Joining ComicBuzz for a chat this week is very talented author/artist Greg Ruth who created The Lost Boy graphic novel and the upcoming Indeh graphic novel as well as working on titles such as Conan and Freaks Of The Heartland.
The Lost Boy seems to have been a real labour of love for you, can you tell us a bit about it?
Absolutely it was, and continues to be. I started working on it a little over ten years ago, originally as a kind of found footage type schtick centered around Walt’s reel-to-reel recorder being discovered by an errant kid hiking in the woods. It was a much smaller thing back then, and a bit cute in its device. Once we started really developing it after Scholastic picked it up, things grew like wildfire. It really came to life on its own and swiftly birthed itself into a vast centuries spanning world that we had to wrestle back to earth. The characters and all the different worlds and their respective rules of society just exploded in the best of ways. I felt like as much of a reader of this story as its creator in many ways and I think this helped keep real the sense of discovery that Nate and Walt were going through as they began to unravel the mystery of these ancient and spooky woods surrounding their town. The notion of Walt and his fall held as an anchor and driving purpose to Nate’s investigations and fateful decisions. So much of it was and continues to be fortified by my own childhood and imaginary worlds I lived in back then. I think when you’re crafting a world for young readers it is the first and most essential part to root it in your own experiences to give it a sense of authenticity. We all have over-rich childhood experiences, whether they’re good or bad ones, and that’s an incredible repository of material that can bring any narrative to life in ways not possible from scratch.
Will you be doing a follow up to the book?
Yes. I’ve just broken the basic plot and story arcs down for two follow up books to round out the trilogy. All i can say for now is we pick up at the end of the school year that The Lost Boy ended on. But you’ll find a lot of hanging threads getting resolved. A lot of balls thrown in the air in this first book, come down big time in these following two. The truth about Queen Mary and her cryptic prophecies, Pettibone’s legendary family secret, and what really happened at Harker’s Drop and the massive insane conflict between the Town and The Kingdom final bursts open. It’s a much bigger world expanding thing, with new characters and old all trying to survive it all. The theme of “what if nature started fighting back?” takes a mire central role in these last two books. It will be a tremendous undertaking, but if i can pull it off, it should all fuse together into a single massive story. That’s the goal at least. So far it seems to be holding. I think a consequence of having created and mapped out so many rules and details of the world and its various societies meant that, even if they are not overtly seen in the first book, allow for a structure that makes adding to that first book, seamless. The new things that get added then get added from within the laws of the created world, and I find the cascade effect is nothing short of magical. There’s a tipping point when you’re crafting a world or a character where enough data forms a kind of narrative consciousness that begins to talk back to you. To me that’s a clear sign that it’s working, no matter how lost or nutty I feel. It’s an assurance of being on the right course. Also in getting away from this book to work on other projects, there’s usually a kind of coldness that can come. A disinterest when left dormant. for the world of The Lost Boy, this has been not at all the case. No matter how much time away from it, when an idea strikes me and I find myself revisiting the story, it’s like barely a moment passed. I feel like a kid in a candy shop again.
Was it difficult getting the book published?
Not really. I had initially talked with my good friend and former Dark Horse editor about doing it there, but Scholastic gobbled it right up. I had made up a big multiform pitch kit, with sample art and all the rest so there was a lot to show. I think that made it easier. Plus having my pal and agent/manager/psychologist, Allen Spiegel marching by my side every step of the way has been incredible. But Graphix, the graphic novel imprint at Scholastic was just getting underway and hungry for new creator-driven material, so it was a lot about being in the right place at the right time. The team David Saylor has assembled over there is really something, and its a testament to their trust and partnership that they were so patient and additive to the process of breaking down the new story and really honing things down. He’s been a magnificent addition and such a strong partner in making it come together. I really pinch myself when i think about the opportunity and support Scholastic gave me in this weirdo project. I could have never hoped for a better place to grow this story and its world. But whatever tricks and turns occurred, it was hardly what I’d rate as a troubled experience. It was all so much fun and even the ruts we would run into turned out to make the book better, I can’t really complain even a little. To have my first New York Times Bestseller and my first Eisner nomination happen on a book of my own is beyond exciting and rewarding. Getting the chance to expand a world I created like this in the forthcoming sequels is the golden ring too. It’s all just been really wonderful and dizzying.
Can you tell us about your graphic novel Indeh?
It’s based on something Ethan Hawke had been working on for many years before he got in touch. It was and incredibly humongous script, and i think mostly due to the really mesmerizing facts and stories and interviews we have with Geronimo. There’s just so much to say and tell, and so our task was to sit down with all this material for a couple of years, and find a story in it. And we did. So now i’m about halfway through drawing it and its been a blast. This is such an important part of our shared history, Ethan and I feel almost evangelical about getting it out in the world. We as a country know far less than we should about this period, and talk about it in helpful terms even less than that. I think Ethan and I both feel a real duty to bring this conversation forward. No matter what is said or what we talk about, we feel strongly that talking about facing the reality of this essential aspect of our collective history is needed goal. It’s a project that has really put my skills to the ultimate test, but we’re loving it so far. We landed with the most perfect editor possible, Gretchen Young, and she’s been so brave to make this her first graphic novel project at Hachette/Grand Central. Really thrilled by that. I have to keep mum on a good bit of it, but more will start coming as we get closer to the release. I think this project is for me a culmination of everything i have done in comics up to now. It’s incredibly fun, and i could not imagine a better creative partner than Ethan. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so closely or so perfectly with someone on a project like this ever before. We seem to be almost in each other’s heads in this, sharing the same dream. It’s really incredible.
Throughout your career, you have stayed away from mainstream superhero books, was that a conscious decision on your part to avoid them?
Yeah, that was a two front avoidance. Mostly I just don’t do those types of books as well as others, and don’t see me adding much to the genre. For an overly long time you couldn’t make a living doing comics without doing a cape book. Even i found this to be true in doing Conan for Dark Horse. Also i feel very strongly about trying bring a different set of stories to the medium of American comics that has been in a choke hold by cape books for so many generations. I love a good superhero book, don’t get me wrong, but i feel like it’s my duty to try and celebrate a different path for comics as much as my meager talents can allow. Getting kids, and boys especially, back into reading comics through my work at Graphix, The Lost Boy etc… And showing that the medium can take on serious adult literature via books like INDEH. DC and Marvel have been fully folded into their movie studio parents now and i think that and the blasting open of the book publishers doors to comics has been the best thing ever. As much as i look back to the late ’80’s and early ’90’s as a particularly wonderful moment in comics – it’s what got me interested in them- i don’t think there’s ever been a better time for the medium than now. Superheroes are no longer the future of comics, at least not the way we used to see them, and i think as much as i enjoy them, this is long overdue good news. We’re in the middle of a lot of change but I think any true renaissance brings tumult with it. I’m incredibly excited to see what’s coming up in comics right now, and the power creators are gaining in the medium to tell their stories, whether it’s cape books or something personal.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Well, once INDEH is done i have to get right into the Lost Boy sequels, so that will tie me up for a good while. Before that though i have a new children’s picture book entitled COMING HOME hitting the shelves on Veteran’s Day this year, and have a few more coming down the pike after that. i’m also doing another five or so painted covers for Caitlin Kiernan’s ALABASTER as it does another run for Dark Horse, and a continuous stream of covers for Tor.com. Our collective project with Allan Amato, THE TEMPLE OF ART has kicked off its kickstarter campaign to make all these artist portraits into a film, a book and a traveling exhibit. Amazing to see what everyone’s been doing for this. Looks like i may also be judging for both Spectrum and the Society of Illustrators this year as well, and should be getting back into some of the cons. There’s more children’s picture books coming and other nascent projects I can’t yet speak to… Ethan and i should be doing the rounds next summer and fall as we march across the land to promote Indeh, so it’s going to be a very busy 2015 indeed. Like as not there’s a lot i’m forgetting… I have a couple of short projects i’d like to tackle via my website, maybe another 52 Weeks type of thing, but it may be hard to find the needed time for it. Who knows? It’s fun being busy, and no matter how hectic, for a freelancer busy is the goal… but i could also really use a break. That said, I ain’t complaining. I’m in a rarified place right now where I get to try my hand at a wide variety of different styles, mediums and subjects, and it’s really got my juices flowing and making me better at what I do. The goal when you’re an artist isn’t rest after the work is done, it’s the work itself and the work that follows.