Grecian's "Proof" Is "Endangered"

John Prufrock is not alone.

The sophisticated sasquatch at the heart of Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo's "Proof" once believed he was the only creature of his kind, but some new - and grisly - evidence to the contrary has come to light in the form of a severed sasquatch finger. Now, Proof isn't just convinced that there are others out there like him; he's determined to find them.

Proof's quest to learn more about his big foot origins is at the heart of "Proof: Endangered," a new miniseries that effectively relaunches Grecian and Rossmo's long-running title. In "Endangered," Proof and his allies Ginger Brown and Elvis Chestnut are headed to San Francisco's Japantown district to find out more about the severed sasquatch finger, but the Bay Area provides our heroes with more danger than they bargained for. Meanwhile, back at The Lodge, a newly empowered Wayne Russet - who isn't really Wayne at all - goes up against a force that threatens to destroy the cryptids' safe haven.

"Proof: Endangered" #1 arrives in stores this week from Image Comics, and CBR News spoke with Grecian about the title's relaunch, our hairy hero's continued journey of self-discovery and the future of the series, among other topics.

CBR News: Alex, "Proof" has been on the shelves for a good little while now, but here we are with a brand new number one issue. What led you and Riley to the decision of rebooting "Proof" with a new first issue?

Alex Grecian: Well, there were a lot of factors that went into that decision, the biggest one being that we were starting to fall pretty far behind. Plus, there were other projects that we wanted to do, with other collaborators and with each other. We couldn't very well do two series together at the same time. We'd reached a point in "Proof" where we had the readership we were going to have and we'd finished a major chapter in the overarching story. It was a place where it just made more sense to charge up our batteries and start again than it did to keep slogging forward.

And we're really glad we did. We were able to take a deep breath and start back in and feel excited about making "Proof" again. We were also able to start planning out another series together. And the biggest factor of all: we might be able to get some new people to try this book by giving them a clear jumping-on point. We love our loyal readers, but we'd like to reach as big a readership as we can with this story 'cause we're putting everything we've got into it. "Proof" is a real labor of love for us.

Although there are times where "Proof" is a procedural, case-by-case series, you've also been carefully constructing a mythology with these characters, both in terms of their pasts and their futures. In rebooting the series with "Proof: Endangered" #1, do you find that you need to keep things a little more accessible for new readers, or are you still focusing heavily on the greater mythology of the series? Is it a challenge trying to keep this accessible for new readers while honoring the material that old readers are counting on?

I was extremely worried about that when we first went on hiatus and decided to come back with a new #1 issue. But it's been a big surprise for me how smoothly it's all worked out. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have worried about it as much as I did.

In the first place, any series creators hope that new readers will be hopping on throughout the run of their book. You're always concerned about whether people will be able to come in and know what's going on. You're always working clues into every issue for new readers. But it's not hard to pick things up from the context of a story and everybody does it all the time. Comic book readers and TV watchers are used to doing it. It's sort of ingrained in our culture. If you've never watched "The Office" before and you tune in for an episode, it's not going to take you very long to figure out where they are (hint: it's an office) and what their relationships with each other are (they're coworkers). Nobody needs to hold your hand and walk you through it.

In the second place, we basically spent 28 issues setting this series up and taking care of all the exposition. From that point, we'd paid our dues and had the option of going as long (or as short) as we wanted, just telling adventure stories with these characters. If you know all that back story from those 28 issues, you're going to be in great shape. If you don't, you'll still see that an intelligent sasquatch is fighting bizarre creatures in exotic locations, and what more do you need in order to enjoy the story? If you feel like you want to know more about where he came from or the intricacies of his relationships, there are five inexpensive trades available. Otherwise, kick back and enjoy the adventure.

Before we dive into the new arc, let's talk about where "Proof" left off. Proof, the titular sasquatch, learned that there are others out there like him, thanks to a particularly grim wake-up call in the form of a severed finger. What's going through Proof's mind right now? How has this discovery rearranged his priorities?

Well, Proof's always been different from a lot of comic book characters, at least main characters, because he was just sort of led around for the entire run of the first series. He never did a whole lot to take control of his own life or follow his own agenda. That was a choice on my part to make him a relatively passive guy. But finding that finger, which indicates that not only does he have a relative somewhere in the world, but that his relative may be in danger, finally motivates him to, y'know, do stuff. He's growing and changing and that's reflected in the much more action-focused "Endangered" series.

Let me just say that the old joke about an 800-pound gorilla applies here. Proof's pissed off and he's going to get what he wants whether you like it or not.

In light of the discovery, Proof is headed to Japantown, San Fransisco with his colleagues and friends Elvis Chestnut and Ginger Brown at his side. Why are they going with him? What's their motivation in going with Proof on this mission?

Ginger's been Proof's partner for a while now, and she doesn't take that lightly. If he's going on a personal mission, then she's not going to think twice about taking a leave of absence and going with him. She's not going to let her partner run into danger by himself. And Elvis is Ginger's boyfriend. He's also Proof's friend. He has no particular ties to anyone or anything else, so naturally he'd go with them.

Speaking of Elvis and Ginger, their relationship has progressed to something decidedly more than friends. What's going on between these two?

Elvis has had a crush on Ginger for a couple of years now (real time, not comic book time), and we saw them finally go on their first date in the last arc of season one. "Proof: Endangered" picks up a couple of weeks after #28, so they've been dating for a bit now. The relationship's still new, but they've been friends long enough that they know each other and trust each other.

And they're grown-ups so, yeah, they're sleeping together.

A big plot twist landed in our laps at the end of the last "Proof" arc when we learned Leander, the guy who has been taking control of the Lodge for the last few years, was not Leander at all, but what appears to have been a Chupacabra lurking within his flesh. What's worse, this same monster killed and skinned poor Wayne and is now using his identity to run the Lodge. How long was that twist in the works? Was anyone ever close to busting you on that one?

We've known from the very beginning that Leander was an imposter. We dropped subtle hints all along (his name, "Wight," means "humanoid creature" and he was able to control Nadine, the chupacabra being held prisoner). I didn't know for sure, not until we were nearing that last arc, that Wayne would die.

Weirdly, my dad figured out that Leander wasn't a person before anybody else did. There were a few guesses from fans on the message boards about it, but I don't remember that anybody put it all together before it was revealed in the book.

I do want to point out, though, that we still don't know what happened in Leander's office. It was just the two of them in there and we don't know for sure that "Leander" murdered Wayne. He is using Wayne's body now, but we've never seen any evidence that he's a cold-blooded killer.

Fair enough. Well, I can't imagine it was an easy decision killing Wayne, a clearly beloved character amongst the legions of "Proof" fans. Was there any hesitation on your part in taking him off the playing field, or was this a necessary step towards the endgame of the series?

It was hard to do. I liked Wayne a lot, but it was the logical move for the sake of the story, so that's what had to happen. I'm glad you mentioned an "endgame" because that's exactly what this is. We've had a goal in mind from issue one and we're moving toward that pretty quickly now. It doesn't necessarily mean the end of the series, but we're paring down the cast of supporting characters as we move forward and I can say that there's a much harder death we have to get through before "Proof: Endangered" is over.

This arc/miniseries appears to pose some significant threats to our hairy hero, if the subtitle is any indication. Give us a tease, Alex: what are we getting ourselves into when "Endangered" kicks off? What are some of your goals in this arc, not just in terms of how it pushes the overall mythology of "Proof" forward, but also how it holds up as its own story?

This arc is a pretty self-contained story (at least in the context of a continuing series) that deals with a single huge event in Proof's life. As with any arc, we want to leave Proof changed by the end of it, so something big has to happen in order to affect his worldview and motivate him even more than he already is. And something big is definitely happening here.

And at the same time, this is something we've been building to for a long time, so there's a huge payoff for readers who've been along for the ride. I don't think they're going to be happy with us. But this is the trigger event for everything that has to happen to get Proof to where we're ultimately taking him. This arc is huge. I think it's fun, too. I think we're going to leave readers anxiously waiting for more "Proof" by the end of this story.

"Proof" already has a rich cast of memorable characters. Can you tell us about some of the figures that you're adding to the pile with this latest arc?

Well, there's the return of most of the main cast, who will be unfamiliar to new readers. Their basic relationships to Proof and to each other are introduced right away, so I don't think anybody will be lost at all by the end of the first issue. And all of the main villains are returning: Nadine (the Chupacabra), Colonel Dachshund (the guy who eats monsters), and Mi-Chen-Po (the yeti who hates human beings). Mi-Chen-Po has been the guiding force behind this series from the beginning and he sets everything in motion here.

But we're also introducing a couple of new, fairly minor, characters: Rain Song (who has a contract giving him the rights to Proof's body when he dies; he'd like to hurry that process along), an enormous jelly creature called the Ningen (a fairly recent Japanese cryptid), and a ninja Chupacabra. The Ninja Chupe is really interesting for us because we've established that Chupacabras are very gender-biased. They take skin from their victims and disguise themselves as those people, but they stay true to their original genders. In other words, a female Chupacabra will attack and disguise herself as a human woman, and a male will wear a man's skin. But this new Chupacabra is a cross-dresser. She wears a man's skin and seems pretty comfortable. We're having some fun with the perceptions of other characters when you've got what seems to be a guy acting very feminine and hitting on men. It's especially confusing for Wayne, who's a straight male Chupacabra in a gay man's skin and he's forced to deal with this straight female Chupacabra in a straight man's skin. Whew! Does that make any sense at all?

Proof and the gang are in Japantown for this arc. Of all the settings and locations you could have selected, why bring the story to Japantown? What appealed to you about this setting for a "Proof" story?

We've planned from very early on to send Proof and Ginger to Asia. Our main villain, Mi-Chen-Po is a yeti, so he's going to be employing more of the critters he knows to bother Proof with. There's a whole slew of strange creatures over there that an American audience is only slightly familiar with and we'd like to explore some of that. We'd already introduced Mongolian Death Worms to the "Proof" series and we wanted to get at some of the other cool cryptids, like the Ningen. Japantown is just the first step to getting everybody over to the other side of the world, in more ways than one.

"Proof" is filled with all sorts of interesting monsters, as we're frequently notified through Cryptoids. What are some of the new creatures and fun facts we're going to see when "Endangered" rolls around, beyond the ones you mentioned before? Are you drawing specifically on Japanese mythology for any of these elements?

As much as we want to keep this arc action-packed and rocketing along - that's where the cryptids come into play - this story is really about the characters and their relationships with each other. It's those relationships that are really "endangered." So, aside from the Death Worms and the Ningen, which are definitely drawn from Asian mythology, we're mostly staying away from introducing any new cryptids in this series. That's plenty, though, since those creatures are going to be tearing Japantown apart to get at Proof and company. This is almost a giant monster movie. The Ningen is just freaking enormous. And the way Riley and our new colorist, Frank Zigarelli, have designed him, it's cool as hell.

Oh, and there's sort of an Oni, which is a Japanese ghost or demon, in the first couple of issues. But not really.

Looking forward, are you and Riley planning on pursuing "Proof" with waves of miniseries as opposed to the ongoing title you were releasing previously? Can you give us a sense of how you envision the future of "Proof's" publishing schedule and format shaking out?

After "Proof: Endangered," Riley and I are planning a series that's tentatively called "The Bends." We're going to finish the first arc of that and then come back and do another arc of "Proof." At this point, my other job is writing novels and my brain's kind of wired right now to write a big chunk of story and then let those characters simmer in the back of my head while I write a big chunk of a totally different story. By breaking up a continuing series into arcs with a short break between each arc, there's a little more breathing space so that we can do special things with the story and the characters. I think it makes a whole lot more sense for the creators, at least for Riley and me, and the only real way it affects readers is that they have to wait a couple of months between each arc, rather than waiting for months in the middle of an arc 'cause we've fallen behind.

For readers who haven't given "Proof" a chance yet, or for those who haven't read it in a while, do you believe "Proof: Endangered" is a good spot to hop back on the wagon? What are you doing here to make sure that fans have a fresh start?

Well, look, it's Bigfoot in a suit, fighting monsters. There's a whole bunch of back story that was set up in the previous "season" of this series, but when it came time to sit down and write "Proof: Endangered," I put the focus on "Bigfoot in a suit, fighting monsters." Everything that's not centered on that is still there, but it's not front and center and it's touched on in a way that I think is universal and easily understood, whether you know who these characters are or not. You don't need to know how Proof ended up dating a human woman in order to understand that he cares about her. You don't need to know Proof's complicated history with his "brother" the yeti in order to see that there are some issues there. If you want to know those things, you can find out by reading the trades, but you don't need to know them.

If you haven't read "Proof" before or you've only read the one-dollar reprint of the first #1, there's not much you need to know in order to enjoy this new series. It's Bigfoot in a suit, fighting monsters. Now you're up to speed.

For those same fans that are on the fence, push 'em over. Why should they pick up "Proof: Endangered" #1? What are they getting here that they won't get elsewhere in the comic book scene?

Well, you can get action in almost any comic, but we've got the only gratuitously naked woman killing people with chopsticks. You can get monsters in other comics too, but we've got a Chupacabra living inside an old woman's skin and a Sasquatch who's smarter than any of the people around him.

Riley and I keep trying to figure out what other comics we should compare this book to. You know, "if you like 'Fables,' you'll like 'Proof'" or "if you like 'Hellboy,'" but we can't think of anything that really compares. This series plays out in unexpected ways and is different from anything else Image publishes. Or anything anybody else publishes, for that matter. I think that's what people get from "Proof" that they can't get anywhere else: something different.

"Proof: Endangered" #1, written by Alex Grecian and illustrated by Riley Rossmo, arrives in stores on December 15, 2010.

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