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Alan Robert Gets Comic Booked!

Alan Robert

It’s no secret: I’ve been excited about Alan Robert’s Crawl to Me since Issue #1 was given to me by the folks at IDW. Since then, it’s been my pleasure to review the first three issues (review of #1, review of #2, and review of #3). Alan finally was able to clear up some time in his busy schedule to chat with about Crawl to Me, his older series, Wire Hangers, and the future of his career in comics.

Kyle Black: First, let’s talk about Crawl to Me a bit. Have you been sitting on this idea for awhile or is this something that just came naturally one day?

Alan Robert: It all started when I moved into a house built on the side of a mountain at the end of last year. Well, the house had a creepy-ass basement and crawl space that was clearly infested with mice at some point. We hired pest control companies and all that to get rid of the mice before we moved in, but every now and then you’d still find a little one down there. Anyway, it started me thinking and I built on those initial ideas and that eventually became Crawl to Me. For a guy who grew up in Brooklyn, NY and lived many years in Manhattan, moving out to the country was a huge change for me. The sense of isolation, especially during the winter months, made a big impact on me.

KB: Regarding the writing, I really enjoy your approach. To me, the dialogue reads a lot like the script to a horror film. Is this an intentional effect? Did any particular film/book/TV show influence the way you write your dialogue or the story?

Cover Art for Crawl to Me #3AR: I admit that I don’t have a traditional method when creating my comics. A lot of creators would say that I do things a bit backwards. What I do is, I create all of the art first, and then write the dialogue. Strange? Yes. I don’t work off of a script at all. The entire story lives in my head. I write a imple plot outline which focuses on key points of the issue (it amounts to about three paragraphs), and that’s it – I start drawing. First thumbnails, then full-on pencils and inks. I only start coloring pages when I’ve completed an entire scene.

The dialogue happens after the coloring phase, when the artwork is complete. I think that’s why the dialogue feels more like a film than a comic, because I try to write in the characters’ voice and what they say is based on what they’re experiencing in those panels. For me, it’s easier to figure out what those particular characters are naturally going to say by viewing the scene in its entirety. I also try to avoid having the characters refer to visual elements in the panels that the reader is able to figure out for themselves. In other words, I try to avoid the obvious. Sometimes, it’s inappropriate for the characters to say anything at all and you just have to let the art speak for itself. For me, it’s all about building that suspense to get the reader to turn the page. That’s the fun for me: keeping ’em guessing.

I am more influenced by film than comics, I think. I’m an avid movie buff and have seen pretty much everything out there, more so than comics. Although I’ve been reading comics since around nine or ten years-old, these days I buy them mostly for the art. With movies, I gravitate towards great stories. I don’t know why that is, but it’s true.

KB: I find that the series strikes a healthy balance between violence and psychological horror. How difficult is it to maintain such a delicate balance while also building an air of mystery?

AR: When I first started out with this book, I walked into it knowing the limitations of the comic format when dealing with such a psychological thriller. How do you build mystery when most of it is cerebral? Well, about halfway through Issue #1, I touched upon the key to this series, and, from there on in, I continued to blur the lines of reality. It’s in those hallucinations that the horror truly lies.

KB: Crawl to Me’s art is especially noteworthy. While there’s a lot of blood, I feel like you’re using it with purpose. You really use gore and violence as a great vehicle for telling your story. Is that a challenge or does it come naturally?

AR: I’m always conscious of the amount of gore I use and where to place it in the issues. I purposefully put the big shoot-out scene upfront in Issue #1 because, once the reader experiences that unexpected sequence, all bets are off. From then on in, anything can happen. That’s where the anticipation comes from mostly: Not knowing what crazy shit is gonna pop up next.

KB: We’ve talked before about the challenge of the deadline. Given that this is a solo project, have you felt that deadlines have impeded your ability to add any flourishes to your creative process or have you been able to meet the deadlines while fully maintaining your vision for the book?

AR: Thankfully, and I’m proud of this fact, I’ve never missed a print deadline – and you can ask my publisher about that! By doing everything myself, writing, penciling, inking, coloring, lettering, and layout, I have complete creative freedom. It’s beyond what most creators ever get to experience. It’s a great feeling, but, at the same time, I have to deliver on all of those duties. I ain’t gonna lie, it’s a lot of friggin work, and it’s a battle to hit my deadlines. But, at the end of the day, I’m proud of every page, and I’ll always put in the extra time, even if it’s three in the morning, to get a page to where I’m happy with it.

Wire HangersKB: This isn’t your first comic outing. Last year’s Wire Hangers was a pretty big success. I read that you’re planning a film adaptation of the series. Is that still happening? Do you have any other future plans for the Wire Hangers series?

AR: Yep, we’re actually filming a trailer for the film in October, out in California with a kick-ass visual effects team. We’re storyboarding it now, and it’s gonna be amazing to see this thing come to life.

I’m excited to report that there’s also a lot of interest recently to adapt Crawl to Me to the big screen. Now, that would make a creepy-ass horror film. More on that real soon…

KB: Do you have any other plans for your comic career once Crawl to Me is finished?

AR: I’ve got a lot of tricks up my sleeve, and a lot of ideas I wanna get out there. There’s definitely more comics coming in the future!

I’d like to take the time to thank Alan for chatting with me. He’s a busy guy (what with writing AND drawing his own comic), and I had a great time talking with him. I also got to read Crawl to Me #4 before it goes to print, and I’ll be reviewing that very soon. I’ve been hooked since the first issue, and to say that finale blew me away is a dramatic understatement. I’ll be keeping tabs on Alan as his comic career grows, so stay tuned to Comic Booked for more updates on this unique creator.

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Comments (1)

Great interview. I've never read any of his work, but I think I'm gonna check it out.

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