“To have a character connect with an audience is the best feeling ever!” Vince Hunts talks podcasts, small press and The Red Mask From Mars
With a new issue set to launch at this weekend’s Bristol Comics Expo, we catch up with Vince Hunt creator of The Red Mask From Mars. As well as being a small press standout, he is also one third of the team behind the Awesome Comics Podcast so we turn the tables and get him to pitch his book to us as well as explain what the heck is up with all those spacesharks from the first two issues!
Let’s start by turning the table on you and stealing your catchphrase from the Awesome Comics Podcast – The Red Mask From Mars… Pitch it to us?
Vince Hunt: Hahaha well I guess it was only a matter of time before I got that asked to me!
The Red Mask from Mars is a comic book series that centres on thrill-seeking former astronaut Doug Stewart, who finds himself the bearer of immense power after an unfortunate encounter with an unidentified life form on a mission to Mars. He was soon recruited by the shady do-gooding private agency known as ‘Xenosphere’ and teamed with a motley crue that consisted of a former black ops commando, a psychic UFO enthusiast, an eccentric scientific genius and a smooth talking gunslinging mystery man. Now they protect the public, the country and the world from all kinds of alien terror when it decides to strike.
Thats pretty much it in a nutshell.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration for The Red Mask From Mars – there seems to be a lot of 80s TV and action movie homages in each issue would it be fair to say they are bigger influences than specific comics?
VH: I’ve always said that the series is one that doesn’t hide from its influences. In fact it wears them proudly on its sleeve. I’m a big sci-fi and horror movie fan and they play a major part in the way I create my comics without a doubt, and it’s always fun to put a little homage to some of those things into an issue and see if people spot them. I never want that kind of stuff to overtake the story though – they are more like icing on the cake.
The main baddies in the first couple of issues have been space sharks – where the heck did that idea come from??
VH: I love sharks. They’re awesome. Great White Sharks are one of my favourite creatures on this planet, and I’ve always found them fascinating. Plus from a visual design perspective they are just badass looking nightmare fodder! So when I started the task of creating the first big story arc for Red, a shark styled alien was always the plan. Making them giant snake warriors that can tunnel underground evolved from that. The idea of a shark that can tunnel underground was always a visual I loved the idea of, not to mention being terrifying in its own right!
Spacesharks aren’t the only villain though and there is a big reveal at the end of issue 3 which I guess we need to steer clear of for fear of spoilers?
VH: To say what exactly he is would be a spoiler, yes. However its not a spoiler to say he is certainly not someone to mess with, and is immensely dangerous. I could say more about him, but all of that will be revealed in issue 4.
I think one of the great things about being small press and independent is that theres a certain amount of safety when it comes to the secrets of your storytelling. No one is giving out clickbait to spoil a cliffhanger or storypoint that I want the readers to enjoy for themselves. I wanted the reveal of the big bad to be a big surprise, and make the readers go ‘what the hell?’. In a good way of course ha!
How important is humour to you when writing a comic?
VH: Personally I can’t write anything without some kind of humour in it. Even when I’m working on other, more serious projects there will some kind of undercurrent of humour running throughout. Thats not to say that it wont be dark, surreal or just plain twisted, but theres always going to be some kind of levity to everything I do. I want my comics to be fun, and hopefully people are getting a lot of that in this series.
You’ve got quite a cartoony style, do you think your art lends itself better to more humorous stories?
VH: I think so. I tried to work in different styles in the past but it always ends up looking more animated and cartoon-like. I’ve learned to embrace it, and now its all about pushing myself to get better every day. Hopefully one day I’ll be half-decent at the very least.
So have you been working on other projects recently? How is it working with different artists or writers compared to doing it all yourself?
VH: I’ve been working on a few things, from writing, artwork duties to lettering. Of course, every writer and artist has their own way of working, and its fascinating to see how writers lay out their scripts. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great creators and its nice to have that break from doing it all myself haha
You have the excellent Shaun Dobie on colour and a great designers eye for the layout, how important is the overall package of a comic to you? And did you know the Red Mask would be so iconic when you first designed him?
VH: Iconic? Wow. Well, I have to say I’ve been really blown away by how comic fans and other creators have taken Doug to their hearts. To have a character connect with an audience is the best feeling ever, and I hope they enjoy the adventures that I’m going to take him on!
I’m so lucky to have Shaun on board to lend his talents to the series. It wouldn’t be the same without him. We grew up together and always talked about working on comics, and it’s brilliant to see him develop as a colourist, not only on Red but on his book Descending Outlands and the other work for hire he’s gotten.
As for the overall package of a comic? Well its hugely important to me. Coming from a design background I’m always looking at everything with a certain visual eye, and if a comic is presently in a clean, professional way it immediately steps away from the pack for me. Hopefully when people pick up The Red Mask they immediately feel like they’re picking up a quality book, in presentation if nothing else!
As host of the Awesome Comics Podcast has talking about indie comics every week helped improve your work by giving you new standards to aim at or does it make you sick at all the super talented people out there?
VH: One of the amazing things about the podcast (apart from getting to know Dan Butcher and Tony Esmond of course) was how much it opened my eyes to so many other books, comics and webcomics are out there that I never would have discovered. Some I probably would have dismissed thinking that it wasn’t for me. Its truly inspiring to see all of these creators getting their creations out there, and I’ve certainly been taking notes for future projects! Plus getting to know creators I had never met before has been the best part of all of it.
Seeing the work of talented people is always a double edged sword. You see it, are blown away and love it – then you look at your own work and then go cry in a corner for a couple of hours. When that happens, the trick is to get that out of your system and come back even more energised to make your own work better.
You often talk about your love of digital on the podcast, what is it about digital comics that are so appealing and what are your top tips and recommendations?
VH: I love being able to discover a webcomic, and then read it from page 1. I could name hundreds, but if I had to pull some recommendations from my brain I’d say ‘The Lonely Vincent Bellingham’ by Diana Huh, ‘Space Mullet’ by Daniel Warren Johnson, ‘Eimurian Tales’ by MD Penman, ‘The Heart of Time’ by Sarah Millman and of course Dan Butchers ‘Vanguard’ is one I check out every week!
I use comixology a lot personally as its easier for me to get my books that way. My local comic store doesn’t have a huge range of titles, and I love discovering new books. I’m a big fan of the guided view narrative as it adds a real cinematic pacing and timing that makes some dramatic scenes really pop.
And finally, what’s next from you? How long do we have to wait to find out more about the Big Reveal in issue #3 and will be there more Red Mask one shots anytime soon? And are you working on anything else you can tell us about?
VH: Where do I start? I’m busier now than I’ve ever been! Over the next few months I’ll be doing art duties on two exciting projects. One is a short that will be part of an anthology launching at Thought Bubble. It’s something very different to everything I’ve done so far, and the script that the writer gave me is great fun, so I’m sure we’ll be revealing more about it soon.
I’m also working with Hellbound Media on an upcoming ‘Mandy the Monster Hunter‘ story they are producing for the Comichaus anthology. It’s another chance to draw big nasty monsters and even bigger action, something that I think I’m going to get a reputation for.
As for Red Mask, I’m hoping to get the last two parts of the first arc released by end of 2017. Theres also an extra special one shot coming soon that I’m hugely excited about. I’d love to say more but that would spoil the surprise, and where would the fun be in that?
You can find out more about The Red Mask From Mars at www.theredmaskfrommars.com and on Facebook at Facebook.com/theredmaskfrommars or follow Vince on Twitter @jesterdiablo. You can also purchase issue #1 and #2 of The Red Mask From Mars via ComiXology and listen to the Awesome Comics Podcast on iTunes every week.