From IDW Publishing, “The Shunned One” centers on the Angel of Death refusing to take any more innocent lives. This guilt-ridden death angel then begins to make his own judgments on humans based on their sins. In “Crawl To Me,” a young couple discovers there is an evil entity hiding behind the walls of their home. As their torment continues, the two begin to wonder if they have the strength to hold onto their marriage.
Alan Robert: “The Shunned One” is really personal to me because with all the acts of violence in society lately, Newtown and Aurora. It really hit home for me especially being a father with a toddler. To me, it was just like, I can’t imagine that this could happen to families that are just going out trying to enjoy their day or dropping their kids off at school; the unthinkable happens. And so, that was really the inspiration. How does this all make sense? Why do these lives need to be taken? What did these kids do to anybody? So for me, it was like, how does life work anyways? It kinda pushed me into different theories of forces of nature. Some people grow up with their angels, demons, and the Devil.
I started thinking about guardian angels, death angels. I started to think about, what if one of these death angels didn’t want to take any more innocent lives? What if he stood up against the whole premise of it? He was forced in 2013 to wipe out a school because that was destined to happen. What if he decided to go against that? How would that affect the world? Would things get shifted out of accordance? These are questions that my mind started asking. I started developing characters around this idea. What would happen if a death angel went rogue and decided to take lives that deserved to be taken? A lot of times in real life, the bad guys outlive the good guys. Here’s this one angel who has the power to change all that. That was really the origin of it. Once I went into a tangent, I ended up going into a bottomless pit of ideas. But that’s kinda my process, it starts out with something as a simple little emotion and ends up layering it.
BD: “Wire Hangers” feels like a tribute to artist Michael Zeck’s run on “The Punisher.” You used Brea Grant and Frank Vincent as references in “Killogy.” Tell me about the artistic style of “The Shunned One.”
AR: Each book I really try to challenge myself and push myself to really develop that style to tell that story. “Wire Hangers” was definitely a more atmospheric, moody book. “Crawl To Me” was much more psychological, almost psychedelic at times with the colors. And then “Killogy,” I was really going for that Mike Mignola, more traditional art, lots of contrast. I think with “The Shunned One,” I want to get more textual, more painterly with it. So I think that’s going to be the approach. Some of the graphics I did for the promotional teasers had been in that style. I’d like to continue that throughout the books.
BD: Tell me about your version of the angels in the comic.
AR: I definitely didn’t want to do the typical Grim Reaper, big cloak and sickle. When I got to thinking about angels, Earth, and the balance of it, if they were like the guardians of the Earth, in charge of taking all lives, what would these creatures look like? I didn’t picture them as aliens or futuristic beings. I almost pictured them as more primitive, prehistoric creatures who were one with the Earth. That’s why they kinda never evolved. They have these really long arms to swoop down, giant wing spans, and the creatures themselves are huge compared to man. But they’re basically in charge all that goes on in nature.
They can only be seen by each other. The idea is, these things are always present but we can’t see them. There’s guardian angels and death angels. There isn’t just one, just packs of them, almost like a team. They have no eyes but they can sense and feel things, like Batman uses his sonar. Everyone has a body clock. They understand who needs to go at what time. That’s what the death list is. When they start to see people coming off their radar, they know this one death angel has one rogue.
BD: You mentioned that this will be your darkest tale yet. Does it feel at times that the themes get too personal? Perhaps, “Why am I sharing this?”
AR: No, because I’m writing this stuff alone in my home office. I’m thinking about it night and day. In the bus, I’ll end up emailing myself some dialogue. It’s all so personal. Once it comes out, you don’t know how people are going to react to it. And it’s very personal to release all of it. Yeah it’s fictitious stories, but I live and breathe the characters while I’m writing it. I’m putting myself in their shoes. I’m trying to really think how these characters would react in certain situations. I’m really trying to let the characters dictate where way the story is going to go.
That’s the beauty of creator-owned books. I could write three pages of the script, and by the time I get to the art, it’s completely different. And I’ll pick up where the art takes me. I have that freedom and flexibility, whereas other writers would have to write a script, send it off to an artist, and even if they had a new idea, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to get it in there. I think what I’m doing, it completely suits my style and it also allows me the flexibility to make it better as I go.
BD: What was your impression when you saw the poster for the first time?
AR: Well, I’ve been involved the whole step of the way. Every time we make movement, whether it’s a director coming onboard, a screenwriter getting attached, or seeing the latest draft of the script, I’m involved. Every time one of these things happen, I still pinch myself. It’s such an enormous undertaking. There’s so many people that you need to get involved to make it really happen. I just get more and more excited, but I try not to get too excited. I don’t want to let myself down if it falls apart. Movie deals fall apart every day. I’m trying to be very grounded with it. I won’t know it’s really done unless I’m sitting in the seat on opening night. That’s when I’ll get excited, when I buy my first bag of popcorn. I’m really trying not to get overly excited about it. But the child in me is jumping up and down! I’m stoked about it! I’m such a movie fan and a horror movie fan.
The script is phenomenal! I watched it evolve from the first draft. The writers, T. J. Cimfel and David White, took the source material and made it their own. They fleshed the characters out, the relationships, and built it in a non-typical movie fashion. It’s not your typical haunted house story, not your typical psychological thriller. It’s so much layered than that. Fans of “The Others,” “The Sixth Sense,” and “The Machinist” will really dig what we’re doing because I think you watch it multiple times and find new things, new clues to the big reveal.
BD: Tell me what you think director Victor Garcia brings to the film version of “Crawl To Me.”
AR: Well, Victor really gets into the material. He’s super passionate about the project. We actually approached an actor to play Ryan. We really hope the actor accepts it. Once he does, if he does, we’ll announce it. It’s very exciting!
Victor has done a lot of movies. He has a lot of experience with special effects. One of his first shorts, “El Ciclo,” really got me excited. I don’t think there’s any dialogue in it. It’s a completely visual short story. From the first scene, you’re entranced and you want to know what happens. He has that ability to really suck you in visually to tell his stories. He had some good ideas structurally about the screenplay. We had a script written about six months ago and he had a bunch of notes. Once he came onboard, the screenwriters entrusted it. It’s so much better now! Not taking anything away from the writers, but he just had an outside opinion on where the story should go and how it should build. It all fell into place. They loved his ideas and they made his idea even better by adding some of their own. I think it’s a good combination of talented people we got onboard.
One other thing, once we got Joaquin Padro, from Rodar y Rodar, the producers who did “The Orphanage,” once they came onboard, it really took on a new life. This is really going to happen now! These guys made some fantastic movies. They know how to get it done and where to do it. Once they came onboard and we met them, we clicked instantly. It seems meant to be.
BD: With comic book creators, such as Frank Miller and Robert Kirkman, becoming more involved in their adaptations, do you see yourself writing/directing one of your own projects?
AR: I mean it’s something that I think about a lot. I don’t really have a film background but I watch a hell of a lot of movies! I’m definitely learning a lot. When I was doing the band, we filmed a bunch of music videos. I worked closely with the directors to develop storyboards for those videos and concepts. I have some experience with that. I think that drawing comics and telling stories visually in a comics medium is kinda like directing in a different level. You’re framing shots, you’re choosing key moments to move the story forward. I would have a lot to offer in that area. I think I would need a really good director of photography, who would have the technical know-how to make the shots happen. It’s definitely something that interests me.
Something else that interests me too is writing prose versions of my stories; perhaps a “Crawl To Me” novel. I actually started. I’m about ten pages deep into the “Crawl To Me” novel. Maybe it’ll be ready when the movie comes out or something like that, I’m not sure. Depends on how busy I get. It’s kinda on the back-burner. It’s interesting to tell stories in different ways. It’s unlimited in what medium that you choose, it’s all about experience and it’s all these different things that require time. I would like to do them all. I really want to focus on “The Shunned One” and “Crawl to Me” movie right now.
BD: Because of your musical background, will you be contributing to the soundtrack?
AR: I would definitely love to do that! I would like to at least write one or two movie songs and possibly contribute to some atmospheric sounds. I really dig what Trent Reznor has done in that area.
BD: What other projects are you working on now?
AR: “The Shunned One” is pretty much the focus. Being that the “Crawl To Me” movie is at the stage where we’re approaching actors now, we’re really trying to find the right people to be involved. There’s a lot of meetings about that. And there’s also this idea that’s maybe soon to talk about. Possibly a “Killogy” one-shot for next Halloween, with a brand new star as one of the roles. There’s something brewing there but It’s too early to talk about.
“The Shunned One” is slated to be released in 2014.
Interview by – Jorge Solis