Ghost of the Badlands Interview

Razörfist & George Alexopoulos

Ghost of the Badlands is a western graphic novel set in 1890's Arizona, following the tale of a masked phantom distributing justice as he sees fit. Razörfist is the Creator & Writer of Ghost of the Badlands. Known on YouTube as THE RAGEAHOLIC, Razör has written two pulp novels called Deathmask and The Long Moonlight. These can be found at Amazon or Arkhaven Comics. George Alexopoulos is the Illustrator of Ghost of the Badlands. George is an award-winning cartoonist who has self-published over a dozen indie comics and draws satirical cartoons under the name GPRIME85.

Below I've transcribed, and sometimes heavily paraphrased, the first portion of our discussion. This is only a small slice of the interview which I encourage everyone to watch in full here or just scroll down.

First of all, congratulations on your incredible success with your campaign. Did you guys expect this level of success or how are you guys feeling about it right now?

Razör: I won’t speak for George, but I guess for me I sort of underestimated. Two things, I mean yes, we all know about the success of like, ISOM and others. I think people are hungry for non-big two comic book projects. Not necessarily conservative, but non-ideological that aren’t attempting to preach or propagandize, or proselytize. That appeals right now, that has an innate appeal and it’s clearly a gap in the market that a few savvy individuals sought to fill. So I think that’s the first one. The second one that I underestimated was, we kind of got in on the ground floor of this western resurgence. I think that’s the other aspect. And it’s not even quite here yet, that’s what amazes me. A lot of the western stuff has been green-lit, it’s going to come out later in the year. 2024 is going to be like, the year of the western. Hollywood has already green-lit a Scorsese film coming out. So as amazed as I am at how well the pre-order has gone, I’m kind of more interested to see what happens when it actually launches. Because that’s when all the westerns will be hitting the market. But yeah, I think I underestimated those two things.

I guess it was always in the cards to have George fly out to Arizona and take a look around. What’s planned on that trip, what are you guys thinking you want to do?

Razör: Whatever he wants to do. There’s a lot of cool old-west places I’d like. I’d expect you to go to Tombstone. Tombstone is basically preserved in time. It literally is an old west town, it’s amazing. Seeing Canyon Diablo, what’s left of it, is important ‘cus you gotta see that bridge. You gotta see that desolation. You gotta see that whole area, Two Guns and Canyon Diablo which are within a few miles of each other. It’s just an amazing area there. So yeah, we’ll probably hit up the range and do something like that. You know, he’s basically doing research. There’s a lot of cool places though that we can hit up, like Prescott is kind of old westy, Gerome is old west. There’s a ton of that kind of thing. You don’t see it much with the kind of, Californicated areas, but there’s pockets where it’s been sort of preserved in time. It’s cool.

Yeah I have some in-laws out in Prescott and I’ve had a good time going out there. It’s very beautiful, very cool place.

Razör: Yeah, they got Whiskey Row, which is as old west as you get. And, my God, Wyatt Earp stopped through there, Doc Holliday. Prescott used to be the capitol of Arizona. So it’s kind of cool, there’s just a lot of neat history and I’m looking forward to him getting to experience it. Of course, a lot of it he’s going to do without me, the cheating bastard.

He’s got a little more catching up to do on Arizona I suppose.

George: I can spend as much time as is necessary and of course when I go there there’s budgetary questions of like, I don’t wanna take, not to talk about our contract or our personal deal, but I don’t want Razör to pay for my trip at all. So I don’t wanna spend too much of my money anyways, ‘cus I want to be smart about how we spend every penny and that sort of thing.

Razör: I would recommend, don’t do the touristy stuff. Why don’t you just swing through, hit up various places, chill, take some sketches, take some photos, reference photos I imagine, you know that kind of thing, kind of be there in the place. Maybe take some video, so you can sort of remember what it was like. That’s kind of what I would do anyway. And save the money, spend it on our outrageously inflated gas prices.

George: Well part of the plan, at least, every artist has their own style of doing things, but what I would do is, I seem to remember things by touching. Not to joke about grabbing boobs or anything, but no honestly, when I go there, I plan to take my shoes off and like, touch the ground, go to buildings and feel things, and I want to experience it with all five senses. So, as many things as possible I want to physically be there. And not just take reference photos, but I want to take reference drawings, I want to actually be out there in the sun and get exhausted and feel what that feels like. Just sort of, when somebody pays for a comic, like especially ours. It’s a small indie project, so our books are a little more expensive because we’re not printing as many books as other big companies. If you’re paying extra, I want you to get every penny’s worth.

So, I would want to read a book from an artist who’s really experienced as much of that stuff as possible. And I was at an antique shop recently, I wanted to show this off ‘cus you mentioned stretch goals. So, there’s these old newspapers, I don’t know if it shows up well (holding up and showing the large newspaper book), these books are incredible. It’s from 1894, actually. It’s from New York, unfortunately, but I was at the antique shop, you know, just trying to get inspiration and stuff, and I found these newspapers like this (holding up another newspaper book with illustrations). They would put illustrations like this with tons of text and I thought, as a stretch goal, instead of my silly joke, 500k stretch goal of George’s big cowboy adventure, that was just a placeholder, that could be funny, too. I think we should do an extra newspaper as if it was from that period. So that’s gonna be extra work, but it doesn’t cost too much to print, for example, and I think it would feel really cool. We could put all the maps that we draw in it, political cartoons of that time that are fake. Articles of like, someone spotted the ghost recently! You know, stuff like that. So, that’s extra work for Razör, but I think, and I’ll help out of course, but that would be such a cool stretch goal.

Razör, I know that you did the top ten inspirations for that as a separate video. George, for you, what inspirations did you draw from artistically? I know a lot of this still contains your style that we’ve come to recognize, but what kind of particular sources did you look at and draw inspiration from?

George: I actually drew a lot from old, wood-cut prints. I don’t remember what they’re exactly called. Etchings, like Gustave Dore, from back in the day. Like, before photography became very popular in these newspapers, especially, I have my old Harpers here, like old civil war newspapers, they were releasing way back in the day, like 1850s. And it was all illustrated so beautifully. And there were etchings using techniques, even though I’m using modern techniques, I’m telling myself I’m not gonna use any tricks that they wouldn’t have done, except that I’m using modern speed. So like, I’ll put down black slashes and then paint white over it so it looks like a gradient. So I’ll use those techniques and also I’m a huge manga guy and they use a lot of those techniques still today. So my favorite manga is called Vagabond.

Razör: Which is fascinating because when I gave him a style guide at the beginning, so like, clothing looks like this, look at this movie, maybe look at this comic, and one of them was Vagabond. We were both pulling from the same thing. I mean, samurais and westerns have always co-habitated. We both just instinctually knew it was gonna be black and white. So, I don’t even know if we had a conversation about it. But Vagabond and manga is still in black and white as well. So we’re kind of pulling from an East-West thing.

George: And when we colorize, we also were talking about how we want it to look aged and sepia almost. So, you know, even though a lot of people comment on my colors and my political strips and stuff, I think I’m going to use muted colors this time. And maybe selectively do like, a splash of big, flashy colors, but very sparingly for effect. I think if we age the book artificially it’ll look authentic and modern at the same time and classical. So there’s this weird experimentation that has to happen, like there’s something called color holds in comics, I’m not sure if you’re familiar.

Richard: No, not particularly.

It’s when, say you take an inked page and something in the foreground is all black ink, something in the background looks faded. You would take the black ink from like, the mountain or the tree in the distance and turn the black into like, a dark green or a dark sepia. So I’m going to ink normally, but then I’m going to actually kind of mute the ink so that it looks more distant. That’s not something they would do in manga. And it’s a lot of extra work, but people funded the project based on, you know, we’re going to colorize the deluxe editions. So, I wanna give them a little extra value. It’ll be worth it.

So, with the ghost himself, is there anything else that you want to talk about or go into detail about, Razör, with what this character is gonna be like or is this gonna be all teased out later or is this just gonna be whenever you get the book you’re gonna find out?

Razör: Oh no, I absolutely can talk about the approach that we’re taking. The thing that I miss, and one of the reasons I like pulp and older comics and European stuff is that those still have some of the mystique to some of their characters. I mean Batman, good Lord, do I need to know that Batman doesn’t go down on Catwoman? Do I need to see the pearl necklace fall in slow motion like, a thousand more times?

It’s okay to leave things to the imagination. This is kind of like the way that we’re writing this character and indeed the whole book is kind of like drawing in chiaroscuro or something like that. It’s like, I know exactly who this character is and where he’s from and what his background is and his motivations, but I wanna pull just enough out of the shadows so you can finish the thought. Right, I wanna give you just enough hints. So we’re keeping this character as like, the elemental force in the background.

We have proxy heroes in the foreground who are more the emotional surrogate. So, we follow a guy on a path of redemption who pays a dire price for his prior wickedness, former veteran, used to be a good man, and just fell from grace. It’s the first scene you see, I was dying, right. This is the guy laying on the ground. He’s just gotten the Murphy from Robocop treatment and he’s just been shotgunned to shit. And then the shadow appears on the horizon. And, after laying waste to all these shitbags, he, for whatever reason, extends an olive branch to the man dying on the ground and offers him a chance at redemption. And I was inspired obviously by like, the Doc Savages, the Shadow of course, they have a cast of people because back in the day it was considered implausible that one guy could just fight crime by themselves. They often had their own retinue of people. So, Shadow had his agents and Doc Savage had his group of guys obviously, and the Ghost, with his kind of old testament sort of bent is ultimately on a mission, these are missionaries. So this is sort of what he’s offering. And so we get to see the Ghost through the eyes of a normal person who’s discovering him for the first time.

So I wanna stress, the character’s not like a cock-tease in a mask. You’re gonna learn things about him, but the way that it’s written is, I adhere to the Walter Gibson quote when he describes how he came up with The Shadow, when he said, make sure that your character is beyond you and somewhat unknowable so that no matter what you uncover, you can’t uncover all. So, we’ll tell you things about the character, but we’re also gonna ask like, ten questions at the same time to keep the interest going and because that’s just a better story, to be honest. The emotional surrogates are moreso the other characters and there’s a whole cast of them that we’ve come up with. But yeah, the main one is this main character who’s sort of redeeming himself over the course of the story.