These days, comic readers best know Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard for their work on projects like “Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker” and “The Walking Dead” respectively. And some savvy fans may know the pair’s collaborative work on titles like “CODEFLESH.” But one of the projects the pair is most proud of has been
out of print and out of sight under the radar for a number of years: the graphic novel “Rock Bottom.”
Originally published in 2006 by AiT/PlanetLar, the stripped down story of a rough and tumble Rockabilly musician who’s slowly turning into stone presents a different side of both creators’ work, and as announced today at Emerald City Comic Con, the book will be returning this fall in a new hardcover edition from Image Comics.
It’s the second such project for Casey who recently announced the return of he and Steve Parkhouse’s “The Milkman Murders” through Image, but the writer is quick to point out the uniqueness of “Rock Bottom.” “This thing kind of exists on its own,” he said. “I really can’t think of anything else that Charlie and I have done that connects to this. From the way it was written to Charlie’s approach to the art, it seems to stand alone. It’s a singular piece of work. Which is what I like about it.”
Drawn by Adlard in a sparse, clean-line style, the book is a departure for the artist, but one he’d like to return to if not on his ongoing, chart-topping gig with the undead. “I doubt that I’ll ever do ‘The Walking Dead’ like that,” the artist explained. “As Joe said, ‘Rock Bottom’ is a singular stand alone piece of work and that style suits and works for that project. I may return to that style at a later date for another project, but it won’t be for a certain zombie series.
“The art, for me, still stands up – there’s obviously bits and pieces here and there that I might wince at, but that’s just “old” artwork – I’d like to think I’ve improved since then. When I do other projects away from ‘TWD,’ I like to do something different – to experiment a little – and that’s why I’m still very proud of what I accomplished here.”
The story of Thomas Dare stands out for the creators in a number of ways. Outside the premise of musician turns to stone, a much more personal story simmers. “There’s a fair amount of dread permeating throughout this story, much more so than I would ever consider writing today,” Casey said. “It’s just not where my head is at. I’m not quite sure what I was on about when I came up with the initial idea, way back when. Clearly, it’s a metaphor for terminal disease… which is not something that I personally have a lot of experience with. But I must’ve been curious about exploring it, on some level. Maybe it’s the hypochondriac in me, demanding to be heard. At the very least, it’s a story where I was able to get a few things out of my system.”
Adlard added, “From what Joe’s just said there – the book sounds like a real downer. But, the reason I was attracted to it was that it was the most uplifting book I’d ever read. It’s the only script I read first hand where I just felt that I HAD to draw this – no one else.”
When it hits comic shops, the book will contain some extra material and a new cover by Adlard, though it won’t quite be a process-piece blowout for one simple reason. “Funnily enough, Charlie’s not much of a sketch guy, so it’s not like there’s a ton of development material available,” Casey said. “I’ll probably end up doing some sort of retrospective flim-flam where I spout off endlessly about shit that only I’m interested in. Y’know, my usual dance move.” Adlard added of the cover, “I’m looking forward to it. It’ll give me the chance to do something a bit more design oriented.”
As for why Image and why now, the wrier revealed,”It’s an age old story, but basically, the original contract for the book expired. Similar to ‘The Milkman Murders’ hardcover I’m doing this summer, Charlie and I simply had to be patient until the ‘Rock Bottom’ was free and clear and back in our sole possession. Personally, I’d been counting down the months for us to be able to do it, because I’m proud of the work we put into it. It’s a very human story, very down to Earth, not at all like the comicbooks I’ve been known for doing recently. So I can’t think of anything more punk rock that laying ‘Rock Bottom’ on anyone that’s been reading my work on things like ‘Officer Downe’ or ‘Butcher Baker.'”
“May I add that I think it’s the best work Joe and myself have done in our collaborations,” Adlard noted. “I’ll go as far as to say I think it’s the best work I’ve seen of Joe’s, and it was some of the best art I had also done up to that point. So anyone that’s interested in GOOD comic books should really read this. I’m not normally interested in self promotion – but I believe passionately about this project.”
Over six years after the initial release of “Rock Bottom,” its creators aren’t surprised that there haven’t been more Rock N Roll stories told in the form of late. “Plain and simple, it’s hard to convey music in purely visual terms,” Casey said. “Sound is the one real limitation in comic books. I think Charlie did a great job of depicting that aspect of Thomas Dare’s life. And, in the context of the story itself, I wanted Thomas to have a skill that would be directly affected by his affliction. Both Charlie and I are musicians ourselves, so I think we could both relate to it on a more personal level.”
“Plus the fact that it was an excuse for me to draw drums RIGHT,” Adlard laughed. “No one in the comics industry ever drums correctly.. I just had to address the balance.”
The artist added, “It’s just a book that deserves a wider audience. Out of everything I’ve done, THIS is the one.” And Casey backed him up, saying, “I think it’s some of Charlie’s best work as an artist, so it’s cool to put it out in a more permanent, hardcover edition. Anyone who reads ‘The Walking Dead’ and thinks they know the range of Charlie’s talent should take a look at this motherfucker. And I’m glad to see this thing being published by Image Comics. It’s exactly where this book belongs.”