What is a Red Herring? Looking it up in a dictionary you’ll see it’s defined as “a misleading clue”, as in something to divert attention from the real problem. But in the upcoming miniseries Red Herring from WildStorm, it’s also the name of a well-trained secret agent who is convinced something bad is about to happen. He’s partnered with Maggie MacGuffin, a secretary with a few secrets of her own. Together, they’re running around Capital Hill trying to put a stop to a sinister conspiracy that Maggie thinks may not even be real.
Set to debut on August 12, Red Herring is from the minds of writer David Tischman (Bite Club) and artist Philip Bond (Kill Your Boyfriend, Vimanarama). The duo, who previously worked together on the series Angel & The Ape, have reunited for a vastly different tale – one of con men and conspiracies, misdirects and confusion. For more, we talked with Tischman, the writer, about this book.
Newsarama: According to the dictionary, a Red Herring is either a cured fish or something that distracts attention from a real issue. What would you say the Red Herring miniseries is, David?
David Tischman: I am a big fan of cured fish, but this Red Herring is a human story with many curve balls--each one distracting you from what's really going on. [Co-creator Philip Bond] and I wanted it that way. At its heart, Red Herring is a con, but who's conning who? We just finished Issue Six, and even if you think you know what's going on, you don't. And it's silly. We wanted to do something fun. What's going on, the situations in the scenes, are serious -- and lives change and people die -- but we have fun getting there. Look, people want you to believe one thing -- which is rarely (if ever) the truth -- and you need to peel the layers of the onion back to find out what the hell's really going on. We just came out of eight years when nobody peeled an onion. It's time to look deep and cry.
NRAMA: I’ve read the first issue of Red Herring, and it reads like a conspiracy book – but one with a lot of character and a more average person perspective. Was that your goal, to be more than just a ‘conspiracy’ book?
TISCHMAN: I grew up on all those government conspiracy movies. "Three Days of the Condor." "The Parallex View." The government did something they don't want you to know about, and they're willing to kill you to keep that secret safe. Guess what? That's not what we're doing. Red Herring is about these characters, Red Herring and Maggie MacGuffin. This "situation" has brought them together. Yes, there are aliens in the story -- or maybe not -- but this is not "The X-Files," and these characters are not ciphers for Mulder and Scully. Maggie, in particular, is a great girl--a really smart modern young woman who's made a few bad choices and who really comes into her own as the issues progress. We hit her beats harder by using a second person narration in her scenes -- as if the narrator is speaking directly to (and about) her. It's not used a lot in comics, but it's been so much fun to write. I really think it's worked great for us. Red is a cynical S.O.B., who absolutely believes in conspiracies. To him, NOTHING happens by accident. So when he meets Maggie, it means something to him, and he stands by her. At the end of the day it was the right decision. By the way, why does everyone say "at the end of the day"?
NRAMA: You mentioned Maggie MacGuffin. Can you tell us about her, and my suspicion her name might have something to do with the film trope term of MacGuffin?
TISCHMAN: Two men are on a train, bound for the Scottish Highlands. One man points to the other's luggage and says, "what's that?" The first man says, "It's a MacGuffin. It traps lions." The second man says, "But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands." The first man shrugs his shoulders and says, "Then that must not be the MacGuffin." Alfred Hitchcock told that story. I butchered it, but hopefully not too much. Our characters are Red Herring and the MacGuffin. They are literary conceits, and people. They have very personal reasons for doing what they're doing, but they're fighting for what's right. And I care deeply about both of them.
NRAMA: Can you tell us about the orher main character, Red Herring?
TISCHMAN: Red Herring has a glass eye. It's the left one. What happened, and how did he get that glass eye? Hard to say, because every time he tells the story of how he lost the eye -- and he tells the story frequently -- it's always different. We may never know. He's a cynical, crotchety guy who does not suffer fools. Maggie sees through his crap, and makes him work harder. He pushes her to grow up. She'd be dead without him. They need each other. One important thing, they do NOT fall in love. They do NOT have sex. He's almost 10 years older than she is. It's totally platonic, a working relationship. They care about each other, and grow to respect each other, but they keep their distance.
NRAMA: It seems like they’re going against an organization called the Capricon Group. Tell us about them.
TISCHMAN: On TV, we see commercials for medications -- nail fungus, bad breath -- and alarm systems, exercise machines. How much of it do we really need? These companies create fear, and they sell us the answer to that fear. That's what Capricorn is, the ultimate extension of that. Or are they? In our story, Capricorn is a "think tank," a well-paid advisory group that has helped guide America's foreign policy for the past 50 years.
NRAMA: How many issues will this be? Any possibility of more after the initial run?
TISCHMAN: Red Herring is six issues, but we sold the idea to Wildstorm with the idea of doing a series of mini-series; with each six issue story detailing Red Herring and MacGuffins' fight against a different conspiracy. All of the great conspiracy's you always hear about, but each one twisted a little bit, with a humorous slant (and a devious end). And yes, it's all to a purpose; we do have an ending. Read far enough into it, and you'll see that all these conspiracies are intertwined, that there is a singular conspiracy that rules the others. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm just trying to sell comic books. That's the beauty of this book. With Red Herring, you never f-ing know.
NRAMA: You’re working with artist Philip Bond on this one, a previous collaborator from back on Angel & The Ape. How’s that been for you?
TISCHMAN: I had this idea, the original thoughts on Red Herring, in my head. I was in New Jersey. I live in L.A., but I grew up in Jersey. And I went by Philip's. We had pizza. It was February, and the snow was really piling up. I didn't have all of it, but in my head, it looked the way Philip would draw it. I knew that from Angel & The Ape. And -- thankfully -- he loved it. We worked out most of the specifics that afternoon. Philip's artwork is just f-ing gorgeous. And I know when a woman needs to be sexy, we'll see the lace on her bra and the line on her calves. And when it needs to be scary, we'll be frickin' scared. It's just a pleasure. Philip knew he wanted David Hahn to ink him -- and I had worked with David on Bite Club, so of course -- and we both said we had to get Guy Major to color the book. And we were off. We worked up some pages and Philip did some sketches and Wildstorm was nice enough to sign us up for the ride. It's been a pleasure. And WE'VE had such a fun time doing it. I hope you like it.
Check back with Newsarama later this week for our interview with series artist Philip Bond.