Every page of the crime/horror comic, Killogy, just roars with tough-guy dialogue, Tarantino-esque storytelling, and eye-popping visuals (we’re currently running a killer contest for it). Locked in a jail cell together, Sally Sno-Cones, Summer Rhoades, and Cole Edwards have no idea what’s really going on outside. They don’t know that the whole world has gone to Hell. In an interesting experiment, writer/artist Alan Robert uses the likeness of Frank Vincent, Marky Ramone, and Brea Grant to portray his anti-heroes.
I spoke with Alan Robert about how the concept for “Killogy” came about, the challenges of doing an experiment like this, and his upcoming projects.
Bloody Disgusting: Tell me how the inspiration for “Killogy” came about?
Alan Robert: I started conceptualizing “Killogy” while I was completing “Crawl to Me” for IDW Publishing. I had written the individual stories separately, ‘Sno-Cones Gets Pinched,’ ‘Voodoo Summer,’ and ‘My Own Private Hell Hole.’ IDW green-lit the series based on those stories – without the use of the celebrity likenesses. That happened later on. You see, “Killogy” had originally started out to be something similar to “The Twilight Zone,” or a “Tales From the Crypt” type series. A bunch of stand-alone horror stories that fell under one banner. But, somewhere along the line, I decided to interweave an overarching storyline into it that pulled these three characters into the center of a tremendous crisis.
It happened organically, and I felt it was pretty interesting to see how these diverse characters with these insane back-stories would interact with each other. Along the way, during the character design phase, I decided to approach the stars Frank Vincent (Goodfellas, The Sopranos), Marky Ramone (The Ramones), and Brea Grant (Heroes, Dexter) to get involved for me to base these characters on. To my surprise, they all agreed to be a part of it right away – which was a huge thrill for me. Being a fan of theirs, it was a huge honor to work with them, and to put something together that I really hadn’t seen before in horror comics.
BD: For the majority of the narrative, the setting takes place inside a small, cramped jail cell. Tell me about the challenge of keeping the shots interesting in this one location.
AR: Even before I started on page one, I set out to create a different style for myself to create this series. I didn’t feel that my previous methods were going to work with the storytelling. I had gone a very textural route with my previous works, “Crawl to Me,” and “Wire Hangers.” I felt that the atmospheric style I created was more appropriate for those psychological-thrillers. But with “Killogy,” I felt it was time for me to go in a more raw direction. Firstly, the characters really had to look and feel like the stars I had on board; so I spent many hours getting their likenesses down. Secondly, I started breaking down the color palette to a desaturated color family. And kept the style very flat, as opposed to trying to emulate photorealism. It was certainly a challenge to try and change up my style, but I’m so glad I did. I think the series benefitted tremendously from it.
I knew going in that the holding cell scenes were going to be tricky. Mostly because of the cramped space and limited lighting. But, I really tried to tackle them much like a film director would. Capturing different angles to make the shots interesting. Focusing on the characters expressions and subtleties. My main goal was to have these characters really act out their parts by putting their body language into their dialogue; make them feel as real as possible.
BD: Tell me about the nonlinear storytelling and the use of flashbacks.
AR: I’ve been a huge Tarantino fan ever since Reservoir Dogs. I’ve always wanted to tell a story using a non-linear narrative – similar to the way he’s mastered in all of his films. This was my attempt at capturing some of that Pulp Fiction magic – by showing how each of these character’s actions affected each other through their bizarre back stories. And as a reader, I find it interesting how the story is told out of order, yet it all makes perfect sense at the same time. It’s probably more effective to read the issues back-to-back when trying to piece together those subtleties, rather than waiting a month or so until the next one comes out, but that’s just the nature of comics. The collected trade paperback comes out from IDW on June 19th, and I’m looking forward to sitting down and reading it myself for the first time, all at once. It’s been a month or two since I finished up the series, so I’ve had a little time away from it to get the full effect.
BD: Because viewers have seen Frank Vincent in “Goodfellas,” and “The Sopranos.” Tell me about writing the dialogue for his character, Sally Sno-Cones.
AR: Frank is a great guy. Totally down-to-earth, a class act and a real pleasure to work with. I’ve seen his films many, many times, so writing his dialogue came kind of naturally to me. He usually plays these sarcastic, wiseguy characters and Sally Sno-Cones fits in that world.
Sno-Cones is an aging mob hit man who stores the heads of his victims inside Italian Ices tubs inside the cellar of his wife’s Ices Shop in Brooklyn. Put it this way, for those who haven’t read the series yet, Frank Vincent fans will not be disappointed. Sno-Cones is a violent wise-ass, with a bad temper, and an even worse mouth. That was partly my goal too – as a fan first. I thought to myself, how would Frank’s fans want to see him portrayed in a comic book? So I think I stayed true to his die-hard fans and to that thinking while creating the books.
BD: Tell me about the challenge of getting the likeness of Brea Grant to match with the emotional dialogue.
AR: Brea’s character, Summer Rhoades, basically wakes up in a jail cell covered in blood, not really comprehending what she’s done. Through a series of conversations, it’s revealed that she may have killed her lover Santo The Saint, a feared loan shark from the neighborhood. Her character acts like a complete basket-case most of the time inside the cell. I used a lot of extreme shadows to create the kind of despair her character was feeling in those scenes. And when she finally dives into her back-story, I changed up the color schemes and brought in more light, mostly to show that it took place at a different time. Brea as an actress who can express so much with her eyes – I really tried to hone in on that in “Killogy” to tell Summer’s story.
BD: Tell me about the look of the zombie cops.
AR: I intended for the audience to be unsure of what these things actually were until more details were uncovered by our characters. So – are they zombies exactly? Hard to say. They don’t necessarily act like Romero’s zombies. You can’t kill them by shooting them in the head and stuff like that. Yes, they’re undead – but they don’t act like traditional zombies. Anyway, voodoo black magic plays a big part in the origin of these creatures, so without giving too much away for new readers, I’d categorize them more like supernatural monsters. Their look is reminiscent of the old EC Comics style, I think. Very detailed, lots of cross-hatching, and heavy shadows.
BD: Glad you mentioned EC Comics! Because the colors have the same feel too.
AR: Dave Stewart (“Hellboy,” “B.P.R.D.”) was a huge influence on my color work in “Killogy.” His simplistic approach is so powerful in Mignola’s universe; it’s probably my favorite style out there to date. I tried to follow that blueprint a bit here, by simplifying my color palette and going heavy on the shadow work. I introduced different color schemes throughout each chapter and was able to tie the stories together visually, with the common holding cell set piece and atmosphere.
BD: After this experience, do you prefer creating your own characters from scratch or using the likeness of others?
AR: Not sure if I have a preference. By using models for my characters I can riff off of their personalities and body language to create my characters. And by basing characters solely on my imagination – I need to invent those subtleties. Both scenarios have their pros and cons, I guess. By drawing from your head, you can make the impossible possible. The use of insane camera angles, altered perspective, things like that. But, if you stick to photo references you’re limited to grounding most things in reality – which has its upside, too. If you’re able to convince a reader that your characters are believable, your stories suddenly possess more depth.
BD: I’m not sure if you know this. In the “Person of Interest” episode, “Wolf and Cub,” a “Crawl To Me” poster is hanging on the door of a gangster’s hideout, which happens to be a comic book shop. How does it feel knowing your work has made its way onto a hit TV show?
AR: Well, I’m psyched that the “Killogy” trade paperback finally hits bookstores this week. As you probably heard, “Crawl to Me” is in development to become a feature film. We have a killer screenplay in place and are in serious talks with a fantastic director right now. He really gets the project and I’m confident he’ll do a kick-ass job at bringing this thing to life. “Killogy” is also in development, but I can’t get into the details of that, just yet – but it’s all very exciting. And lastly, I have a new horror comic series that I’ll be announcing next month at San Diego Comic Con. It will be released from IDW Publishing in 2014. I’ve been working on character designs these last few weeks for that and it just might be the darkest series I’ve done yet. This will be a seriously creepy book. I’m excited to let the cat out of the bag…
The trade paperback of Alan Robert’s “Killogy” is in stores now.
Interview by – Jorge Solis