Talking "Strange Girl" With Remender & Nguyen

This last January, CBR's own James Sime told you about the new series "Strange Girl" coming this June from Image Comics. It's just one of a healthy handful of books coming out this year from writer Rick Remender (including "Sea of Red" which hits shops this week.) who is joined by artist Eric Nguyen along with colorist Joelle Comtois. CBR News spoke with Nguyen and got some updates from Remender about the book.

Back in January, Remender described the series to Sime in his "The Comic Pimp" column. Note, Remender suggests that as you read the following overview of "Strange Girl" you do so using the voice of that guy who does all those trailers for the summer blockbuster films. "The Rapture has occurred and God has collected all who worship him by any name, leaving a small population of the faithless behind. With the Earth now unprotected by God, the demonic citizens of Hell flood into our world and enslave the remaining human population. Seven years after the Rapture, a beautiful occultist and a runt demon embark on a road trip to the last open gateway to heaven, in hopes of befriending God and escaping hell on earth.

"Basically after saving the life of a runt demon named Bloato, bar tender, occultist, and all around arse kicker, Bethany Black, unwittingly discovers that God means to soon return for the second Rapture when he will wipe the Earth clean of everything. With the end of the world coming, Bethany and Bloato set out to find the last doorway left into heaven and plead for admission. Equal parts 'Tank Girl' and 'Doctor Strange' Bethany Black is the unlikely last hope for a population of humans-- with no reason to hope."

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In addition to Bethany, the series stars a demon named Bloato and Belial, the Lord of the Red Demons. "Bloato is a mixed breed demon and hence none to popular with the secularized demon population," Remender told CBR News. "There are three major races of demons that fight for dominance over the Earth and they are blue, black, and red. All distinct and very weary of one another. Bloato, a mixed breed, is welcomed nowhere and falls in with a young human slave, our hero Bethany.

"Belial is the Lord of the Red Demons. He is the former 'Hand of Lucifer,' a position few demons have held and as such he is powerful and awful. He has raised Bethany from the time she was a young girl when her family was taken to Heaven in The Rapture and she was left behind. She is his slave and runs his bar on The Corridor. The Corridor is the demon population's version of Las Vegas. So basically it's as sinful and debaucherous as a place can be. Why assume demons are one-dimensional characters with only the desire to torture humans and listen to Iron Maiden? Demons embody that which is rank in humanity, and that is a fertile playground."

The first issue shows us the time of The Rapture and then skips ahead ten years where we find Bethany all grown up, as it were. Remender said that fans interested in knowing what happened during that ten year span will find out eventually and already has a two-issue story worked out that tells the story of Bethany and Bloato's first encounter. "There are a number of other tales to be told in the time between when The Rapture takes place and when the first story arc happens," said Remender. "Bethany had to basically grow up in Hell on Earth and find a way and a reason to hold on to her soul. We all make it through very tiring times in life and leave parts of ourselves behind to survive. What it takes to grow up surrounded by vile monsters and not become one is a theme in the book."

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The inspiration for the series came to Remender when he was thinking about the Rapture and the number of people who believe in the day when God comes to sweep up the good people and leave all the baddies behind. "What kind of a week minded God is limited by such empty concepts as good and evil?" asked Remender. "Who defines what is good or evil; I mean as humans we can figure out that for the most part it's all perception. Why would God bother with humanities definitions of 'good' and why reward it? Then I found it quite more interesting to think about the type of God that would reign under these rules, or the type of God that would make these rules in the first place. What if it's real, what if they're right and God is that intellectually limited? Or what if he were simply giving humanity what they desired most, confinement, rules, and martyrdom? It's too much fun to not do a story about. As I did in 'Doll and Creature' I'll ride the middle post and look at both sides of the religious fence. In all honesty I really won't lean too far one-way or the other."

Remender got hooked up with artist Eric Nguyen through his manager Ford Gilmore. Nguyen's work's been seen in the pages of DC/Wildstorm's "Stormwatch: Team Achilles" and "Thundercats: Dogs of War." Nguyen's excited to be working with Remender on "Strange Girl" and talked about his artistic process a bit. "I come from a design background and I've been using the computer for concept work for some time now," Nguyen told CBR News. " So most everything I do baring the scribbles I call 'thumbnails' is with the computer. I've been inking digitally for Wildstorm and DC for a couple of years now and no one could tell that I was doing it digitally. So with 'Strange Girl' I was put in a terrific opportunity to explore what I have been doing for concept design works and merge it with comic works. In turn hoping that 'Strange Girl' will have this unique look that isn't so mainstream, but still 'cool' and ultimately mainstream."

As you can gather from the description of the book, Remender's given Nguyen a number of design challenges in creating the look and feel of this world devoured by demons. Nguyen feels his design background helps make that challenge a lot easier. "[Rick & I] talked a lot about mood, tone, described words that would make sense for this world and the characters in this world. For example, Las Vegas, San Francisco, goth, punk, hypocrisy, etc... So, with those environments, it was about taking all the research and merging them together to fit and have the elements make sense. For the most part, the characters were already established, however what I did with them was add that final 'sparkle' to them, changing proportions here and there, and just good characterization, and not just standing there, posing."

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With a story rooted in a dark world like is found in "Strange Girl," you might expect the art to reflect that tone. Quite the opposite, though, as the art and colors for the book are bright and vibrant. Nguyen says this was a conscious design decision and felt there's no reason why the book couldn't be "violently" colorful. "There will be scenes that call for bright and cheery, 'a happy, happy day before all hell breaks loose' as well as the doom and gloom, when a serious tone is needed. But I have to give the color credits to Joelle Comtois, who has provided not only her great color sensibilities, but she also gives a lot of input on what color palette we should use for different scenes, lots of nifty ideas. This is comics and to me it should be fun and takes you away from daily lives, just like a good movie. For a book that has a 'very dark story, well seemingly dark story, we'll find out that there are good times as well. So colors will just be another way to help achieve those moments."

For more details and artwork, check out James' interview with Rick Remender.

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