Originally announced by Image Comics at Emerald City Comic Con earlier this year, Redlands instantly grabbed our attention by virtue of its strong premise and – crucially – its mouth-watering creative team.
Written by Eisner Award-winner Jordie Bellaire (Pretty Deadly, All-Star Batman, basically any book you’ve read in the last five years that has colour in it) and illustrated by acclaimed artist Vanesa R. Del Ray (Zero, Constantine, Scarlet Witch), the blend of killer witches, a backwoods Floridian town and some truly jaw-dropping artwork meant that we simply had to find out more about it.
Thankfully, Jordie was able to take some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to sit down and have a chat about just what we should expect from the series when it hits shelves this August.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Tell us a little bit about the basic premise of the series, and where the inspiration for Redlands first came from?
JORDIE BELLAIRE: Redlands slowly developed out of my interests in crime and horror. Combined, they’ve become Redlands. The story is that witches have taken over a small-town with even smaller minds. The witches will have to balance an overwhelming desire to be normal while also exercising constant control over the town.
BCP: What was it about Vanesa’s style that you thought would help bring your story to life?
JORDIE: Vanesa is very unlike any other artist in the comic industry. She’s got a great, visceral, liquid style that really touches my heart. She’s also currently living in Florida and I know she can see just out her window, the beauty and tremendous weirdness Florida has to offer.
BCP: It does feel like there’s a distinctly Floridian vibe here too, from the overall aesthetic to the dialogue. Is that something you feel is integral to the series as a whole?
JORDIE: Oh definitely. I grew up in Florida and I moved every other year, changing schools, friends, neighborhoods and homes. It wasn’t the best situation, feeling like I was starting over as an outcast all the time but I met many different people and saw many different towns. They all look the same but they were all different in their own way. Florida is an interesting, strange place.
BCP: The first issue is one hell of a tense, horrific ride, but doesn’t really dig into the real meat of the story to come. I’m always curious about how writers tackle first issues, trying to keep the reader intrigued without giving the whole story away right from the start. How did you approach that challenge for Redlands?
JORDIE: I actually had a different idea for the first issue and now that has become issue two. Originally, I wanted to start our readers off in the present but realized that didn’t really show you what the witches were really capable of right away. I went back to writing something different, something that would homage one of my favorite John Carpenter films, Assault on Precinct 13. The loss of control and the end of a power struggle. We quickly address that women in our story are forces of nature. I think Vanesa too, pulled in her beautiful, iconic imagery, really pushing the reader into an immersive place.
BCP: Following on from that, we don’t really get to meet the witches themselves them for very long in the first issue, although they definitely make one hell of a first impression. Can you tell us a little bit about them, both from a characterisation and a visual point of view?
JORDIE: The witches have many things to learn and you as the reader will learn with them. They should be mysterious for a while yet but it’s important to note that they will be quite complex. Murderers but martyrs, villains and heroes. Visually, Vanesa developed their look much on her own. I had only one note for one character but she will be developing more at her own pace. I was so happy to see Vanesa painted the characters with a great diversity that really speaks to the actual landscape of Florida’s population.
BCP: It feels like there’s a lot of anger and passion behind this story, both in terms of the writing and the artwork. Would that be a fair assessment, and if so, where does that emotion come from and how do you go about challenging it in a series like this?
JORDIE: This work is definitely an exploration of things that upset and thrill me. In some ways, I think i’ll be working through my own understandings of where the world is and how we’ve gotten here and why things still feel so behind. Everything is going to be on the table and I’m hoping to rip it open and find the complexity of things, rather than the black and white, 140-character quips we’re so used to these days. Through these characters, these horror tropes and a place like Florida, we have so much we can do and say, but it’s not a one-sided piece of work at all. You’ll find that the characters you may feel are the most relatable are actually ridiculously flawed and awful, you’ll end up feeling betrayed later.
BCP: The first issue is a full-on horror story, but what sort of tone are you looking to strike for the series as a whole now that the witches are firmly in control?
JORDIE: There will be horror elements but at the heart of Redlands is just a drama story on what it is to be human and is being human really all that great.
BCP: And finally, what would you say to someone who was on the fence about picking Redlands up to help convince them to give it a try?
JORDIE: If you’re angry about the lack of discourse in the world, if you want more sex in comics but you don’t know where to find, if there’s just not enough love of Satan in the world for you or if it’s just possible you really miss Buffy the Vampire Slayer but wish Faith had her own show this whole time…this book is something you should try!
REDLANDS #1 goes on sale in print and digital on August 9th. Keep your eyes glued to the Big Comic Page for an advance review closer to the release date.