Eric Chats With Alex Grecian About Proof #17
Guest Starring Kelly Tindall
Welcome to this edition of Proof Positive. This edition covers issue 17 where we got a nice stand alone lead story featuring our chupacabra. We also get to learn a bit more about her past and the back up gave us a little insight into what she was up to with that pie a few months back. So let's jump right into this week's column guest starring Kelly Tindall!
Eric: We see two completely different personality traits from our chupacabra this issue. One from when she hadn't come to the lodge yet and the other after she did. Was it important to show different sides to the character?
Alex: We were finally showing how Nadine got from Mexico to Minnesota, and exploring her personality in a less sophisticated incarnation, so it was important to flip that coin and show her progression in the present since the last time we featured her.
I'd had both stories planned for quite some time, but was looking for an artist for that backup story (which is part two of a three-part story, BTW). Once we had Kelly onboard to draw the main feature, Riley and I wanted to maintain Riley's presence in the book (and Kelly wanted him there too), so it made sense for Riley to go ahead and draw "Special Delivery." I didn't originally intend to put both stories in one issue, but it all kind of came together.
Eric: So Kelly, for those not in the know, you're usually the colorist on the book, right?
I colored most of issue #13 (all the Savage Dragon/Thunderbird pages and the SCREAMLAND backup), but normally I draw backup stories like "Treasures" in #4 and "Autumn Leaves" in #10. I do everything on the two-page Archie Snow backups (except lettering, which Alex does).
Eric: Speaking of the archie snow back up stories, did you approach Alex about that when they were launching the book or did he come to you about it?
Kelly: I wanted to do some regular work, not a full monthly or anything, so I asked Riley about doing Archie as a regular serial over beers, and then I talked to Alex. He was happy to turn two pages a month over to me. I think it helped the guys fill some pages, at least at the start.
Eric: So how was it working with someone else on the main story for the first time Alex?
Alex: Riley and Kelly, while both fast and talented, have different styles and different approaches to the work. And they bring different things to a story. That could have been a stumbling block, since Riley is the visual puppetmaster of this series. Fortunately, Kelly's been our go-to guy from very early in the series' run, so there was no need to try to get him up to speed on the sensibility of Proof's world. He knew the score and could hit the ground running, giving me exactly what we needed for this story. It also doesn't hurt that Kelly and I are currently collaborating on another series of graphic novels, which should start coming out later this year, so we were comfortable working together.
I ended up creating a new batch of supporting characters for Kelly so that he'd have the freedom to make them his own, from a visual/creative standpoint, without having to worry about being compared to Riley quite so much. Riley and I both ended up being pleased as punch. Kelly hit it out of the park.
Eric: Kelly how was it for you to be drawing in the proof universe? Was there a lot of reference needed?
Kelly: It was great! People really enjoy the book and I was nervous to be taking over the art, even if it was for a little bit. I only agreed to do the book if Riley were going to be doing a backup. He's 100% committed to the book, and I didn't want it to seem like he were leaving, not even for a moment. Although I wasn't working with the Proof main cast, I still had to make sure that the parts of Mexico,
Texas, and Minnesota we used looked properly dingy and weird. Anything that's drawn or colored well in the book, you can thank NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and the hours of unpleasant research Alex and I did on meatpacking plants.
I had a hard time 'casting' the main characters... I must admit to becoming quite fond of Maria (Nadine's Mexican skin), whom I based a bit on America Ferrerra. I was sad to see Betty (The Smuggler) go; I have a bit of a crush on that type of older lady.
Eric: Speaking of the research into the meatpacking plants, did you guys want to talk about that a little bit? I found some of the cryptoids in the issue really, really interesting. How much research was done into the plants?
Kelly: Kelly: Oh, lots. It's easy to find really horrible pictures on the internet (PETA was very helpful) but I also have a lot of friends who worked in meat-packing plants when they were younger. They were really enthusiastic about offering advice and stories. We didn't really use any, but suffice to say that the story could have been much, much more harsh.
From a design perspective, I wanted everything to look like it was from the sixties or seventies, just busted and old and yellow and weird. Nothing newer than thirty years old. Lots of cheerful yellow and mint, like a hospital.
Alex: I had a tough time with it. I can't eat beef anyway, but some of what goes on in those places makes me feel worse for the people involved than I do the animals. I live near a meat-packing plant and, for a bit, I thought I was going to have to try to tour it so I could get some pics for Kelly. Fortunately, he uncovered a source that had actually worked in one of those places and helped nail down the visuals.
Much of this story was triggered by a couple of things that happened in conjunction... When I was plotting the first Proof arc (way back when), I discovered that El Chupacabra had recently been sighted in Minnesota. Of course, much of that probably has to do with the nature of cryptids and urban myths. They tend to spread outward from a central location as they take hold in the imagination. Serious grassroots marketing. But Minnesota is much closer to the Pacific Northwest setting of Proof than Puerto Rico or Mexico are, and I wanted Proof to stick close to home so we could explore the supporting cast. I ran with the Minnesota sighting.
At the same time, I was reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. It was horrifying, if not all that surprising, to read about the conditions in our nation's food industry. When I came across the bit about a meat-packing plant herding illegal immigrants onto a bus and driving them to Minnesota to provide cheap labor, two and two added up for me. So that's how Nadine got there! Schlosser's book was an invaluable resource and most of the Cryptoids in issue 17 either came directly from Fast Food Nation or were triggered by re-reading it as I wrote the script for Kelly.
The real-life story was, if anything, even worse than the one Kelly and I created. Those poor people got off the bus in front of a homeless shelter. But the shelter refused to take them in because they didn't want to be used that way by the meat-packing plant, which was just trying to save cash by not housing those folks. I genuinely don't understand how humans could treat cattle the way we do (or chickens or pigs), much less other people.
So I've had this story in the back of my head for a long time now, but didn't know where to put it. Riley and I briefly toyed with the idea of doing a one-shot Nadine spin-off, but then Riley suddenly needed a little more time to prep for the "Julia" arc (all that Victorian architecture and fashion research) and Kelly was ready and willing to pitch in and help out, so...
Eric: So will Kelly continue to be the colorist for the series in the long term future?
Alex: As good a colorist as Kelly is, I've got him tied up as the artist on another project. Our new colorist is Dave Casey. He colored the back cover of issue 11 for us and was responsible for all the art, including the coloring, on the "Butterscotch Pie" story in issue 12 (which led into issue 17's backup story). We hope to keep Dave for a long long time. He started with issue 18 and he's already turned in the first part of issue 19. His work is absolutely amazing and it compliments Riley's art perfectly. Proof's entering a whole new era!
Kelly: I colored PROOF #17 because I wanted to challenge myself. I'm sure Riley would have done it if I had asked him, but I wanted to take as much pressure off him as I could. I really enjoy coloring but I have a lot of other irons in the fire, and I want to be known for my art first and foremost. I think the book will look great with my dear old friend Dave Casey as the regular colorist; he's great.
Eric: Alex moving on a little, your evil you know that? Is this what kicks off the cryptid war? The general now having his escape in his hands.
Alex: I am evil, but nobody was supposed to catch on until it was too late. :)
What happens with Colonel Dachshund may surprise our readers. We've just started to reveal what's going on, but not everything's as it seems. The first 17 issues set things up. The Cryptid War's coming fast and everybody's going to have to choose sides pretty soon.
Eric: next issue finally has the long awaited Julia arc, are you excited to have Proof be in his past for a little while and let the fans see what started The Lodge as we have it now?
Alex: I honestly haven't been this excited since we launched Proof in the first place. The "Julia" arc is almost a whole new series. If readers have been following the book, this arc is going to fill in some of the missing pieces of Proof's background, but new readers who pick it up will be coming in on a fresh new story that doesn't require any knowledge of previous continuity.
It's the best work Riley and I have ever done and, like I said, we've got a fantastically talented colorist (and illustrator in his own right), enhancing the whole thing. Riley's painted covers will knock your socks off! We can't wait until people get a chance to see this.
Eric: Would you like to talk a little about you and Kelly's new project or do you want to wait till it's solicited? Squeak! is the title right? I know I'm looking forward to it.
Alex: My new project with Kelly is called Squeak! and is an all-ages digest-sized original graphic novel about a pet mouse that gets bitten by a werewolf. At the next full moon, the little white mouse becomes a mousewolf! I'd describe it as The Howling meets Gon. It's a lot of fun. Look for it later this year.
Well that's it for this month, look for Squeak some point in the summer as I know I'm looking forward to it by a lot. Next month as Alex said is the start of the Julia arc as all of us proof readers are heavily looking forward to it. As usual if you have any questions for Alex just send them my way and you can see them in the next edition of our column. Or you can send them straight to the source and possibly find yourself on the letters page of the book, just send your email to email@example.com. That's it for us though, see you here next month!
Continuing the Preview
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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