Saturday, December 1, 2018

Kickstart the Week(end) with Red Xmas 1-3: A horror/comedy Christmas comic for adults

By: Nicole D’Andria

Santa Claus is coming to town… and all the children better hide because he’s out for blood! In the third Kickstarter for Red Xmas, readers get to enjoy three issues of the mature horror/comedy series this holiday season! I spoke with the writer and artist about how this comic book brings joy to the world!

After Mrs. Claus dies in a toy accident, Santa plans on making the children pay and starts by attacking the town of Christmas, Vermont! While FBI agent Ellie Tewskberry tries (and fails) to take him down, her son Byron runs away to the North Pole in search of his father, who abandoned the family to become an elf.

The writing team of Red Xmas consists of Clay Adams, who’s previously published comics on Kickstarter with his FRIED Comics, and co-writer Alexandre O. Philippe, who recently directed 78/52, a documentary about the Psycho shower scene. The art team includes line artist Fabio Ramacci (Modern Dead) and colorist Emilio Pilliu (ZZZComics contributor). Red Xmas #3 also has a six page back-up feature starring waitress/awful person Frieda in "Crisis on Infinite Friedas,” which is drawn and colored by Ryan Kroboth (Sunmaker).

The Kickstarter’s goal is to raise $4,500 by December 7, 2018 on 11:59 PM EST. Rewards include digital ($5) and physical ($20) copies of the 40 page long third issue, subtitled “Silent, But Deadly, Night”. Digital copies of the previous issues, subtitled “O Holy Crap!” and coming in at a total of 64 pages, are also available digitally ($15) or backers can get physical reprints ($30). The creator also includes copies of his other works as rewards, including digital ($15) copies of PBOW: Pregnant Pitches of War. There are plenty of other rewards to, which you can check out on their Kickstarter page.

I interviewed writer Clay Adams and artist Fabio Ramacci below.

What inspired you to combine Santa Claus with a horror/comedy comic book series?

Adams: Red Xmas started as a screenplay pitch (co-writer) Alexandre O. Philippe and I made back in the early 2000s. Our alma mater, NYU, used to send out a big book of pitches to agents, managers, and production companies, so we said, “Hey, let’s come up with something.”

We started out riffing on Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy Krueger is such a brilliant character, so we thought, “Who else might terrorize you in your sleep?” The answer: Santa Claus.

(Incidentally, we pitched the idea and figured we’d write the script if anyone asked for it. Turns out, a LOT of people were interested, and we had to bang out the script in three days. I… don’t recommend this.)

Me: How would you describe the typical work day for one of Santa’s elves in Red Xmas?

Adams: They’re currently cowering in fear somewhere in the bowels of the workshop, hoping to avoid a repeat of The Great Elf Holocaust of 1962.

Oh, for the simple days when they only had to feed the reindeer at dawn and make toys for every kid on earth…

Me: What can you tell us about the other main characters in this series, the Santa-skeptic FBI agent, her wannabe-elf ex-husband, and their son, Byron?

Adams: When our story starts, the family is reeling from Witherspoon Tewksberry’s decision to run off to the North Pole to be an elf.

Momma-bear Ellie is a realist to the Nth degree—she emphatically does NOT believe in Santa Claus. She thinks the world is a terrible, evil place and if you let your guard down for one second, you’ll die a horrible death. That’s why she became an FBI agent in the first place: she’s protecting the world from itself. It’s a pretty stifling environment to grow up in, and her husband leaving hasn’t made things better.

Their son Byron, though, knows Santa is real. He’s tired of hearing how bad the world is, and he wants to believe in some happy magic. He thinks Santa knows where his dad is, so Byron runs away to the North Pole to find his pop.

If you had to take on Santa Claus and his horde of elves, what would your plan of attack be?

Adams: First, I’d lure him with milk and cookies.

Then, I’d—

Come a little closer. This is a secret.

(Whispers) I’d use the secret weapon that was developed many years ago to bring Santa down, should it ever come to that.

And I’d use it with extreme prejudice.

(The rest of you will find out what it is next issue.)

Can you tell us more about Frieda in your back-up feature and how this fits into the Red Xmas universe?

Adams: Our imprint, FRIED Comics, is set up like a fictional diner where you come in and read your comics over a nice cup of coffee.

Frieda is our Elvira-like waitress, only with less teeth and more meth.

We wrote the FRIED Diner and Frieda into our first two issues, and the readers demanded she get her own story. We crowd-sourced a title, then did a backup feature in last year’s Red Xmas: O Holy Crap! “Frieda: Hardboiled and Over Easy” was a hit, so we’re bringing her back for a second tour of duty.
Why did you decide to make this a two week long Kickstarter campaign rather than the typical month-long campaign?

Adams: This is our fifth campaign, so we were looking for a new challenge. We didn’t want to necessarily raise more money, so we cut the funding period in half instead.

“12 Days of Red Xmas” sort of wrote itself.

What is the number one reason why people should pledge money to your Kickstarter?

Adams: If you like Roald Dahl or Rick & Morty, laugh at funerals or dig comics like Preacher, you’ll love this book. And because it’s Kickstarter, we try to craft a fun experience for our backers—it’s a party, and you’re invited.

Oh, and the art by Fabio Ramacci and Emilio Pilliu is beautiful!

(That was three reasons. Sorry, I’m a writer, not a mathematician.)
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?

Adams: Make something! You’ll never get better if your dreams stay just that. Put it on paper, hire an artist, and get the book in front of an audience who will tell you if it stinks or not. Like Nike says: Just Do It.

Me: How did you meet Clay and become part of this project?

Ramacci It was kinda being in the right moment in the right place. After having worked for Italian publishers I was looking for a way to break into the American comics industry and I was spending most of my time looking online for such opportunities. Clay and Alexandre posted a "looking for artist" request in a dedicated subreddit and I proposed myself since the project was as crazy as I wanted it to be! And here we are, still having a lot of fun together!!

Me: In the last three issues of Red Xmas, what was your favorite page to draw and why?

Ramacci: I admit, I'm having fun with most of the pages of Red Xmas cause they're all kinda quirky in their own way; the story is just THAT crazy!! Moreover I have a lot creative freedom and that makes everything funnier and more challenging too. But if I have to choose I'd probably pick page four of the second issue where RICK the animated rickshaw just goes BOOM out of the blue sky with his teleporting abilities. It is just so crazy I couldn't stop jiggling while drawing!

Me: What was the process of creating the character designs like while working on Red Xmas, and which character is your favorite to draw? Why are they your favorite?

Ramacci: I haven't created too many characters since most of the designs are by the previous artist of the series, Domo Stanton. So I'm going with the original designs, just making them my own a little! :)

The few I created starting from issue 2 and on were kinda easy since Clay gave me good references and asked me to reinterpret them in a cartoonish way. Thinking about the best character I like to draw I have two: Rick the rickshaw—cause I have started drawing back in time copying old Disney stuff and I love the cartoonish vibe he gives—and Ellie—cause black leather jackets are just so badass!!

If you had to take on Santa Claus and his horde of elves, what would your plan of attack be?

Ramacci: He's an immortal demigod but he's not an all-seeing creature, so I guess the best tactic would be trying something like sneak attacks. I'd love to hire a squad of ancient ninjas and use ambush tactics!!

Me: Since you’ll be doing limited edition commissions for this Kickstarter, what has been your favorite commission that you ever did and why was it your favorite?

Ramacci: Among the commissions I've done in the past, probably the one I loved most was the one with VENOM (from Marvel comics) cause I love that character sooo much! I was so happy when they asked me that! I only thought: "FINALLY!!"

You’ve previously published work with Star Comics and Sergio Bonelli Editore in Rome, Italy. Can you tell us a bit about the comic book scene in Italy and some unique qualities it has versus publishing in the United States and other countries?

Ramacci: The Italian comic scene is pretty different from the American one. Both scenes are pretty active and big in terms of number. Some years ago Tex from Bonelli in Italy was selling more comics than Spider-Man in all of the USA, just to give you an idea of how big a market it is. Comics are usually in black and white, with a smaller page size but with 90-100 pages average. There are no superheroes, or just a few, and we go with classic western, horror, sci-fi and detective stories. Also, there is huge market here for intimistic graphic novels! In Italy I've had the opportunity to work on many genres like detective, horror, historic and even romance stories xD!! Red Xmas is something even different from all of that stuff!!

The only thing I don't like about the Italian comic scene is that it is a little bit self-referencing and a lot of very good artists and writers are just not interested in working for abroad companies because they're fine the way they are. And that's a pity—for the world outside to not be able to read such good comics!

What is the number one reason why people should pledge money to your Kickstarter?

Ramacci: Of course because it's a F*****G AWESOME comic book! I mean: we tell a story of a crazy Santa who wants to kill children while all sorts of crazy beings and personifications of the other festivities try to stop him. And let's not talk about flying rickshaws and Easter eggs used as flying vehicles! Every line is a pun, yet it is all very readable! Is that enough to convince you guys?

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

Ramacci: The only real advice I can give aspiring artists is to DRAW, DRAW and DRAW more while being STUBBORN as hell. It's the only way you can do this work. You gotta be (or become) a good artist and love comics! That is not achievable with a half-assed resolution, trust me! So: believe in yourselves and DRAW.


Did I say draw? Well, go do it now!

Thank you for this interesting interview!!

Me: Thank you BOTH for taking the time to talk with me about the demigod that we all know and love, Santa Claus. Happy holidays! If you’re reading this and interested in getting into the violent side of the Christmas spirit, check out the Kickstarter for Red Xmas here.

Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on "Kickstart the Week?" Let me know in the comments below or message me on my website.

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