What if you sent a couple hundred volts through Agatha Christie’s gnarled old corpse, then asked the resulting abomination to spin a murderous new yard for the Justice League?
Okay, that sounds like a lot of digging and tarps and mud all over the carpet. Instead, let’s turn to writer Tyler James and artist James Feliciano, creators of ComixTribe’s The Red Ten. They’re keeping the legacy of the locked mansion mystery alive with a bloody tale of murder and suspicion in the superhero community. Call it caper and tights.
We talked to Tyler James about casting his metahuman murder mystery, reader interaction, and marketing The Red Ten in an extremely completive industry.
iFanboy – Let’s talk about the inspiration for The Red Ten. A cape story by way of Agatha Christie?
Tyler James – Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery, right?
The idea for THE RED TEN initially grew out of my frustration with the over-reliance on killing characters to spike sales by the Big Two. I found myself joking that if they were going to do it, why not go all the way? Announce a new policy to kill a beloved character in every book! Polybag the hell out of everything! Bring ‘em back…and kill the #$%!ers again!
Obviously, I was kidding. But then I got to thinking…and that’s always dangerous.
THE RED TEN is how I would kill The Justice League if DC was crazy enough to let me. (They’re not.) I’m borrowing the structure the Agatha Christie’s classic “And Then There Were None” because I think it’s one that is uniquely suited to the comic book format. C’mon, a ten issue mini-series, each issue a character dies and one of the survivors is likely behind it all? Add superpowers to the mix and you’ve got a funny book I want to read!
I first read Christie’s book in the fifth grade. The brilliant thing about it was that when re-reading it for THE RED TEN research, I realized I had no idea who the killer was right until the last few pages…even though I had already read it! Now that’s a good whodunnit. I hope we can keep readers guessing all the way to issue #10.
iFanboy – Now, if The Red Ten follows suit with And Then There Were None, we’re looking at a steep body count. Rather than spoil any of those potential murders, what can you tell us about the first hero to fall?
TJ – It’s a murder that is the catalyst for all of the events of THE RED TEN. Red, the world’s greatest detective is brutally murdered in the opening scene, and the evidence points to her arch nemesis, The Oxymoron (a character readers will be seeing a lot more of both in and out of the pages of THE RED TEN) as the killer. So, her former side-kick and a corporate funded superteam, The Alliance, track Oxy back to an island fortress. It doesn’t take long before the mission goes all to hell, and the first issue has an explosive finale. And then there were nine…
In the second issue, which released in select comic retailers this week, we begin with a short origin story for Red, which ties into the murder and mayhem waiting for the survivors on the island. The name, THE RED TEN refers to the ten heroes who went to the island to bring her killer to justice, only to find that each of them will pay for a dark secret in their own past.
We ran a successful, “Who Dies Next?” promotion for the second issue, and I think we might keep doing that as the series unfolds.
iFanboy – When telling a self contained story that takes place in a world populated with caped vigilantes, many creators tend to develop analogues of mainstream icons from the Big Two or other established universes. Watchmen’s repurposing of Charlton character is likely the most popular example. Is there any level of pastiche here, or did you start totally from scratch?
TJ – Oh, no doubt about it, every single character is a clear analogue to a mainstream icon. Artist and co-creator Cesar Feliciano and I worked hard to make sure the archetype each character represents is clear. The challenge of creating a book with this many characters and then killing one off every issue, is that we have very little time to make you feel for them. By using archetypes we all know and love (or hate) it creates a shorthand that lets the reader feel he already knows something about each member of THE ALLIANCE. But I’m also able to use that to my advantage, as the dark secrets each of characters are hiding are very much out of character for their most popular analogues. Uncovering the twists for each of these seemingly familiar characters is one of the things that seems to be drawing people to the series.
iFanboy – Did the process of creating these analogues change the way you look at the characters upon which they’re based?
TJ – Oh, definitely. I’ve always been more of a Marvel guy, but the archetypal characters tend to be more clearly defined on the DC side. So preparing to write THE RED TEN had me doing a deep research dive into DC characters and backstories. I think that, along with the new 52 business, has given me a deeper appreciation for what DC has to offer.
iFanboy Let’s talk about the “Who Dies Next?” promotion. How important is it to you that the projects had a level of interaction?
TJ – As an indie publisher, ComixTribe has plenty of disadvantages in the comic market. We don’t have 70-year-old multi-media properties to exploit. We don’t have multi-national corporate backing and the marketing, sales, and distribution mechanisms that come with.
What we DO have, though, is passion…for the medium of comics and for our books. And that passion is fueling the hustle we’re putting into them. So, we’re going to continue to experiment with promotions and other ways to delight readers and get the word out about our books.
With SCAM #1, Joe Mulvey did a series of artist edition sketch covers featuring cover homages to creator-owned books, effectively promoting Joe’s book and talent AND endorsing other cool comics people should be reading. The “Who Dies Next?” Contest was another no-brainer…part of the hook of the book is that one character will not survive each issue. Speculating about who that would be just seemed like a fun thing to tie into the book. The person who won the issue #2 contest picked up the book at Double Midnight Comics and told me he was SO pumped to find out he was right. We’ll probably continue to do it for each issue, and perhaps we can partner with you guys at iFanboy for the contest for issue #3.
Again, through signings and social media, we can have a high level of interaction with the folks reading the series. Next to retailer support, strong word of mouth is the most important thing that drives sales, so anything we can do to turn a casual reader into a super-fan and advocate is well worth it.
iFanboy – You also mention Oxymoron popping up outside of The Red Ten…
TJ – I suppose I can give iFanboy a bit of an exclusive announcement here. At the end of last year, I reached out to a handful of some of my favorite up-and-coming scribes to see if they had any interest in writing an Oxymoron short for me. Essentially, it was a chance to write a dark and twisted “Joker” type story, and not surprisingly, the response was overwhelming. The scripts are in and they’re incredible, art teams are getting spun up now, and I will be orchestrating an Oxymoron anthology that will debut at this year’s New York Comic Con. So, keep your eye out for it…it’s going to be awfully good.
Here’s a piece by Jonathan Rector, an up-and-coming talent I expect will be a well-known name in the industry very soon. Have a look!
You can read the first two issues of The Red Ten on Graphicly today!