Smash Pages Q&A: Keith Lansdale and Jok

The creators of ‘Red Range:Pirates of Fireworld’ discuss the sequel to a 1999 graphic novel by Joe R. Lansdale and Sam Glanzman.

The miniseries Red Range: Pirates of Fireworld, currently being kickstarted for a summer release, is a sequel to the graphic novel Red Range. Originally published in 1999, the book by Joe R. Lansdale and Sam Glanzman was reprinted with new colors recently. The first volume was a dark western tale, which ended with the hero and the boy he rescued falling into the hollow earth, a place filled with dinosaurs and other creatures.

The final page of the book teased a sequel, but nothing ever came of it – until now. Written by Keith Lansdale and drawn by Jok, who colored the reprinted edition, they’re picking up where the original left off in this miniseries. Lansdale has written comics including Crawling Sky, Vampirella: Feary Tales, The X-Files: Case Files and Creepy. Jok has drawn many comics over the years including Strangeways, The Hill, Freud’s Covenant, Mixtape and many others.

I reached out to ask the two a few questions about the book.

How did you come to comics?

Keith Lansdale: Comics were a part of my childhood. Joe Lansdale, my dad, wrote for DC comics growing up, and because of that we got comics in the mail pretty often. I got first pick of box pretty often and had a chance to discover several fun titles.

Jok: I remember making silent comics when I was about four and learning to read at the age of five by repeatedly browsing Looney Toons, Harvey comics and some local comic strips (Mafalda and Clemente – look them up, they´re gems!). I’ve always been attracted to this media. I find it irresistible due to its combination of vast narrative possibilities through art and dialogue.

Does one of you want to explain what Red Range is and where it left things in the final pages of the graphic novel?

Lansdale: It’s interesting, because I don’t believe there was ever a part two truly considered. It was just a moment in time for our heroes, and a fun ride at that. It started in somewhat of a western vigilante story that spilled into something of a weird western and then into a whole odd sci-fi universe.

So what is Red Range: Pirates of Fireworld?

Lansdale: It’s picking up right where the original left off. Our hero’s a long way from home, with new threats on the horizon.

Jok: Pirates of Fireworld is a combination of many cool elements and characters I never thought I’d see together. It’s a lot of fun to build and develop this world as I love westerns, steampunk and pulp adventures – not to mention pirates. And dinosaurs! Also, this story takes place in some kind of hollow earth area, where settings should be familiar but also a bit weird and exuberant. It’s a very fun challenge to make everything look strange, recognizable, but interesting at the same time.

How did this project happen?

Lansdale: Because of the way the story was left, there was always a desire from fans to see what happened after the last page. And since I had read those pages myself 20 years ago and also had wondered, when I was approached to take the project, I was excited for a chance to take the helm and find out.

Jok: I was highly honored to be chosen as Mr. Glanzman’s colorist for the Red Range compilation. Later on, I was asked to do a Red Range pinup and creators seemed to like it, which was great and made me really happy. But never thought it would lead to actually continuing this hero’s deeds! It’s a privilege and a dream come true thanks to Joe, Keith and Drew – and Mr. Glanzman, of course.

Jok, as you said, you colored the recent collection of Red Range when it was republished. Did coloring his work, getting to study how he drew and thought, influence the way you worked on this new series?

Jok: It was a really interesting learning process working with Mr. Glanzman’s pages as it gave me the chance to study his style, characterization nuances and atmosphere. Trying to do justice to his art through my colors really got me close to his great sense of storytelling and composition – let alone other more technical items as inking or figure drawing. I´m sure this influence will show in the new series through my very own – and unavoidable – style.

Keith, the first volume of Red Range ends in a very different place – in every sense – than it began. You have a lot of freedom here, because you can take this story anywhere. How did you start considering where to take this?

Lansdale: Having always wondered about all the possibilities of where it could go, it was actually harder to narrow down my choices. I’m hoping to fit as many of those ideas into the coming four issues.

Jok, so much of the work of yours I’ve read is so defined by the world-building you do, even beyond what’s in the script. What have you gotten to do in this series that’s really excited you?

Jok: That’s a lesson I learned from Eduardo Risso. The script is not the end of a literary work, but the very beginning of a visual process. Ideas featured there should catapult the artist’s vision. I’ve been always obsessed with how people lived their lives in other places and time, especially in ancient civilizations. Fleshing out a new, believable world is key to have the reader involved in the story, caring about characters and wanting to see and know more of the world we’re showing them. Once you establish the atmosphere, the effects of the drama, adventure, horror – or humor – gets amplified.

There are many answers to be asked and responded when telling a story: how do these people live? What’s around them? How does this condition their everyday lives? These questions help flesh out characters and their surroundings. We need to make readers believe and care for our heroes. The scale of the conflict really won´t matter if creators fail at this.

So what’s the plan for Pirates of Fireworld? How many issues are there? When do they start coming out?

Lansdale: There will be four issues, “Pirates Of Fireworld,” “Beneath The Flaming Sky,” “Smoke And Shadows” and “Ashes Of The Past.” And the Kickstarter has already made some strong strides, so once it concludes we hope to see the next issue available not long after.

If it does well, would you guys be up for more Red Range?

Lansdale: We have four on deck now, but I certainly would love to see them ride again.

Jok: By all means, count me in!

So final elevator pitch. Why should people support the Kickstarter, what do they get for their pledge, what are they going to get on the ground floor of which will drop them beneath the surface of the earth into a never before seen world?

Jok: Backers will be part of an adventure that combines mystery, action and pulp, in a renewed and vibrant style. Together we will experience the roughness of the western  hero in a fantastic atmosphere, with elements blended in genre fusion.

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