Recently, Andre Lamar got the chance to catch up with David Tischman and Philip Bond, the creative team behind Wildstorm’s hit series Red Herring. In this interview David and Philip give as a fun look into the world of Red Herring and the what it took to create it.
Andre Lamar: For those readers who haven’t check out Red Herring yet, tell us a bit about the series.
David Tischman: Red Herring is a conspiracy thriller with comedy. If you like the Coen Brothers’ movies, especially “Big Lebowski,” or the Lone Gunman episodes of the “X-Files,” you should check us out. There’s a nice amount of violence, but moments of unadulterated goofiness, too.
Philip Bond: It’s all in the title really. Most of the characters don’t know what is real or relevant half the time, which sets up all the delicious twists once the truths are revealed.
AL: What inspired the story of Red Herring and how long have you been working on this project?
DT: I love the term “ginger.” It’s a derogatory term for a person with red hair. It’s so perfect. That got me to the term “Red Herring.” It’s just my sense of humor — the kind of stuff that makes me laugh. The idea that Red Herring could be a person came out of that. And then, of course, if a guy named Red Herring is going to work with a partner, of course she’s the MacGuffin. In this case. Maggie MacGuffin — named after my wife, Maggie.
PB: David came to me with the bare bones of the idea about two years ago. From that point we were on the phone a couple of times a week, discussing short and long term story arcs, all these bizarre characters (with stupid names) and shadowy organizations. There’s a much bigger world to Red Herring than these six issues.
AL: How did you get involved with Wildstorm?
DT: You know, the DCU is pretty focused on super-heroes and is very involved in exploiting the catalogue, and Vertigo is still very hard-edged and outside-the-box, and Wildstorm feels like the place where you can go and do “comic books,” and I mean that in the sense of “comic books” I read when I was a kid. With the mixture of comedy and thriller, Wildstorm was the best place for Red Herring.
PB: When we got the proposal to our editor, Scott Peterson, he immediately understood what we were talking about and was as enthusiastic as we were. I always felt there was a sort of Red Herring gang in the production of this, me and Tischman, David Hahn inking and Guy Major colouring, and Scott is definitely part of the gang. We couldn’t go into a fight without his backup.
AL: In what ways has Wildstorm accommodated you guys with this project?
DT: Patience. Our editor, Scott Peterson, really gave us the time to develop a very intricate story, so that all the pieces had time to breathe, and unfold in a cool way. I also have to thank Hank and Austin Trunick, in publicity, for getting the word out on the book. Red Herring’s a smart, niche book, and Austin got it seen.
AL: As co-creators of Red Herring, what aspects of the story did each of you bring to the table?
DT: The comedy is all mine. For better or worse.
PB: The hair. I make sure everyone’s hair is tousled just right.
AL: The stylized characters in Red Herring are complimented by thorough background designs that lend a sense of liveliness to each panel. Philip, describe how you were able to capture such emotion in this book?
PB: That’s just what I’m interested in in drawing. I think one of the reasons I’ve liked working on Red Herring is that it’s all about the reaction shots, people reacting to situations they never considered before, to being told the world they believed in all their lives isn’t what they thought.
AL: What do you believe is your greatest strength as an artist? On the contrary, what areas of your work would you like to improve or develop? David, this question extends to your writing as well.
PB: Speed would be the thing I need to improve on. I don’t usually analyze my own work in terms of strengths. Strength in drawing is just about getting the finished page close to the one you originally saw in your head, and that’s the daily battle.
DT: I like to jump around, to use a lot of scenes and fill a story with sub-plots. That keeps me interested, and it enables me to tell a lot of story. But I just did a book and I kept it very simple, very straightforward. As a writer, it’s a simpler story, but I told the same story. I think that’s going to affect how I approach my next project. I’m still thinking as I write, which keeps the process interesting.
AL: As opposed to your previous collaboration on Angel and the Ape, how has partnering on Red Herring differed?
DT: I co-wrote Angel and the Ape with Howard Chaykin — which is a great book, by the way. Very dirty and very funny. On Red Herring, I wrote this one on my own, but worked very closely with Philip on the story, and developed each issue as we went. Philip is an incredible collaborator. I worked out the story, but he kept me focused and on point. And he’s the one who noticed when I’d dropped a plot point. There are several important developments in the story, especially in Issue #4 and #5, that came out of the story meetings we had.
PB: Yes, this one has been much more collaborative. Angel and the Ape I received as a pretty much finished script and only really spoke to David or Howard when I needed something clarified. With Red Herring we’ve discussed everything from the smallest insignificant details to the huge story arcs. It’s very satisfying to work on something so intensively, and I’m very proud of this book.
AL: What did you find to be the most challenging task faced in developing Red Herring?
DT: Comedy is hard. Comedy in comics is harder. It’s so subjective. And making a joke work with the pictures… At the same time, you need to move the story forward, and keep the characters in jeopardy. It’s a lot of balls to keep in the air.
PB: Probably keeping the whole thing grounded in the real world. Dealing with outlandish situations, it’s important to keep the settings real, even mundane,
so a lot of research and sweat went in to all those backgrounds.
DT: I believe a conspiracy of teachers and administrators kept me from being nominated for my High School’s 1902 Award. I was as qualified as any of the other candidates, and only a conspiracy could have stopped my inclusion. If anyone out there knows what that is, you know I’m right.
PB: I’m skeptical of everything to the point that it’s difficult for me to keep my own atoms held together, but I really don’t believe a man needs more than two blades on a disposable razor.
AL: What other projects can fans expect from you in the future?
DT: I have some short pieces coming up in DC’s winter specials — an Alfred story in the Batman Special, and a Red Tornado story in the DC Holiday book. McBain, an indie book I did with 12 Gauge Comics and country star Trace Adkins, which released on 11/10. And a very cool Angel mini, at IDW, is out in the Spring.
PB: It’s too early to name titles yet, but a couple of small contributions to Vertigo books and a one-off for Marvel. I’m spreading myself thinly before committing to a new big project.