Interview with Dan Goldman

Dan Goldman took some time out from his schedule and answered some questions for us. I love his RED LIGHT PROPERTIES and recommend it.

redlight03Jon Jordan: Dan, I’ve just read the first RED LIGHT PROPERTIES collection and I have to say it is a really original idea. What made you think to combine real estate and ghost busting/exorcism ?

Dan Goldman: It’s confluence of a few things: I grew up in South Florida in the ‘80s, and my mother was a realtor. She’d pick me up from school and tell me all sorts of crazy behind-the-scenes tales of her work, sometimes I’d even sit around her office after school while she finished paperwork. It was like a hen-house of these hustling Jewish women, cracking their chewing gum, making cold calls, gossiping about their clients. It was a circus, but the idea of Miami houses definitely changed once I watched THE SHINING (at age 8): suddenly the buying and selling of homes became a market of time capsules full of memories and spirits instead of just “places to live.”

That nugget sank itself deep in my subconscious for another two decades, only to rise up again in the summer of 2001 when suddenly there was a name to an agency in Florida that cleared out haunted properties. I’d been taking an afternoon nap like a lazy pig and needed a drink of water; when I drank a glass from the kitchen tap, the Tobins were already there, like they’d always been waiting for me. I had to run upstairs and start writing everything down as fast as I could.

Since then, I’ve been building RLP’s world in scripts and sketches (and since 2009 I’ve been produced over 300 finished pages), with no signs of stopping.

redlight02JJ: Why did you choose to set it in Florida?

DG: South Florida’s a fascinating place with a history that appears short at first glance (i.e. when you look at the city of Miami), but its history stretches way to pre-Columbian days of tribal politics. With powers like Jude’s, entering haunted homes is a form of time travel, and there’s a long timeline to explore with that.

The very first draft of RLP took place in New York City, but it didn’t feel original enough. A visit to my mother and a sunny drive changed all that, connected all the dots that were buried for a long time.

JJ: The cast of characters is pretty crazy. Are these based on people you’ve met or more of a combination of characteristics from people you’ve run across?

DG: Even better than that… they’re all ME! On the exterior and in their bios, they contain bits and bobs from people I’ve known and relationships I’ve had, but underneath that in the “who they are” layer of meat, they’re all facets of myself pointed at each other on collision course for maximum dramatic effect. I think most fiction is an author’s war with themselves, whether it’s done so conscious or not (mine is), and that’s what makes it a juicy read.

redlight01JJ: There is a real heart to your story telling. As messed up as the family situation gets there is still a lot of love in this family. At times this almost feels like a story of people and how they interact with each other that happens to have haunted houses in it. Is this by design?

DG: Yes, and thanks for that. At the heart of it, RED LIGHT PROPERTIES uses its concept to tell the characters’ stories and not the other way around. A lot of comics (and novels and movies and TV) lean harder on the high concept and give you nobody to care about except in the most two-dimensional cursory sense. It makes for an emotionally-flat experience I think that’s lazy as shit to create and boring to experience and I’m OUT within the first fifteen minutes. I need to know who people are and why I should care before I get to the end of an issue/episode of anything.

That central nugget of RLP is about how stuck with each other Jude and Cecilia are, both in business and family. That comes from life, and the extraordinary nature of their circumstance just makes it more interesting and fun and opens up the floor to talk about consciousness, death, Florida and reality as well as family and marriage.

JJ: How long to you plan to keep running with these characters?

DG: Until I become a ghost too and have to be exorcised from my haunted drawing table.

redlight04JJ: One thing that struck me while reading was the great use of color and also the use of photography as background in some shots. I think it gives it a real unique look and it is visually striking. I’m guessing this is on purpose? Also are you also taking the photos?

DG: That “hyperreal” look is developing into my signature thing, I suppose. I like the idea of these characters living in our world, so I’ve created a place for them to exist. It’s not actually just photos though: most of those shots are collages using multiple photos, graphic design elements and 3D models, all mashed together to create the world that the Tobins inhabit.

And yeah, I shoot most of those pics myself. I’ve been taking reference pics in Miami for years, and it’s so validating to be able to use them.

JJ: Do you have a blue and red striped lucky shirt like Jude?

DG: I do. I bought it at a thrift shop in Virginia Beach back in ’02 while I was writing the early versions of the characters and that shirt (and the glasses) were always somehow a part of Jude’s psychedelic-slob look.

Jon: Have you seen ghosts or do you believe in them?

DG: I believe in other types of consciousnesses and other levels of reality that we are too limited to perceive existing all around us. Are they dead people’s spirits… or were they ever people? I don’t know, but I’ve definitely felt presences through the years. When I was about 5, I would see my recently-deceased grandfather around for a few years after he passed. I’d catch glimpses of him in the mirror. Was that imagination or not? Maybe yes and maybe no, but society certainly teaches you that shit’s not real and you’re crazy if you believe in it.

To which I counter: you’re crazy if you believe in society.

JJ: When not working what do you like to read and watch?

DG: Can I do “when I’m not working” in air quotes? Because sometimes while I’m watching (good) TV or reading comics or walking around in the city, I am actually still working. RED LIGHT PROPERTIES has been a constant presence in my brain at varying levels of consciousness for many many years.

But “when I’m not working”… I eat a lot of nice food and drink wine with my lady. We watch a lot of films/TV series, with the good ones sometimes I even take notes. I love video games but I don’t seem to have the bandwidth to fully commit to any one lately; my PS3 is more a movie-machine these days. Serialized TV is excellent, and I’m really enjoying SHAMELESS at the moment, now that TRUE DETECTIVE’s first season ended. I’m really excited for the premiere of HALT & CATCH FIRE on AMC as well, an 80’s Silicon Prairie drama with hardcore computer nerd cred.

I’m also the kind of reader with an ever-towering stack of books by the bedside that I’m in-progress with each one. At the moment I’ve got FINDING FLORIDA (an amazing history of Floridian civilization from pre-Columbus through Trayon Martin), CATCHING THE BIG FISH (David Lynch’s book on transcendental meditation), Mike Dawson’s just released graphic novel ANGIE BONGIOLATTI and the last two books in Ursula K. LeGuin’s EARTHSEA series (so much pleasure it’s not even guilty anymore). It’s funny but I noticed recently that I’ve gone back to print books after e-reading for a few years because I find the paper ones get finished while the e-books tend not to.

If I could do anything with my downtime, I’d travel all the time. That’s my drug, more than anything… but living in New York (and making comics) keeps that a treat I’ve got to plan for rather than a jetset lifestyle. Ah well.

JJ: The first trade collection just came out, nut being a reader I gots ta know, when will we see the next volume?

DG: I’m finalizing the final publishing schedule with IDW now, but the second collection (RED LIGHT PROPERTIES: UNDERWATER) will be out sometime this fall. It’s going to feature twice as much all-new material as the first book did. So, get excited, yo!