Mat Groom just spoke to Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows about his new kickstarter Inferno Girl Red…
TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE: What was the genesis of Inferno Girl Red?
MAT GROOM: Like all of my books, it started with an idea I was wrestling with—in this case, about how unfounded belief is actually really vital to push yourself to achieve something great in the face of long odds… but also, how unfounded belief can be dangerous, with so much risk of self-delusion leading you down a toxic path.
It’s a really difficult tightrope to walk, but we’re all going to have to get great at walking it—because there are so many huge, long-odds challenges that we’re collectively going to have to face in the coming years.
So I wanted to explore that idea, in a graphic novel that mixes superhero drama, teen angst and tokusatsu action!
TW: What made you use Kickstarter rather than utilise more traditional means?
MG: It really came down to format. I’ve loved writing single issues, and will continue to, but from the start I really felt that this story needed to be told as a novel—it needed the space to breathe and build, which is more difficult when you’re trying to do a beginning, middle and end every 20(ish) pages, as single issues really should.
The other factor was that we wanted to maintain control of the Intellectual Property—because we’ve invested too much in these characters and this world to give up control of its destiny.
But if we wanted the art team to be able to produce 100 pages while still being able to pay rent and buy food, and we wanted to not give up the IP… there was really only option—take our book to the community via Kickstarter, and see if they’d be willing to fund the book directly.
It’s been a lot of work, but really rewarding—the level of support and enthusiasm we’ve seen already has really warmed our hearts.
TW: How did artist Erica D’Urso come on board?
MG: Editor Kyle Higgins conducted an almost year-long search for the right co-creator for this project—and it actually ended up being Francesco Manna, our artist collaborator on ULTRAMAN, who pointed us towards Erica.
As soon as we saw her portfolio, we knew Erica was perfect—she was a master of bombastic, dynamic action and heartfelt, raw human drama. And she has this grasp of style and design that gives her work a totally unique quality. So I was very much sold, at that point—and that was before I found out she’s also a wildly inventive worldbuilder, a truly generous creative and just a genuinely nice person. So I feel extremely privileged to get to work with Erica!
TW: How collaborative has the process been so far with the project?
MG: Oh, extremely! Honestly, the collaborative element of comics is the best part of it. Erica’s concept art built on outline, my script built on Erica’s concept art, Erica’s pages built on my script, and my revised lettering script (as well as Igor Monti’s colors and Becca Carey’s letters) build on Erica’s pages. It’s just this constant back-and-forth process, with everyone contributing and being inspired by one-and-another. I can’t imagine wanting to do it any other way.
TW: The story taps into British boarding school fiction. Any particular reason as to why that influenced the project?
MG: Well, we knew we wanted to do a mix of American superhero and Japanese tokusastu-style action, with that action being an explosive literalization of the dramas at the heart of the story. But what would be the generator of the drama? I love boarding school dramas, because they take an already dramatic time of life—your teen school years—and put them in a setting where you never get to ‘go home’, away from that drama, you’re kept there, so the drama just builds like a pressure cooker. And then that drama explodes—in our book, with that technicolor action I was just talking about. It was kind of the final inspiration puzzle piece that made the whole thing work together.
TW: What else has acted as big influences on the book?
MG: Well as I mentioned before, I’m a bigger American superhero fan generally—and movies like SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE and comics like SHADOW OF THE BATGIRL have been proving how much relevance and inventiveness the genre can still have.
And again, tokusatsu—which I was introduced (in a somewhat compromised form) when I was really young, via MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS… and I grew to really appreciate as I followed that thread back to its roots, finding amazing shows like KAMEN RIDER BUILD.
TW; How did you choose the artists for the limited edition prints for the kickstarter?
MG: Well, just like Kyle and I knew it would be important to have a female artist on the book to ensure it had an authentic female perspective, we also wanted to make sure we had female artists represented in the prints, for the same reason. From there, it was just about asking people whose work we really reminded, and making sure we had a range of different styles and approaches.
TW: How did editor Kyle Higgins come on board the project?
MG: It was pretty naturally, actually—Kyle was my editor on my Image series SELF/MADE, and provided tremendously helpful guidance, drawing on both his experience as a storyteller and as someone who had to manage the production of a creator-owned comic. So very early on in the process of developing this book I asked if he’d be willing to serve as editor, and he agreed.
Higgins was your co-writer on Ultraman and he co-created Image’s Radiant Black. How much of an influence was Radiant Black on Inferno Girl Red?
Because they were developed in tandem (though it may not seem like it from the outside, based on the timelines), it was more of a case of RADIANT BLACK and INFERNO GIRL RED being influenced by similar things, rather than influencing each other.
I will say, though, that both books being creator-owned, and playing in a similar space, allows for some pretty cool opportunities…
TW: How would you describe Inferno Girl Red in one sentence?
MG: It’s an electric, high-energy and strikingly modern superhero graphic novel about hope in the face of darkness, and action in the face of apathy!