Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for your new graphic novel, Inferno Girl Red. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of this superhero story?
Mat Groom: Inferno Girl Red is a 100-page graphic novel that mixes superhero drama, teen angst, and tokusatsu action to tell a story about hope in the face of darkness, and action in the faith of apathy! To go into a little more detail:
A teen girl named Cássia, who has had a challenging life, gets a chance for a fresh start when she’s invited to a prestigious and cutting-edge school in the near-utopian Apex City. But that fresh start is put at risk when an ancient cult, and their army of demons, rip Apex City out of reality.
Now, a magical dragon bracelet has rocketed into Cássia’s life and affixed itself to her arm, giving her and the city a fighting chance at survival—but only if she can muster the faith in herself (and the future) required to wield the belief-powered bracelet… so she can live up to a secret legacy, defend those she cares most about, and rescue Apex City as INFERNO GIRL RED!
BD: The story deftly combines various iterations of superhero storytelling, from YA dramas to Japanese tokusatsu, with a touch of British boarding school fiction thrown into the mix. What can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with artist Erica D’Urso, colorist Igor Monti, letterer Becca Carey, and editor Kyle Higgins in blending these narratives?
MG: The process of blending these different approaches was understanding their commonality—they all deal with heightened, larger-than-life emotion. From there we went about figuring out what approaches to channeling and expressing that emotion worked best together, and how they could be synthesized into a more compelling whole.
My co-creator Erica D’Urso was vital to this—she's so wildly inventive and such a great worldbuilder with a powerful sense of style that she knew how to be inspired by different aesthetic elements while still creating something that is so specifically her style and doesn’t feel like anything that’s come before. Igor and Becca only built upon this approach, bringing a properly modern approach to the colors and letters, expressing that core emotion in really striking ways. I honestly can’t believe how well our sample pages came out, how cohesive they feel—I hope you’ll go check them out.
As for working with Kyle, we’ve known each other for years and have a very relaxed working relationship. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not valuable—in fact, I value his experience and wisdom on everything from grand storytelling to minute comics production more than ever before.
BD: Your collaboration with Kyle Higgins extends beyond Inferno Girl Red, as you co-write Marvel’s Ultraman series. Do you find that you have a shorthand in working with one another, and are there any shared story threads between this series and your other projects?
MG: Yeah, I think we have quite a lot of shorthand, because we share a lot of reference points and influences, but also because as co-writers we tackle a lot of problems together and understand each other’s process for cracking said problems. There’s very rarely times when we don’t know what the other person means, or where they’re coming from—which means we can get into the nitty-gritty of narrative problem solving faster.
Ultraman and Inferno Girl Red are very different sorts of stories, but there are some overlaps, yeah. I think because they have that tokusatsu connection, they both feel distinct from traditional American superheroes in the same way—where most American heroes simply fight "crime" and are most-concerned with preserving the status quo, both Ultraman and Inferno Girl Red have specific missions and are out to transform the world, not keep it the same. But where, in Ultraman, we have a large and complex mythology to serve, with Inferno Girl Red we can build up the mythos slowly and surely, in a way I hope will make it very accessible to new audiences.
BD: What are some of the fun backer rewards that are available to those who contribute to your Kickstarter campaign?
MG: We have a Kickstarter-exclusive hardcover edition of the book-- this will be the only place you can get the book with this cover, and with this concept art backmatter!
We have prints by 15 incredible artists—including Nicola Scott, Darko Lafuente, Eleonora Carlini, Tiffany Turrrill, Doaly, Serg Acūna, Eduardo Ferigatio and Nicole Goux. And one of those is a Radiant Black / Inferno Girl Red team-up piece, with Erica collaborating with Radiant Black artist Marcelo Costa!
We have an opportunity to own the original art of Nicola Scott’s Inferno Girl Red piece. We have opportunities to cameo in the book! And we have one thing that I’m not going to mention yet, because it might not be quite ready to reveal on launch, but it’s exceptionally cool and I truly can’t wait to reveal it.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Cássia’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
MG: With this book, I wanted to tell a story about the nature of belief—how it’s necessary to overcome long odds and achieve great things, but also how it has the potential to take you down the wrong path to a toxic, dangerous place. That’s a tough tightrope to walk, but a vital one, as we’re collectively facing a many-and-varied range of problems that urgently need to be addressed.
This is a journey Cássia has to go on herself, finding a way to believe despite having many reasons not to, and with many dangerous forks in the road ahead. It’s my hope that this book helps people embrace belief, in themselves and in the future-—but also discover ways to be more mindful of their beliefs, and develop tools to avoid potential pitfalls.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about Inferno Girl Red and its Kickstarter campaign?
MG: You can follow us @InfernoGirlRed on Twitter and check out (and back!) our campaign.