Redlands: Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R. Del Rey talk their new witchy horror comic
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Especially now that Image Comics have announced Redlands, a new witch-centered comic series from creators Jordie Bellaire (Pretty Deadly) and Vanesa R. Del Rey (Hit), who will handle the writing and art respectively.
Announced at Emerald City Comic Con, the ongoing series will follow a trio of witches who move to the titular Floridian town and take over as law enforcement.
To learn more about the new comic, EW caught up with Bellaire and Del Rey to discuss what inspired them, the tone they’re going for, and how their characters match up against other pop culture witches.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What inspired the idea for this series? Did you both know right away what the art would look like?
JORDIE BELLAIRE: For me, this is a book I’ve been developing for years. It was something I was kicking around since college and I continuously shelved it, always feeling it wasn’t good enough. I’m glad I waited because as each year passed, I grew as a person and the story changed as I became angrier and more passionate about things that were important to me. One day it clicked as I wondered what could change the things that upset me: What about the archetype female figure, the witch, could she change things? Witches taking over a town and assuming roles of actual influence really frightened me. And as the world has changed so much since November 2016, I find myself getting even darker with the material, and in a horrible way it makes even more sense now. The idea of corruption and monsters in places of power seems more believable than ever… Regarding art, I just knew Vanesa would be a great fit for this book. She has a relentless and visceral style that really gets under your skin and stays there. I’m just happy Vanesa said yes to this project! Redlands wouldn’t be Redlands without her.
VANESA R. DEL REY: I was instantly attracted to this story when Jordie pitched it to me over email. Witches have been a part of popular culture for a long time and I’ve been attracted to the subject from my early teens. I wanted to see what kind of world I could build around the occult aesthetic I grew up reading about. I had no idea what the art would look like until I actually started working on the pages. I had this vision in my head to use some sort of old school pen-and-ink treatment, like19th-centuryy editorial illustration. There is just something really dark about the hatching and cross-hatching that makes the images look darker and more mysterious.
The book is set in Florida. How would you describe the role that setting will play in the story?
BELLAIRE: I grew up there and Vanesa lives there. I think many of us would agree that Florida is a beautiful, multicultural place but has a truly weird and sometimes dark side that never seems to have any explanation except for the occasional Floridian knee-slap followed by chuckling “Oh, Florida.” Redlands will give readers a peek in on all that weirdness, although fictional, not exactly improbable — this is Florida we’re talking about.
DEL REY: This is another reason why this project was attractive to me. Florida is the exemplification of juxtaposition. It is a place where death and decay live together with growth and bloom. Where the young and old come to have fun in the sun. I wanted to work on something that was closer to home, someplace I could relate to better. I’ve been living in South Florida for over a decade now and I still don’t know it well. I want this project to be a chance for me to understand a little more, and a chance to bring readers into this strange world.
How would you describe this series?
BELLAIRE: The series is really a character driven drama that has a supernatural horror setting. Characters in the story should be unlikable but sort of approachable. Most of them are criminals! I’m really leaning into my love of all things horror and occult but I’m also trying to address things that fascinate me about criminals and the rise and fall of power.
DEL REY: Visually I would describe the series as a trip into an old story book in modern Florida. It’s a gloomy story with shady supernatural characters and pitch black lines.
Is there a specific genre or feel you’re going for with this series?
BELLAIRE: Horror with dramatic characters outside of most two-dimensional horror tropes, combined with themes close to crime stories.
What can you tell me about the witches? Is there anything, in particular, they’re after? What prompts them to become law enforcement officers?
BELLAIRE: The witches are impatient, tired, hungry women who have been around an awfully long time and are simply sick of the patriarchy’s s—. Since the witches in our story have been around for so long, they know the best way to maintain absolute control is to take a job in government. Taking the job of the police is the best way to keep Redlands under their thumb. Finally being in a position of power and responsibility, things slowly change for them. They suddenly have loving relationships and see each other as family, real family. Balancing control and fraternity is going to force them into awkward situations.
We’ve seen different takes on witches in the media. How would you describe your version?
BELLAIRE: The three characters are based on actual witches from history and have their own interesting origins, but the root of all their abilities is greed, lust, and desire. The witches of Redlands won’t be casting colorful, glowing spells. They are more practical, not theatrical. These are really just women who made a bad decision at one point in their life, a deal with the devil, no joke, and find themselves struggling to be themselves and the things they are supposed to be.
DEL REY: The design for the characters isn’t based on the actual historical figures Jordie is pulling from. They came to life as they are because I wanted to make them feel real, day-to-day kind of women. Women that could be seen living in this part of the planet, Florida. They aren’t overdone or dramatic when it comes to style. I wanted to delineate the contrast between what we know as ordinary lives and the magical, supernatural realm our story takes place in. I think this is the whole approach…eerie subtlety.
Redlands will premiere Summer 2017. Get a look at some of the art from the series below.