Trust, Family, And Xenophobia: Justin M. Ryan Dishes On Trespasser From Alterna
by Brendan M. Allen
Trespasser is a heartwarming tale of a father, his daughter, and their five-legged pupper living in a post -apocalyptic radioactive countryside published by Alterna Comics. On a hunting trip in the woods near their home, Dad stumbles on an injured Roswell Grey in one of his bear traps. Not quite sure what to make of the situation, the man initially chooses compassion over safety, but something niggles at the back of his head. There are already too many mouths to feed in his modest home, and he’s not sure what this big-headed, pasty fella’s intentions are.
I recently had an opportunity to catch up with writer Justin M. Ryan to bounce a few questions off him.
Brendan M. Allen: Hey, Justin! Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions for us. Let’s kick this pig. Tell me about Trespasser. What is this book?
Justin M. Ryan: The plot of Trespasser is relatively simple: A father finds an injured alien on his property. With limited options, and fearing for his safety and the safety of his daughter, he has to make some pretty tough choices, most notably whether or not he’s willing to risk being a good Samaritan by bringing it into his home and caring for it despite the potential dangers it represents. For him, the stakes are very high and any choice could have extreme consequences. Without going too far into spoiler territory, most of the story is dealing with the fallout of his decision, and its effects on his family.
Thematically, the story is about trust, family, and in a very literal way, xenophobia. There’s also lasers.
BMA: Trespasser gave off kind of a Tell Tale Heart meets TWD (with lasers) vibe for me. Where did you find inspiration for your setting, theme, characters, and that beautiful five-legged doggo?
JMR: A lot of different ingredients went into this stew and it’s pretty easy to pick out a few main flavors. The Walking Dead was definitely an influence both in tone and theme, as well as various depictions of the ‘classic’ grey alien like in Communion and Signs. I’m very partial to short fiction, so even though I’ve never considered Poe as an influence on the story directly, his works and that of others like him who tell complete stories in a very contained way (H.P. Lovecraft, The Twilight Zone, and Robert E. Howard spring immediately to mind as personal influences) have definitely affected the writing overall.
As far as setting, character design, etc. go, I don’t like to waste a lot of words in the story explaining things, so most of it is intended as a visual shorthand. The deformities apparent in Maria and Belle, as well as the Geiger counter in the early parts of the first issue say a lot about how the world got to where it is. We kept the design of the alien familiar for that reason as well. Plus, people can’t tell you your story is cliché if you say that it’s intentional, so take that, critics.
BMA: The art of Trespasser is brilliantly suited to the script. How’d you end up working with Kristian on this project? What’s that partnership been like?
JMR: Kristian was a huge blessing for this project. I found him on-line through Digital Webbing’s forums, and I knew he was the right person for the job as soon as I saw the test page he produced. The test page is in the book. He nailed the character designs, tone, and every damn thing else on his first try, having only read a few pages of the script. We’ve never met in person, and just spoke on the phone for the first time recently, when we did a show together on the Alterna Comics YouTube channel, along with our letterer DC Hopkins. The whole team has been a blast to work with, and we’re going to stick together for some future projects as well.
BMA: All right, give me the dirt. What craziness went on behind the scenes? Any fistfights? Give us the good stuff. Don’t hold back.
JMR: I can’t think of anything that qualifies as crazy. I lead a remarkably boring life and we didn’t have a strict deadline since Alterna wasn’t going to release the first issue until we were done with the series. No fist fights. Despite the universal belief that comic book creators are all renegade badasses, we managed to get along.
BMA: You’ve shattered my entire belief system.
BMA: This is your first foray from short stories into the world of comics and graphic novels, right? What drew you into the medium? What’s it like to see your work in comic shops?
JMR: It is my first comic, yes. I’ve had a few short stories published before, but never anything like Trespasser. It’s very surreal, but so damn cool to see the book out in the wild. It’s vindicating. It means you weren’t wasting your time reading and drawing and writing all those years while everyone else was racing sports cars, or going to clown college, or whatever you should have been doing but weren’t. Sure, my peers are all finishing up master’s degrees and starting careers with salaries and full benefits, but did they write a comic book? Probably not.
BMA: You mentioned the squad has some future projects in mind. That’s exciting. Anything you’re ready to let us in on?
JMR: The Trespasser team is working on our next pitch, which is intended to be a little bit bigger than Trespasser in scope, and could be described as a superhero horror story, so keep an eye out for that. There’s also been talk of launching a Kickstarter for a follow-up to Trespasser which would be an anthology of short stories taking place in the same universe, and in some cases following existing characters from Trespasser. No spoilers, but it would serve as a bridge between the final chapter and the epilogue, as well as offering a variety of other viewpoints.
BMA: Anything else you want our readers to know before you split?
JMR: Shill alert! If you liked Trespasser or even if you didn’t, check out the rest of Alterna Comics’ lineup! It’s all super cheap (less than $2.00 per issue across the board on newsprint) and there’s something for everyone, from kid friendly superheroes to violent westerns, and everything in between. Also, if you have cats, be careful about bringing any lilies into your home. Some are super toxic to the little bastards.
BMA: Awesome! Thank you again so much for your time. And for that lily tip. Honestly, had no idea.
Trespasser GN, published by Alterna Comics, collects the complete limited series, chapters #1-4, and releases 27 June 2018. Written by Justin M. Ryan, art by Kristian Rossi, letters by DC Hopkins.