You can't keep a good pirate down. Especially when he's an immortal vampire. That's the story of Sea of Red, which was recently collected in a new slipcase edition.
In this evocative mix of piracy, vampirism and the supernatural, Sea of Red creators and co-writers Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer charted a course of a lowly deckhand from the 16th century who is forcibly made a pirate and lashed to a sunken boat for over four-hundred years before being released to reap his revenge. But along the way, he tries to come to grips with what 400 plus years of sea-logged memory will do to you, and the true nature of his captor Lesser Blackthroat. Sea of Red ran for over twenty-issues at the creator-owned comics bastion of Image Comics, and became one of the early defining moments for writer Rick Remender as he segued from being an inker to being one of comics' fastest-rising writers.
Sea of Red has set sail again in the form of a new slipcase edition collecting color series which was serialized from 2004 to 2006. Inside this new hardcover matte finish slipcase are the three trade paperbacks which collected the Image series, all in one place for the first time. Limited to 1000 copies, the Sea of Red slipcase hit shelves in late May and we caught up with writer Rick Remender about the series' deluxe treatment and looking back and what the series accomplished.
Newsarama: We’ve talked to you in the past about the series’ story, so instead of retreading that turf I want to get deeper. What were you and Kieron thinking when you dreamed up Sea of Red?
Rick Remender: I think that the initial concept of vampire pirates is what got Kieron and I excited about the book and writing it. The first draft of the story was set in the 15th Century as a pirate revenge story when vampirism sprinkled on top. It was a good story – a fine story – but it was too easy and linear. When Kieron and I realized this, our new thrust for the story was about experimentation. There was a time jump early on of a couple hundred years, with a pirate victim being stuck to a ship’s bow for 400 years and eventually found by a modern-day film crew. That juxtaposition of the discovery of a man being alive 500 years and seeing a sailor’s reaction to the modern world. From there, the sailor Marco’s basic motivation of revenge against Captain Lesser Blackthroat, who sent him to the bottom and is still alive and living in the Bermuda Triangle with a posse of vampires. But carrying around that idea of revenge has been maddening for Marco over those 400 years, and that leads him to some strange conclusions.
Nrama In the first arc of Sea of Red, Marco’s squarely put into the role of the hero and Lesser Blackthroat that of the villain. But that role changes for him in the later arcs as we see more of him and his own struggles. Can you tell us about your development of Lesser Blackthroat, and the final shape you guys were able to make of him by the final book?
Remender: When I was writing him, I was writing him in the 15th Century with Marco going to hunt Lesser Blackthroat. Kieron pointed out that what we were having Lesser do was too easy. That was one of the main motivations for moving the story to modern times. It was too easy for Lesser to be just a mustache-twirling evil pirate. The more we wrote, the more we victimized the sailor Marco. I don’t want to give too much away, but there became a lot of nuance and complexity to their relationship. In Marco’s 500 years stewing over it all, it had clouded his memories to the point that when he finally gets there and is ready to take his revenge, there are some bombs dropped that alter --- or reveal – the true reality of things. We show how deluded he had become in his thinking, how over time he changed history to fit what he needed it to be. After 500 years of single-minded revenge on his mind – and being underwater tied to a boat, your brain would be pudding and it’s not hard to imagine how someone could re-write history to suit their own ends.
Nrama: Very early on, you established Marco Esperanza and the grueling life he was put through after meeting Lesser Blackthroat. Early on he was the reader’s first identifiable character, and the vantage point with which they learn about the rich history of vampires and the forces at work here. When you were writing him, what were your goals – and things you wanted to avoid?
Remender: It would have been easy and cliché to leave Marco as an innocent man whose wife was killed by pirates and he’s out to avenge her. Although taking that direction would have made it an easier and more straight-forward story to pitch for film, it wasn’t as interesting for us. Kieron and I didn’t want something so cut and dried; once we started tearing into the story, we wanted to make Marco, Lesser and the others more complex and take things back and forth, showing that none of them – and none of us – are necessarily heroes. We all revise history for our own purposes. Everybody has an adversarial point-of-view from time to time, and they always assume they’re correct. But that person they’re facing off against has their own feelings and truths to back them up. It was fun to start off with one character and his quest for revenge and then slowly unravel that he’s not entirely innocent as he reveals over time. Over the course of Sea of Red, we see both how Marco views the world and his place in it, as well as Lesser’s point-of-view. At the end, we see two people with their own unique viewpoints on it all.
Nrama: For Sea of Red, you and Kieron wrangled up a very unique set of artists to do the book – with a very moody and dark style unlike your other work. When you went about casting for artists to do the book, what were you and Kieron thinking?
Remender: We knew we wanted something unique, and when Kieron and Salgood Sam worked together, they came up with the sepia tone “blood wash” – the black and white with greytones and color added – that became a signature part of the book. We also used a very toothy paper stock to give it a feel of parchment – like a treasure map – to give the book a tactile experience.
Kieron did the breakdowns for the first six or seven issues, except for Sea of Red #5 that Paul Harmon did. Salgood worked over Kieron’s breakdowns for four issues, then Paul Harmon came in and did the majority of artwork for the rest of it. Of the 13 issues we did, Salgood did four and helped out on some others, and the rest was Kieron and Paul doing the heavy lifting. Salgood and Paul’s work fit really well together, and having Kieron doing breakdowns between them really smoothed out the transition.
Nrama: One last question before I let you go, Rick. I wanted to ask about the unique nature of this collection – it’s the three original trades packaged together inside a slipcase container. And you’re limiting it to 1000 copies, so why’d you decide to go this route?
Remender: I like how the trades came out. We could have done an omnibus, but I don’t really see the difference. I like what Steve Niles did with the slipcase edition of 30 Days Of Night – that big hard matte slipcase with the books in it. It turned into a really nice package, and I saw Sea of Red doing that as well.