Mat Groom and Eric D’Urso’s Inferno Girl Red combines a number of Eastern and Western storytelling traditions in a unique and fun way. The project (now available to back on Kickstarter) combines two of Groom’s loves: Power Ranger style tokusatsu action and modern superhero tales.
In this exclusive interview, we spoke with Groom about the origins of Inferno Girl Red, his artistic collaborator D’Urso and editor/friend Kyle Higgins, Ultraman, and some of his favorite tokusatsu series.
Where did the idea for Inferno Girl Red first surface?
Mat Groom: It started with me wanting to explore the idea of unfounded/optimistic belief—how it can be powerful and allow you to achieve great things, but it also comes with the risk of taking you to toxic, self-deluding place. And how to walk that tightrope as we head into a future filled with unprecedented challenges.
As I explored these ideas, I realized they’d be a great foundation for a new kind of graphic novel story—one that could be expressed with superhero drama, teen angst and tokusatsu-style action!
Why was Erica D’Urso the perfect artist for this project?
Groom: Obviously Erica brings the lived experience and perspective of being a woman, which is vital to making Cássia feel authentic as a character. But more than that, she’s able to portray action in a profoundly dynamic, expressive way, while still handling emotion in a way that is raw and moving. Plus, she has a fantastic sense of style, and is a thoughtful and inventive worldbuilder. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better collaborator.
What is it about tokusatsu heroes has always intrigued you? First memories of them?
Groom: Well I got my first taste of tokusatsu via Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, which I suspect is true of very many people my age. I remember being really struck by the immense scale of it, and how different it was—the aesthetics and the pacing and the nature of the action.
It wasn’t until I got older and started exploring true tokusatsu like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider (rather than American adaptions) that I realized these differences were just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a different approach to serialized storytelling and superheroes there that I think offer some really interesting lessons to learn from.
How is Cássia Costa a typical and atypical tokusatsu hero?
Groom: Well continuing on from that last question, Cássia is a typical tokusatsu hero in that, unlike most American superheroes, she’s not out to protect to ‘fight crime’, to protect the status quo. She has a defined mission—to get her city (which has been ripped out of our reality) and its inhabitants safely back home. She’s also not interested in protecting the status quo, because she thinks there’s a lot of need for transformative change.
But Cássia is an atypical tokusatsu hero in that the world around her isn’t typically toku-esque. As I mentioned, her city has been ripped out of our reality and is now floating in a dark and dangerous alternative dimension, lending proceedings a sci-fi air. Plus, she’s attending a prestigious boarding school and trying to find her place there, bringing in some boarding school drama vibes. All of this is to say Cássia’s not a typical tokusatsu hero because tokusatsu is just one of the genres we’re pulling influences from—in the hope of creating something that feels truly fresh, and approaching some ideas from new perspectives.
Kyle Higgins is your editor for Inferno Girl Red. What was the experience like after working with Kyle as a co-writer?
Groom: Kyle and I are close friends, and we have a rather informal working relationship—so it’s really not that different. We just get together and talk ideas and story and perspectives, as would probably would even if we weren’t working on anything together. The difference between this and Ultraman is that, instead of us both driving the story and offering feedback on each other’s ideas, it’s more one-way—I’m driving, and Kyle is offering feedback (as well as great advice on other areas like production decisions).
You both worked on Ultraman for Marvel. How was the process different for Ultraman vs. Inferno Girl Red?
Groom: Ultraman was a unique challenge in itself, because we were creating a world (really a whole universe) from the ground up—yes, we had so much wonderful material from the franchise to build from, but this wasn’t the same version of the story, it’s a separate continuity, which means we had to plan out this brand new world and its history whole cloth, while ensuring that, even as the details changed, the heart and core of Ultraman remained true.
It was similar with Inferno Girl Red, but this time there was no specific content to pull from and no core that had to be maintained. Instead, we figured out the exact sort of story we wanted to tell, and then created an entire new world (and, again, history) built around these ideas, experimenting as we went. It was very liberating.
Thoughts on the Kickstarter funding option?
Groom: I think Kickstarter is great for helping creators discover what market is out there for creator-owned series—and even what sort of format the market will support. Some might say that Erica and I aren’t big enough ‘names’ to justify the funds needed for a full, high-quality 100 page graphic novel. But I think that though most people will not have heard of us, we have a story (and incredible art!) that will resonate enough to bring people in. Am I right? I guess we’ll find out!
Groom: I’m continuing on Ultraman with Kyle, and hopefully continuing to work on Inferno Girl Red, if the Kickstarter campaign goes well! I have two other things in the works, but it’s a little early to talk about those just now. Especially when there’s so much to share about IGR!
Inferno Girl Red by Mat Groom and Erica D’Urso is available to back on Kickstarter until May 6, 2021.