One year ago, writer Alex Grecian and artist Riley Rossmo achieved what many comics creators only dream of in launching a well-received ongoing series from Image Comics. One year later, they’ve done what many who achieved that first dream can also only dream of: still being published.
Their series, “Proof,” is about to reach a milestone twelfth issue, marking one year in publication, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The occasion also marks the fact that in that year, they haven’t missed a ship date. Grecian and Rossmo spoke with CBR news about "Proof;" what it's about, why it’s successful and what’s to come.
“Proof” follows John Prufrock, an agent of a secret group that investigates crytozoological phenomena. Rossmo describes him as “about a middle aged man, who’s very polite. He travels and investigates strange happenings. And he's a bigfoot.”
That’s right, the main character is a bigfoot.
The Lodge, the top-secret government organization in question is jointly funded by the United States and Canada, and is headed by a mysterious figure named Leander Wight. “[His] goal is to ensure that humans and cryptids live in harmony,” Grecian said. ”Cryptids are monsters that might actually exist, creatures that have been witnessed, but never caught. The Loch Ness Monster, El Chupacabra, The Mothman, Bigfoot -- all cryptids. “
Prufrock the sasquatch — Proof, as he is known to his friends -- is the only non-human in the outfit. “He's a stylish guy who cares deeply about his appearance and manners, but for obvious reasons he can't interact with the public,” Rossmo said. “Proof is an animal, playing at being a man. He wants to be human on the one hand, but on the other he wants to know where he’s from and whether there are others like him. He needs to know who he is.”
The series also has a lively cast of supporting characters including Proof's partner Ginger Brown. “She was a rookie FBI agent and was recruited by The Lodge after she met a golem while on a case in New York,” Rossmo explained. “She’s driven by a need to prove herself (oh, another reason for the title of the book) and a growing sense of curiosity about everything out there that she now knows exists.”
“Ginger.is my favorite character,” Rossmo added. She takes things as they come, she's stubborn, she’s kind, but mostly she’s a police.”
There’s also Elvis Chestnut, who came to The Lodge after his mother was killed by a cryptid. “[He] wants to find his place in the world and experience a bit more, improve himself.”
Finally, there’s Nadine, the chupacabra, who is a monster “that eats your innards and wears your skin,” said Rossmo. “She’s our wild card. Alex and I find that she does crazy things we never expected. She’s tender, then vile, then just strange.”
And then there are the creatures. “We treat them like animals and don’t try to anthropomorphize them too much,” Rossmo said. “They want to hunt and eat and play sleep and procreate. Same things we all want, I guess.”
Rossmo cited “punctuality and cool monsters,” as the reason for “Proof’s” success in reaching its first milestone in a very competitive market, especially for a book by independent creators. Grecian also attributes “Proof’s” success to its characters. “Strange as some of them are, they’re all grounded and three-dimensional. At least they are to me,” he said. “It was important to us to create characters that readers would want to spend time with every month. An ongoing series can’t just be about a series of adventures, a ‘monster of the month,’ there have to be consequences to everything and each arc has to lead the characters through changes. Who they are has everything to do with how they react to the things that happen in the book and that’s what makes it worth checking in. I think our readership really cares about the people in ‘Proof.’
“It doesn’t hurt that we’ve been able to put out an entire year’s worth of issues without shipping late. We’re very proud and happy that we’re establishing the mythology of ‘Proof’ fairly quickly. No long delays between issues.”
Riley Rossmo and Alex Grecian have been pleased by both fan and critical reaction to the book since its debut a year ago. “We've had great reviews and have a bunch of really solid die-hard readers,” Rossmo said. “Which is gratifying. All the positive buzz helps motivate us to keep getting Proof out there every month.
Additionally, “we’ve got a fantastic core readership, who are very active in spreading the word about ‘Proof,’ giving away copies of the first trade and writing in each month,” Rossmo was quick to add. “We love interacting with them. Our reviews have unanimously positive so far and that’s been encouraging. Buzz seems to still be building, even after a year.”
The creators also enjoy interacting with those fans. “I was really surprised and thrilled by how many people have come to see us at cons,” Rossmo said. “I dig it when someone picks up the book for the first time, but I’m even more excited when someone brings an entire run of ‘Proof’ for us to sign.”
Grecian holds up a favorite moment from early in the series and indicates it may be revisited later on. “The end of the first arc,” he said, “when the evil dangerous chupacabra adopts three fairy children to raise as her own. It came out of left field, but was a sweet kind of fairy tale ending, with a bizarre twist. I’m looking forward to revisiting that household soon to see how the little family is doing.”
While revisiting characters or storylines are one of the perks of having a successful ongoing series, as it progresses the creators also find themselves free to approach “Proof” differently than they had in the beginning. “I stress more about how the book looks than I used to, Rossmo said. ”I was more willing to experiment with the art while ‘Proof’ was still trying to find its readership, but now that I know people are seeking this book out every month, there’s a little more pressure to make sure I’m bringing my A-game.”
“Riley stresses as much as he ever did,” Grecian added. “We both do when it comes to that monthly deadline, but I feel a little more confident about being able to go ahead and tell the stories we wanted to tell from the beginning. We were so terrified, when the book started, that we’d be cancelled that we had our fingers crossed, hoping we’d have a chance to at least put out the entire first arc. Now I’m looking forward to the future of the book, knowing the cool things we have in store. I can’t wait for reader reaction to some of the things we’re planning.”
And what exactly are they planning? “In the next year we get to see how weird it is to be Proof,” Rossmo teased. “He’s not a human, but he’s sentient. He loves, hurts, has some weird habits, just like any of us, but he has trouble relating to people no matter how much he wants to be like them. We explore some more spooky stuff in the next year: an Oni, Blue Men, Sea Hags, Wendigos and Springheel Jack.”
“Oh, and we’ve got the strangest guest appearance by an Image character ever coming up in issue #13,” the artist revealed.
“Now that the third arc is wrapping up, we’re finishing what I’ve been calling ‘Act One,’” Grecian said. “We’ve established all the major characters and situations and can have fun exploring it all. This next year, we’re going to dive right in and start delving into Proof back story, sampling his 200-year life. We’ll also get around to telling the story of the founding of The Lodge. Moving forward, we’re setting things in motion that lead to the end of everything. There’s some jaw-dropping stuff just around the next bend.”
“Proof” #12 is on sale now from Image Comics.