“Whether it’s spirits or overactive imagination, that feeling of lingering spirits around us have been with humans since we were painting cave walls.” Dan Goldman on the success of his haunted real estate series Red Light Properties and what’s it like being one of the ‘talented misfits’ at MonkeyBrain Comics
Dan Goldman’s psychedelic haunted property saga, Red Light Properties, was launched by the brilliant guys at MonkeyBrain back in December. Having existed previously as a web comic on Dan’s website redlightproperties.com, he was no stranger to the world of digital comics and so RLP arrived as the newest member of the MonkeyBrain family with a four issue fanfare, that introduced us the spooky and tripped out world of supernatural estate agent Jude Tobin and his dysfunctional family. Mixing brilliant multimedia art with tripped out story lines, RLP is a truly unique title and one of the jewels in the MonkeyBrain stable, so we contacted Dan to find out just where the inspiration for Red Light Properties came from and how it came to be launched on to our iPad’s in such a complete form.
Red Light Properties seemed to be quite well developed when it was released and there were multiple issues, how had it existed before being published by MonkeyBrain? Had you released it online for example or published it yourself?
DG: The series was originally commissioned for Tor Books’ website as its first long-form webcomic, so I produced ~200 pages of material there (basically, the beginning of the story, starting with “Family Business“). From there, I moved the work over to redlightproperties.com as a free webcomic, producing another 100+ pages of comics before making the move over to MonkeyBrain and a digital-issue download model. I’m not afraid to try things, and the last three years have been an amazing learning experience.
I’ve also been rewriting/redrawing/remastering the pages before publishing them with MonkeyBrain; I only want to put out the best possible comics with this series, and I’m never, ever satisfied with my own stuff a few weeks after it’s done. Maybe I’ve got to learn to let go.
And no, Red Light Properties never been in print before… though I do have a publisher for the series now that’s going to be announced in a few weeks.
Red Light Properties is all about estate agents for haunted houses, what was the inspiration behind the characters and the idea for this story? Have you yourself ever lived in a haunted house?
DG: It’s both, very much both. The inspiration for the series itself comes from the emotional currents underneath personal relationships/experiences I’ve had that grew over time into their own characters. The haunted house stuff comes from… yes, that feeling of not being quite alone in the room late at night. Whether it’s spirits or overactive imagination, that feeling of lingering spirits around us have been with humans since we were painting cave walls.
Beyond that, I grew up in Miami, my mom was a realtor for a while, and I’d get a lot of “tales from the front” from her… They’re ridiculous and amazing, and I tried to get that high drama office-circus energy into the book as well.
The relationships between Jude and Ceci and their son is the real strength to the book , how important do you see the relationships being and is any of it based on personal experience?
DG: While there’s nothing autobiographical in here, I think they’re all pieces of me and people around me, baked into dust and swirled into sugar and milk. The characters are definitely the key; they’re the reason you care what’s happening, if I’ve done my job well at all.
Your art mixes all kinds of media, from vector art to 3D models to photographs, tell us a bit about how you put together a page and how you go about sourcing the photos for the backgrounds?
DG: I draw quite shitty layouts which glorified scribbles to block out my pages, then shoot my reference photos for avatars to build a collage in Illustrator that matches the layout. Once drawn, I bring the vector page into Photoshop, where I build the scenes around the actors using 3-D modeled environments enhanced with good old fashioned collage work. At this point the pages look really bad, but after a few passes of lighting/color-grading/shadows to tie everything together, I’m happy enough to press SAVE.
The Red Light Properties books are being released by MonkeyBrain Comics, tell us a bit about how that relationship came about?
DG: I’d seen the big noise their launch made in the comics press, and an old friend of mine I grew up reading comics with who knows Chris Roberson and Allison Baker from their days in Austin, Texas suggested I reach out to them. When I did, they were better than sweet… they were really excited for me to come on board. Since even before my first RLP issue launched, working with them has been everything I wanted: they’re smart, three steps ahead and totally fun.
How do you think Red Light Properties fits into the MonkeyBrain family?
DG: I feel MonkeyBrain is still developing as a brand — if anything, it’s a seal of This is Good Comic rather than a sensibility — and I think my own work will hopefully broaden what they’re about, as well as the new series launching over the next year… which look really striking. It’s an interesting lineup to be a part of, feels like we’re all talented misfits.
Are there any plans to develop your previous work like Shooting War or Kelly into digital comics? And if not, which would you like to see developed in this way?
DG: I don’t own Shooting War, so I won’t be going back to that. But KELLY… Man, that book is so very special to me for many reasons, and the fact that it just stops about 60% of the way through the story (I had a cataclysmic hard drive failure and lost all the native Photoshop files) just kills me, especially where we left the characters in the story. I’ve got to go back into that world and rescue them, take them to the ending.
I’m considering doing a Kickstarter to produce the work, which will be have to be redrawn from the beginning (which is fine as I’m much better now), especially if I can find a publisher interested in printing X-rated psychedelic comics.
As someone who has been involved in both self-publishing and digital publishing for a while, what are your thoughts on the growth of the iPad as a means for consuming comics?
DG: The iPad (and other tablets) all launched while I was living in Brazil, and I’m still playing catchup now; I think it’s an excellent, if not ideal, way to read comics. Having said that, I think the Comixology (which has shaken out to be the digital arm of the direct market, not its own new ecosystem) is just the first stepping stone in where comics are moving, and I’m eager to experiment as things change on their own.
I’m very impressed with what Aces Weekly and MadeFire are doing, in terms of creating a destination and paying creators for work they’ll continue to own. I’m less into the “motion” and “enhanced” aspects of that, honestly; again, I just want a good story… but those crews are delivering some solid work. I bet they could add even more if spent less money on programmers and more on new creators/titles.
MonkeyBrain and Thrillbent are a wonderful example of doing your absolute best with what’s available, not reinventing the wheel but bringing your best every week/issue. I think by merit of showing up in full force, they’re leading the way… and I’m proud to be a bullet point in there somewhere.
What do you think makes for a great digital comic? Is it all about the spectacle of interactivity, or is it the simplicity of being able to self-publish without relying on a restrictive distributor/publisher?
DG: A great story, well-told where the manner in which it’s delivered gets out of the way. That could be a slickly-designed iOS app or a CBR file or a paper comic. That’s the only thing that matters to me in any art form I want to digest.
What do you think will be the next big thing in digital comics in 2013? Where do you see the medium progressing and how do you think it will develop?
DG: The most important thing that’s happened recently is the shift of focus onto creator-owned work… and that extends into both print and digital publishing; the endgame for creators has shifted towards original work instead of which-toys-do-I-get-to-play-with-next, and that’s a major shift in a notoriously slow-changing industry/culture.
What I’m hoping for in 2013 (though I’m cynical) are more publishers, more outlets, who can help bring great works to the reading public while creators earn a living from their work. There’s not enough of that around now.
Finally, what will we be seeing from you next? More Red Light Properties? Or more political stuff?
DG: Yes, definitely more RLP. I’m continuing remastering existing stuff while creating new stories. Seriously, I’ve got over a decade of work into the series, and there’s a lot more road to run with these characters before I’m done. All the best parts are just over that hill there, and I’m moving as fast as I can.
And of course, I’m writing a few other new projects for myself and other artists to draw: my first autobiographical comic piece, as well as a creator-owned sci-fi thing with an eye-bleedingly brilliant veteran artist, and a “paper film” (long-form fumetti) collaboration with a photographer friend as well. Without letting any kitties out of any bags, that seems to be my plate at the moment.
Red Light Properties is available exclusively via MonkeyBrain on ComiXology in English, Spanish and, Portuguese language versions. To find out more about Dan visit his website www.dangoldman.net or follow him on Twitter @dan_goldman