When you think of a dark super natural detective story about a murder on a subway car it might be your first thought to picture New York City. Well the creative team of Paul Maybury, Sam Lotfi, and John Rauch have teamed up with Dark Horse Comics to tell that very story but set in the first city with a subway line in America, Boston. “Last on the Red Line” follows detective Migdalia Torres through an investigation of a brutal strangling on a Boston subway car. There are no leads. Any potential evidence turns up nothing but dead ends. That is until Torres stumbles upon a vagrant named Yusef who might just have a supernatural connection to the unsolved crime.”
To learn more about the series Multiversity Comics was able to talk to the team of Sam, John and Paul. They team discusses what makes a good detective story, setting the series in Boston, and much more. The team also provided exclusive character designs that feature in the series below as well. You can catch this title at its first stop this May 15th at your local comic store.
So, let’s start off with the basics. How would you each describe “Last Stop on the Red Line?” What is the series to you?
Paul Maybury: “Last Stop on the Red Line” is a blend of classic horror with a twist. A phantom strangler preys upon those who find themselves alone on the train. The otherworldly case has fallen into the lap of Transit Detective Migdalia Torres. A vagrant named Yusef suffers from visions stemming from a past trauma. With the reality of his surroundings in constant question, Yusef is perhaps the best equipped to see the unseeable truth behind the subway murders.
Sam Lotfi: It’s a psychological thriller that plays with the classic monster archetypes in a way that flirts with comedy and mystery elements. For me, most importantly, it has heart, which makes the best kind of horror/mystery story.
John Rauch: Honestly, for me, it started as a chance to color over Sam. Paul and Sam had already done most of the heavy lifting by the time I joined in, but Sam and I had worked together briefly at DC and had a bit of a false start on another series, so I was just really excited to have another chance to steal all his secrets under the guise of coloring.
Who is Migdalia Torres and what will readers enjoy most about following her on this adventure?
PM: Migdalia is a “Boston harsh” Transit Detective for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, otherwise known as (she hates acronyms) the MBTA. She’s a mother of two and is balancing a marriage on the rocks. A tragic event from her past connects her to a mysterious vagrant named Yusef. Together, they seek the phantom who stalks the metro.
SL: She’s a definitely a pistol! You could put her into any situation and it would be automatically engaging. Being a detective, a wife, and mother, all take their toll on her throughout our story and readers will be pleasantly surprised to see how she handles it.
JR: My answers are going to be a little out of left field compared to the other guys, but to ME, Migdalia Torres is a beautiful gold, red, and bronze trio that immediately becomes the focal point of any room or panel she walks into. I think savvy readers are going to appreciate the amount of thought that went into everything, really.
Paul, many people might know you as an amazing artist. On this series you are writing and the talented Sam and John will be handling the art duties. As a team what is the process like creating a cohesive narrative and look for the series especially as three very talented artistic minds? What do you see each other bringing to the series?
PM: Sam’s work is an excellent fusion of classic craft and modern cartooning – imbuing his pages with levity while illustrating the macabre. John’s method of coloring is just as original as his style. His work not only compliments Sam’s, but takes risks that elevates it into something really special. I think they’re one of those pairings that’s simply meant to be. Adam has been great about adapting to this project and trying out new styles that we wanted to explore. I’m very fortunate to work with such fine people.Continued below
SL: It’s a lot like playing jazz for the first time with other talented artists you respect. We try our best to clearly communicate the heart of these great characters and macabre tone that Paul has written, but also step into those character’s roles and imbue their world with our own interpretations and experiences. Like a director or an actor with a pencil, I may play a loud scene very quietly if I feel it’s what best works for those characters in that moment. It definitely helps that Paul is also an artist, so he can easily visualize the script and do a quick sketch to clear something up if needed, instead of a bunch of emails. John continues to surprise us with his brilliant choices and color rendering. He orchestrates color to support the story, the emotional beats and pluses—everything I’ve drawn on the page. Adam has been amazing about exploring various ways to give our characters their unique voices and yet make the lettering feel cohesive with the art. I’m super proud of our work and you’re not going to see anything like our book anywhere else.
JR: Sam is such a pure artist and I just think his cartooning skills are so, so fundamentally strong. It’s fun to look at, and the longer you look, the more you appreciate it. Paul is probably the first writer I’ve worked with who really knew anything about color or specifically wrote it into the story. So, it’s been a fun process getting into the brains of other weirdos and figuring out how we all Venn diagram together and come up with the perfect triangle offense.
Many comic readers are probably pretty familiar with reading books set in NYC but this series focuses on Boston. What makes Boston a good setting for this series? Does the city play a large role in the series? It’s a city full of rich history and a distinct look are you guys doing a lot of your own research to bring it to life?
PM: Boston and NY may differ architecturally, but the cities iconic parks share a common designer… Make sure to pay attention because this ties into the series. I wanted to showcase Boston landmarks that I felt would appeal to people who have had their fill of the South Boston driven narratives. This is about the other side of the City upon a hill. Despite the book’s namesake, we spend a lot of time on the Orange Line, which runs through the segregated neighborhoods populated by people of color. By no coincidence, it’s where I grew up.
SL: Our story takes place in a near future fictional Boston. The trains, the subway stations, architecture and other Boston landmarks all play an important role in subtle ways that help convey the overall tone of our story. However, the characters still to take the lead.
JR: Not just Boston, every location in this is important. By the time I came on, the guys had already gathered up a ton of reference material for virtually everything that appears. I just translate all that stuff onto the page in a way that is as true to the locations as it is to the feelings they evoke.
With a detective story set in Boston I could see style and tone being very important to the series? What are you guys shooting for with the look, feel, color pallet of the world?
PM: It was important to me to depict a side of the city that hasn’t been portrayed much in popular media. An early conversation I had with Sam and John is how multicultural Boston actually is. I think I said we had to turn the image of Irish Boston “down to 10%”. I supplied the artistic team with a plethora of reference and took photos while visiting my family there. Thematically, John is incorporating the palette of the subway lines throughout the story. One of the first things Sam and I did was work out his character concepts while I did a pass on color design to give them their own symbolism. A great deal of care has gone into giving this series its own unique look and I hope it shows from page one.Continued below
SL: I wanted the compelling characters that Paul wrote to take center stage. Along with a moody atmosphere and a tone of creeping suspense or dread, those were the main things I wanted to tackle from the start. We worked on character concepts trying to capture the multicultural look of the main cast members. Particularly with Yusef, we went through various hair/beard concepts and landed on what works for him as a vagrant.
They needed to work as believable and flawed people, but also symbolically. For example, our main cast mostly wear multiple layers, not only because its cold, but symbolically it represents the layers of their personalities & lives that readers will uncover throughout our story. John’s ridiculously great colors go a long way in helping with the symbolism in our story.
JR: Paul and Sam said it well. I’m just trying to be true to the visual hierarchy and solve the Rubik’s dodecahedron.
What makes a good detective driven story? What makes Last Stop a good detective driven story?
PM: I suppose a good Detective story asks hard questions and rewards the audience with unexpected answers. It should also have compelling partnerships. I’d like to think we’ve hit all of these marks with Last Stop.
SL: A good detective story doesn’t always uncover the mystery, but even when it does, it’s really more about what the mystery has revealed about the detective herself and her relationship to the other characters. “Last Stop” delivers that in “Spades”. Yes, that was a bad Sam Spade pun, sorry, couldn’t resist.
JR: Good detective stories are like sleight of hand tricks or covers of classic rock songs. Deep down, you think you know what it is, but you need to keep going just to be sure.
As a four-issue miniseries what can readers expect issue to issue? How have you tried to get readers interested in coming back each 4 issues? What sort of challenges or threats may we see Torres face?
PM: It’s hard for me to say without giving too much away! This is a story about monsters. We may see them in many forms throughout the breadth of the series. Some of these monsters may even appear familiar but will challenge your notion of them.
SL: Since it’s only 4 issues, it’s tough to answer without spoilers, but lots of high stakes and tension that ramp up to the end for all of our characters.
JR: Man…if she ended up in one of those fuschsia scenes, that would be scary.
When I heard detective story set in Boston with supernatural connections it felt like a book that belonged at Dark Horse. What makes this a good fit for the series? When creating a series is having it published by a publisher who fits the tone of the series important to having that built in audience?
PM: “Last Stop” is a perfect fit for Dark Horse. It’s about monsters with a story to tell. That concept aligns with the Mignolaverse and, in a less literal sense, Miller’s work for Dark Horse. While this series will absolutely have terrifying imagery for those seeking it there are even greater horrors in the unsaid and the unseen.
SL: Dark Horse is a perfect lair for monsters and their stories. It was the first publisher that came to mind when Paul first pitched me Last Stop, I’m really glad it worked out with them!
JR: Dark Horse is just a really friendly place to work. I think there’s maybe a familiar tone with some of the books they publish, but from my perspective, they’re just really good facilitators for us to do our thing the best way we know how.
What do you hope readers take away from their time with the first issue of “Last Stop on the Red Line?”
PM: Southie snub aside. I hope this book is a breath of fresh air and defies the classic monster tropes we are accustomed to from the horror genre. I’m excited for everyone to read it!
SL: The whole creative team has done absolutely amazing work on this book. I really hope it grabs readers and gives them something new to look forward to and, hopefully, it’ll be a horrific ride on the Red Line!Continued below
JR: I hope their first instinct is to go back to the beginning and start looking for any clues they missed the first time.