The proof is out there.
Unfortunately, it's seven feet tall and sometimes smells like a wet dog.
"Proof" is a new series coming from writer Alex Grecian and artist Riley Rossmo, the team behind "Seven Sons" from AiT/Planet Lar, and set for release this October from Image Comics. The series follows the adventures of Agents John "Proof" Prufrock and Ginger Brown as they investigate strange creatures and odd occurrences for an agency known as The Lodge.
Oh, and Proof is Bigfoot. Yeah, that Bigfoot. Seven feet tall, lots of hair, problems buying shoes. What the agents are looking for are cryptids, animals that are said to exist but as yet unproved. The Loch Ness Monster, the Jersey Devil, Elvis. Stuff of that sort.
"I'd call it 'fun horror,'" Grecian told CBR News. "We've got a Chupacabra hollowing people out and living in their skins, we've got fairies eating people, we've got car crashes and helicopter crashes and spooky little monsters. But the whole series is character-driven, which means Riley has to draw some talking-head sequences so I can indulge my predilection for funny dialogue. Fortunately, he's terrific at drawing both action and talky stuff. It's probably closer in tone to 'Buffy' or 'X-Files' than something like 'Walking Dead' or a superhero book.
"The most important thing for us, in setting the tone for the book, is keeping it in the 'real' world," continued Grecian. "So, no vampires or werewolves or zombies, no Lovecraftian octopus creatures (although there will be a kraken). Everything Proof and Ginger face will be a cryptid. In other words, the 'monsters' that agents of The Lodge have to track, are things that people actually claim to have seen. There are people who fervently believe that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster do exist and that's the world 'Proof' lives in."
There are lots of lots of cryptids out there to deal with, as I found out when I wikipedia'd them and lost an entire afternoon drifting through the entries. That background will give the Agents Proof and Brown a whole lot of things to handle in the series.
"In the first story arc (the 'Goatsucker' arc runs through the first five issues), Proof and Ginger meet El Chupacabra, The Cottingley Fairies and The Dover Demon, all of which are cryptids, but we're going to be showing some different sides of them," said Grecian. "We've also got some folklore-type critters popping up in those five issues, including the original Golem and some jackalopes. The fairies in particular have their own kind of closed-system biology that will probably give some people the willies when they see how their whole mating process work," said Grecian.
"After that, we're off to Africa to meet Mokele-M'Bembe, the last living dinosaur. Then we've got Springheel Jack waiting in the wings, harpies, mermen, an oni…
"Gosh, what aren't Proof and Ginger going to encounter?
"There's a rationale behind it all, though. It's not just 'hey, let's have them fight the Mongolian Death Worm next issue,'" continued Grecian. "Through it all, Proof's searching for his biological family, other Bigfoot people, maybe even his parents. Each time he hears that someone witnessed something strange, he kind of hopes this'll be the time he finds what he's looking for. And there's someone out there who's testing him, too, who has a reason to kind of throw these challenges at Proof. So there are creatures galore, but there's also an overarching story that ties it all together."
Bigfoot as a government agent is one of those ideas that you usually get after a little too much coffee and sugar. In this case, it was the result of some good old-fashioned dinner conversation.
"I pretty much riffed the whole thing off a joke someone made during dinner conversation. 'What if nobody ever sees Bigfoot because he's deep cover with the C.I.A.?' Naturally, that led to an ongoing comic book series with Image, but I'm not sharing credit for the idea because I'm kind of a bastard that way," said Grecian.
Of course, all this leads to the obvious question: Does Grecian believe in Bigfoot? After all, he made him the star of a comic book.
"I think if Bigfoot's out there, he's got fewer places to hide every day, but at the same time a whole lot of people swear they've seen him and who am I to call them liars? I do absolutely think there are probably things like krakens and the Loch Ness Monster in our oceans and lakes. Every year we're discovering new animal species all over the globe. Maybe tomorrow Bigfoot will come forward and admit he was Deep Throat," said Grecian.
It's that potential, that glimmer of hope for the fantastic to be real, that Grecian believes makes for a sort of universal curiosity.
"Isn't everybody interested in this stuff? Sure, zombies and vampires are creepy and cool, but on some level, even if you're watching a scary zombie film, you know there's no such thing. That takes the edge off a little," said Grecian. "But how do you know there isn't a Dover Demon or a Bigfoot? The possibility of their existence makes them somehow more tangible and fascinating than your run-of-the-mill mummy or invisible man."
This is Grecian and Rossmo's second collaboration and they're working hard to make sure "Proof" runs on time and on schedule, with six issues in the can. It's a sign of a working relationship working at full tilt, one that began with the back of Rossmo's head.
"I almost met Riley at Comic-Con International. We were both in line at a publisher's booth during a portfolio review. Riley was showing his illustration work and I had a series I wanted to pitch to that publisher. I could see Riley's portfolio as he showed it and was blown away by his work, but the publisher didn't share my opinion. Riley was in front of me and when he walked away, it was my turn to talk to the publisher so I couldn't follow him. Luckily, my wife was with me and she chased him down and gave him my business card. We got in touch and just kind of clicked," said Grecian.
"So I met the back of his head that time. We finally met face-to-face at Comic-Con last year, where we started working on 'Proof.' By that time we were waiting for 'Seven Sons' to come out. Basically, we really enjoy working together, so we've done several projects, a couple of which will probably see the light of day soon."
The smoothness of the working relationship is even more remarkable for taking place over huge distances.
"We generally talk about a story arc on the phone first (Riley's up in Canada and I'm in the American Midwest) and then I break it down and write it, full script. I email that to Riley and he emails his finished pages back to me. Once we both like everything, he gives the pages to our colorist, Tyler Jenkins and Tyler gets them back to me to letter," said Grecian.
"Riley and I are equal partners on 'Proof,' so I bow to him when we disagree about anything visual and he backs off if we disagree about story structure or dialogue. But he'll often tell me about things he wants to draw and I'll try hard to work those into the plot."
Grecian is drawing from a wide poll of influences and inspirations, something that gives the book a little more different spin than one simply steeped in the classics of horror.
"You'd think I'd have a bunch of horror and science fiction authors to list here, but I really don't dig those genres as a reader. I enjoy writing horror, but don't usually touch the stuff in book form (although Stephen King's 'On Writing' is a must-read for any writer). I love Graham Greene (named my son after him), John Irving, Nick Hornby, Richard Russo, Walter Mosley, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake (especially when he's writing as Richard Stark). I'm a big fan of children's books and things like 'Charlotte's Web,' 'Wind in the Willows' and Tarzan are huge influences on 'Proof,' in ways that are fairly subtle (because obviously 'Proof' isn't really aimed at children), but are there in the structure," said Grecian.
"In comics, I tend to follow writers much more than I do characters or artists. So I'll read anything by Grant Morrison or Brian Vaughan or Bill Willingham. Bendis is a very good writer, which people don't take the time to point out anymore. You absolutely have to respect his attitude toward his work and his fans. Ed Brubaker's good, too. 'Sleeper' was my favorite series when it was coming out and now we've got 'Criminal,' so it's a good time to be reading comics. There're a lot of other terrific writers working in comics right now. I'm just drawing a blank. Tomorrow I'll smack myself in the head and say 'why didn't I mention so-and-so?'"
The first issue of "Proof" hits stands in October, just in time for Halloween.