Interview: Rich Douek Talks ‘Road Of Bones’ #1!

Rich Douek, Road Bones #1,

(Courtesy of IDW Publishing)

In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Rich Douek talks about Road of Bones #1 (IDW Publishing), a captivating read that twists the prison break genre as a harrowing survival tale. Check out how the first installment of the four-issue survival tale manages to put together horror, history, and Russian folklore.

The worst prison in the world – the Siberian Gulag of Kolyma – is merely the gateway to even darker terrors, as escapees stumble over hundreds of miles of frozen tundra on a descent into delirious madness.

With Road of Bones #1 out in stores now, Rich Douek discusses how the concept came about, the research behind the project, and what readers should expect from the second installment. Check out our review of the first issue as we head into the writer’s studio and chat all about storytelling.

Road of Bones #1

Villain Media: Tell me how the premise of Road of Bones came about?

Rich Douek: I had been doing some research on prison escapes, for a totally unrelated story idea, and I came across some stories of the Gulag, what life was like there, and the lengths people went to escape. The more I looked into it, the more the story in its current form started to take shape in my mind.

VM: Road of Bones is a prison break drama and a survival thriller. Tell me about the challenges of mixing these genres along with Russian history.

RD: I feel like there’s a natural connection in that both the Gulag system, and the natural environment of Siberia, were extreme situations when it came to survival. In Siberia, winter temperatures are some of the coldest on Earth – food is scarce, and the terrain is treacherous – while in the camps, the work, gangs and guards were so brutal, coupled with the lack of food, that the average life expectancy was a matter of months or a couple of years.

VM: The first issue really gets into Roman’s mindscape. Tell me how you and Letterer Justin Birch established on the narrative through Roman’s POV.

RD: Justin’s done a great job conveying the bleakness and isolation we wanted to get across in the story. In the camp, Roman is surrounded by people, almost all of whom mean or want to do him harm, and I think that speaks a lot to his state of mind. And Justin and I tried to carry that through in how the lettering looked on the page.

Road of Bones #1

VM: The first issue really gets into Roman’s mindscape. Tell me how you and Letterer Justin Birch established on the narrative through Roman’s POV.

RD: Justin’s done a great job conveying the bleakness and isolation we wanted to get across in the story. In the camp, Roman is surrounded by people, almost all of whom mean or want to do him harm, and I think that speaks a lot to his state of mind. And Justin and I tried to carry that through in how the lettering looked on the page.

VM: I love how artist Alex Cormack established the layout of the prison in the illustrations. From the tunnels to the snowy mountain range, how did you and Cormack work this out?

RD: Alex and I started by going over a lot of reference material – looking at historical photos of the camps and of Siberia in general, and photos of artifacts that have survived from that era to be put into museums. Even though we were telling a fictional story, I think we both felt a responsibility to get the historical details right – or at least as close as we could with the resources we had.

VM: Congrats on the news of the first issue being sold out and headed into second printing. What does this mean to you and your creative team?

RD: Thanks! It was amazing news that took us all by surprise. As I’ve been making comics more, I’ve tended to ask less about how things are doing in terms of strict numbers. At the end of the day, all I, or any of the team members can do is concentrate on making the book as great as it can be, and if people respond, great. And man, have people been responding to this! In the short term, it means a second printing for us, which is great because it will help us make back some of the investments we’ve made in this project. In the long term, who knows? Hopefully it’s a sign that people like our work, and will check out future projects from us.

VM: I don’t want to get into spoiler territory but that last page was really shocking. What’s in store for readers with issue #2?

RD: Alex and I jokingly call issue #1 our “feel good issue!” [laughs]. As the escapees go further and further into the wilderness, hunger beckons, tempers flare, and I promise there are a lot more shocking twists to come!

VM: How did Road of Bones #1 change you as a storyteller?

RD: I think it really bolstered my confidence in a weird way. It’s not that I thought I could only write fantasy, or science fiction, but that’s how I always saw myself as a writer – telling tales in these big, epic worlds far removed from reality. Road of Bones taught me that I can write a lot closer to the real world, with a smaller cast of characters, and still create something that I find compelling and interesting. I’m not hanging up my swords and laser blasters or anything, but it’s definitely a good thing to know.

Road of Bones #1

VM: What are you working on now?

RD: Right now, I’m working on WAILING BLADE, the first issue of which comes out next week. It’s a very different story, set in the far future, with lots of big, bombastic action and a huge-ass sword, haha. I’m really excited for it to come out, too. I’m also working on more GUTTER MAGIC, which I’ll have news about soon. Other than that, I’m pitching some new ideas around, and we’ll see who bites!

Road of Bones #1 is out in stores now.

[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]

By Jorge Solis

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