Jordie Bellaire is best-known to fans as the colorist of such books as The Vision, Pretty Deadly, Moon Knight, The Manhattan Projects and too many more to list here. More recently, she’s branched into writing - and her new title from Image Comics, Redlands, is a dark tale that addresses some of today’s most controversial issues.
In a small town called Redlands, the law is corrupt and racism and sexism rule…until three witches come to turn the tables. But that’s more terrifying than their supernatural wrath is one simple question: What happens next? We talked to Bellaire about the book, which she’s writing with Vanesa del Rey on art, and which debuts August 9.
Newsarama: Jordie - tell us about Redlands, the town and the book.
Jordie Bellaire: Redlands is an angry story about angry, terrible people all trying their best to appear normal. They want to maintain family, friendships and peace but cannot help their desires for power and control.
The town itself is based on the oldest, most run-down places in Florida that once flourished during highway tourism days. It’s unique, sweaty and beautiful, but quite deteriorated and ignored. There’s a tight-knit community that has been there for years, and it festers with small town pride, even when it’s taken over by witches.
Nrama: What was the initial inspiration for the book, and how did you come to collaborate on it?
Bellaire: I’m inspired by the angry voices of those pushed aside in the history of society, and the complexity of power and greed and the way it can crawl under anyone’s skin. I’m interested in how witches would manage today, if they were able to beat the odds and instead of cursing a town before their death, lived in a town that was already cursed.
Vanesa was someone I was always a fan of and never thought in a million years she would have the time or interest in me, but she has graced Redlands with her skills and love. My collaborator and partner, Declan Shalvey, suggested I just chance my arm and ask if Vanesa was interested in Redlands as I was developing it - so she’s really in on the ground level, here - and she was. Ever since, I write for her and think of her with each new character and chapter I write.
Nrama: What is your collaborative process like, and what do you each feel the others bring to the book?
Bellaire: Vanesa is incredibly important to Redlands. She’s currently living in Florida, I’m now in Ireland with Declan, so she gets the sweat, the heat, the beauty of the place in real time. She has a certain edge and darkness with her artistic eye, and I love what she brings to the characters and the town. There’s such a sexiness to her work, but a deep, dark mystery that if I’m totally honest, kind of freaks me out. Redlands wouldn’t feel right without her. Her work is a beautiful, honest and yet twisted reflection of the Florida I’m writing all about.
Nrama: Tell us about these witches, what they're like individually, and what's fun about writing them.
Bellaire: I’d like to keep our witches a bit mysterious, as they have their own stories to unfold, but they are very old and very different from one another. Repressed anger and fire for Bridget. Shapeshifting and compassion for all living things is Ro. Impulsive, spontaneous emotions from Alice, a full-on enchantress and charmer.
Nrama: While reading the first issue, I'll admit I had to go back a bit – the series starts at what would usually be the end of the movie, like The Witch. What was behind this storytelling choice, and what direction do you plan to take things in as this continues, without spoiling too much? Strangely, I have a vision of something like Animal Farm.
Bellaire: I actually haven’t seen The Witch yet - I’m dying to, but while I’ve been working on Redlands I wanted to halt any intake of anything witchy, to make sure nothing crept into the writing. Horror is already so diluted and predictable, I wanted to make sure the story I had to tell was uncut and free of very recent inspirations!
I wanted to start the readers off with the witches having a win. This is a story that starts with the witches having a sweet gain, a whole town, something that truly doesn’t happen enough. It sets the tone that these women conquer, take and destroy - without regret and without compromise. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the story, but the witches certainly have their work cut out for them. Running an empire isn’t the same as operating a coven.
Nrama: Also, will we get a sense of what the town of Redlands was like before the first issue?
Bellaire: There are plans to give readers a great deal of history on Redlands but that will be saved for later. Perhaps for trade, with some very special back matter we’re working on.
Nrama: How long do you see this story running?
Bellaire: I have right now at least three arcs in mind, and I look forward to them! I already know how the story will end, and there’s lots we could explore before then.
Nrama: Why should readers check this book out?
Bellaire: If readers want something angry or something complex, Redlands is for you. It’s got humor, sex, gore, crime, horror, cute dogs that bite - it’s got a little bit of everything! Like a really angry version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer combined with Macbeth.
Nrama: What else do you have coming up?
Bellaire: I’m working on quite a few things but some of my favorites I’ll mention are Injection (which is nearing the end of its third arc, say it ain’t so!), my boyfriend’s writing debut Savage Town (which is great crime story set in Ireland!) and the ongoing second arc of Head Lopper (also from Image Comics).
Nrama: What are some other books/creators you currently enjoy?
Bellaire: Anything by Andrew Maclean, Jeff Lemire, Becky Cloonan, Greg Smallwood, Gabriel Walta, Donny Cates, Warren Ellis, Jenny Frison, Eric Stephenson, Ming Doyle…this is just a list of some of my favorite people, I think I did this wrong.