EXCLUSIVE Interview: Alexis Cruz Breaks the Graphic Novel Mold with THE UNPROFESSIONALS

Continuing our coverage of Stargate actor Alexis Cruz’s 6-issue graphic novel project, The Unprofessionals: A Sociopathic Bromance, I recently caught up with him at Dallas Comic Con’s Fan Days in October. Cruz is not only an actor but a creative force to be reckoned with. Check out our conversation below as we talk about the status of the graphic novel, how he’s broken the mold of the traditional graphic novel with The Unprofessionals, launched through Kickstarter.

Alexis Cruz: We’ve published our first limited edition #1, Chapter 1 of The Unprofessionals: A Sociopathic Bromance. We are completed through chapter 4 as well. 5 & 6 will be out next year. We will complete with the entire project by next July.

SciFi Mafia: Excellent!

Alexis Cruz:  It was tough going but we finally made it happen. This Limited Edition #1 looks really amazing and we’re so, so proud of it. We made 500 of these. At this point now, I just have under 150 left.

SFM: :gasps: So how can people get their hungry hands on these?

Alexis Cruz:  You can go to our website www.sociopathicbromance.com . You can order it directly from us. I guarantee they are going to be gone.

You know it’s one thing to talk about it and build up the buzz but now that we have it out and the reviews have been coming in… thank you for your beautiful article on SciFi Mafia. It really helped a lot to really get the word out there. And all of the responses that we’ve been getting from the pro reviewers have been spectacular. Like not a single bad review which was a great vindication for us because if you remember, we talked about it, we had so much skepticism from pros that six different artists is not going to work and watercolors is not going to work and blah blah blah blah blah… but I was tenacious in my vision and would not compromise. And thank God we didn’t because now all of those things that we were told was not going to work is exactly the things that reviewers are pointing out that are innovative, fresh and brilliant. And I knew it would and it’s so nice to be vindicated with that.

And for Colin [Rankine] as well. It’s his first graphic novel and I put everything behind it. I’m really proud for him.

[Above: Colin Rankine and Alexis Cruz signing limited edition #1s]

SFM: You guys *should* be really proud for it and it makes me so happy that you stuck to your guns and are breaking new ground with this project.

Alexis Cruz: Thank you.

SFM: Well now, what have you learned from this process thus far?

Alexis Cruz: Everything. The core thing is to stick to your vision. If you know it to be true, don’t compromise. Have partners that you can rely on and trust because you’re going to need them to talk you off of ledges. I’ve got probably like a thousand new grey hairs over this.

SFM: Well, I can’t see any of them!

Alexis Cruz:  :laughs: They’re there! Stick with it.

We learned a lot about the process, too. Everything from the technical things of formatting, using InDesign, budgeting… you know we started our Kickstarter off at $30,000 and we made that but, along the way I came to find out that the whole project actually takes a lot more than that.

Marc Silvestri did it right. He did his Cyber Force on Kickstarter. Besides having Image behind him, we were going for a similar production value, which was ambitious on our end. But again, I did not compromise. If you find us on your shelf and it holds up to [Cyber Force], that will be my proudest moment.

SFM: Now going back to what you mentioned about what nay-sayers said about multiple artists, how did you resolve that in your coordination of your efforts in getting the story and the artistic style where you wanted it to go?

Alexis Cruz:  Part of it was that I had a really strong vision for the total art direction. And the key thing was that I knew that our colorist and our letterer would be consistent throughout the whole thing. Even though we’re switching out line artists, we get a different perspective. As the story unravels, as the consequences of Jake and Leo’s actions come back to bite them, you start to really see this graphic novel unfold through the vision of various artists. I have to say that both Kate Glasheen and Troy Peteri have really gone above and beyond in their own artistic view of the book.

For Troy especially, the great tragedy of the letterer is that they are often invisible. We pushed him and he met the challenge. He created art. It adds so much more subtext and nuance to the story. It’s not just Leo says this, but the way it’s said visually makes a difference. It informs the story more and to get that kind of work out of a letterer is rare. I don’t think I’ve actually seen it happen.

SFM: Or maybe it’s never asked of them.

Alexis Cruz:  That’s right. It’s never asked of them, but I demanded that each person bring their vision, bring their skills. Let’s get down and get creative and break those boundaries. You’re not recognized as an artist? Let’s change that! I’m behind each and every one [of our artists] Chris Moreno, Kate Glasheen, Troy Peteri, Edwin Vazquez, Christian DiBari, and Michael Montenat. All these guys have pushed the envelope and God bless them. It’s been a godsend for us.

[Above: Sneak peek at art by Michael Montenat for The Unprofessionals. Click to blow sh!t up.]

SFM: And I love that you let everyone have their own creative space and tell them that they have their own creative space.

Alexis Cruz:  Because I knew in the end how it would come together and that I have this vision for this crime story that would be told in a light-hearted visual way, I knew that it would be part of the surprises that would come. So as things get grittier and realer, there’s this juxtaposition between the dream that Leo and Jake have, the sociopathy that they have is colored. This whole dreamscape that’s going on and that had to remain consistent throughout various points and I knew that artists weren’t used to seeing their work in this way either. But I said, ‘Let’s push it.’ Now that the feedback has been coming in, I think it’s been a big eye opener for us, for the audience, for the artists themselves who are suddenly looking at their own work in a different way.

[Above: Line drawing of a page from chapter #2 of The Unprofessionals]

SFM: #1 looks amazing and I’m so proud of you and your team.

Alexis Cruz: Thank you. Thank you.

As always, it’s wonderful to gain insight into crowdfunded projects like The Unprofessionals to inspire others to follow their own creative dreams! Thank you, Alexis for speaking with SciFi Mafia.

Go right now and order yourself one of the few limited edition #1s left of The Unprofessionals: A Sociopathic Bromance at www.sociopathicbromance.com ! #2 has also just been released digitally and paperback trade this month.

There’s more to come! Want to know more about how to use Kickstarter for your own project? I have more from Alexis Cruz and several other artists, writers, and creative people on their experiences with Kickstarter on the way!

Synopsis for The Unprofessionals:

New York is the city where dreams come true, and there’s no better place for a couple of starry-eyed kids to teach themselves the ropes of the murder-for-hire game. Armed with a mail-order covert ops pamphlet, a second-hand Zune, and a dream, Leo and Jake set out to show the pros how to specialize in the absurd and kill for a living…

Leo is a murder-nerd, with an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal lore, techniques and procedures. C’mon, you knew at least one guy like that in college. He lives with his grandfather, Vasili, a former Spetsnatz, who taught Leo everything he knows but is now decrepit and senile.

Jake mostly needs the money. He’s putting himself through college in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world. But beneath that, Leo’s vision speaks to a deep wellspring of rage in Jake, the youngest of four brothers who were constantly pitted against each other by an abusive father.

Now Leo and Jake are looking for their big break as world class assassins. In their world, nothing is impossible, nothing is out of reach and everything conspires to snuff out their potential. Jake & Leo will have to out-wit homicide detectives, out-maneuver shady counter-terrorism operatives, and out-gun a gang of cut-throats who don’t appreciate losing jobs to a couple of punk kids. Yeah… it’ll probably work out.

For the extended version of this interview with Alexis Cruz and The Unprofessionals: A Sociopathic Bromance, click here.

Check out:

The Unprofessionals Blog

The Unprofessionals on Facebook

Follow Alexis Cruz on Twitter: @alexiscruz929

Lillian 'zenbitch' Standefer
Written by Lillian 'zenbitch' Standefer

is Senior Managing Editor for SciFi Mafia.com, skips along between the lines of sci-fi, fantasy, and reality, and is living proof that geek girls really DO exist!