I have been a fan of Joe R. Landsdale for may years. I have been a big fan of the Hap Collins and Leonard Pine novels in particular. I was watching IFC’s Hap and Leonard when I got an email from Drew Ford asking if we would like to review his Red Range being released by IDW’s It’s Alive imprint. We jumped at the opportunity to review the book and Joe was nice enough to stop by First Comics News to talk about Red Range and racism.
First Comics News: Red Range opens with a black man being attacked by the Klan, his eyes are gouged out with sticks, blood is pouring out of his mouth and he is being castrated with a flaming torch. The Klan is stealing his shoes off his feet raping his wife. Is this realistic violence for the time period?
Joe R. Lansdale: It wasn’t day to day, but it did happen, and just as violent as depicted. I wanted it to be shocking so people would know, there were people who did these things in the name of superiority. According to E.R. Bills’ non-fiction book, BLACK HOLOCAUST, from 1891 to 1922, Texans burned an average of one person of color at the stake each year for three decades. People came to this stuff for entertainment, took photos, collected souvenirs. BLACK HOLOCAUST deals with this, as does SLOCUM MASSACRE, which is non-fiction about an entire Texas town wiped off the map, all of it’s citizens black. The story takes place in a kind of fantasy West, but it was a way of dealing with real things.
1st: Do you think that people in the 21st century can understand that this was an acceptable level of cruelty at the time?
Joe: Unfortunately, I think there are people now who think this might be a good thing. I was particular upset that so many Trump voters were supported of racists views, and this includes the KKK, one of the earliest and most horrible organizations, and there are a lot of variations influenced by them. And not just in the South.
1st: Is the Red Mask inspired by Bass Reeves?
Joe: A little. He has been said to be the source for the Lone Ranger. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but Bass was one hell of an interesting guy. Not perfect, flawed in fact, but he was one hell of a United States Marshal.
1st: Batiste has a backstory showing personal difficulties with blacks since his childhood. In this time period does he need a backstory to explain his actions?
Joe: Why not? People of all times had different experiences. I really doubt one event in most people’s lives changes them, it’s more collective, but I do think it’s representative and inspired by real life stories.
1st: The story is very uncomfortable for the reader. Facing the racial hatred that is the history of this country is unpleasant. Was the intent of the story to make readers uncomfortable?
Joe: Of course. I hope they can be entertained in a way, but entertainment is not always about tap dancing and yodeling, sometimes it’s about information, and actually, as the story is mostly fantasy in structure, it doesn’t touch on the real horrors of that time the way the E.R. Bills books do. But it was written to raise awareness. When I wrote it there was a kind of vibe, now we’re okay. But, we are not okay.
1st: Batiste killed Caleb’s wife and child. In every encounter, Caleb is an expert marksman and able to take on an army by himself. How is it that Batiste is able to walk away from so many battles with Caleb?
Joe: Lucky devil.
1st: Where does the story take place?
Joe: A fantasy West. The one of movies, mostly.
1st: So, how do we end up with a tidal wave?
Joe: I love that. It fits with the fantasy structure, the discovery of unknown places and unknown forces.
Joe: Goes back to the fantasy West, entertainment, something to lighten the “message”. And, I love dinosaurs and movies like VALLEY OF THE GWANGI. I have always enjoyed mixing, horror, fantasy, and science fiction in my work, why not mix it into Westerns as well?
1st: For most of the story we have been dealing with white supremacy and racism. It is pretty straightforward and in your face. Then we move to a more veiled form of prejudice, colorism, and internalized racism. Is the point of the journey to Fireworld to show everyone hates Caleb and Turon?
Joe: No. It’s to show that everyone is subject to racism, and that even those who are hated because of their color sometimes define others by being darker or lighter. It’s hypocrisy, and it’s irony, and it shows that ill thinking doesn’t belong entirely to one group or the other.
1st: How does it feel to see Red Range republished in color?
Joe: It feels great. I’m happy to see it, and I’m happy for the intro and the afterward. They did a nice job.
1st: Now that Red Range is back in print any chance we will see “The Pirates of Fireworld”?
Joe: When I wrote it I put that in as kind of a joke, not really thinking there would ever be a sequel. Making it like it was an alternate universe Dime Novel. Who knows, it may be continued, if not by me, then by someone of my choosing.
RED RANGE: A Wild Western Adventure
- Written & Created by: Joe R. Lansdale
- Illustrated by: Sam Glanzman
- Colors by: Jorge Blanco & Jok
- Letters by: Douglas Potter
- Introduction by: Richard Klaw
- Afterword by: Stephen R. Bissette
- Editor: Drew Ford
- Hardcover: 112 pages
- Publisher: It’s Alive! and IDW Publishing
- Release Date: June 28, 2017
- ISBN-10: 1631409948
- ISBN-13: 978-1631409943
- Price: Limited Edition $29.99 IDW Edtion $19.99
The Limited Edition (Limited to 500 copies) can be ordered today here
The IDW Edtion can by ordered from you local comic shop with information here