Talking To Mat Groom About His New Kickstarter, ‘Inferno Girl Red’ Tokusatsu Graphic Novel

by Olly MacNamee

Marvel’s Ultraman writer, Mat Groom, has a new Kickstarter launched yesterday for Inferno Girl Red, a new 100 page graphic novel illustrated by Erica D’Urso, colour artist Igor Monti, letterer Becca Carey, and editor Kyle Higgins. A mix of US super-heroics, Japanese tokusatsu superheroes, and the intrigue and relationship drama of Harry Potter. We caught up with Mat ahead of the launch to ask more about this promising sounding campaign.

Olly MacNamee: Writing your own Ultraman series from Marvel must be a dream come true already, but to cap it off, you’ve just launched a new Kickstarter in a similar vein, called Inferno Girl Red. Billed as a mixture of “Into the Spider-Verse with the dynamic storytelling and world-building of Japanese tokusatsu superheroes, and the intrigue and relationship drama of British boarding school fiction”, that’s quite the blend. What was the deciding factor in launching now after three year of working on this project?

Mat Groom: Honestly it really just came down to it finally being ready! It took me a long time to crack the sort of story I wanted to tell, and figure out all of the different elements and beats. Then, after that Kyle Higgins (the editor on the project) conducted an exhaustive search for the right artist, which took the better part of a year. Then there was getting all of the elements in play, and laying the groundwork for a (hopefully!) successful Kickstarter campaign, which is a whole lot of work… and this all had to happen while I was working my day job and writing on Ultraman. It’s been a long journey, but I’m glad we’re finally here!

OM: My Spidey-senses tell me you’re something of a fan of tokusatsu superheroes. How did this love for these Japanese capes and cowl crowd come about in the first place? 

MG: Good pick-up! Like with many, many other people my age, my first exposure to tokusatsu was Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers — even if it was a very second-hand exposure, and I wasn’t aware at the time how much of the show was created in Japan.

But I was struck by the scale, the vibrancy of the aesthetics, feel of the action… and then when I was older, and followed the thread back to the source, I realized this was just the tip of the iceberg… there are narrative conventions and approaches to serialized storytelling in tokusatsu that are so unlike western superheroes, and so valuable to learn from.

OM: With other influences, as mentioned, this is certainly a fusion of genres and cultures I’ve not heard of before. How did the original idea for Inferno Girl Red come about in the first place?

MG: It started with my desire to explore what I felt were contradictory aspects of unfounded belief — that it’s both necessary to achieve great things in the face of long odds, but also it carries a lot of risk, like the potential for self-delusion. I wanted to figure out what it means to navigate that contradiction, as I think we’ll all have to do in the coming years, as we collectively face multiple huge challenges with long odds.

But of course that’s all really conceptual, right? So to ground it, I started creating the story of a teen girl named Cássia Costa, who has had something of a hard life but becomes the last line of defense when her home city is ripped out of existence… but will only be able to save the city if she’s able to muster enough faith (in herself, and the future) to wield the belief-powered dragon gauntlet that allows her to transform into Inferno Girl Red.

From there, it was about figuring out what influences might help inform the creation of this world, how they might help us express the ideas and emotions, and how they might be synthesized into something that feels really new and fresh!

OM: You’ve got a great team working with you, including Kyle Higgins as your editor. And someone who’s riding high with his own tokusatsu inspired series Radiant Black at Image as well as your co-partner on Ultraman. I take it your shared love was a no-brainer in getting him onboard?

MG: Yeah! But, honestly, it would’ve been a no-brainer anyway… I’ve benefited from Kyle’s wisdom and experience for years, especially when he was editing my Image series Self/Made. He just somehow happened to be even better suited to the role here.

OM: How did you find the other creators for this project? 

MG: Well as I mentioned earlier, the search for artist/co-creator was a long one. Kyle and I looked through hundreds of portfolios, I literally spent whole days scrolling through hashtags like #VisibleWomen on Twitter, we asked everyone we knew… and in the end it was that last approach that paid off. Francesco Manna, Kyle and I’s artist collaborator on Ultraman, recommended Erica D’Urso, and as soon as we saw Erica’s work, we knew we’d found the right person. Her work has that rare quality of being able to express wild, bombastic and dynamic action… but also being able to express raw, heartfelt emotion. Add on top of that her style and design aesthetic that makes her work truly unique, as well as the incredible passion and remarkable (and remarkably-intuitive!) world-building ability… I really, really lucked out.

The referral method was how we came across our colorist Igor Monti, as well — this time, we were pointed in his direction by Daniele Di Nicuolo, who Kyle worked with on Power Rangers. Igor’s approach was a perfect match for Erica’s work—he creates these electric, vibrant and dazzling palettes, but they’re not overwhelming, because he so expertly guides the emotion of the scene with the color work. Plus, what he does with light and shadow… it honestly seems like magic to me. His work, and our letterer Becca Carey’s work, makes our book (in my opinion) look like it’s from the future. Like they’ve preempted where the best comics are going, and beat them there.

Speaking of Becca, she works with Kyle on Radiant Black, so I was very familiar with her work and we approached her really early on. We tasked her with ensuring the lettering is as vibrant and expressive and energetic as art, we wanted it to feel charged with that same sort of dramatic energy… and Becca absolutely nailed it. I know it’s a common thing to say, but I really, truly mean it—I can’t believe my luck, getting to work with this team. It’s such a privilege.

OM: Of course, a big and exciting part of any Kickstarter are the pledge prizes and stretch goals. What can people expect if they back this 100 page graphic novel? Y’know, other than one kick-ass comic book, right?

MG: Well the 100-page, kick ass comic book is an important part of it, for sure! Especially because it has a cover that is exclusive to this Kickstarter campaign, and exclusive concept art backmatter as well.

But there is indeed more — we have high-quality Inferno Girl Red art prints by 15 artists (including Nicola Scott, Darko Lafuente, Tiffany Turrill, Nicole Doux, Doaly and many more)… and one of those is a team-up print with RADIANT BLACK, with the print being a jam piece by Erica and RADIANT BLACK artist Marcelo Costa!

We’re also offering a chance to cameo in the book as a character, the original art for Nicola Scott’s print, and one other thing that I can’t mention yet because it’s not quite ready, but I’m particularly excited by it because it’s something I’ve never seen done in a comics Kickstarter before!

OM: I may be getting ahead of myself, but if this is a success – no, when this is a success – are there future plans for Inferno Girl?

MG: We’d absolutely love to do more. We’re all so passionate about this world and these characters, and I think there’s so much potential there… so, yeah. We have some ideas in mind. In fact, if we’re funded… you might see Inferno Girl Red popping up in some unexpected places…

But we’re also big believers in delivering a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end. We’re very aware that nothing will happen at all without backers, so our first and most important priority is delivering a compelling novel for them.

OM: Mat, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, given how busy you must be with the launch, so I’ll leave you with one final question: In a nutshell, why should folks back this stunning looking graphic novel?

MG: Oh, no, I’m so happy for the chance to talk about the book, thank you! Okay, why should folks back it?

Because it’s a genuine passion project from a team of people pouring their everything into making the best book they can. Because there’s no other way for this project to come to life. Because I think it says something meaningful about what it’s going to take for us all to face the challenges of the future. Because you can get some of those amazing rewards I mentioned two questions ago! And because it’s 100 pages of glorious art, telling a thrilling and heartfelt story about hope in the face of darkness, and action in the face of apathy!

To read more about the Inferno Girl Red campaign and back it, check it out now here.

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