Following the first successful Kickstarter campaign for Inferno Girl Red: Book One, writer Mat Groom and artist Erica D’Urso return with Book Two of their Japanese tokusatsu/ American superhero amalgam.
Groom and D’Urso are joined by the entire original creative team once again (colorist Igor Monti, letterer Becca Carey, and editor Kyle Higgins) and we got a chance to speak to Groom about the return of Inferno Girl Red and his other Kickstarter project, the Bad Blood card game, in this exclusive interview.
You’re back with another Inferno Girl Red Kickstarter. What did you learn from the first one that you have applied to the new campaign?
Mat Groom: We’re back, yeah! Well, one of the things that we learned, thankfully, is that there are quite a few people interested in bold, optimistic and heartfelt superhero storytelling with action and drama in equal amounts, inspired by western superhero fiction, Japanese tokusatsu storytelling and British boarding school fiction!
So just in case there’s anyone out there unfamiliar with our series: Inferno Girl Red is the story of Cássia Costa– a teenage girl who bounced from city-to-city as her mother struggled to find work. After a difficult upbringing she gets a chance to redefine her future when she’s invited to an extremely prestigious academy, in the near-utopian Apex City. Everything is looking up for Cássia– until the entire city is ripped out of our universe and cast into darkness, taking Cássia’s hopes of a brighter future with it. But she gets a chance to turn things around when a magical bracelet rockets into her life, empowering her to take on the legacy mantle of Inferno Girl Red– though the bracelet is powered by belief, forcing Cássia to find a reason to hope when all seems lost, so she can live up to a secret legacy, save her only family, and protect her new home!
There are few more (and more boring) logistical answers– we learned how difficult international shipping is in the middle of a pandemic, that sort of stuff. But we also learned about how best to engage with the Kickstarter community– specifically, we learned that clear, honest and open communication is rewarded, and that the community is incredibly supportive.
Inferno Girl Red Book One was recently published as a Image Comics series. How did you feel that the over-sized edition translated to a traditional monthly comic?
Mat Groom: It’s been an interesting experiment! Though we had to scale the book down in terms of physical dimensions for the comic market, it was still oversized in terms of length– on average, each of our issues was double the page count of a typical comic issue.
Thankfully, people seemed to really respond to it– it gave us page real estate to have in-depth scenes with the characters, and it gave us more space to cut loose with action (I think the final action sequence of Book One is nearly 20 pages by itself). I think that helped us and our story stand out amongst the crowd.
How is Inferno Girl Red a modern superhero story for the 21st century?
Mat Groom: In a couple of ways– first, in that it’s an allegory for the current teenage experience. The darkness pressing in on Apex City from all sides is only the slightest of metaphors– we ask so much of teenagers today, expecting the next generation to change the world and save it from all the damage we’ve done… whilst enduring a global pandemic in their formative years, as they still go through the same coming-of-age challenges we all did. IGR is a story about trying to find a (realistic, earned) sense of hope amongst all of that, without losing yourself.
The second way is that I think our creative team, Erica (co-creator and illustrator), Igor (colorist) and Becca (letterer) push the visuals of what superhero comics can be. In our earliest discussions we said we wanted to try and imagine what superhero comics might look like in the future, say ten years or so, and try and get there– go bigger and bolder and more emotive, as much as possible, and I think they nailed it.
What can you say about this creative team and what they bring to the comic?
Mat Groom: Oh I can sing their praises for days if you’ll let me! First of all, Erica– I’ve said this a few times, but I really mean it: there’s a reason we put her name first in the credits of the book. Her creativity, style, energy and worldbuilding is such a vital part of the DNA of IGR. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist with her range– she makes even the smallest emotional beats so resonant and affecting, and can communicate so much through subtle body language and expressions… but in the action scenes, she goes SO big, impactful, and energetic, it’s like pages come alive. There’s truly nothing she can’t handle.
Igor’s colors are an element of the book that gets commented on quite frequently– they’re so vivid and striking, that they tell a story all on their own. His approach to coloring this book has become synonymous not just with IGR, but with the entire Massive-Verse in a lot of ways, which is why we’ve brought him in to handle things like our SUPERMASSIVE crossover events. But it’s not just color, he’s also a wizard at manipulating light, which is so key to our book about being a light in the dark.
And Becca is one of the MVPs of the Massive-Verse, she letters quite a few of our series– but she always puts so much work into giving each series its own style. I love what she’s done with IGR, giving the lettering a very down-to-Earth, organic vibe… she’s the voice of our characters, in a lot of ways, and I feel so privileged to work with someone so in-tune with my rhythm as a writer.
How much are you involved in selecting and constructing the backer levels for a project like Inferno Girl Red?
Mat Groom: Oh, we’re totally involved! It’s just us! We sometimes get a bit of (very valuable and appreciated) input from David and Hanna at Superfan PR, who help us out with promoting our Kickstarter campaigns, and we listen to suggestions from the community… but we’re an independent, creator-owned comic, so all decisions are up to us.
I do love this particular element, though. One of my favorite parts is being able to reach out to artists we love and asking them to put their own spin on IGR and her world, through our Kickstarter-exclusive prints.
What can you tell us about the Bad Blood card game. How different was the creative process on Bad Blood when compared to a comic?
Mat Groom: Oh, yeah! So I’m friends with Kelly McMahon, who is a brilliant graphic artist, and she had done these exquisitely beautiful sets of playing cards before. She’s been working on a new set of playing cards, this time themed around the roaring 20s, with a bit of art deco, noir, high crime vibes… and she had the idea of doing a murder mystery to go alongside the cards, and approached me to write it! And of course I said yes, I was very excited to do it!
It was quite different to writing a comic, because it’s almost more like building a game. We had to establish different suspects, and then give players enough clues to solve the puzzle, using both the art of the characters on the face cards, and the Investigator’s Journal that comes with the card deck. What I love about it is that investigating the mystery gives you a chance to really understand the lives and motivations of all the characters on the cards– so next time you play a game (being it poker, or solitaire), you won’t just be appreciating the beautiful art, you’ll have an understanding of these characters and this world!
The Kickstarter for Bad Blood will be launching soon on Kickstarter, so make sure you check it out! Anybody who backs both Bad Blood and the Inferno Girl Red: Book Two Kickstarter campaign at a physical reward level will get a holographic IGR litho art print, to boot!
Other projects you’re working on?
Mat Groom: Not much I can talk about, I’m afraid. I have a short story in the Boom! Studios Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 30th Anniversary Special anthology, which I’m really proud of… as for everything else, you’ll just have to wait and see! Some big stuff coming, though!