Allan Gross Interview

Allan Gross is the writer of Cryptozoo Crew from NBM, Doctor Cyborg from Image, IS Art: the Art of Insight Studios from Insight Studios, and has written Tarzan as both a comic book and a syndicated strip. This month he brings us Roadsong from TokyoPop. Westfield's Roger Ash recently caught up with Allan to find out more about this book.

Westfield: How did Roadsong come about?

Allan Gross: Roadsong:: was one of those "4 in the morning projects."

It actually started at the Mid-Ohio Convention in 2003 when Mark Wheatley (who I work with at Insight Studios) met Joanna Estep, the artist for Roadsong. Joanna was showing her portfolio around and Mark recognized her talent. He also knew I was looking for an artist for a project I was doing about Triathlon. So he put us in touch. And while that project got put on the back burner, I thought of Joanna and her work when I was pitching story ideas to TokyoPop. In fact, Roadsong wasn't actually my first choice to pitch them, but one morning (I get up real early for Triathlon training!) I was looking over my email and for some reason I ended up going to Joanna's web page. She had done some sample art about an imaginary rock group. It really grabbed me, and so I used that as a point of focus, tied in my own background as a performing punk rocker and suddenly Roadsong was born!

Westfield: What can you tell us about the book? Who are the main characters and what can you tell us of the story?

Gross:: Roadsong is a coming of age story about two diametrically opposite high school boys. I think it's a really fun ride-like the movies The Sure Thing or Stand By Me, with a touch of Fugitive thrown in. It's risqué, but touching and painfully real as the boys learn many hard lessons about the world, wild women and themselves!

In the first book, the popular, affluent heartthrob Monty McBride and orphaned and down-on-his-luck, Simon Smallwood cross paths when they collaborate on a song for a wedding between members of their respective families. But when an explosion kills the wedding party, the boys' lives are irrevocably changed. Suspects in the crime surrounding the tragedy, the boys are forced to go on the run, and to make matters worse; the real killers are after them, too!

Using their talent as musicians (Monty on guitar and Simon on violin), they flee to a seedy world of broken-down bars, where they must survive life on the wild side while trying to clear their names! There is a lot of intrigue, temptation, conflict, crazy times and painful life lessons.

Westfield: How much of the book is based on your own experience as a musician?

Gross:: I spent nearly twenty years as a singer songwriter in a variety of bands, doing original music and some covers at a lot of crappy bars up and down the East Coast, so I have a lot to pull from. In fact, the songs the boys write in the book are songs I've written. Many were performed at one time or another in a variety of forms. And since the songs are personal, it's all based on my life in one way or another. While I didn't live too many of these exact events, as a writer you bring yourself to all the characters. My singer-songwriter abilities are there in Monty. And like him I also was a high school baseball player. Like Simon, I've also been an outsider, a punk and frustrated by women! Hey, some things are universal.

Westfield: What do you feel that artist Joanna Estep brings to the book?

Gross:: Joanna is amazing. Besides enormous talent as an artist and graphic designer, what she really brings is the "insight" to bring the scenes to life. There are artists who can draw, but the great ones make comics feel real-and she does this. The characters have great energy and we continue to work together on developing the overall series. Of course, the best part about Joanna's art is that she's made the boys irresistible. The girls reading this book will simply love Simon and Monty!

Westfield: This is planned as a mini-series. Do you hope to do more in the future?

Gross:: I've already plotted out the first three books of the series as the boys travel across the country, running from the law, solving the mystery of the people who are trying to kill them and meeting nearly every type of woman in the process! I'd love to keep doing the book. I think it will be quite successful and I think it's a great medium for telling in-depth and interesting stories. I think by the time the first three books are done, I'll be ready to put out a music CD to go with it as well with the songs from the book! Some people might remember I did that with my Doctor Cyborg: Outpatient graphic novel from Image Comics as a special promotion through Westfield!

Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on you'd like to mention?

Gross:: My other major project is Cryptozoo Crew that I'm doing with Jerry Carr. NBM is publishing that. You can get information at www.CryptozooCrew.com. And I'm also putting together another exciting project with TokyoPop as we speak, but I can't discuss that until it is finalized. Ironically, it was the original idea I had for them! But Roadsong had a will of its own and I think it really is going to be unstoppable!

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Gross:: I think Roadsong is a special project that cuts across a lot of barriers. Your traditional love story Manga readers will enjoy the relationship aspects of the book, but traditional comic book readers will also be drawn into the adventure and mystery. Enjoy!