Sam Rhodes, Fanboy Comics Creative Director: Hi, this is Sam Rhodes from Fanboy Comics, and, today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Alan Robert. He is the creative force and bassist behind the rock group Life Of Agony, the front man for the New York City based punk group Spoiler NYC; last year he wrote and illustrated a horror [comic] mini series called Wire Hangers published by IDW, which he is currently producing as a film through his production company, Wasted Talent Entertainment, and he’s back again this year with a new horror comic, Crawl To Me, that was just released on Wednesday, the 13th [of July]. Alan, thank you very much for talking to me.
Alan Robert: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
SR: Yeah! So, Alan, you are a renaissance man: music, art, writing... my question is, how do you find time to focus on all these different projects? And, do you have time to fit in sleep anywhere?
AR: [Laughs] Well, that’s always the biggest challenge, right?
AR: I actually am very inspired in the middle of the night [laughs]. And, you know that reduces the sleep time for me, but you know, I enjoy doing all these things. It gets me very excited to get involved with all these projects, and so I think it’s kind of a catch-22, because the excitement fuels me and keeps me up at night and, at the same time, the projects demand that I stay up all night working on them, so . . .
SR: Right. Right. Cool. Cool. I was reading that you took a class with Walt Simonson who is an incredible comic book artist, um-
AR: He’s amazing!
SR: Yeah, is that when you first started getting into comics? Or, did you get into it more recently? Or . . .
AR: I’ve been into comics since I was a kid. My dad had all the original Spider-Man comics and Fantastic Four issues. He saved them for me, so . . .
AR: He kinda passed them down to me, and I got hooked at a really young age. And then, in my teens, I got into my own collecting, and I would go to the conventions and get, you know, custom pieces of art from my favorite artists, like Mike Zeck with The Punisher and . . . people like that. And, I would just be that annoying kid, you know, at the table bugging ‘em all the time.
SR: [laughs] Nice.
AR: And, you know . . .
SR: That’s cool.
AR: I had a lot of fun, you know, and uh . . . I had a lot of comics signed by, you know, everyone under the sun. And then, um, I always drew as kid, and, by the time I got to college, I actually got a scholarship to the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and that’s where I took a class with Walt Simonson.
SR: Nice. So, has it always been a dream of yours to do a comic?
AR: Yeah, even before the music started, you know, that was my goal. I wanted to be a penciler for Marvel or something. And so, I went to school specifically to learn the trade, and, by the time I graduated, the same year I graduated, the band got signed. Life of Agony got signed and we started touring right out of the gate, and that’s when I had to make a decision - which path I was gonna pursue. I went with the band and things kinda snowballed. We just got into this whole cycle of recording, touring, writing. You know, that whole thing for years and years, so the comic dreams got put on hold for a little bit, but I never lost sight of it.
SR: Nice. Nice. Well, we’re really happy that you came back to it. That’s awesome! So, you wrote and illustrated Wire Hangers, and now you’re in the early processes of making it into a movie. You’re producing the film along with Ted Adams, who is the CEO of IDW, and Jeff Mazzola, who did The Descent and Under New Management. It’s gotta be a very different experience to do the comic and the movie, and so I guess what I want to ask is, is this your first time as a producer on a feature length movie? And, if so, how are you liking it?
AR: It is WAY different than doing anything I’ve done before. The only thing I can compare it to maybe is the music business, just because there are so many pieces of the puzzle to connect and so many different people you need to get involved to make it happen.
AR: And, my experience making records was, you know, dealing with record labels and management and record producers, along with musicians, it’s similar in that way. Also, you kinda have to have all those stars alined to make it happen, too. It’s exciting. It’s super exciting. We hooked up with Robert Hall who did the special effects on Paranormal Activity Two, Devil, and a few other things, like The Crazies. He’s on board to do the special effects, uh, creature effects for Wire Hangers. It’s awesome!
SR: Sweet. Sweet. Now, I read that you guys are still looking for a director and screenwriter. Do you have any, like, long shot hopes for either of those positions or have you nailed any down or anything?
AR: Uh, we actually have, you know, we’re in talks with people who are at the top of our lists, so I don’t want to spoil it or jinx it.
AR: We’ll just see what happens in the next couple of months.
SR: Cool. And, do you have an idea about when you guys are hoping to start filming? I know it can change, but do you have an idea?
AR: Yeah, it’s too early to say. I’ll definitely know more about it in the next three or four months.
SR: Cool. Cool. Um, well the Wire Hangers movie, how involved creatively are you going to be in the adaptation and also in the actual filming?
AR: It really depends on the director that we get.
AR: Cause, you know, sometimes you get a director that also writes the screenplay, and, at that point, they probably have the most creative control. I’ll have my say, but, you know, it’s more you have a lot of people that are going to weigh in on things, but I’ll definitely be involved in the entire process.
SR: Cool. Cool. Um, alright, so I got to read the first issue of Crawl To Me. It was awesome!
AR: Oh, thanks.
SR: Yeah, um, everything about that comic is creepy.
SR: . . . and, you’ve been quoted as saying you have a twisted imagination, but, I want to ask you, how do you come up with this stuff? Is it something where you sit down and you go, “Okay, I’m gonna write,” and sorta creepy things just come to you, or is it that these things come to you throughout the day and then you sort of hold onto them and get them all down late at night or something?
AR: Yeah, it’s more of an organic thing for me. I never sit down and write. In fact, most of these ideas happen in the weirdest times. I’ll just be sort of traveling or in the shower or whatever or in the middle of the night, I’ll just wake up with an idea. And, a lot of the times, it’s not one complete idea - it’s pieces - and, over time, I’ll piece them together and make a cohesive story out of it. Even in the process of making Wire Hangers or Crawl To Me, those were- they were pitched as a story to the publisher and we locked down a deal. But, from the point that I did the first panel on each of those books, things have changed slightly just because new ideas had come to me over time. And, that’s kinda the beauty of having the freedom of doing all the art work and writing it, because I could change it on the fly and that’s kind of the best process for me, and, um, if I was working with- if I was just writing the book and sending off a script to an artist, I’m sure you know, I would be that annoying guy that [says], “Oh, but I wanted to add this.”
AR: After it’s been drawn, I think it’s like the perfect arrangement for me; just kinda doing the writing and the art all at once.
SR: Cool. Cool. Yeah, and speaking of the art, it’s definitely a unique art style; it’s a combination of pencils and inks like traditional comics, but then there’s also photographs in there, too. It really adds this unsettling atmosphere to the whole story. Can you talk to us a little about the process of creating those eerily beautiful panels?
AR: Well, um, I think there was a turn of events for me with comics, when- I think it was the early '90s when Dave McKean did Arkham Asylum.
SR: Oh, yeah!
AR: He came out with that Batman graphic novel. That changed everything for me. That was the first time I saw comics done in mixed medium, and it had so much depth and texture to it. I mean, I was amazed. I didn’t really understand how it was even done. I wasn’t that hip to computers back then, and it was the first one that I had seen like that. It was so chaotic and beautiful at the same time that, I think that’s what I was always chasing, like trying to make my ideas look like. That was probably the biggest inspiration, you know, then there were a lot of other artists along the way that influenced me, everyone from Bill Sienkiewicz to Ashley Wood to Ben Templesmith to Alex Maleev. They all have their styles. Their processes, but yeah, I mean I do a bulk of the work on the computer, believe it or not . . . um, drawing . . . very, uh . . . a lot of it is more of like, “How am I going to pull it off?” to make it happen as a, you know, a cohesive piece. You know, because so many different elements are involved in making those panels.
SR: Gotcha. Gotcha. Correct me if I’m wrong, Crawl To Me is going to be a four-issue mini-series. Is that right?
AR: It’ll be collected into a graphic novel by the [end of the] year. By Christmas.
SR: Great. Great. Do you plan on- or do you hope to adapt it for the screen, as well?
AR: Well, that’s the interesting thing, you know. We’ve already had some discussions with some movie makers who seem really positive, so I’m crossing my fingers that it happens, as well.
SR: Cool. Cool. And, do you have any- I know you’re still . . . your fingers are in a lot of pies right now, but do you have any plans for a next comic?
AR: I do. Nothing I can announce yet, but yeah, absolutely. There’s a few different stories. The first one is kind of like a dark comedy, in the lines of a Pulp Fiction. It centers around a mob hit-man.
SR: Awesome, well, we’ll look forward to those. At the end of Crawl To Me, you answered a fan letter and you talk about how your artistic process evolved after you completed Wire Hangers, where you were doing each panel separately in different sizes and then you were scanning them all in and then laying out the page and then moved to - with Crawl To Me, you said it’s sort of evolved you did a pre-designed page layout, and it worked so much better that way. It worked faster for you. What I wonder is, now that you’ve done Crawl To Me, do you foresee another step in evolution, have you found out some more things and gone, “Oh, I need to do this this way now instead.” Or . . .
AR: Well, if I could figure out how to just print what’s in my mind, that would be the next step. [laughs]
AR: That would save me a ton of time.
SR: Well, with the way technology’s going, we may not be far off.
AR: Yeah, maybe the new iPhone will do that.
SR: [laughs] There you go! I hear it does. Cool. Well, also you called Crawl To Me, “Twilight Zone on steroids,” and you mentioned Dave McKean. I’m curious what other influences that you have from the horror or thriller genres?
AR: Well, that’s interesting because I think I’m more influenced by movies than I am by comics when it comes to writing and just choosing camera angles and things and the way the story is told. Because, I picture these as live action, so I’m just trying to . . . it’s almost, you know, it’s like story boards really.
AR: The hardest part, especially making it come across in comics is . . . you know, in horror movies the music, the sound track, the sounds, the sound effects [inaudible] building suspense. That’s the trickiest part, because you’re eliminating that when you’re telling it in the comic form. But, to answer your question, yeah, I’m more into movies, horror movies. Anything from The Shining to Jacob’s Ladder.
SR: Cool. Cool. Awesome, well, thank you very much for talking with us. Everyone, you can find information on all of Alan Robert’s projects on his website, www.alanrobert.com. He’ll also be doing a signing at Forbidden Planet in New York City on Friday, July 22nd, so get there if you’re in the city. Alan, this was so much fun. Thank you very much for speaking with me today.