The duo ground their comical magic adventure book in a well-realized, real-world setting -- Baltimore. “I had originally considered setting it in Chicago to make it easier for Mike to find reference,” said Roberts, “but he smartly suggested Baltimore where I spend a lot of my time nowadays. Turns out, that was one of the best early decisions we made as the city has become a character in itself, informing both the narrative as well as the main players.”
Norton explained that he loves Chicago, but that he has never heard of a comic taking place in Baltimore. Norton's original my first choice was his hometown, Memphis, which will factor into the story as it progresses.
“When thinking of Baltimore, a lot of people picture The Wire, and there is some truth to that,” said Roberts. “But people sometimes forget that Baltimore is also home to John Waters. This city has range! To me, setting Grumble in such a diverse city allows us to get away with some of the weirder stuff. For instance, we’ve got inter-dimensional wizards tearing apart tourists in the Inner Harbor and impish mob bosses setting up shop in abandoned rowhouses. Sometimes the setting is supercritical, like when Eddie and Tala have to travel through one of Baltimore’s more famous monuments in an attempt to find a cure for Eddie’s transformation. Also, rats. Baltimore has kind of an enormous rat problem, both in terms of the number of rats as well as their size, so it was fun incorporating that into the story."
The creators didn’t mind spoiling one critical plot detail from the first issue, which is that it isn’t long before Eddie winds up trapped in the form of a pug, a form Norton’s very used to drawing in his popular creator-owned series Battlepug. Roberts said he chose the form of a pug for Eddie for three simple reasons: he likes them, they're funny and they're the least harmful animal on the planet.
If it sounds like Roberts and Norton are having fun with Grumble, you’re getting the right idea. “I love writing this weird comic so damn much that I could do it forever,” said Roberts, adding that he's aiming for Grumbles to run somewhere between 15 and 30 issues.
Roberts and Norton first met when Norton came aboard A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong to draw the series' fifth issue. Roberts said their editor, Danny Khazem, convinced Norton to stick around.
“I was doing a talk at a library last year, and the organizer had the great idea to Skype Mike in so we could talk about our time working together at Valiant, as well as comics in general," said Roberts. "A few minutes after the talk ended, I get an email from Mike with the subject line 'grumble,' which my paranoid ass read as Mike being angry with me, like, maybe I had said something stupid during the talk! Luckily, that was not the case.”
Roberts explained the benefits of creator-owned work, specifically Grumble’s publisher, Eric Powell and Albatross Funnybooks.
“Working with Albatross has been great," said Roberts. "Eric and Andrea have been super supportive and super cool to work with. I’ve actually been a fan of Eric’s since the Avatar Goon series, so writing a book on his label is really pretty cool.”
“It’s also amazing to me how ‘at home’ Grumble feels at Albatross," said Roberts. "We’ve got big, dumb, weird action pieces; bizarre creatures and some truly terrifying monsters; but at the heart of it are our heroes, their relationship, and their journey. Eddie and Tala are outcasts just looking to find their place in a world that is constantly trying to kill them both while trying not to kill each other.”
Grumble #1 is available for preorder from Diamond Previews now and arrives in comic shops this November.