Eric Chats With Alex Grecian About Proof Endangered

Welcome to the latest edition of the Proof Positive column. We are nearing the end of Endangered and the break in the series for the immediate future. As usual Alex and I talk about everything in the issue as well as a few things that came to my mind during the conversation. So without further ado, unto to the questions!

Eric: To start off this edition of the column, Alex, I would really love to talk about that cover a little. Obviously a huge spoiler and fans of the series still reeling (Some of us were holding out hope that things really were not what they seemed). That is not only a beautiful cover but truly haunting. Was this something you left completely up to Riley or was it a long conversation you guys had after those final few pages of issue three?

Alex: No, We've had a couple of long conversations about covers in general, but Riley sometimes seems to churn these things out by the bushel-full, clearing out artistic cobwebs and trying new things. So I generally sit back and have the luxury of picking and choosing from a variety of cover images he sends along.

In this case, we were going to run with the wraparound of Proof rushing to save Elvis, but while it worked as a wraparound, it didn't work as well if you only saw the front of it. Proof was on the back cover, which seemed wrong, and the image of Elvis being shot didn't pack as much dramatic punch as we wanted it to. Riley was in a painty mood the day we talked about it and just told me to wait for the end of the day. Then he sent me the one we eventually went with. I suggested we turn it upside-down and that was it.

But I went ahead and solicited a panel from the "Julia" arc as the cover for Previews because I didn't want to spoil anything. Fans would have known that Elvis was dead before they even read the second issue of this arc! We didn't want that.

Eric: Changing tone completely from the first question... I see unicorns! If I'm not mistaken, and you can correct me, but we haven't seen unicorns in the book at all yet, have we? There was an animal close to them I think, unless I'm mixing myself up here.

Alex: I don't recall using anything similar to unicorns in the series before, but it's definitely possible. This arc is a love letter to our long-time readers. We set out to try to make the series more accessible to new folk, and make it more action-driven besides, but we've filled the thing up with Easter eggs and references that, hopefully, our most loyal ProofReaders are gonna notice and appreciate. We've had one fan clamoring for a unicorn in the book for a long long time. So if we were going to show Zhen Ying (Mi-Chen-Po's fortress) it was a no-brainer to throw some unicorns in there. (One of the unicorns is named "Stabby," by the way.)

Eric: So wait, how is Marc able to fit into the Jack costume? Does he have more missing limbs now which would confuse me as to how he was normal just a few issues before.

Alex: Po's modified the Springheel Jack costume so it'll fit Marc. But of course Marc's dead now, so that was a waste of time, huh?

Eric: Another little cameo i've noticed, are those bat creatures supposed to be the infamous batboy from the tabloids?

Alex: Those are "ahools." They're an African cryptid. Riley chose to draw them as sort of small and cute, but they're theoretically big bat-things with gorilla heads and bodies. I imagined them as fairly terrifying when I wrote them, but Riley works in mysterious ways.

Eric: Well I believe we covered it a little bit in last months issue. Marc was basically just a soldier/pawn to get through to Ginger for Po wasn't he? So obviously Po got the man to think he was something special, only to know that she'd turn on him. Why did he have that suit though if we can talk about that a little? Was it to disguise the fact that there was human in Po's camp?

Alex: Hmm. With this series, there's just been a huge amount of backstory and character work that never saw the light of day (the story of the Blue Men of the Minch would have been awesome).

So here's the deal... Losing Ginger and his hand at the same time sent Marc around the bend just a bit. He had a lot of trouble dealing with his new body image and started dressing in costumes. Po indulged that tendency because... well, why not? So the Springheel Jack and Oni costumes were strictly there to make Marc feel comfortable and not anything that originated with Po or fed into his master plan.

Maybe that's all something that I should've popped into a Cryptoid at some point. In fact, I might go ahead and do that for the trade if I decide it adds something to the story instead of muddying the waters.

Eric: I really love Nadine's reaction to what happened to Elvis. I've really been surprised to see her evolution throughout the series. From being sent to get Proof's attention in the first place, to taking care of Joy and his sisters and this motherly feeling towards Elvis, she may have become the most well-rounded character in the book.

Alex: Nadine is our favorite character. Both Riley and I love her. I briefly considered killing her in this arc, but (spoiler) neither Riley nor I wanted to see that happen so close on the heels of Elvis's death. I truly never have the slightest clue what Nadine's going to do, so she keeps the whole process of making this comic book fresh all by herself. And when Proof comes back, I'm pretty sure Nadine will somehow come back too.

Eric: Even at the end, Elvis died a noble and good guy. Was it important to you to send him off by showing that even in death he showed that he still cared about his friends and trying to snap Ginger out of what Po had done to her?

Alex: Yeah, Elvis was a good guy and the one character I most identified with (if that doesn't sound too self-serving to say). There were different ways he could have gone out and I had something different planned initially. He could have died while doing something heroic and big and memorable, but that wasn't really who he was. He was a gentle guy and it was more important to give him that brief private moment with the woman he's loved throughout this entire series than to write an action scene. It was important, too, to show that in this situation of course he'd know she was being controlled. You'd know, wouldn't you? I don't like characters who can't figure out the things that I would be able to figure out if I were in their stories. Anyway, we'll miss him.

Eric: I'm really curious to know how you wrote that the last two panels of Elvis death scene where Ginger turns the gun on herself. It was such a dark and tense moment that you really had no idea where it would go. It felt a little "Whedonlike" to me.

Alex: That would have been pretty devastating if we'd killed both Elvis and Ginger in the same issue!

Not sure what you mean by Whedonlike, but I have to admit that I have only a selective knowledge of his stuff. I might be the one guy out there who's seen Firefly (and Serenity), but not Buffy or Angel. I read his X-Men run too and thought it was pretty damn good. He's a writer whose work I respect without having actually experienced a whole lot of it. So I'll take your observation as a high compliment without fully understanding what it means. :)

Eric: DId we just see the 100 percent true form of this breed of chupacabra? I feel that it's a pretty big step in the over-all Proof mythos if we did. Not to mention how opposite it is to Nadine.

Alex: Pretty much, yeah. Her fur is kinda slimy and matted here 'cause she's just pulled back her "mask." If you go back and look at the brief glimpses we get of Nadine's true form in the first trade, Nadine's bulkier, but similar-looking. She was hanging around in her furry form for awhile, so it was maybe fuller and more manageable. Who knows? Maybe there are different races of chupacabra.

Eric: It's good to see the Colonel show up, if even only for just a few short pages. Love seeing that he'd take his own life before letting the chupacabra take over his body.

Alex: Yeah, he's an intense guy. I love to write him because he's absolutely the hero of the book in his own head. And he sort of gets to rise to the role of hero by the end of his turn in issue five.

Eric: Do the others have any idea that that's not the real Wayne? I mean it seems like he's on the good side of things it's just that the Colonel may try to kill him if he knows the truth right?

Alex: Nope. Unless I'm mistaken, nobody but Gloria (and Qi) know that Leander's taken Wayne's place. And, yeah, I imagine Dachshund would probably kill Wayne if he knew.

Eric: Was the other Chupacabra going through fake Wayne's skins?

Alex: No, those are soldiers' skins. Kogami's killed some of the soldiers that she brought with her back in issue one. Unlike Nadine, she likes a large wardrobe.

Eric: What's the severity of the damage Po did to Ginger's mind?

Alex: We don't know yet. We really don't even know what he did or how he did it. If and when we tell the story "The Squid and the Mountain" we'll get into that a bit, but we don't really explore it much in issue five. There's too much other stuff to deal with.

I will say that we don't wrap much of anything up in issue five, so readers will either be very happy or very angry with us.

Eric: That pops up a question, when you reach the end of a series like Alias or Starman, they didn't have that clear cut ending. It really felt like a to be continued. Which is obviously the case for Proof some point down the line. Was it important when you guys decided that this was going to be the end for a little while to give the fans as strong as a finale as possible?

Alex: Kind of the opposite, in fact. Instead of a clear-cut ending, we give you three and half "to be continueds" and an epilogue. You'll see when you get there, but we wanted to sort of leave our readers with a promise that Proof will be back, that we need a little time away from Proof, but that he's not going away forever.

Eric: I find it interesting and we've talked about it before that we don't have a clear cut villain here. I mean obviously Po has screwed up heavily here but all the man wants is to really have a connection here. As a writer do you find it difficult to balance things in a way that people aren't absolutely going to hate the "bad guys" at the end of the day?

Alex: The opposite, really. I sympathize with bad guys in stories and think most good guys are pretty damn boring. I'd rather hang out with Lex Luthor than with Clark Kent. I have a feeling Luthor'd be a better conversationalist. When I write, I try not to differentiate between "good guys" and "bad guys." I just make sure everybody has conflicting motivations and agendas. That makes the story a lot more interesting and unpredictable. At least for me.

Eric: Realistically speaking and where his mindset is right now, losing his best friend... do you think Proof will be able to stay calm in the heat of battle or is this going to similar to what happened all the way back in that second arc?

Alex: Proof will get pretty angry in issue five. Somebody will get his ass handed to him. Proof will also be pretty happy in issue five. Somebody will make him smile really big.

Eric: Should we be worried about that look on Ginger's face at the end?

Alex: Mi-Chen-Po should be.

One thing I realized early on in this serious is that it maybe called "Proof," but it's an ensemble piece. The supporting characters are just as important to the creative success of this series as the main character is. Po killed Elvis. That makes him Ginger's problem far more than Proof's.

Eric: So, what can readers expect next issue, Alex?

Alex: Proof: Endangered #5 is either gonna piss a lot of people off or make them very happy. Or maybe both at once. No cryptic teasers from me this time... Next issue will end on three different cliffhangers, but then we'll be jumping ahead five years for an epilogue that shows the very ending scene of this whole series. I wrote this scene a couple of years ago for the end of issue 60, but it seems unfair leave things dangling. It feels right to go ahead and pull back the curtain and show everybody what's coming in Proof's life after all that's happened in Endangered. So it's gonna be an unusual issue, and I hope it's both satisfying and leaves our readers wondering what will happen next, whether we'll be taking up any of the threads we dangled at the end of Endangered or whether we'll be picking things up again after that epilogue. I'm sure you and I will have lots to talk about and I'm hoping readers will go ahead and write in and give us some feedback after they read it, even though there's not much chance they'll see their letters in print, given the upcoming gap between issues. I'm genuinely anxious to find out how our Proof fans will feel about it all.

We'll see you here next month for the last installment of Proof Positive for a while as well as the last issue of Endangered.

Take A Look Inside Proof Endangered #4

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Eric Ratcliffe is a young writer/pop culture journalist/interviewer currently working on pitching a project named the Hunter chronicles. When not reading his weekly stack Eric can be found watching dvd's, playing on his 360 (gamertag: Zack Hunter) or just surfing online trying to find a scoop or two. Brand new to the Comic Related family, Eric is a fun new voice.

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