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'Inferno Girl Red' co-creator Mat Groom talks new adventures, heartache galore

Comic Books

‘Inferno Girl Red’ co-creator Mat Groom talks new adventures, heartache galore

Book two of ‘Inferno Girl Red’ is funding now via Kickstarter.

It’s been a pretty big year for the Massive-verse. Be it the main title, Radiant Black, or recent spin-offs like The Dead Lucky, the universe (led in part by Kyle Higgins) is growing in some compelling (and occasionally meta) ways with each new book. But there’s an integral part of this universe that’s growing on its own, as creators Mat Groom and Erica D’Urso have some big plans for Inferno Girl Red.

More specifically, the pair have launched a brand-new Kickstarter campaign to launch book two of Inferno Girl Red. After “[embracing] an ancient power to become the legendary hero Inferno Girl Red,” Cássia Costa now finds herself “reeling from a heartbreaking loss.” But she won’t have too much time to mourn, as she must “forge a relationship with a new mentor, and expand an unlikely team – because the consequences of her previous ‘victory’ have come back to haunt her.” Oh, and did we mention there’s a new big bad to manage? ‘Cause there is.

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Supporters of the campaign will be able to access both books of Inferno Girl Red. The second book will also feature behind-the-scenes materials and informational pages in addition to the 120-page story. If you’d like to support the campaign, which runs through late September, head here.

In the meantime, though, Groom was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about all things Inferno Girl Red. That includes engaging new readers, how Cássia develops in this latest chapter, and his ongoing interest in tokusatsu-style storytelling.

'Inferno Girl Red' co-creator Mat Groom talks new adventures, heartache galore

Courtesy of Image Comics.

AIPT: What should folks know coming out of book one and into book two? And can anyone jump totally blind into book #2?

Mat Groom: Not really, to be completely honest– book two is a direct follow-on from book one. But that’s why we’re offering book one both digitally and (in limited amounts) physically as part of the Kickstarter– because we want anyone to be able to jump in right now, regardless of how familiar they are with Inferno Girl Red.

So if you’re interested in bold, optimistic and heartfelt superhero storytelling with action and drama in equal amounts… we’ve created an inviting, approachable world, inspired by western superhero fiction, Japanese tokusatsu storytelling and British boarding school fiction in equal amounts– and we’d love for you to jump in!

For those who don’t know, 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!

AIPT: The first book saw a lot of massive changes for our hero, Cássia Costa. Where is she at emotionally/mentally coming into this second book?

MG: Cássia had a huge, milestone victory at the end of book one – but that victory also came at a massive personal cost. So coming into book two, she’s more confident… but she’s also really hurting.

At very least she’s more experienced now, getting the lay of the land… until the consequences of her actions in book one catch up with her, and the world gets turned upside down again.

AIPT: This book will also see Cássia get a new mentor and “expand an unlikely team.” Why that direction, and what does it do for the book or story at-large?

MG: In book one, Cássia only had one person in her corner who really knew her secret – and now that person is… unavailable. So there’s a natural vacuum, Cássia simply needs allies, especially once the situation begins to spiral out of control.

But I also just like writing stories about relationships, y’know? All sorts of relationships– friendly, familial, romantic, antagonistic. All that we are is how we relate to each other, in a lot of ways… so I often start writing stories from the relationship-level and build out from there.

Plus, as alluded to at the end of book one, this new mentor will give Cássia– and readers – a vehicle to explore the legacy of the Inferno Girl Red mantle, and explode out some of the worldbuilding we started in the last volume.

Inferno Girl Red

The cover to book two. Courtesy of Mat Groom and Erica D’Urso.

AIPT: There’s been some planet-sized happenings in the Massive-Verse as of late. How does book #2 feed into it and how do those events shape the next chapter of Cássia’s story?

MG: Something that’s really important to us in the Massive-Verse is keeping things really self-contained– if you just want to read Inferno Girl Red, you can just read Inferno Girl Red book one and book two and not get the feeling you’re missing something or the story is incomplete.

But if you’ve been reading, say, our Supermassive crossovers, you might see some seeds planted there pay off, or connections that you wouldn’t get to appreciate otherwise. For example, a certain medieval connection…

AIPT: And speaking of the Massive-Verse, it also featured more meta elements and cross-media storytelling tools as of late. Is there more of that in book #2? And if not, is there anything new about this chapter in terms of how you told the story?

MG: The way I like to think about it is that in the Massive-Verse we like to build our worlds so thoroughly that there’s often too much interesting stuff for the core books themselves to contain. Again, we want to make sure the books themselves are self-contained and satisfying, but yes, we have more plans for how the world of Inferno Girl Red can expand beyond the book.

Without spoiling anything too specific, I will say that the legacy of Inferno Girl Red gives us a rich mythology we can reach into and branch out in different ways, which can add context to Cássia’s journey without interrupting it…

AIPT: How has the partnership between you and artist Erica D’Urso developed between working on these two books? How does that directly inform book #2?

MG: Well, there’s a reason we put Erica’s name first on the covers, and refer to her as the co-creator rather than the artist. Her style and approach to storytelling is absolutely fundamental to shaping the identity of Inferno Girl Red. How emotionally real, how youthful and stylish, how blisteringly paced it all feels…that’s down to Erica and our colorist Igor Monti.

In terms of our working relationship, though, I’m not sure it has changed hugely to be honest. We’re probably even more comfortable and open in our communicating, but we’ve worked really well together from the start. Our process is super simple – I have a talk to Erica about the emotion we’re chasing or meaning we’re trying to represent, she creates something exceptional through her own creative filter to interpret that… and then I’ll often change what I wrote initially because she has inspired me so much!

AIPT: You’ve called this book an “allegory for the modern teenage experience.” Do you think that’s even more true now in the two-ish years since book #1?

MG: Absolutely. When I said “modern” there, I was talking about the specific challenges that young people face today– how the world hands them problems that have accumulated over generations and expects them to solve it with their youthful energy and progressive idealism, whilst they also deal with all of the coming-of-age, self-discovery stuff we all had to work through in our teens.

Unfortunately, since we started this project, the situation hasn’t improved any. So our allegorical “darkness pushing in from all sides” situation in Apex City feels just as relevant, if not more so.

Inferno Girl Red

The cover of volume one. Courtesy of Image Comics.

AIPT: The first Kickstarter campaign was funded on day one. Does that massive performance set certain expectations for this latest book?

MG: I don’t have expectations, necessarily. I am so, so grateful for the immense support and encouragement we received during our first campaign, but I don’t expect it, I don’t take for granted that we’ll be greeted with the same response. Every time a book makes it to market it’s a hard-won victory, and you have to go into it ready to fight every time.

It does help bolster the spirits, though, remembering that people responded so positively to what we created in book one. We’ve always believed in our story, but knowing that it resonated with others gives us some energy to work through the hard times as we try to continue the story.

AIPT: It feels like there’s been a rise in tokusatsu-inspired comics in recent years. Why do you think that is, and do you think Inferno Girl Red contributed to that at all?

MG: I couldn’t say to what extent IGR has contributed, if at all. Really, I think that the world has just caught up with tokusatsu in a lot of ways, you know?

Toku is so masterful at dealing with very serious, emotionally complex ideas, but filtering them through a vivid and wildly creative lens of metaphor. It’s the sort of thing that some might call “silly”, but because they have the self-confidence to own it and not sand the edges off it, they can have their cake and eat it too– it’s fun and often joyous and exciting and surprising, but it’s also genuine and meaningful and affecting. And I think that’s the sort of stories people are craving now.

I think you can look to the huge successes of films like Barbie or Everything Everywhere All at Once – a lot of aspects of both of those films are just plain weird, they aren’t afraid to really play with the rules of the fictional world, you might call them silly or campy… but it’s all in service of a sincere, affecting story, and the boldest, most seemingly-ridiculous elements (like “Raccacoonie,” for example) are actually vital bricks in that storytelling construct.

Tokusatsu was always ahead of the curve, and I think the Western world is only now just starting to catch on.

AIPT: Why should anyone support this Kickstarter?

MG: Because Inferno Girl Red book two has some of the best art in the comics industry, thrilling action, love-to-hate-them new villains, shocking twists, and a take on superhero comics I feel is genuinely fresh and exciting.

Plus, by backing us on Kickstarter you can get the Kickstarter exclusive oversized hardcover, with Kickstarter exclusive backmatter material and a Kickstarter-exclusive cover! And we have some Kickstarter-exclusive art prints!

See how Kickstarter-exclusive all that is? Don’t miss it!

Oh, and if I may – my artist friend Kelly McMahon will be launching a Kickstarter campaign of her own soon, for her newest set of gorgeous illustrated playing cards, inspired by the roaring 20s and crime noir– and I wrote a murder mystery featuring the characters from the card art which you can experience and solve while playing any of your favourite card games with the cards. That project is called Bad Blood, and it’ll be launching on Kickstarter soon!

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