. Every once in a while, I’ll be dismayed, like when I discovered he had plans for a Mothman character. You know, then I’ve got to figure out whether we shouldn’t use The Mothman in Proof for fear of treading the same ground as the other book. But in talking to Todd and finding out where he was going with that, we had much different takes on that particular phenomenon and there was no need to worry at all. Mostly, though, I’m not all that interested in other takes on cryptids. We’ve carved out our own niche here and I’d much rather read the actual history behind this stuff than someone else’s idea of what it’s all about.

I sure wish I could claim responsibility for all the interest in cryptids, though. Wow!

To be continued on Wednesday, December 11.

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