Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kickstart the Week with Red Hill Billy: Red Hill Rising Book 1

By: Nicole D'Andria

Experience werewolves and the horrors of Canada in this week’s Kickstarter for Red Hill Billy: Red Hill Rising. Written and illustrated by Robbie Armstrong (Transforms G1, Batman/Superman, X-Men/Fantastic Four), Red Hill Billy is an action horror story in the Canadian Wilderness. I also got some hunting tips from Armstrong himself.

Get ready to travel back in time to Northern Ontario in 1985 and watch a group of ten-year-olds take on werewolves! Red Hill Billy: Red Hill Rising is a mini-series about Billy Dekana and his classmates who are trying to save the town of Red Hill from werewolves.

Armstrong is trying to raise $6,852 ($8,500 Canadian American Dollars). This amount must be pledged by July 31, 2015 at 12:05 AM EDT for his campaign to be successful. You can pledge money to his Kickstarter here. With the money Armstrong will be printing 2,000 copies of first volume of Red Hill Billy: Red Hill Rising. There will be three volumes in total and they will be published by Groovy Dead Productions.

I spoke with the writer/artist of Red Hill Billy, Robbie Armstrong, and he shared his insights on how to survive a werewolf… plus other useful tips as well.

Me: Werewolves are a classic monster that have been featured in many stories before.  How will your werewolves stand out from the pack?

Robbie Armstrong

Robbie Armstrong: Well. MY werewolves are infected with Rabies. They will break their own bones in order to break through a wall and eat you whole. The rabies virus in humans makes us demented and parched for water - in a werewolf, they become completely insane and thirsty for blood.

Me: Why did you choose werewolves as your monster versus vampires or zombies? 

Armstrong: First of all, I think werewolves lend themselves nicely to a story that takes place in the woods - they're more animalistic and "natural" than vampires or zombies. Second, I thought it was high time to focus on scary werewolves again - vamps and the undead have been getting WAAAY too much press lately. And third, I needed my antagonists to be eating machines - all teeth and claws and blood and fury!!  

Me: How would you describe your protagonist Billy Dekana?

Armstrong: Billy is my unabashed homage to the butt-kickin' kids of The Goonies mixed with a great big helping of Ash from Evil Dead/Army of Darkness. He has years of hunting experience, so he always stays calm while dealing with animals and/or intense situations, and he's always the coolest kid in the room.

Me: What are the supporting characters of Red Hill Billy like?

Red Hill Billy Book 1 PG-13 Version of Page 1

Armstrong: Billy's dad Red is a real hit with the ladies - his silly 80's masochism is a blast to write. And Billy's classmates - the Three Daves and Eddie are all jokesters and immediately worship Billy's cool demeanor. Instant BFFs - that used to really happen when we were kids!! They're good kids, fun kids, and that helps raise the stakes when they have to fight for their lives...'cause they won't all make it through the night...

Me: As a fan of horror, what is it that attracts you to the genre?

Armstrong: I think foremost it is the inventiveness of the horror genre that holds my thrall. One of my first horror movies was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (on VHS at a friend's birthday party after his folks went to sleep) and Freddy instantly hooked me with clawed fingers. My pulse was pounding, I was sweating profusely, my eyes bulged from their sockets for an hour and a half. No other genre grabbed me by the throat like that - and it has yet to let me go.
Me: What do you think of the current state of horror in comics? Are there any horror comics you would recommend to readers (or that you wouldn’t recommend to readers with less-than-stellar stomachs)?

Armstrong: I actually think horror in comics has stepped up its game in the last few years. When they started with EC they were wonderfully subversive, then for a while it was all Evil Ernie, Vampirella and Midnight Sons flashy "horror-lite" style. Now we have great books like Nailbiter, Hellboy, Wytches, Afterlife of Archie and Revival (which are all fantastic books - please read them!) that have brought some cache back to the genre. And if your stomach is strong enough, give Crossed a shot - that Garth Ennis sure knows how to punch you...in the brain.

Me: Can you talk about some of the 10-year-olds that will be facing off against these werewolves?  Why are they our heroes?

Red Hill Billy by Joe Ng

Armstrong: My favorite movies growing up were the ones that starred kids in really dangerous situations. Goonies, Monster Squad, Flight of the Navigator, Explorers, all present themselves as kid-friendly movies - but the stakes are very real. You really have no idea what to expect, and when it all goes down, you really care about these kids and root for them to win.

Me: Why did you pick the Canadian Wilderness as your setting for this werewolf brawl?

Armstrong: I think the Canadian North is criminally underused as a setting for horror, but it lends itself naturally to the genre. On cloudy nights, it's so dark you can't see your hand in front of your face. When the moon is full - it lights everything in an unearthly blue glow. The forests stretch on for miles (sorry, kilometers), and the noises you hear in the dead of night...aren't ever human.

Me: You also illustrated Red Hill Billy. How would you describe your art style in the book?

Armstrong: Because the story is very violent (i.e. little children getting eaten whole), I changed my art to a more "cartoon-y" style to lessen the blow to the reader. I want to scare people, not make them barf, so I leaned more towards a Humberto Ramos style and less towards Brian Hitch. When I hired Sigmund Torre to color the book, he brought the bright cartoon-y palette with him to help what I was trying to achieve.

Me: If you went toe-to-claw with your werewolves, what would your strategy be?

Red Hill Billy "Eh" Cover

Armstrong: Run far and run fast. Preferably to another continent. Or space (hmmm...werewolves in space – where the moon is ALWAYS full...). The kids in Red Hill Billy are WAAAAY braver than I am. My favorite characters are the ones who exemplify the traits I wished I had more of.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?

Armstrong: If you get frustrated with what you're writing, just blast through it, head down. Get down what you can, get to that finish line, and then walk away. After a thousand re-writes, you will find the voice you were looking for. And love what you do, because creating worlds is the best kind of fun.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book artists?

Armstrong: If you are constantly drawing, you're doing better than 90% of the "artists" out there. You're ahead of the game. Draw until your fingers bleed, draw with every breath you take in, dream about drawing. In time, your passion will be undeniable and you will find your own "success".

Me: Thanks for your tips Robbie! Best of luck with Red Hill Billy: Red Hill Rising.

Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have it showcased on “Kickstart the Week?” Let me know in the comments below or message me on my personal website www.comicmaven.com.

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