Interview/Review: Rasputin #1
By Alex Grecian, Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia
Before you embark on reading this comic sit down and prepare yourself for what you’re about to behold. This issue might be one of the strongest debuts, with some of the strongest art, that Image has put out yet—and considering just what Image can and does put it, that should say it all right there. Grigori Rasputin is one of those people whose legend has, and will continue to for generations, leave a lasting impression. Suffice it to say, if you’re not already aware of who he was you need to do yourself a favor and read up on him either before, after or during your reading of Rasputin #1.
All-Comic.com: Riley! Thanks for coming back and doing another interview with us. Hopefully you don’t mind this experiment. First things first, you’ve really blown up lately. Feels like we get to see your art everywhere and I can’t tell you how great that is. How did you get involved in a project like Rasputin?
Riley Rossmo: Alex and I started out working together in 2007 or so on Proof (Image Comics) we worked on it for 34 issues before calling it quits. Alex went on to be become a New York Times best selling prose author and I moved on to Cowboy Ninja Viking, Green Wake, Rebel Blood, Dakken etc. Six years went by and Alex ran the idea of doing a Rasputin comic me. He’d been thinking about doing a Rasputin comic or book or something for the past 20 years. He pitched me the idea of doing Rasputin as a comic I said yes and started on some covers.
How far have you and Alex planned out this series? Can we expect a lot more from you two before we get to the inevitable grand finale?
Riley Rossmo: The series very much has an end. We’re thinking of it as a maxi-series right now [and] we have some pretty interesting stuff planned. The series draws heavily on Russian folklore as well as history.
You’ve grown and improved immensely over the last couple of years, and Rasputin just might be your best work yet. Did you take a different approach to the art in this book than you have on other projects?
Riley Rossmo: I try to bring a new look to everything I do. Each new project I do I try to assess what the project requirements are and how I can best meet them. This go around we decided to hire a colorist which frees me up to spend more time inking. It’s the slowest my process has ever been but I think the extra effort shows in the pages. Ivan’s taking a real painterly approach to my pages [and] the more we do the more comfortable I’m getting with Ivan coloring my stuff. I tend to be a bit controlling with my inks and colors so it’s been a good experience to have someone I trust to make me look good.
This first issue, writer Alex Grecian seems to take a back seat to really let Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia’s work shine. He sets up the story with some haunting narrative and then for a good part of the book that follows we only get sporadic speech bubbles up to the big finale. The idea behind the story, for the few glimpses we get of what’s to come, is fascinating. Grecian and Rossmo have decided to steer this ship towards the super natural, and if you’ve read up on Rasputin since that first paragraph then you know how cool that idea is.
Particularly for this issue, how much freedom did you have to just go to town on art? Using the bear sequence as an example, how much direction did you get from Alex and how much were just you doing what you do best?
Riley Rossmo: Alex’s script is precise in all the right places all the important story beats where described in enough detail so I knew what to focus on but in some spots Alex just let me go. For the bear fight Alex just said to go for it. We started with 3 pages of Efim fighting the bear and ended up with 5 I think. I like that; working with Alex, he knows he’ll always get something a little different back than what he imagined when he sends me a script.
The writing side of this was excellent, don’t get the following statement confused, but the art absolutely stole this show. Between Rossmo’s gigantic, masterfully crafted splash pages and colorist Ivan Plascencia’s muted tones for the flashback sequences and the subtle but vibrancy he’s chosen for the rest this is an instant winner. There’s so much care and thought and detail in every single panel, that when you go back to read it again to really take your time and soak it all up you’ll come out with an even great appreciation for what they’ve achieved. The action sequences, the character designs, the sheer love that went into this book are on a level that we don’t see as often as we should. This is a testament to how great Riley Rossmo really is and with this issue alone there ought to be an Eisner in his very immediate future.
How much input did you have when it came to the coloring of the book? Usually, that’s something you handle yourself but in this instance Ivan Plascencia really nailed it. Was that something you had a hard time giving up or was it better for the book to split those duties up?
Riley Rossmo: Early on in the process Alex and I started looking for a colorist, we made a list of our favorites then asked around to see who was available. After that we hired all the people we liked to see whose colors would mesh best with my drawing, which I know can be a little difficult to interpret. Ivan seems to just get what I’m doing; he’s been great at interpreting all the little gestural lines I make or abstract contour lines I use to imply objects. It was a bit hard to let go of colors but it’s nice to be able to focus on just on drawing, Ivan’s puts way more into the colors than I can [and] every page he turns in I’m blown away how good he’s making me look. I get super excited everytime he uploads a page he’s picking colors I wouldn’t even think of but they’ve been amazing.
These days, who would you consider some of your main influences? What books, if you have any time left in the day, do you really look forward to reading each month?
Riley Rossmo: I’ve been reading a lot of Eduardo Risso lately, [as well as] Paul Pope, Kelly Jones, Bernie Wrightson, Tomer and Asaf Hanuka, Gray Morrow, and Troy Nixey, for inspiration. I try to read as many comics as I can, This week I read the Collector (Sergio Toppi), TMNT Ghostbusters, The Multiversity (the newest issue), Shamanism (Igor Baranko), Masterplasty, [and] Wytches. Right now there are a ton of books I can’t wait to read: Stray Bullets, Rachel Rising, Outcast, Trees, Nail Bitter, Starlight, TMNT, Swamp Thing, and Daredevil… I’m sure there are a ton more
For a first issue, this one was positively electric. The writing and direction, the art and colors, even the subject matter all hit the right buttons. In a sea of great comics, this one is an alpha predator and even with the level that Image is currently running at, and all the great books that they produce over there, Rasputin just set the bar that much higher. If you don’t buy this on October 29th, there’s just no hope for you.
Okay, at the end of this little experiment, can you tell us what we can expect with Rasputin in the coming issues? You know, aside from the obvious.
Riley Rossmo: A lot more folklore; we learn about Rasputin, his powers, and his journey towards the inevitable.
As always, it’s been a pleasure Riley. Thanks for doing this.
Riley Rossmo: No problem.