The Glasgow League of Writers have been given permission to resurrect some classic, iconic, and some cases lost characters from the D C Thomson archives who will feature each week in the digital pages of Comic Review, the digital version of Comic Heroes, the magazine dedicated to the world of comic books. Gordon Robertson, director of the 9th Art Festival, continues his series of interviews with the creators behind the comics. Writer Sam Read took Red Star Robinson and evolved him into the Scarlet Star with a new setting, a new face and a whole new set of problems to deal with, though retaining the spirit of the original comic hero, something that Read feels makes this updated version closer to the original character than may actually be apparent on the first viewing. Alongside artist Leonie O’Moore, he tells us more about the project that they’ve brought back to life with the assistance of letterer Colin Bell.
GR – Introduce yourselves.
SR – I’m Sam Read, and as well as scripting Scarlet Star I’ve written and write a bunch of comics. Formerly Glasgow-based, where I was lucky enough to be part of Glasgow League of Writers, I’m now living in York and help organise York League of Writers, another group for aspiring writers to learn skills and go after comic writing opportunities.
LO – I’m Leonie O’Moore, I provided the art for Scarlet Star. I’m an artist and writer, I’ve provided illustrations for books, magazines and educational material. I’ve also worked on many comics, anthologies, Spirit of Hope, Accent UK, Dead Roots and graphic novels, Some Forgotten Part, Law of the Paw.
GR – What made you choose Red Star Robinson/Scarlet Star as your character?
SR – When first looking at the characters in the D C Thompson’s back catalogue I found the fact that there were two Red Stars who were radically different from two separate periods. With such a rich and varied history, I’d thought it would be fun to see how I could blend together aspects of both characters in a modern incarnation.
LO – I was working with Sam on a strip for Dead Roots and he mentioned he had another project that I might like. He showed me the script for Scarlet Star and I thought it was wonderful. He’d created a really interesting character, a hero who was good but also nuanced without straying onto the well worn path of the anti-hero. That was something I wanted to read and something I most definitely wanted to draw.
GR – Tell us about Red Star Robinson/Scarlet Star
SR – As I mentioned, there were two Red Stars. The first, Red Star Roberts, was a rough and tough gangbuster tasked by a citizens council with cleaning up a mid-west US city, using his slightly bizarre blend of gun-fighting and invention skills.
His successor, Red Star Robinson, was a school boy from the north of England, who after foiling a bank robbery received guidance and assistance from a mysterious alien benefactor in order to fight crime. This assistance included a flying car and a android butler called Mr Syrius Thrice, the latter often doing the vast majority of actual crime fighting in their adventures.
Since the last time they had appeared in DC Thompson publications, a DC Comics hero called Red Star had risen to prominence, so as part of the reboot I also decided to create a new, unique name in the shape of Scarlet Star, which in itself became an important part of the new character.
GR – Of all the D C Thomson characters being rebooted by the Glasgow League of Writers, Red Star is probably the most radical. What changes did you feel you had to make to the character for a modern audience and why?
SM – It wasn’t so much a case of having to but wanting to, and I it wasn’t so much changed for a modern audience as actually taking it back closer to its original 1930s incarnation. I had no strong nostalgic bond to the old D C Thompson characters, with the majority peaking in popularity and being out-of-print well before I was reading comics. I found this liberating, as I didn’t have any set idea of how the Red Star should be, so could build something fresh without baggage or ties.
Additionally, I felt the scenario the first Red Star found himself in, taking on goons and graft at the behest of a shadowy kangaroo court of concerned citizens had potential to be moulded into talking about society today, and not just in a allegorical fashion, but a more direct sense.
LO – The script and the direction Sam is going with the story manages to blend some of the more fantastical elements of the original strip with a more grounded modern world. I felt it was important to have art that reflected this, with work that’s not too cartoony but that can still accommodate that side of things if needed.
GR – Were there any specific comic influences you brought to your reboot of the characters?
SR – Although it would be easy to draw comparisons with other masked vigilantes from comics like Batman, my approach was actually informed by a conscious attempt to look at the flipside of what we’ve come to accept and expect from them.
Rather than someone impossibly wealthy, driven by a deeply personal trauma to fight against crime and disorder in a situation where the line between good and evil is blurry at best, I wanted to express that a poor but principled man in a city where the majority are simply decent folks trying to get along. I thought this could open up some very interesting avenues for storytelling.
Leonie also brought her unique and vibrant style to the story, really giving Scarlet Star a distinct identity, which as we were making such major changes was brilliant, and I cannot express how lucky I was to be able to collaborate on this with her.
GR – What other projects are you working on?
SR – I write and self-publish my own series Exit Generation, and having been runner-up in Grayhaven Comics Writer Apprentice 2013 competition, I have a pair of shorts coming out with them in the future. On top of this I’ve another bunch of projects in development that will appear later this year through to early 2015. You can find details and updates about all the stuff I do over at my site.
LO – I’m currently illustrating a series of children’s books for Boathouse Literary Group, and I am also working on an original graphic novel.
GR – Can we expect to see more of Scarlet Star?
SR – The six pages seen in Comic Review were the first part of a four part origin story which I’d love for Leonie and myself to get the chance to show the world, so I’m hoping that we do, though the ball isn’t in our court.
LO – I hope so!
p style="text-align: center;">Please follow the links to find out more about Sam, Leonie and Colin and their work