Smash Pages Q&A: Paul Maybury

The writer of ‘Last Stop in the Red Line’ discusses the Boston-based mystery/horror series and more.

Most comic fans probably know Paul Maybury from his work as an artist. Now living in Austin, Texas, the Boston native made a name for himself on books like Sovereign, Valhalla Mad, Catalyst Comix and D.O.G.S. of Mars, among other titles. While in the past he’s either worked with other writers or drew his own stories, his most recent work, Last Stop on the Red Line, has seen him move into the role of writing for another artist.

Drawn by Sam Lofti, the supernatural mystery brings Detective Migdalia Torres into contact with a very interesting and fun ensemble of characters, as she tries to solve a vicious strangling on the Boston subway.

With the final issue arriving this week from Dark Horse, I spoke to Maybury about the story’s conclusion, stepping into the writer role and what he’s working on next. If you missed the series, it’s a perfect reading for Halloween. You can find all four issues on comiXology, and a trade paperback should be out in February.

Before Last Stop, most people probably knew you as an artist or at least a cartoonist who drew your own stories. How was the experience writing for another artist? What were some of the highlights of working with the art team?

Seeing what my collaborators would come back with in fully formed chunks was great. It was like time traveling. When I’m the artist/colorist, the story unravels through me in slow motion. I could live in a one-minute scene for an entire day.

I remember reading the first issue when it came out and thinking, “Wow, there’s a lot going on here.” Yet over the course of the miniseries you’ve managed to bring together all these different elements into a coherent, satisfying narrative. Did you find it challenging focusing on all the different points of view?

I appreciate that. While I enjoy an ensemble cast, Last Stop on the Red Line was extremely tricky to pull off because of it! In total, the entire series runs a modest 80 pages in length. That kind of compression lead me to rely heavily on coding the visuals with narrative subtext, as opposed to directly communicating their progression through dialog – which feels more the standard of the detective genre. To me, that’s a testament to the art.

My favorite element of the story is your take on the classic monsters — in particular the vampire and werewolf, Zev and Wolf. Can you talk a little about your approach to writing them?

I watched all of the classic horror films before I began plowing through countless documentaries on the people who made them. Each issue is layered with nods to the greats. Beyond that, I like the idea of their external monster forms containing underlying truths about their humanity. The rest of the characters are symbolic of classic monsters as well, just in more subtle ways.

I know one of the other big pieces of this was the setting. I’ve never been to Boston myself, so I don’t have anything to compare it to beyond other pieces from pop culture, but have you heard from Bostonites about how you portrayed the city? What did they think?

The feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. From street level to upper middle class, Boston has almost exclusively been centered on a white experience. While Last Stop isn’t an all encompassing portrayal of a POC’s representation as Bostonians, it’s a small step in the right direction.

Do you have any plans or ideas for these characters in the future?

I have an outline for a sequel, but that’s probably a ways off.

Now that this has wrapped up, what else is on your plate?

I’m writing for several artists at the moment. It’s hard to say which will be the next project released, but they’re all considerably different genres than Last Stop. In addition to writing for others, I’m slowly chipping away at a few personal projects – in slow motion.

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