Ed Piskor is one of the most lauded cartoonists working today. Harvey Pekar, hackers, and hip-hop; Piskor has put ink to paper on all of them. Then there was X-Men: Grand Design, one of the best things Marvel has ever put out. Now Piskor is setting his sights on horror with his new title, RED ROOM. Currently being serialized on his Patreon, Red Room is soon to be physically published by FANTAGRAPHICS. Ed gave us a chance to ask him all about it. So check out the chat below, and then make sure to order the book through your local comic shop!
Warning, not for the squeamish!
MFR: For the uninitiated, what’s the Red Room elevator pitch? Ed Piskor: Thanks to the complete anonymity of the Dark Web and the lack of traditional paper trail with Bitcoin, a sick entertainment subculture has sprung up where people are murdering others on live webcam streams for creeps lurking in the chatrooms and tipping bitcoin to have their torturous requests processed. RED ROOM looks at that scary idea from as many different angles as I can think of, from the murderers pov, the victims, the patrons, the public at large.
MFR: What kinda stuff were you getting into for influences? Any books, comics, movies, films?
EP: Like all of my work, it comes from a lifetime of digging. Gross paperback novels, watching every horror movie in the VHS section of every mom and pop rental facility I had a card for, the over-the-top comics from early Caliber press, and Northstar. Artists like James O’Barr, Tim Vigil, Tim Truman, Vince Locke, Guy Davis, Troy Nixey, I can go on forever.
MFR: Having followed its creation through your YouTube channel, I know that you thought long and hard about how to finally get this published. What led you back to Fantagraphics, as opposed to Kickstarter or some other kind of self-publishing?
EP: The market has never treated me poorly. My stuff is selling right now and I want to avoid stuffing envelopes until the powerful dummies who are fucking up the “industry” of comics completely destroy the infrastructure of distribution, stores, etc. Then I’ll get back to my roots and hand-to-hand my comics to my audience. I’m gonna try to stay 100% creative for as long as I can, though. Fantagraphics is my favorite publisher. We’ve done mutually good business together for almost 10 years and they’ve always been fair. What more can a cartoonist ask for?
MFR: You are also going in on single issues (which I think is great). Why did decide on floppies?
EP: I love the format. I don’t like that most comics on the rack don’t give people a full experience, so I want to make one that does. Every issue is self-contained, but, if you read them all you’ll see the gestalt of the universe I’m creating. Money is tight for everyone right now. See an issue that piques your curiosity? Scoop it up. If you dig it, try another.
MFR: Do you see yourself taking Red Room into other mediums outside of cartooning/comics?
EP: Comics are my first love and I’ll always be doing them. If cool opportunities present themselves then I will consider them. Netflix isn’t going to be able to buy my baby for the bargain bin prices they give to other cartoonists though. They have to romance me.
MFR: How about letting other creators into the Room?
EP:I’d consider it. It could only happen if things go gang-busters, though.
MFR: Was there a specific part of creating Red Room you enjoyed most? Do you have a favorite part of the creative process?
EP:It’s all very enjoyable. I’ve created a system where I never deal with one part for long enough to get bored. It’s sort of no different than any other comic, with the exception that I routinely gross myself out and I think that’s gonna be valuable to the series (laughs).
MFR: Speaking of process, you used some techniques in Red Room (like duotone, hand lettering, etc) that aren’t as common in cartooning today. And Red Room actually “feels” very tactile already, even digitally. How did you achieve this? Was it always the plan to have the book look and feel this way in the end?
EP:Yes. I love the duotone comics of the 80s and it’s a process and aesthetic that is just plain lost to obsolescence. I got hold of some duotone paper and developed full sheets of the stuff so that I can digitally use them forever. Computer versions I’ve seen people do are just too precise and don’t capture the real grit of that process.
MFR: How about character or story? Having read some of Red Room, I know you have a ton of cool characters (I’m partial to Poker Face).
EP: A big deficiency I see in comics compared to more thriving times of the medium are that the creatives are milking one good idea for a year, rather than the kirby ideology of putting a million of them out there at once. I’m trying to do new stuff with every issue and that includes showing off new character designs and crazy concepts. One of them is gonna really catch, and it’s looking like Poker Face is the one right now. I’ve seen some cosplay, lots of fan art, and 2 tattoos with them on some skin!
MFR: Did the Kayfabe community have any impact, change or influence on Red Room in any way?
EP: In some ways, sure. When I ask the audience to recommend some good flicks and books they never let me down.
MFR: How long do you plan to continue the comic? Is there an endgame?
EP: There will be 13 issues that I’m signed up for. I have a million stories I can tell. If the audience is strong, I’ll keep rocking.
MFR: Will you still be releasing pages via Patreon alongside the floppies?
EP:Yeah, I think so. I have a good number of people interested in supporting my comics at every step of the process.
MFR: And finally, any parting words you want to leave our readers with? Anything else you want to plug?
EP:I’d just like to thank everyone who’s been along for the ride. We’ve pre-sold a ton of them so far. The Youtube audience is growing exponentially and are a very spirited crew. Things are all on track.