Smash Pages Q&A | Mat Groom returns to discuss the second ‘Inferno Girl Red’

The writer returns to the Massive-Verse for the second volume of the graphic novel series, which is currently up on Kickstarter.

Following a very successful campaign on Kickstarter for the first book back in 2021, Mat Groom, Erica D’Urso and the rest of the team have returned to crowdfund Inferno Girl Red Book Two. The new campaign is currently live.

If you aren’t familiar with Inferno Girl Red, it’s one of the many titles that make up the Massive-Verse, the collection of titles overseen by Kyle Higgins that include Radiant Black, The Dead Lucky and Rogue Sun, among others. It combines Groom’s love of tokusatsu superheroes and boarding school dramas, and it looks great thanks to D’Urso, colorist Igor Monti, letterer Becca Carey and design group For The People.

At press time, the campaign has brought in just over $45,000, which is more than halfway to its $85,000 goal. I spoke with groom about the new campaign, what he learned from the first one, how Inferno Girl Red fits into the Massive-Verse and more. He also shares a few details on his involvement with the upcoming Bad Blood playing cards/murder mystery game.

Inferno Girl Red Kickstarter cover

The last time we spoke, Mat, was right before you launched the campaign for the first Inferno Girl Red, and I asked about the ties to Radiant Black. That was well before fans knew how massive the scope of the Massive-verse was going to be. So I thought I’d start by asking: what’s it been like, being part of this bigger publishing initiative and seeing it grow into what it’s become? Did you and the rest of the crew expect it to go this far and become this popular?

It’s been fascinating. Really cool, obviously, but just… fascinating. Seeing the community that has gathered around us and grown so fast, seeing how passionate and thoughtful they are… it’s been a real privilege. I can’t speak for the others in terms of expectations, but I had no idea what to expect. We were really going out on a limb, trying something a bit experimental– so finding out that there was a huge group of people hungry for what we offering, that was really validating.

Inferno Girl Red print by Luana Vecchio

For fans of the Massive-verse who might not have read Inferno Girl Red — how does it fit into that bigger tapestry, and what sets it apart from the other titles, story-wise?

We’re offering both Book One and Book Two as part of this campaign, so we’re hoping to welcome in plenty of people who haven’t read IGR, whether they’re familiar with the Massive-Verse or not! So if you’re interested in bold, optimistic and heartfelt superhero storytelling with action and drama in equal amounts… we’ve created an inviting, approachable world, inspired by western superhero fiction, Japanese tokusatsu storytelling and British boarding school fiction in equal amounts– and we’d love for you to jump in!

To get you up to speed– Inferno Girl Red is the story of Cássia Costa– a teenage girl who bounced from city-to-city as her mother struggled to find work. After a difficult upbringing she gets a chance to redefine her future when she’s invited to an extremely prestigious academy, in the near-utopian Apex City. Everything is looking up for Cássia– until the entire city is ripped out of our universe and cast into darkness, taking Cássia’s hopes of a brighter future with it. But she gets a chance to turn things around when a magical bracelet rockets into her life, empowering her to take on the legacy mantle of Inferno Girl Red– though the bracelet is powered by belief, forcing Cássia to find a reason to hope when all seems lost, so she can live up to a secret legacy, save her only family, and protect her new home!

As for the book’s relationship to the Massive-Verse– I think there’s something of a shared ethos between the books. Kyle, Ryan, Melissa and myself all have connections to Power Rangers, so there’s some of that DNA there. And we all had an ambition to try and push the superhero comic genre forward. But we also all carved out our own spaces– Radiant Black has more of a cosmic sci-fi slant, Rogue Sun goes more dark fantasy, The Dead Lucky is more grounded/tech sci-fi, Inferno Girl Red is more magical. But I also think IGR– whilst hopefully being compelling for all audiences– especially invites teen readers, it has more of a YA bent… so hopefully it’s a great entry point to the Massive-Verse, in that way.

I think the other thing that sets it apart is format — although the first one ended up being published as a miniseries by Image, it started as a crowdfunded graphic novel (like this one). Did you ever consider doing this second one as a comic series, or did you always know you wanted to return to Kickstarter?

Yeah I think we were always going to come back to Kickstarter. We just believe the graphic novel format is right for IGR– it allows us to give scenes more breathing room, spending more time with the characters and going bigger on the action. I also think that the novel structure is more familiar to newer readers, so will hopefully do a better job of welcoming them in. But because of the economics of that model (having to produce essentially 120 pages without seeing any return), Kickstarter was a necessity. We’re so fortunate, then, that the Kickstarter community has been so supportive and welcoming for our whole journey.

Inferno Girl Red print by Tom Whalen

The other thing I find interesting is that this project has been a Kickstarter funded graphic novel, a comic series and a collection from Image — all of which, I’m assuming, hit different channels and audiences along the way. Are there any insights you can share from its publishing journey? Have there been any surprises for you as it’s arrived in different channels?

I think the biggest surprise is that it’s worked, at least thus far! I always believed in the book, in our story, but we’re relative unknowns, so that amount of people putting their faith (and financial investment) into us, to make a whole graphic novel from jump… it did surprise me, a bit. Pleasantly, of course.

I’m just glad to be able to prove it’s possible, you know? I do love writing the standard single-issue comic format, for some things– like in my previous creator-owned comic Self/Made, for example– but that’s not right for every story, and it’s not necessarily the format that’s going to be most accessible for wider audiences. So helping to demonstrate that there’s a way to make creator-owned graphic novel series viable, that’s meaningful to me. The industry can only benefit from having different paths to market.

What did you learn from the last crowdfunding campaign that you’ve applied to this new one?

The value of communication. We had some difficulties during the last campaign– Erica was injured badly enough to end up in hospital for some time, and then we were ensnarled in the great COVID international shipping crisis. In those moments, the inclination can be to clam up a bit– you don’t want to tell people that the project is delayed, or that something has gone wrong.

But I discovered that if you’re communicating regularly and clearly with people, they’re very understanding. Regular updates meant that they were able to see we were constantly making progress up until the moments of crisis– so when those things came up and we had to ask for some patience, the response literally unanimously was “it’s okay, we understand.” Which meant the world to us when we were at our most stressed.

Inferno Girl Red print by Valeria Favoccia

You were able to work with a massively talented team on the first Inferno Girl Red — artist Erica D’Urso, colorist Igor Monti, letterer Becca Carey — and everyone is back for this volume. How has the collaboration process been this time, compared to the first graphic novel? How is it “getting the band back together,” so to speak?

I can’t imagine it any other way, to be honest. Everyone is so fundamental to the DNA of the book– Erica’s ability to handle the most delicate emotion and the most extreme action, Igor’s hugely distinctive, vivid palate, Becca’s organic lettering… I’d be genuinely heartbroken if we lost anyone, and I don’t know if we’d be able to continue, it just wouldn’t be the same.

And we have such a useful shorthand, now. We all know each other’s strengths, and go out of our way to set each other up for big swings. It’s my favourite part of making comics, and this is the best team there is!

Finally, last we spoke you mentioned you were making your way through Kamen Rider Build and you also recommended two from the “British boarding school” genre — Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Fence. What are some tokusatsu and some boarding school dramas you’ve been enjoying lately?

Well, my Kamen Rider journey continues! I’m on Kamen Rider Gaim now. The world-building there is so wildly dense and intricate– there’s a lot to learn from how Gaim layers ideas, and how it chooses to introduce them to the audience.

As for boarding school dramas, a recent favorite of mine is actually Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury. It’s really great. If anything, it goes to show the relevance and power of boarding school dramas– even if that school happens be on an asteroid, and if the students happen to have giant mechs.

Inferno Girl Red card from Bad Blood

Anything else you’ve been working on you’d want to mention?

Oh, if I could sneakily plug one last thing before I go– my artist friend Kelly McMahon will be launching a Kickstarter campaign of her own soon, for her newest set of gorgeous illustrated playing cards, inspired by the roaring ’20s and crime noir– and I wrote a murder mystery featuring the characters from the card art which you can experience and solve while playing any of your favorite card games with the cards. That project is called Bad Blood, and it’ll be launching on Kickstarter soon!

You can find out more about Inferno Girl Red on its Kickstarter page.

One thought on “Smash Pages Q&A | Mat Groom returns to discuss the second ‘Inferno Girl Red’”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.