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Creator Interview: Eric Palicki

Demons. Baseball bats. Bookshop owners. Tattoos. Writer Eric Palicki is taking this unlikely mix of concepts and melding them into RED ANGEL DRAGNET, his new supernatural thriller comic book that’s available now through Kickstarter. In the book, he and artist Anna Wieszczyk tell the story of Nate Reed and what he has to deal with just to get by. Eric was kind enough to talk with me about his new book, his writing process, some previous works and crowdfunding in general.

Mike: Let’s start with a nice, open question: Who is Nate Reed?

Eric: Nate Reed is a Chicago bookseller who, years ago, encountered a demon as it devoured its victim in an alley. Nate's instincts kicked in, and he ran. Haunted by the creature's existence and perhaps more so by his own cowardice, Nate has turned to the old books he sells, looking for a way to protect himself, and he's covered himself in tattoos, images of supposedly magic symbols intended to control or ward off demons. Armed with a baseball bat and with the knowledge that his tattoos will keep him safe, Nate ventures out into the world and endeavors to destroy the demons that haunt Chicago.

Of course, Nate has inadvertently turned his own body into a comprehensive magical text, which attracts the attention not only of the supernatural forces he fights but also rival magicians. RED ANGEL DRAGNET is the story of the worst day of Nate's life, during which all the consequences of his earlier decisions come back to haunt him. Is that a pun? It feels like a pun.

Mike: Nate’s tattoos are very detailed. Did you do much research on symbology for that? Or did Anna (Wieszczyk, RED ANGEL DRAGNET’s artist) just run with it?

Eric: I did a ton of research. The book was originally inspired by a chance encounter I had with the Key of Solomon, a supposed grimoire that made a cameo appearance on Sleepy Hollow, but which is nonetheless a real book that you can buy on Amazon. It's filled with these incredibly intricate sigils, which King Solomon purportedly used to conscript demons when he built his temple in Jerusalem. If you're going to do a story with a strong symbologic element, there's no better medium than comics.

After I wrote the script, I went online and found a blank copy of the worksheet that coroners use for reporting, which is, I think, appropriate for the subject matter. The worksheet has a generic human figure on it, front and back, that a coroner would use to describe the location of wounds on a body. I drew in the location of all the tattoos, scanned it, and sent it over to Anna with the script. I can't draw, so no human besides Anna is ever likely to see that worksheet, but it exists.

Interestingly, after I sent the script, and Anna read it, she replied that it was something she was "waiting for- I have one sigil tattoo on me as well."  Kismet. 

Mike: You’ve mentioned being a big fan of The Clash. How much did the song (“Red Angel Dragnet”) influence the book? Or is it more of a general motivation for your writing process?

Eric: That specific song is, well, it's not one of their greatest hits, but it's a RAD title (that was DEFINITELY a pun), and I've always thought it would look great plastered on the top of a comic book. 

The Clash is more broadly a creative influence. I recommend the documentary The Future is Unwritten with the same vigor that I recommend Understanding Comics or Warren Ellis's Come In Alone.

Mike: Are you a fan of continuity? In other words, are RED ANGEL DRAGNET and ORPHANS totally separate, or do they co-exist in the “Palicki-verse”?

Eric: I think they exist in two separate universes, but I'd like to revisit both of them, and not necessarily with the same lead characters. A few years ago, I wrote the first issue of a series called BAREFOOT, with artist Gabriel Andrade (who's now working with folks like Dave Lapham and Alan Moore at Avatar, the lucky bastard). Barefoot never went anywhere, but it features a cameo by Nate Reed, making it technically his first appearance. (Everyone can read Barefoot here for free: http://ericpalicki.com/free-comics-friday-barefoot-1-version-one/)

Mike: What’s your comics origin story? How and when did you get into comics?

Eric: I was a late bloomer. I played with and enjoyed toys -- and I was a child of the eighties, so my toys were LEGO and Star Wars and G.I. Joe and the original metal Transformers -- for probably a year or two longer than what was socially acceptable. Comics were how I weaned myself off of creative play in fifth or sixth grade, as a way to exercise the same creative impulses. If I'd had a different group of friends, I imagine I'd have become an avid Dungeons & Dragons player, but I didn't know anyone who played in high school or college.   

Mike: Crowdfunding is giving a ton of up-and-coming creators (comics or otherwise) a chance to get their work out there. Do you find the risk to be worth the reward? What are your thoughts on the process?

Eric: I think it's great and I'm happy it exists. I owe whatever exposure I've gotten during my nascent comics career to Kickstarter and comiXology's SUBMIT program (where you can find my first graphic novel, ORPHANS). I don't think there's much risk, really, except for heartbreak, and the upside is huge. It's also a wonderful way to find new work, at last count, I've backed over 120 projects, and I'd never have discovered Doc Unknown or Oxymoron or Anathema without Kickstarter.

Mike: And the inevitable final question: where can we find you online, and how can we get RED ANGEL DRAGNET for our very own?

Eric: I maintain a website at www.ericpalicki.com, and I'm active on Twitter (@epalicki). The Kickstarter campaign for R.A.D. itself is https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/epalicki/red-angel-dragnet-volume-1-lose-this-skin. I hope you'll check it out. Rewards include copies of RED ANGEL DRAGNET, both physical and DRM-free digital, as well as copies of ORPHANS.

Thanks, Eric, and best of luck on the campaign!

~Mike