The Motherland rises again as IDW Publishing re-issues writer/artist Christian Gossett's groundbreaking series "The Red Star" in a collected Treasury Edition. Debuting in 2000, "The Red Star" is a magic-infused alternate reality inspired by Russian folklore that is being torn apart by war. "Treasure Edition" contains the 2002 story "Run Makita Run," 2013's "Rapid Fire" and more.
As the big re-release loomed near, Gossett spoke with CBR News about returning to the epic world of "The Red Star." Over the course of our conversation, the creator revealed exactly what inspired his story of Mythic Russia, and how his approach to storytelling was unique in comics when the series debuted. Gossett also weighed in on the current odds of a film or TV adaptation of the sprawling tale, discussed his star-studded "Star Trek" short film "Anaxar" and more.
CBR News: Christian, "The Red Star" is a fairly epic story, but for those who are coming to it fresh with the re-release, what is it about?
Christian Gossett: "The Red Star" is a love story. A love story that survives a war of unimaginable brutality. War is hell. It's a terrible and unfortunately very profitable thing. The heroes of "The Red Star" are soldiers who realize the wars they are fighting are purely for the worst kind of profit imaginable, so they begin a quest against their former leaders.
The technology of "The Red Star" is much like our own, except that magic is a common fact of life. They use magic the way we use electricity. It's just a common, everyday thing. The most powerful magic is, of course, reserved for use by law enforcement and the military.
The story takes place in the Lands of the Red Star, one of the many countries who are almost constantly at war in some godforsaken corner of the planet. One of them, infantry captain Marcus Antares, discovers the dark secret behind "Military Industrial Sorcery" and the incredible weapons it provides for soldiers the world over. I won't give it away, but basically, magic in the world of "The Red Star" is manufactured and maintained through a process that is undeniably evil and endlessly profitable. Marcus discovers this. From that moment on, he is the target of the murderous leaders who control the powerful transnational consortium that regulates the magic. Marcus goes missing, and his true love, his wife Maya, discovers why. She is the Sorceress in Command aboard a Skyfurnace, a flying warship. Her ship is the RSS Konstantinov (about five times the size and power of a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier) and with the help of her crew, she steals the Konstantinov and begins a quest to save Marcus.
What inspired you to base this story in a mythical version of Russia?
Russian military history is amazing, and I wanted to do something of my own that hadn't been done before. This was in 1994. I was like, "What could I do that no one is really doing?" Sounds funny now, but think about it: There were already comics with superheroes and space heroes and ninjas and mutants and robot fighters, and even a spawn from hell. Each of the big companies had tried to come up with 'new universes,' and all of them were the old universes with new haircuts. So what to do? Well, here's the thing: The majority of our heroes are based on soldiers from some past culture. The Jedi are Samurai in space, our stories of Cowboys owe much to the fantasy image of Medieval Knights. Superheroes themselves are really just modernized warrior gods from ancient myths of all kinds. But there was one ancient martial culture that nobody in comics had touched. Russia.
Russia had not been mythologized yet. Not in the U.S., anyway. I was inspired by the image of the Red Army soldier of World War II, because that's when the United States and Russia were allies in the war against Hitler's Reich. When you read about the defense of Russia against the Nazi invasions, you read about a mythic level of heroism, not just from the soldiers, but from every man, woman and child who experienced it, whether they lived or died. I'm going to mention the situation in Ukraine for those readers out there who might hope that I would: It is a sad and terrible truth that every country fights wars they shouldn't be fighting. Every country. Because war means cash. The kind of cash you cannot imagine. And there are times, brief times, when peace happens, and when this miracle occurs it is because of the most incredible bravery humankind is capable of. "The Red Star" is about this kind of bravery.
What's your creative process like for "The Red Star?"
The creative process is much like an animated feature, except it is released in comic book form. It was the series that showed the industry how 3D could be used in a comic book. Since then, there have been a few examples, but none of them last very long. It's expensive. It's like making a big budget blockbuster every time we make a story. This is why I'm glad IDW is re-releasing the original stories. They are a milestone in comic storytelling technology.
Speaking of which, how did IDW come to be re-releasing it?
Greg Goldstein at IDW is a long time friend and supporter of "The Red Star." He was responsible for us getting our first video game deal and is now the mastermind behind bringing us to IDW. I can't say enough about how much I appreciate what a champion of our work he has been. It's a very exciting time to be at IDW. Publishing companies have lives of their own, lives made by the people that are working there together, and having visited every major comic book publisher over the course of my 20 year career, I can say that I'm very excited about the next decade at IDW. There is an energy in that office, a dedication that is really fun to be a part of, even in our own humble way.
It's been a few years since you released new "Red Star" material. Do you have plans to revisit this world soon?
Actually, I'm proud to say that just last year we released "Rapid Fire," a full issue published inside of "Geek" magazine. "Rapid Fire" was designed to introduce new readers to "The Red Star," and is also being re-released through IDW in our "Red Star: Treasury Edition."
What's going on with "The Red Star" TV or film adaptation?
I'm more excited than ever about "The Red Star's" potential adaptation into some kind of filmed entertainment -- which is saying something when you've had long-term development deals at Universal and then Warner Bros. After the Warner Bros. deal amicably lapsed and the rights reverted to me, I was approached by Ashley E. Miller. Yes, the Ashley Miller who, along with his longtime writing partner Zack Stentz, wrote "Thor" and "X-Men: First Class"-- which just so happen to be two of my favorite movies from the Marvel Studios age. It is the best situation yet and confidence is high.
The cool thing is that this saga has proven through the growth of its audience and the quality of its readership that it is only going to become more appreciated over time. It seems like a risky bet, but it really wasn't very long ago that Marvel couldn't get a movie made because no one in Hollywood could understand how to make them work on the big screen. Whenever someone is brilliant enough to give "Red Star" its green light, they're going to be printing money for the rest of their lives. In the meantime Ashley, Zack and I are making it so.
You're also directing a very ambitious "Star Trek" fan film project -- "Axanar." What's "Axanar" about?
Yes, I am directing a "Star Trek" film called "Axanar," but calling it a "fan film" is a bit inaccurate, really. It is stacked with industry pros, both in front and behind the camera. The first part of it is titled "Prelude to Axanar," and we just shot last week. "Prelude" is a lead-in story to "Axanar," and it is a History Channel-style documentary about the greater war between the Federation and the Klingons that took place about twenty years before the voyages of Kirk aboard the Enterprise.
"Prelude to Axanar" has an amazing cast. It features (in no particular order) Kate Vernon (Yup, Ellen Tigh from "BSG") Tony Todd (Worf's brother in "TNG" and "DS9," and of course famous for his role as "Candyman") and "Trek" veterans JG Hertzler and Gary Graham. JG plays this awesome, hard talkin' badass Starfleet captain Sam Travis, and Gary reprises his role as Soval, the Vulcan ambassador to Earth. It also features Richard Hatch (a veteran of both "Galactica" shows) as Kharn, the Klingon Supreme Warlord. The shoot was a blast, and we're in post now. My friend Alec Peters is behind it, and he is a huge "Trek" fan. He is also a 'Geek Pro' in that he was the guy behind the famous "Battlestar Galactica" prop and costume auctions, and did the same for "Stargate," "Iron Man" and "Star Trek."
As is often the case with total geeks who become successful in business, Alec wants to produce genre television. So he told me he was going to jump in and basically do a 'producer's reel' with classic "Trek" as his subject. The original series is my favorite "Trek," so that appealed to me. I also very much liked the story he pitched. His favorite original series character is a Starfleet captain named Garth of Izar. He only appeared in one episode, but in that show Captain Kirk said that Garth was his hero as a young cadet, and that Garth's book was required reading at the academy. It's supercool to be doing a story about the man Kirk idolized, not to mention the war between the Federation and the Klingons, which I always wanted to see.
"The Red Star: Treasure Edition" by Christian Gossett is out now from IDW Publishing.