Following on the success of last year's "Wire Hangers," Life of Agony bassist and Spoiler NYC frontman Alan Robert returns to comics for the four-issue horror miniseries "Crawl to Me," debuting in July from IDW Publishing. As with the previous series, Robert will both write and illustrate "Crawl to Me," which focuses on a man fighting to protect his family from the evil that lurks within their new home, while struggling to confront some dark truths about himself. CBR News spoke with Robert about the new series, his experiences with "Wire Hangers," and what's coming up next.
"'Crawl to Me' is a dark, psychological thriller/horror story that takes place in a rural, desolate town during the winter months," Robert told CBR. "'Crawl's' main character, Ryan, is preparing his newly purchased home for his wife, Jessica, and their young daughter to move in. In the days prior to their arrival, Ryan witnesses a bloody shoot-out between the sheriff's department and a creepy neighbor, Edgar. Shortly after the firefight, Ryan experiences some twisted visions that seem to dredge up some disturbing memories he's long since buried. Strange occurrences start happening inside the house, as well, including the discovery of half-eaten carcasses, and the disappearance of the family dog within the basement's crawl space. Ryan begins to break down from the mental stress and heads into a downward spiral of paranoia and madness. As a result, the couple's relationship starts to unravel. But, when Jessica starts to experience strange events of her own, perhaps this all isn't just in Ryan's head...
"There's a very unique twist ending that occurs in #4, that won't disappoint," Robert continued. "I'm very excited to blow readers' minds with this one."
Robert said the seven-page preview released by IDW takes place in the middle of the first issue and covers Ryan's first encounter with the mysterious Edgar. In the preview, an apparently disoriented Ryan comes across a gruesome scene, only to be confronted by something potentially even more disturbing. "This is a pivotal scene, because everything leading up to this point seems seems very straightforward. However, when Edgar vanishes into thin air, the reader is taken aback, questioning which parts of the story are real and which parts are being created by Ryan's subconscious," the creator told CBR. "There's a dark undercurrent brooding here that hints at child abduction and pedophilia which is elaborated [on] more in later issues. That particular topic is extremely disturbing to me and probably my worst fear, as a new parent. In fact, the monsters you meet in this book are extremely horrific, but not in the traditional sense. These monsters are based on real child predators."
Though "Wire Hangers," Robert's first comic series, was also a disturbing psychological thriller, the tone and style of "Crawl to Me" may be even darker, and Robert has adjusted his art to suit that purpose. "'Crawl to Me' is a completely different approach to storytelling than 'Wire Hangers,' both artistically and creatively," Robert explained. "In fact, I purposefully changed up my drawing style to fit the tone of the book. I worked for about month before starting page one of 'Crawl to Me,' to hone my drawing style. If you compare the series, you'll notice that the characters in 'Crawl' are drawn using hard lines and less rounded edges than 'Wire Hangers.' This distinct change gives 'Crawl' a more sophisticated and serious look. I also used a completely different color palette and page color than 'Wire Hangers.' I think that you'll still be able to tell that one artist worked on both titles, but they definitely have a different look and feel.
"Another major difference between the two is the pace in which the stories are told," Robert continued. "'Wire Hangers' was very fast paced with multiple characters and a ton of action all going on at once. 'Crawl to Me' is more cerebral and suspense driven, with a smaller, more intimate cast. Also, the reader experiences the story in real time, as Ryan does, which provides most of the twists and turns to the plot line."
Though that first series was a long time in the making -- Robert, after studying art under Walter Simonson at the School of Visual Art in New York, became a rock star instead -- production on "Crawl to Me" has been much more brisk. "I came up with the concept for 'Crawl to Me' rather quickly, around Christmas of 2010. I had just moved out of the city and into a home that was built in the 1950s. It had an unfinished basement with a creepy crawl space in it. It looked like some sort of dungeon, or the equivalent to what you'd see in one of the 'Saw' movies," Robert told CBR. "Having lived in the city my entire life, this was a new experience for me and that pretty much triggered the story in my brain. I think I pitched the idea to IDW in January and it was soon after green lit for a series. I just completed #1 and started on #2 this week. It's been a great experience all around and I'm super excited to see what everyone thinks of it."
While "Crawl to Me" is his current priority, Robert isn't finished with "Wire Hangers" just yet. "I'm stoked to continue the 'Wire Hangers' series sometime next year and I've already got volume two plotted out," Robert said before turning his attention to a possible film adaptation. "There's a lot going on right now with the film development, but unfortunately nothing that I can make public just yet. I had a lot of great meetings in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, when I was out there attending Revolver's Golden Gods Award Show. The fun thing is that I'm getting to meet some of my heroes in the horror genre. So, more on all that real soon..."
After touching on its future, Robert reflected on the process of finally bringing his debut series to life. "'Wire Hangers' evolved from an idea I had back in art college, over fifteen years ago. When I decided to pursue my music career after my band Life of Agony landed a worldwide recording contract with Roadrunner Records in '92, my comic aspirations were put on hold," Robert said. "Although my comic dreams were pushed to the back burner, I never lost the passion to bring 'Wire Hangers' to life. The concept developed organically over time and last year I finally got really serious about it again. I pitched it to my first choice of publishers, IDW, and secured a deal with them to publish the series. 'Wire Hangers' was received extremely well and we actually won the Cover of the Year Award by ComicMonsters.com. The whole experience has been a wild ride for me. Now we're in development to adapt the book into a feature film, which is a complete dream come true."
Developing "Wire Hangers" taught Robert several lessons that carried over into "Crawl to Me," Robert said, though the artist's fluency with self-promotion from his twenty years in music has also paid off in his new medium. "'Wire Hangers' was my first comic series and I learned a ton about making and promoting comics along the way, everything from fine tuning my art process to dealing with print deadlines and writing solicits," Robert told CBR. "I was able to partner with a few companies last time to run some cool exclusive contests for 'Wire Hangers.' Now I already have those relationships in place for 'Crawl to Me.' There's a great company called ArtGuitar that holds the patent on creating custom guitar controllers for 'Rock Band' and 'Guitar Hero.' I hooked up with them last year to create some special 'Wire Hangers' controllers, decorated with artwork from the series. We ran contests online and at Comic-Con events and it generated a lot of awareness for the book.Â I don't think a lot of creators think much about the marketing end for their books and they pretty much leave that up to the publishers to figure out. But I have always been pro-active when it comes to marketing, even with the music projects I've been a part of. I feel that it's incredibly important to the success of it. Especially in today's day and age.
"I've also learned a lot about myself as an artist and storyteller and applied that knowledge towards the new series," Robert continued. "I've come to realize that I don't have a traditional workflow and I've embraced that fact, instead of trying to conform to the norm.Â In fact, I've found that my art process is way more suitable to my style and schedule, now more than ever before. 'Wire Hangers' helped to shape that process."