Arcudi "Rumbles" with a Scary Scarecrow

The mind of writer John Arcudi seems like a fun mix of madness and cartoon mayhem. If you look at the characters he's created and written in his career -- from the Mask to Major Bummer to the B.P.R.D. and Abe Sapien books -- they all seem to walk a fine line between humor, horror, and high adventure. It's an eclectic mix of genre that Arcudi knows well, and it's on full display in his newest work "Rumble," an ongoing series launching from Image Comics this December.

Described as "a modern-day action fantasy series where rundown dive bars, undead kitty cats, psycho skinheads and giant mummies run amok," the book features a variety of intriguing characters. The most notable individual among these is Rathraq, an unusual warrior whose return from a long absence helps to kick off the comic's main story. Coincidentally, this character also happens to be the writer's source of inspiration behind the series.

"I seem to recall seeing a drawing a million years ago -- not a drawing of a scarecrow, though. It's a long, long time ago -- so I'm not really sure about this -- but I think that's what got my mind rolling, and as time went on, it turned into a scarecrow," Arcudi told CBR News. "Then a scarecrow with the personality of Conan... and then, well, what Rathraq is now. The rest of the story grew with him."

When asked for more details about the story and its setting, Arcudi played it sly. "I don't want to give it all away. But I will tell you that it involves Rathraq, who just so happens to be a scarecrow warrior god -- or so he thinks. He's come to a big dark, old, dilapidated city to get set some things right in his life, but unfortunately, he may just end up getting more things wrong. A lot more things!"

The artist tasked with bringing all of these characters and places to life is someone who Arcudi has successfully worked with previously: his "B.P.R.D." cohort James Harren. As they had created strange creatures and settings together before, their partnership on "Rumble" appears to be a natural (if not perfect) continuation of those efforts, according to Arcudi.

"James and I have been talking since before his first 'Abe' story, and as we worked together more and more, the idea of collaborating on a creator-owned book came up. [And I felt that James] would be perfect for 'Rumble!'" Arcudi explained of the collaboration. "So I trotted out my original idea, and he and I worked on it over coffee and over the phone until it was even more perfect for him. He really brought the series and ideas to life, and now I can't see it without him."

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In addition to Harren, Arcudi went one step further to bring the "B.P.R.D." band back together and recruited colorist Dave Stewart for "Rumble." In talking about his team on this book, the writer seems more pleased than a zombie at an all-brain buffet.

"First off, let me say how happy -- how ecstatic! -- we are that Dave Stewart is coloring 'Rumble!' I mean, it's just incredible! Also, we were lucky enough to [get] Chris Eliopoulos on letters. We really got the best on this series. Seriously, there's no way we could have done better."

With regards to the color palette Stewart will be using on the book, Arcudi said, "I leave that all up to the genius that is color maestro Dave Stewart and the fevered imagination of James Harren. James gives his input, his notes, and then it's in Dave's more than capable hands -- and from what I've seen so far, nobody will be disappointed!"

As already mentioned by Arcudi, this story's inspiration came from a scarecrow-like drawing. Thanks to Harren's artistic touches, however, this general idea of a scarecrow has turned into a fully-formed warrior god that looks as if it's part "Road Warrior" and part Japanese legend. Although the writer explained that Rathraq's finished design is much more than the sum of its parts.

"James' art might telegraph a 'Japanese folklore' vibe, but that's not where it started for me. On Rathraq's design, I'm afraid poor James had to deal with some very specific ideas and images. I already had some drawings from a previous incarnation and I didn't want to get too, too far from that visualization. He certainly put his own stamp -- his own brilliant and distinct vision -- on Rathraq, but still... (Sorry about all that, James.) The rest of the characters, and the world itself, James had a much freer hand with those things -- especially the monsters."

Regarding the rest of the story's cast, Arcudi mentioned the book will feature a large and diverse set of individuals, such as: "Bobby La Rosa, a young bartender stuck in this old Detroit-like city, serving drinks to the dregs of society. Del, a slightly crazy skinhead with a decidedly odd world view. Timah, a skeptical woman in grad school who desperately needs new friends. And Xotlaha, a pretty major player in the monster community."

At a time when many new comic titles "test the waters" with limited series, Arcudi seems pleased he can present "Rumble" as an ongoing saga to readers. It wasn't a difficult decision for the writer either, as he simply explained, "Years back it was just going to be a mini, but as I've been thinking about it -- and especially when James and I started talking about -- it became a much bigger story. As a result, we needed more pages!

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"There are a couple of themes that will guide the overall storyline through its whole run; one of them is the sometimes sad efforts to recapture old glory," Arcudi continued. "Now that's something that an old athlete can't actually pull off in the real world, but when you're talking about monsters and living scarecrow warriors, anything is possible -- which leads me to say that it's also the characters that will drive the story -- that will make it that much more interesting. Their responses, sometime their defiance, in the face of the circumstances, that's what makes this a big, weird, sometimes explosive series."

In closing, Arcudi reiterated that this book isn't easily defined by a single tone or genre. However, this is one of the main factors that excites him about working on the book and, in turn, should excite potential readers. "I'd say that it's a mixture of everything I love and love to write," he said. "It's a bizarre view of some real-life themes, warped and amplified through the prism of a dark fantasy world -- a fantasy world encroaching bit-by-bit onto our world. It'll be a blast, trust me!"

"Rumble" #1 fights its way into stores December 17 from Image Comics.

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