Interview with Rukis on her new release; 'Red Lantern, Vol. 1: The Crimson Divine'
At Anthrocon this year, I was able to get a brief time with Rukis (while she was busy manning her dealer’s booth) to discuss her most recent publication; Red Lantern, Vol. 1: The Crimson Divine, out now as a graphic novel for $29.95 from Sofawolf. Among plot and time zone complications, we were able to discuss Bollywood, slavery and chance meetings.
Earl: Again, thanks for this.
Rukis: No problem.
Earl: Appreciate it; we’ll start with a simple one. Where did the idea for Red Lantern come from? What was the idea for that story?
Rukis: Um, I am really fond of documentaries and NatGeo programming and History channel programming and stuff like that. And, um, I was actually watching a documentary on a slum, in India, that’s on an island where this sort of prostitution ring actually exists, today. And it’s the type of ring that’s been around for a really long time and people don’t actually realize this still exists in the world, now. And a lot of the time, the reason they have them on islands is because escape is, uh, very difficult that way.
So, I’d seen this and knew I wanted to do a comic with really, with a really serious storyline. And I’ve always had, I guess, kind of a morbid fascination with the sex trade, so it just kind of spoke to me...and it’s kind of how the whole idea came about.
It’s also why it’s vaguely Indian, in design.
Earl: Well, I was wondering about that; the Indian design, was that purely because of the documentary?
Rukis: Not just. I have a fondness for Bollywood, for, uh, for Indian names, for the costuming. I really really love the costuming in particular. And I liked the whole idea of it being more of a harem kind of setting, with belly dancing and I also wanted to...involve opium. Kind of, the divine is not actually directly [meant to] be opium, it’s suppose be a fantasy version.
Earl: That sort of drug that everyone partakes of.
Rukis: Yeah, exactly, so it all kind of fit together really well, um, I wanted to have a culture clash too and I knew that the main culture, the European culture that was coming in was gonna be a European/Dutch mix so I didn’t want the brothel to be in a European-type nation. That’s why I wanted to make it something different so there was, like I said, culture clash.
Earl: Speaking about the clash, the details that you brought in with the, and I can never say this right, but uh, Emencerians?
Rukis: Oh, the Amurescans?
Earl: Amurescans! And I’m not even going to the try the other one-
Rukis: [laugh] The Carvecians.
Earl: Yes! The Amaurescans have the kind of documentary feel to them; the Carvecians, were they meant to be Vikings? Nordic?
Rukis: They’re actually suppose to be American.
Rukis: Yeah, it’s a little more gotten into, it’s actually explained a little bit in Volume 1, but it’s explained a lot more in Volume 2. The Carvecians are actually a Colonial Empire that the Amaurescans built, um, on a different continent and they broke free. So there, um, they’re their own nation now. The Carvecians that are with the Amurescan Fleet are more privateers. So they’re not funded by the Carvecian nation but they just kind of hail from there, so they’d be like American privateers.
Earl: Right, I only read some of the beginning; I didn’t want to spoil the book for myself.
Earl: You had all these details; the religious aspect, these two different races coming in, the music, the songs, the names, the costumes. All that seemed like very much detail, was it difficult [creating those aspects?]
Rukis: Uh, this is gonna sound kind of silly, but I’m a huge D&D player, I play a lot of tabletop games, not just D&D but other role-playing games and I’ve DM’d and GM’d a lot of games before so I’ve created worlds since I was like sixteen so I really just approached it the same way.
Earl: Okay, you say this came from the documentary; Are you ever afraid that you’ll over-romanticize the island?
Rukis: I-it’s not supposed to be romanticized. It’s supposed to be gritty, it’s supposed to be nasty, its supposed to be unpleasant. That element might come out more, a little bit more in future volumes, but in Volume 1 I did try to show that most of the people there are not happy with their jobs. Amon actually does a very good job of pretending to be happy with his job, but in Volume 2 it’s explained a lot more that that’s a farce.
Earl: Yes, Amon doesn’t seem like he’s okay with it, but it seems like he’s settled in.
Rukis: Well, when you make your living making people think that you want them, you get very good at it and Amon is an expert at it. Dhaval is obviously not, so he’s pretty much traumatized from the get-go. But just because Amon acts a certain way doesn’t mean he necessarily enjoys his job.
Earl: What were the major complications when you came into making this?
Rukis: Uh, well my partner lives in Germany, Alectorfencer lives in Germany. So that was very difficult to deal with because of the massive time difference, it’s like an 8-hour time difference. SO I was on a wicked, weird schedule trying to, you know, go back and forth with her. We also had to find a way to merge our styles which took a little while, but I think the end result was pretty good. And now I have to do that again with my new partner, Myenia for Volume 2.
We were on a bit of a time crunch near the end...we-and I didn’t want to rush it so it was just a lot of hours, it was like fourteen hour days for almost a month, near the end, just to try and get things done. Other than that, there’s a lot of fact checking that we had to do in it because there’s a lot of things that are based on weaponry, ships. Again, with the Divine, I’m stating outright that it’s not opium because I’m not an expert on opium. But a lot of the things we had to do a lot of research for, to try and make sure we got them right and we still screwed up on a few [laugh] so, it’s not perfect but it’s an imaginary world so we do the best that we can.
Earl: Actually that’s a good question, why was it a collaboration to begin with?
Rukis: That’s a funny story; it wasn’t supposed to be, actually. But I went to Eurofurence two years ago and Alectorfencer, I’d always loved her artwork, and I got a chance to hang out with her a whole lot at that con because we’d done one collaboration at that point. And I went to dinner with her one night and she was asking me about this comic that I was working on. And I told her what it was about and what was the basic story and everything and she’d seen some of the art for it and he asked if I was looking for anyone else to work with me on it and I jumped at the chance because I’d always loved her stuff.
So it was a surprise for me honestly, but it was a happy surprise. We pretty much always knew that she be on for one volume because she has her own comic she’s working on now, but I was very happy to have her for at least Volume 1.
Earl: Last question: When you posted to the web, you cut out the adult content and at the time I assumed you wanted to keep the website PG—
Rukis: No, the adult content was cut out of Red Lantern for the same reason that it’s cut of out of Cruelty. I sell my comic through publishers and the publishers have to have some content that they can hold onto specifically for the printed release so that they know there investment is going to sell. It’s honestly the sales of the comics don’t net me terribly much profit but I love having my stuff out in printed format. You gotta give something to the publishers so they can make a profit on it, you know?
Earl: Right. Well that’s all I have, again, I thank you for this time.
Rukis: No problem, its fine.
Earl: I look forward to the 2nd Volume.
Rukis: [laugh] I look forward to working on it.