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Interview: Eric Palicki on Red Angel Dragnet

Written by Christian on Wednesday, August 27 2014 and posted in Features

Interview: Eric Palicki on Red Angel Dragnet

An interview with Eric Palicki concerning the ongoing Kickstarter campaign for Red Angel Dragnet.

Source: Kickstarter page for Red Angel Dragnet

Eric Palicki is a Columbus, OH based comics creator who has written several self-published comics.  His best known work is Orphans, a full length graphic novel pitting superhuman soldiers against the military-industrial complex.  

In August 2014, Palicki launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of Red Angel Dragnet, an urban fantasy graphic novel illustrated by Anna Wieszczyk .  Palicki previously funded the first chapter of Red Angel Dragnet via Kickstarter in 2013, but decided to publish the complete comic as opposed to funding individual chapters via crowdfunding.  As of the time of this interview's publication, Palicki has raised 42% of his $6,500 goal. 

I spoke to Palicki via email about Red Angel Dragnet and the Kickstarter campaign: 

The Original Cover for RED ANGEL DRAGNET #1

Christian Hoffer: What is the basic premise of Red Angel Dragnet?

Eric Palicki: Red Angel Dragnet is an 88-page graphic novel that tells the story of Chicago bookseller-turned-demon hunter Nate Reed. Nate's tattoos, taken from symbols found in his collection of old books, protect him from supernatural forces without and within; Nate has caged a demon within himself, trapping it where he can draw on its power.

The graphic novel itself depicts one particularly long night of Nate's life, when an unseen adversary has turned the entire city into a gauntlet.

Hoffer: How did you and artist Anna Wieszczyk meet up and decide to work together? How long have you been developing Red Angel Dragnet?

Palicki: I met Anna through the forums at years ago, when I was looking for an artist for a a different project, something that was called Neverland at the time. Anna completed three pages for me before she landed a gig at Archaia, illustrating the graphic novel Lucid, and had to step away from our project. We stayed in touch while she worked on her book and I worked on learning how to spell her last name.

I started writing Red Angel Dragnet in 2009, but it wasn't until two years later that I was comfortable enough with the script to enlist an artist. I went back to Digital Webbing, and there was Anna. She'd finished her commitment to Archaia and was looking for something new, so I sent her the script for Red Angel Dragnet. She loved it, and here we are.

Hoffer: What stories or media does Red Angel Dragnet draw inspiration from?

Palicki: Comics-wise, I think Red Angel Dragnet has a Vertigo-as-it-was vibe to it. Not quite as profane as Preacher or as literary as Sandman, but those books were a huge influence. Red Angel Dragnet exists in its current state in part because I really miss Hellblazer era John Constantine.

I'm not a huge fan of straight horror, but I drew inspiration from stories that mix horror elements with adventure, especially television shows like Buffy and Supernatural. I'm really hoping the Constantine series is good. That said, many of the most successful horror movies are, at heart, morality plays, and I think there's at least some of that in Nate's story.

The story began its life while I was obsessing over all the various movies supposedly based on Dashiell Hammett's The Red Harvest, so some of that spilled over into Red Angel Dragnet. The climax nods to A Fistful of Dollars in a small way.

Hoffer: Red Angel Dragnet gets its name from a Clash song, which was inspired by the shooting death of a volunteer crime patroller in the 1980s and heavily references Taxi Driver. Why did you choose to give the comic a title with such a loaded title?

Palicki: I'm not shy about my affection for The Clash, and specifically Joe Strummer, or about naming the band as my biggest creative influence. More than just that song, Red Angel Dragnet is a tip of the cap to the band's entire catalog. The subtitle of this volume, Lose This Skin, is also a song of theirs.

Another of my huge influences, Warren Ellis, has a habit of using song titles to name his stories, Transmetropolitan being a Pogues song, Tokyo Storm Warning being an Elvis Costello song, etc., and I lifted that habit from him. 

"Red Angel Dragnet" is a phrase that seemed to me to belong on top of a comic book. There's poetry in that title. That said, yeah, I'm aware of the song's deeper meaning, and I suppose there's a parallel to be drawn between between Nate Reed getting in over his head in my story and the incident referenced in the song, but Nate is certainly not Travis Bickle.

Hoffer: Urban fantasy has been a decently popular subgenre of comics and other entertainment media for a while now, and with the success of properties like Supernatural and Sleepy Hollow, I don't think it'll diminish anytime soon. Why does urban fantasy appeal to so many readers?


Palicki: I can only speak for myself, but in the context of, say, the news of the world over the last few months, there's a certain comfort in imagining a world that's a little more magical than advertised, one where the difference between the heroes and villains is defined by more than a point of view. That probably sounds more naive than I'd like, but when the antagonists are demons and therefore predefined as capital-E-Evil, then the writer gets a chance to really develop the hero.

That said, there's quite a lot of nuance in the Big Bad of Red Angel Dragnet, and I hope readers don't see it coming. 

Nate Fights A Demon (from Chapter 3)

Hoffer: Did you do any research on demonology when developing Red Angel Dragnet?

Palicki: Tons. The central conceit behind Red Angel Dragnet, the tattoos, came after I stumbled upon a book called The Key of Solomon, purportedly the book of spells that Solomon used to command demons when building his Temple. Of course, in reality, the book probably originated sometime in the 1300s, but I dug deeper, and it turns out that demonology was big business in the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries. The Key of Solomon is just one of a host of texts like this. Some of them read like D&D monster manuals, but they're all filled with these interesting illustrations, whether of symbols or of the demons themselves. Since comics is a visual medium, Red Angel Dragnet felt like a perfect way to use them in a story. 

Hoffer: One of the interesting things I noticed from your description of Red Angel Dragnet is that it features a protagonist at the height of his powers as opposed to an origin story. Why did you choose to feature a fully fleshed out protagonist as opposed to a protagonist just starting off? Do you feel that the comic medium are too fixated on origin stories?

Palicki: I don't think there's anything wrong with origin stories, but self-publishing creates a certain immediacy. I don't know if I'll ever get another opportunity to write these characters, and I don't have the resources, even if the Kickstarter campaign is successful, to meander. I've got to leave it all on the page, and dwelling too long on Nate's origin story would take away from the meatier bits that come after.

Hoffer: What will the funds from this Kickstarter project be used from?

Palicki: I paid Anna a page rate out of pocket to get this book made, so no one can call this anything other than a labor of love (except perhaps "good," or at least, "competent"). The Kickstarter is to fund printing costs and shipping of rewards. Anything left over will be used for promotion and awareness, hopefully to put the book into the hands of readers who didn't find Red Angel Dragnet through Kickstarter.

Hoffer: You successfully funded the first chapter of Red Angel Dragnet via Kickstarter last year. Why did you decide to collect the full story in a graphic novel as opposed to publishing the rest of the series in individual chapters?

Palicki: Ultimately, it's cheaper to print the book all in one go, rather than serializing the other chapters. Also, Anna has been working on these pages while juggling other gigs with major publishers. Interesting Drug came out from Boom! earlier this summer, and Godkiller is coming soon from Black Mask Studios. I love her for committing to finishing our book together, but waiting until the whole book to be done has ensured that I can deliver a finished product to the campaign backers, and that we can do it on time. 

Also, there's something particularly satisfying about having a finished product that you can display on a bookshelf. 

Hoffer: You've successfully completed two comics Kickstarter campaigns, and also had one unsuccessful campaign. What lessons have you learned from your previous campaigns?

Palicki: Whatever estimates you have about your project, whether in regard to time or cost, double them. I delivered my first successfully Kickstarted book, Orphans, over a year late, because I miscalculated everything from the time it would take my artist and colorist to finish the work to the cost of international shipping. 

I purposely waited until Anna was finished with the book before launching the campaign. We're targeting November for our digital release and January for the print edition. However, we're doing everything we can to deliver the rewards ahead of schedule.

Hoffer: What sort of rewards are you offering for this Kickstarter? When can backers expect to get a copy of Red Angel Dragnet?

Palicki: The big reward, of course, is the book, which is available digitally or as physical copy in both hardcover and softcover editions. The hardcover is exclusive to the Kickstarter campaign. I'm also printing a limited run of a short comic I did called Corduroy Road, my other foray into horror. Backers have the option to get Corduroy Road and Red Angel Dragnet bundled together. 

I also have a few copies of Orphans, my previous Kickstarter-funded graphic novel, some of which include a signed and numbered bookplate autographed by me and my sister, the actress Adrianne Palicki, who was recently cast as Mockingbird in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Another reward that no one has bit on yet is the opportunity to pick a song by The Clash and collaborate with me on a one-page comics story featuring Nate Reed.

I will be unveiling a couple of new rewards in the next few weeks, including custom-made dice bags that will feature the same symbols that Nate has tattooed on his body.

Hoffer: Do you have any future projects featuring Nate Reed planned? 

Palicki: I have some short prequel stories that I'm hoping to tell, but as for what comes next for Nate Reed, well, that assumes he survives this first volume... 

The Kickstarter campaign for Red Angel Dragnet can be found here, and the first chapter of the comic is available for sale here.  Palicki's website can be found here.  Anna Wieszczyk's DeviantArt page can be found here.  An article concerning Adrianne Palicki's recent casting as Mockingbird can be found here.  

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