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Dan Goldman Discusses ‘RED LIGHT PROPERTIES’ on The Cosmic Treadmill

Last week it was announced that IDW Publishing would be printing Dan Goldman’s cult web-comic Red Light Properties.

The weird Floridian paranormal real estate agents will be unleashed in a remastered print edition in January.

Forces of Geek‘s Clay N. Ferno put on his fanny pack and asked Dan some questions about the upcoming release and early digital native comics storytelling!

FOG!: Thanks for joining us to talk Red Light Properties, Dan!

Dan Goldman: Well, thank you for having me over, Clay! I promise not to spill my Slurpee on this nice rug.

IDW is publishing Red Light Properties in January, but the series was started digitally. What’s new about the ‘remastered’ version we’ll see in print? Were the revisions all yours?

Aside from the 20+ pages the world has never seen before, I’ve recolored and re-lettered literally the entire book as well as redrawn many panels, swapped out early 3D modeling work for updated models, clarified some initially sloppy storytelling and tweaked a good deal of the dialogue. Lettering is normally my final pass at my own scripts, so this was, as they say, another chance to get it right.

I worked with editor Joan Hilty as the book came into its final shape, and having her eagle eyes were invaluable as I’ve been deep into RLP for years now, but ultimately all the revisions made were my decisions to make.

The only thing scarier than ghosts to me are real estate agents. First, last, security, finders fees! I’m literally shaking! What’s the basis of Red Light Properties business model?

The business model was all Cecilia’s idea; when she and Jude first moved in together, he cleaned out ghosts from the apartment building they’d bought and suddenly she got dollar signs in her eyes: there was a business opportunity in her husband’s psychic skills. She ran out and got herself a broker’s license and Red Light Properties was born.

Things were good for a few years before the South Florida market got “softer” after the subprime mortgage crisis, and that’s when RLP’s “previously-haunted” houses started to become its own niche. People found themselves underwater in their mortgages and wanted to unload their homes but couldn’t because they felt “weird” to prospective buyers… while other people had their homes taken away by bank foreclosures and needed a place to live that they could afford. In her mind, Cecilia’s thinks of herself almost like Robin Hood.

We all know people go to Florida to die. Do you think there is an unusual amount of paranormal activity in Miami?

Yeah, that’s definitely Jude’s hypothesis: he sees a spike in activity lately that’s part of a larger pattern… and it’s something he and his colleagues will be exploring as the series goes on.

Jude – while not exactly the hero in the book – is the one with the power to see the ghosts, and his photographer Zoya can capture their images. Why does June need to take ‘helper’ drugs like D.M.T. and Salvia to get tapped in?

Before I answer that: Jude is exactly, definitely and totally the hero of the book.

Anyhow, Jude takes his “helper” drugs because without them, he can see and hear spirits from this side of the Membrane between life and death, but he can’t interact with them. The ghosts exist in their own looping memory of wherever they got stuck. His drugs allow him to pass through the Membrane to their side in a spirit-body and finish the job.

His natural abilities aren’t something he can just switch off on his own either, so he has a variety of chemical “tools” in his oh-so-stylish fanny pack like the hallucinogens that help him boost up into the spirit world and fuzz back down into boring old human reality.

Can or will Jude get stuck on the other side of the membrane between life and death?

We all can; I think that’s called “dying.” And it’s certainly a temptation… it’s a hell of a lot quieter than juggling everything he has to deal with on a daily basis.

You’re asking good questions, Clay. Keep going.

We talk a lot in this column about digital-first comics, and you predate the iPad by a few months with your webcomic on tor.com. Were you thinking of the panel transitions and pacing in a different way than you might approach the printed page when the series debuted? Or forgive me if I have it backwards, and you started with the page and ‘programmed’ your transitions to tell the story.

Backwards is closer to the case: I wanted the series to work in a variety of digital formats (it’s been on the web, Kindle/Nook and Comixology with several different interfaces) but I also worked backwards from the finished (i.e. print-ready) page. I see Comixology’s Guided View-Native stuff as an extension of what I was doing at Tor, but for me the problem is what you lose when you go to print. It’s not that print is better, it’s just that you lose pieces of art in the translation… and I’m not nuts about that.

Ultimately I prefer the static no-frills pages (even on a tablet) because I don’t want anything getting in-between the reader and the story. That’s the most important thing, not to fuck with the magic of comics’ delivery system.

The artwork is stellar, combining photos and photo references. Do you prefer working 100% digital? The acting and natural body expressions are a highlight for me.

Yes, thank you. My art has been 100% digital since 2002, and – no bullshit – I learned all these techniques and developed this style over the last ten-odd years so that I’d be ready to draw this series. So, yay.

Having the characters feel like real humans instead of generic action figures or “hip” stylesheet models like most comics is really important to me, as is getting a performance out of each one of that them serves my script. I’m the director as well as the writer, you know?

After the book is released, what’s the best way to get caught up on the ongoing adventures of RLP? We love seeing this round of Monkeybrain Comics come to print via IDW.

Once this first book is out (January 29th, available to order now at your LCS), there’s four more digital issues (about 100 pages) following this story already live on Comixology. Those will be collected along with new stories in the second volume Underwater, which will be out as a TPB sometime this summer. There will be an announcement before then, but Red Light Properties will definitely continue as I’m just getting started, and I’ve spent years been mapping out miles and miles of story for these little jerks.

Thanks, Dan! We look forward to more!

Thank you, Clay!

Be sure to check out Red Light Properties on Facebook and follow Dan on Twitter.

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