Like Mark Twain, the death of Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo's "Proof" has been greatly exaggerated.
Although the Image Comics series is going on a hiatus following "Proof" #28, the story of sasquatch supreme and cryptid investigator John "Proof" Prufrock will continue in a renumbered second season. Reports of the title's hiatus have been misconstrued by some as a cancellation, but Grecian spoke with CBR News and assured fans that "Proof" is very much alive and well.
"We're taking a brief hiatus at the end of what we're calling season one and coming back to season two with a new number one issue," Grecian told CBR. "I'm pretty sure the [confusion] came with the solicitation copy for #28, which will be the last issue of season one. It was supposed to read 'Season Finale' and instead it ended up running in Diamond as 'Series Finale.' That's usually a pretty good sign that a series is cancelled, so I can't blame anybody for leaping to that conclusion. Unfortunately, it did catch us off-guard, because we were busy getting the word out about our big 25th issue and hadn't had a chance yet to break the news of the hiatus. So our readers naturally jumped to the wrong conclusion before we had a chance to control how that information got out."
Fans can take comfort in knowing that "Proof" isn't over, but there is still the matter of the hiatus to consider. According to Grecian, the decision to take a break on "Proof" was determined by a number of factors. "We were starting to run closer and closer to our deadline every month and weren't sure how we were going to get ahead of schedule again, so we figured at some point we were going to have to skip a month just to catch our breath," he said. "We also had this other project called 'The Yard' that we've wanted to do for quite a while, and we were getting pretty worried that we'd never have the time to get to it. When Image suggested that we might be able to lure new readers to the book if we gave them a new #1 issue to jump onto, it seemed like the right time. We were nearing a natural breaking point in the story and it didn't feel like restarting the series would be a gimmick."
Even if breaking up the story of "Proof" at this particular moment wasn't always Grecian's plan, the writer said he believed the renumbered relaunch makes sense given upcoming events. "I always felt that we'd have to relaunch the book if we continued past #60," said the writer. "So much is going to change by the end of The Cryptid War — that arc will take up most of the end of the upcoming season two — that it didn't feel right to continue the numbering beyond it. So we always had seasons built into the series. But instead of having one 60-issue season, we're breaking that up into two seasons. I realize that relaunching a book with a new number one is often just a publicity ploy, but I've never been against the idea as long as there's a compelling story reason for it. Novels get broken into trilogies, TV series and theatre troupes have seasons, movies have sequels. Every form of entertainment is broken down into digestible chunks. It didn't make sense to do it until we had a natural breaking point within the series so that the seasons are genuinely different in tone, but once that's in place, it works."
"Proof" has plenty of ground to cover before the eventual new season, which does not have an official launch date yet. The most recent issue, a one-shot titled "Aftermath," jumps ahead one year into "Proof's" future to reveal that the denizens of The Lodge and The Habitat are engaged in a fierce civil war, with one side led by groundskeeper Wayne Russet and the other led by the vicious Colonel Werner Dachshund.
"Issue #25 was by far the hardest script I've had to write because, while the series is loosely mapped out, I had to juggle future events for all of our characters, regardless of where those events take place on our rough timeline, in order to figure out how much I could give away, what would be intriguing or exciting, and what would make future arcs anticlimactic," said Grecian. "It was a struggle. But the events and characters you see there are pretty much set in stone. I will say, though, that I treated the issue the way I do the Dover Demon's dialogue. The things he says do come true, but it's not always easy to see what he's talking about. He's vague. Some of the things you think you see in #25 aren't as they seem. There are reasons for some of the main characters being absent and a couple of the characters you do see might not be who you think they are."
Three of the most notably absent characters in "Aftermath" are Ginger Brown, Elvis Chestnut and Proof himself. Grecian said that keeping these characters out of the issue was very important for preserving future surprises. "One of them won't make it through another year and if I showed the other two, you'd have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen to them, so I had to leave them out," he teased.
"Proof" #26 returns to the present and kicks off the season's final story arc, titled "Who Killed The Dover Demon." As the title implies, The Demon — arguably one of the book's most beloved characters — has seen better days. "The Demon's last scene occurs in #26, but don't be sad," said Grecian. "Just because the arc is called 'Who Killed The Dover Demon' and just because I said he disappears after #26, that doesn't mean you'll have much opportunity to miss him. Keep in mind that he has a weird relationship with time."
Grecian admitted that he's flirted with the idea of taking the Dover Demon off of the playing field for quite a while. "To be honest, I would have killed him off a long time ago, but he became one of the most popular characters we have in the book, so I held off," he said. "Plus, he's handy to have around when you love foreshadowing as much as I do. But his life cycle was planned from the beginning. This was in the cards for him from the start and will help to explain a lot about his character. It'll really make a lot of sense once you see what's in store for him."
With the spotlight presumably on the Dover Demon and his potential death, there's a limited amount of time to focus on some other facets of "Proof" before the big season finale. One character that won't be seen again until the second season is Mi-Chen-Po, the yeti with past ties to Proof and an eye towards starting a war. But while he won't be physically present in the final issues, he'll still have a significant impact. "He sets something into motion that will have a huge impact and will completely change Proof's worldview and motivations, but he'll do it from behind the scenes," said Grecian. "Of course, he's been controlling things and setting things up for Proof from the very beginning of the series, so this season ends with those plans coming to fruition."
There are other stories being told in the final three issues of season one that deal with the opposing themes of budding romance and certain doom, as well. "Elvis and Ginger finally go on their first date in #26 and where their relationship goes from there will be interesting," teased the writer. "And something incredibly big will play out between Leander and Wayne in the last arc that will honestly overshadow anything that's happening with the Dover Demon. Season two is going to be very different in tone from season one. One of those four people won't be surviving season one."
Clearly, there is a lot happening in the final issues of the first season of "Proof," but Grecian feels that there's plenty of room for everything. "We're leaving things with some serious cliffhangers, making sure it's completely obvious that this is not the end of the series, since there's clearly some concern about that," he said. "[It has been] a long time since we've seen some of these characters in their present continuity, but we're not spending those last three issues of the season on a mission. The entire short arc takes place at The Lodge, and we're spending quite a bit of time with everyone that we need to see. It does all kind of race along, but it races within a confined space, so there's plenty of room to intertwine the stories that we need to, wrap some things up in a satisfying way and still leave plenty of questions unanswered. We want to tie off some of the nagging little subplots that have cropped up throughout season one and give ourselves a strong forward direction to pick up with when we come back."
When "Proof" returns, fans will notice some changes in both the storytelling and the story itself. "Tonally, things will move at a faster pace than they did in season one," said Grecian. "The last issue [of season one] puts a clock on season two. Proof will have a serious deadline in front of him, which will make him much more aggressive and ambitious. No more rainy days out shopping. The teams will be going on missions, the same as they always have, but there will be a couple of much bigger, sort of overarching, missions that are going to be hovering out in front and motivating things. Proof's going to be quite a bit fiercer. If you're not helping him accomplish his goals, you're in his way. Thematically, we'll be exploring the same themes we always have about what makes a man, the nature of identity, but from perspectives we haven't used before."
Still, it might take some time before the new direction takes shape. As of yet, the second season of "Proof" does not have a launch date. "Riley and I are working on a project called 'The Yard' between seasons, so we're trying to remain a little vague about how long we'll be away from 'Proof,'" he said. "There are a lot of factors in play, but we hope we'll be able to finish the first volume of 'The Yard' and get ahead on 'Proof' fairly quickly and be back in business within a handful of months. We don't want our readers to forget about 'Proof.'"
At the very least, Grecian and Rossmo aren't forgetting about the series - if anything, the upcoming hiatus is only reinvigorating the creative duo. "Riley and I are excited to be able come back to this book with our batteries recharged," said the writer. "'Proof's' a tough book to write and draw. It's a big balancing act ,and the last year has been draining. We both feel like we've done some of our best work, but we don't want this book to become a chore. This hiatus gives us a chance to make sure our ducks are all in a row and, I think, gives us a chance to make sure that the next season is even better than the first was.
"Writing the last arc, knowing that a brief vacation is coming up, I've accelerated a lot of events and I feel like it's the most exciting arc this book's ever seen," Grecian continued. "And with those events out of the way, there's so much I'm itching to write that I can't wait for season two. The only thing that makes me really nervous is that our readers will see this as an excuse to drop the book and they won't be back with us next season. I truly hope we've demonstrated how much this series and these characters mean to us, and I hope readers feel the same way."
"Proof" concludes its first season with issue #28. The season's final arc, titled "Who Killed The Dover Demon," begins in issue #26.