Interview: I Talk SUPERMASSIVE with Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom, Ryan Parrott, and Michael Busuttil — GeekTyrant

On February 16, Supermassive will be launching from Image Comics. This will be a superhero crossover event featuring Radiant Black as well as the debuts of Inferno Girl Red and Rogue Sun. The one shot is written by the creators of these new superheroes (Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom, and Ryan Parrott respectively) with art by Francesco Manna and colors by Igor Monti. I’m very excited for the one-shot and have shared my love of Radiant Black and hype for Inferno Girl Red and Rogue Sun before. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with the three writers as well editor Michael Busuttil about the upcoming crossover and more. You can find the transcription below.

Tommy: Before I go much farther, Mat, I need to clarify something for my own sanity. I could have sworn at some point I saw that Inferno Girl Red was being turned into an actual series with Image, but then I tried looking for that and I couldn’t find any information about that. And so I feel like I’m going crazy on that.

Mat: No, you’re not going crazy. So, Inferno Girl Red will be released through Image. The exact specifications of that in terms of format and date, aren’t locked down yet, but it’ll be sometime this year I can say now finally. Turn of the new year, which is delightful. It’s coming.

Tommy: Great news. Before we dive too much more, I do also will want to give a big, thank you to all three of you. You’re actually kind of the reason that I’m into comics these days. I was never really into comics growing up. Never really was exposed too much to them, but then around the time of Power Rangers Shattered Grid, I saw, “Oh, there’s Power Rangers comic. That can’t be that great.” And then I learned a little bit more about the story I saw that trailer they made with Jason David Frank. And it was like, oh, that looks pretty awesome. I know that to some degree, all three of you helped Shattered Grid in some process. I understand Mat will kind of downplay how much and Ryan will maybe up-play how much Mat had in that role; but I do want to say thank you because then that helped me get into when Radiant Black was announced and I’ve gotten into that. And then I learned about Inferno Girl Red and I’m very excited backer on that one. And I’m very excited to see what you do, Mat with Power Rangers as you take over Mighty Morphin. And then Ryan, I’ve just absolutely loved reading Mighty Morphin and Power Rangers. And can’t wait for Rogue Sun to come out. So a big thank you there.

Mat: Well, thanks man. I really appreciate that.

Ryan: Thank you.

Tommy: You guys are putting out Supermassive on February 2nd I believe is when it releases through Image Comics.

Mat: We’ve had a small delay on that one. Michael, what’s the new date?

Michael: February 16th for Supermassive. Two weeks.

Tommy: February 16th, okay. This is going to feature Radiant Black, Inferno Girl Red, and Rogue Sun. I think this is very exciting. I think it’s going to be interesting since up to this point, the only character that we will have known is Radiant Black. So my question is, how did you guys decide that the debut of Inferno Girl Red and Rogue Sun would be in this big team up event comic?

Mat: Well, I think we’ve all been working on our respective series for a long time. I know the publishing timeline might not reflect this, but all three series have been sort of in development for broadly the same amount of time. And because, you know, we are friends and we chat together. We’ve all been sort of looking over each other’s shoulder at each other’s work and very much enjoying what the others are doing. I think it became quite a natural conversation of, “well, we have these characters that to greater and lesser extents have similar influences and we’re all friends and we all respect each other. So we could probably bring these things together.” And I think the fact that they, as much as they do have some similar differences, they are so different in a lot of other ways in terms of the sort of tones that they hit, what they’re about, and that would create some interesting sort of clashes. And because they’re all creator-owned series, we could do that. We’re in control so we can experiment and do wild things. And I think the question was, “Well, what would a crossover event look like outside of the corporate sphere? Like what, what would it be like if three people who had total creative control wanted to try something like this and what would that mean for the characters?” And I think what once we got to “what would it mean for the characters? What are the implications of this?” That’s when we got to the interesting stuff and we got really excited by it.

Ryan: Yeah. I think it was the same way. The superhero comic book world is a pretty saturated place, and if you’re going to come out and do a creator-owned book, just getting through the noise I think is really hard. And so we talked a little bit about maybe like with our powers, we all worked on a series where, when the powers combined, they all, you know. So it seemed like there was an opportunity if we could all do this, like sort of all help each other out in a weird way and also I think just jump into the water head first. Like, we always intended, “Oh, we can have ’em cross over at some point,” but why not just, just go for it? Why not start from the beginning and just do it that way. And then have it branch out. As a reader, I’m always looking for jumping in points that are easy for the audience. This one just seems sort of like a no brainer.

Tommy: Do you have anything to add Kyle about debuting Inferno Girl Red and Rogue’s son via the Supermassive crossover comic with Radiant Black?

Kyle: I think it’s a really cool and unique opportunity. I think that it’s a delivery method for introducing new characters that has been done in the past, and certainly I found characters I feel like through event launches when I grew up reading books, and so to be able to kind of do that now with something that also is incredibly planned feels really like an interesting and exciting iteration on that formula. All of these books have been in the works for quite some time. So the fact that it’s not just putting a character in Supermassive and then the next series is “We’ll figure it out if they are a breakout character from Supermassive,” it’s like, “no, there’s a plan for them already.” So it’s not a spinoff, you know, they’re just debuting here And this is only the beginning of their story or the middle of their story in Mat’s case, but the beginning of the story for hopefully a whole new generation of readers.

Tommy: You all talked about how this is supposed to be a great introductory point for all three characters, really. Radiant Black’s been going for about a year now. Rogue Sun launches, I believe just one week after Supermassive.

Ryan: Yeah.

Tommy: And then Inferno Girl Red, I believe June is when the graphic novel comes out.

Mat: Yeah. Sometime around there the Kickstarter backers will be receiving it. And then later in 2022, at some point it’ll be available publicly.

Tommy: Okay, great. I take it and I understand from other things I’ve read, you guys have worked really hard to make it where readers don’t have to read anything else before reading Supermassive. But I know a lot of readers like myself are curious where in the timelines of each story does Supermassive take place.

Mat: Well, I can answer for Inferno Girl Red ’cause it’s potentially the more complicated of three. So Inferno Girl Red Book One which Kickstarter backers will be getting the middle of the year, as you mentioned and then to the public later in the year is the origin story Inferno Girl Red. That’s the start of her journey. We meet her in Supermassive, a little way into her experiences as Inferno Girl Red. So we’ll actually see a bit of a glimpse into the future of the hero that she has become. We did this for a couple of reasons. We wanted for everybody who picks up the Kickstarter to have like the origin story and be able to read the beginning and not have missed out on anything if they did pick up Supermassive. But we also wanted people who picked up Supermassive to get a glimpse of what’s to come and a vision of the future. So, they get like an extra bit of insight; a bit of understanding; and even like, if you finished Inferno Girl Red Book One, and then you read Supermassive, you’re still going to learn new stuff. You’re going to get a look into the future of both Inferno Girl Red and the sort of wider universe by reading Supermassive. So yeah, it’s massive, takes place after Inferno Girl Red Book One, and it’s between #11 and #12 of Radiant Black. Is that right? Michael?

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Michael: No. With Radiant Black and Rogue Sun, it takes place at the point at which it comes out, basically. So before issue one of Rogue Sun, and issue 12 of Radiant Black is a one shot that explores a different thing, but between issues 11 and 13 of Radiant Black.

Kyle: Yep. It’s like a big season two premiere Saturday primetime premiere movie event.

Tommy: Those are always some of the best events. I mean, you look at Power Rangers season two premiere, Lord Zed comes in. Holy cow!

Kyle: I did 10 minutes on this yesterday.

Michael: And he could do it again if you asked.

Kyle: I could, but…

Tommy: Another day. I would love to just geek out with you guys on Power Rangers, but that’s another day. That’s great to know. So, it really is a great jumping point for all three. And it’s great for anyone who’s been reading Radiant Black to kind of see, “oh, okay. This is what happened in this interim.” And then with Rogue Sun, it looks like this is kind of the prequel to Rogue One or Rogue Sun. I’m sorry, throwing Star Wars out there for you.

Kyle: Ryan, there’s still time. You can change it.

Ryan: There’s a little Star Wars weirdly enough. Supermassive has a little Rogue One kind of vibe to it actually if you think about it, but I’m not going to, that’s a spoiler, so we’re not going to get into that.

Kyle: He’s the Rogue One Sun.

Tommy: I was doing some double and triple checking on things and what can you guys tell us about like any kind of story synopsis for Supermassive, without spoiling too much? I know we don’t want to spoil anything, but like what can we expect from the story, from the pages of Supermassive?

Kyle: This is a Mat or Michael answer.

Mat: I can say a little bit which is to say that Cássia Costa, Inferno Girl Red, is after something. She’s chasing something. And in the course of that journey, somewhat inadvertently, she ends up our world, in the world of Radiant Black and Rogue Sun, and her arrival causes problems. And then we go from there. I think about as much as I would want to say about that, I think,

Tommy: I think that’s a perfect teaser. I was just going through it and I’m like, “oh, wait. In the original release, there was nothing about what’s actually happening in this.” So that’s great.

Mat: Yeah. I mean, I think part of the joy is when you throw these things together, the immediate and unexpected sparks that fly. And I think we’ve gone out of our way to make sure that in every step of the story, I think there are shocking escalations and turns and reveals. So yeah, I don’t want to say too much.

Ryan: We’ll spoil it all on the podcast as we go along for the next few weeks. I’m sure it’ll all be ruined.

Mat: Totally. Page by page. We’ll tell you everything.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly.

Tommy: Perfect. Which podcast is that?

Ryan: This one’s a start. I mean, I’m sure I’ll say something at some point here. It’ll be great.

Tommy: So you’re the Tom Holland of the group.

Ryan: That’s me. Yeah. Oh God.

Mat: Yes. Spry, young, fun.

Kyle: British [Writer’s note: Ryan is not British]

Tommy: The universe was brought up. Do you guys have a name for this universe? I mean, we have the MCU, we have the Marvel comic universe. We have the DCU. Do you guys have a universe name for whatever this is.

Mat: I like, I won’t take credit for this, I think it was someone on, there’s a Discord channel for the Radiant Black podcast and there’s like a bit of a fan community there and someone used the term Massive-verse. And at that point I was like, “there it is. There we go.” Massive-verse it is. I’m quite into that name. As far as I’m concerned, at least, that’s our term.

Kyle: You have to spell it, Mat.

Mat: M A double S I V E hyphen, V E R S E.

Tommy: You guys are thinking the Massive-verse is the name that appeals to you. That sounds awesome. I have a couple of quick questions. I know time is a little short. Number one. How did you each decide on which artist you wanted to team up with for your respective comics?

Mat: Do you want to go first, Ryan?

Ryan: Yeah. So Kyle’s been trying to get me to do an Image book for a while and I was like, “yeah, but you know everybody, I know nobody.” And he’s like, “I got somebody for you.” And so he’s the one who actually connected me with Abel, who does Rogue Sun and he is amazing. I know everybody says their artist is amazing, but mine actually is in the sense that, like, I remember the first time I saw him and stuff, I was like, it’s got a little bit of…Oh my God, why am I blinking on the freaking guy’s name? Like an idiot. Who did the Joker White Knight?

Kyle, Mat, Michael: Sean Murphy.

Ryan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Murphy. I was like, “looks like that with a little Dan Mora. Oh yeah.” I mean, this is my jam. ‘Cause I’m 90s Image all the way through as they will attest when we were trying to get logos made. But he was the first person and weirdly enough, when we were like, “Hey, so we’re going to design Rogue Sun.” I think we did one pass. Like he did one concept design, sent it in, and we’re like, “yeah, that’s it.” And then we tweak, we’re like “maybe a little more fire” and he is like “Fire!” and we’re done. I’ve designed a lot of characters in the last few years; that’s the easiest process I’ve ever had. So like, Abel’s a godsend. It really is, when you get the right artist, it makes everything a lot easier. It really does. It’s just nice.

Kyle: Not only that, but so much of a superhero and a new superhero is the design. And we’re fortunate in that we all have, because of prior work and current work or upcoming work in Mat’s case, you know, an association with Power Rangers, which is an adaptation of a tokusatsu property and as such has some of those aesthetics. And then also Ultraman which Mat and I do et cetera. And so for me with Radiant Black, with Marcelo, it gave us a starting point of an aesthetic approach where I said, I want to be in the helmeted hero kind of space. And then once you have that kind of parameter, and Ryan’s case is actually very different than this, but I think it makes what Abel did that much more impressive because I don’t think you aesthetically comp anything from like a tokusatsu influence, right?

Ryan: No.

Kyle: Like you said, you had this vision of a knight on fire, modern, you know, sleek, but dark, here’s the name and what came back actually, is coincidentally in the helmeted transforming hero kind of space. But the fact that Abel did it in one drawing is what, as Ryan said, blows me away as well. But for I think for Mat we explored different kind of ideation of design over different eras for Inferno Girl Red before landing in this iteration with Erica here. And that iteration came after Radiant Black, not that Radiant Black informed that at all. I’m not saying that, but just Radiant Black for me with Marcelo was like, I like having these parameters of an aesthetic influence. What do we do? How do we iterate with a Western influence in there as well to do something that’s very modern? And for me, the real game changer was when Erica designed Cássia and the Inferno Girl Red suit. She gave her the coolest sneakers that I’ve seen in some time. Because that to me feels like, “yes, that’s taking an influence and then remixing it for where we are now in different trends and influences.” Like that’s, that’s the stuff that gets me excited as we move forward here.

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Mat: I think that moment was really validating too, because I think to get back to how did we find the artists? We were searching for the artist for Inferno Girl Red for a long time. I mentioned before that all of these three books have been loosely in development for about the same time. And part of the reason that Inferno Girl Red has taken so long was finding the right person, ’cause I knew that given the nature of the book, I wanted a female artist and definitely someone younger and finding someone like that who had the talent and the availability and all manner of other things was an exhausting process, like really exhausting. But when the designs came back, and we went through so many different iterations, we got to the final version and it was just perfect and it felt very validating like, “yeah, absolutely. It should have been a woman. It should have been someone who has a connection to youth culture, who has that energy.” It could have happened another way, but would’ve been much, much worse. So I’m so glad we went through that and got to Erica. Who’s just, I think the fact that she’s this talented now is terrifying in the sense of the powerhouse that she’s going to be in the years to come. I think she’s going to be a megastar.

Tommy: Well then, I guess it’s good that you’re becoming good friends with her then.

Mat: Absolutely.

Tommy: I love the design that she has made for Inferno Girl Red. That helmet alone is just so awesome.

Mat: Right?

Tommy: So cool.

Mat: I think it helps too that Erica’s a tokusatsu fan as well. Herself and her boyfriend are big into tokusatsu. Big into anime. I think it’s interesting, like everyone on the creative team has influences in that space. Like I know Igor, who’s on colors, has been looking at some of the anime coming out in recent years in terms of palettes and things like that and how like vibrant and contrasting they are. So yeah, I think we’re, we’re all able to pull different little pieces and then obviously things from other realms as well, because it’s something that we’re all so genuinely passionate about ourselves.

Tommy: Well, that’s awesome. I know that we are just about out of time, but if we could just close with each of you providing your biggest tokusatsu inspiration for your comic and then also a recommendation of a comic you’ve recently read or are currently reading that you think other people need to check out.

Kyle: I would probably say for mine that while aesthetically, you might see Super Sentai I would actually say my series is much more of a Kamen Rider type of series with you know, a bit of Ultraman kind of spiritualness mixed in. Spirituality mixed in. I know Ryan’s going to try to comp, I don’t know what you’re going to comp, but I’m going to throw you a few ideas. I feel like what’s really cool about Rogue Sun in particular and the power set is that it’s something that while the aesthetic may scream. “Oh, that totally makes sense as a transforming hero, like tokusatsu, especially with Ryan’s past work, it’s something that you usually don’t see in a live-action series because fire effects are very cost prohibitive, especially to do them well.

Ryan: Yeah, I’m screwing myself in the TV department. Yeah.

Kyle: You might be okay now, but the point being that it’s something you can only really do in a comic. So that’s something that I think we all really pride ourselves on is doing things that play to the strengths of the medium we’re working in and all this stuff is no different. But there are some metal heroes Ryan in the 90s that, they’d be too futuristic looking for Rogue Sun, but if you ever do a cyborg future ninja version of Rogue Sun, you’d be into some pretty fun space share territory.

Ryan: You had me at cyborg future ninja. Yeah. Unfortunately I, and this is going to make some people disappointed, I don’t watch Sentai. It’s respected and stuff. I just, I’m too Americanized, I guess. I just watch all the Morphin stuff, but the book I’m actually rereading 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello right now. And man, that is just some good reading and I’ve really enjoyed doing that. So, I mean, it’s an old one, but like just going back into that and reading that is just really fun stuff.

Mat: For me, I think, I know Kyle mentioned Kamen Rider earlier, but I think that specifically each Kamen Rider series, Kyle and I have both been watching Kamen Rider build over the past sort of like year or so, which is excellent, and each Kamen Rider series is about one big idea and it tries to resolve that big idea within that year-long series and then it’s done and it moves on. Which is a little distinct from how the West sort of adapts this stuff oftentimes like Power Rangers is about protecting the status quo. It’s like, “there’s danger out there. Let’s make sure nothing changes.” Whereas often Kamen Rider and sometimes Super Sentai, it’s more about “something’s wrong in the world and we’re on an active mission to change it” and because of that, it lends itself to more ideologically interesting, I think perhaps, storytelling. I think that something I was very conscious of in developing Inferno Girl Red is like, this is about something. And specifically Inferno Girl Red is about growing up as a teenager in this time and the immense darkness of the world and how bleak the future looks in a lot of ways and how omnipresent that can feel. What does it mean to try and find hope in that environment and how do you try and push back against the darkness when it really does feel like it’s closing in against all sides? And what does it take and what does that cost you? So yeah, I think Kamen Rider especially was like a very interesting influence for this one. As with comics, I think perhaps a little bit like Ryan, this holidays, I’ve been on a bit of a like re-reading kick and I went back and read a lot of Gotham Central which is by Greg Rucka. For those who don’t know, it’s a book that’s just about the police department in Gotham City with Batman sort of on the fringes in the shadows every now and then, but like, what’s it like to be a police officer in the city with Mr. Freeze and The Joker just out there? Like what does that do to you as a person? And it’s so good. Definitely worth reading.

Tommy: Thank you so much guys.

Kyle: Our pleasure. Thank you. We gotta jump to our next interview. Yes, but this was awesome. And thanks so much for, for taking the time to chat with us about all things Massive-verse.

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