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Q&A: Radco’s Jon Conrad on Environmental Horror Graphic Novel “BAD SUMMER”

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In the ever-changing media landscape, it’s no surprise that horror has found a way to dominate oh so many mediums. But while the rise to the top of both the box office and Nielsen ratings was inevitable, it’s been quite interesting to see how horror has developed in the world of graphic novels. Horror comics have been on the rise for the better part of 4 decades at this point, and now, some truly creative, transgressive and terrifying work has been breaking through the waves of pulp terror.

And for companies like Radco, who made a splash on the scene last year with their graphic novel adaptation of Ana Lily Amirpour’s mind-blowing A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, keeping that level of narrative satisfaction is key. Radco sets up a sense of trust in their artists to bring the goods visually, allowing their horror stories to rise to much more compelling (and disturbing) places. Recently, FANGORIA spoke to Radco’s Jon Conrad to talk about their latest endeavor, Ed Laroche’s BAD SUMMER, as well as what to expect from the future of the comic company…

FANGORIA: How did you guys first encounter BAD SUMMER?

JON CONRAD: It was kind of a fortuitous thing. Ed Laroche stopped by Logan Pictures for some contract work one day, and I recognized him. We approached him as fans, like, “Oh my God, it’s Ed Laroche. This is the guy who wrote and illustrated ALMIGHTY. This is fantastic.”

So we had already started putting things into motion to get Radco going as a comic book company, and as a concept, we know what we wanted to do with it. We had already started working on the A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT mini-series, so said to Ed, “Hey, you’re great, what do you have going on?” Then he told us about BAD SUMMER, and said he already had the whole book plotted out. So he explained it to us and we just said, “Yes. We’ll take it.” And a few short months later, we had the graphic novel in our hands.

FANGORIA: Is there anything specifically that Radco looks for in their work?

CONRAD: Obviously, we’ve discovered narratives and artists who have stories to tell, but in any endeavor, if it feels like HBO to us, we like it. Transmedia is a very strong interest that we have, and it’s definitely the thesis of the company. We want to have the opportunity to take bold, dramatic stories that other companies might be afraid to [take] and put them out in as many platforms as possible.

Ana’s A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT jumped out at us thanks to her feature work, and BAD SUMMER has been optioned by Logan Pictures. We think its cool that these properties can be shown in more than one way, and that’s something we want to continue doing. As far as stories go, as long as it’s a good story and it’s cool and we like it, then it’s for us.

FANGORIA: What appealed to you guys most about BAD SUMMER?

CONRAD: Once we started trying to find categories to put BAD SUMMER into, that’s when we realized it was something really different and that’s what was a really cool to us. We’ve referred to it as environmental horror, which I’m sure isn’t an original term but to us, it made sense. It’s also an L.A. noir story, and that really has an appeal to us since it’s so cool as an idea to bring that to a city like Los Angeles and we can only imagine how horrible of a summer this story would be. Just think about the proximity and critical mass issues that would hit Los Angeles, so between the noir aspect and horror aspect, BAD SUMMER has a lot going for it.

I actually feel that it’s difficult to bring this kind of story that carries an almost independent film-like level of tension. BAD SUMMER really feels like a film, and that aspect is really well done. So that was what was the most interesting thing for us, for sure.

FANGORIA: In terms of working with Ed, did he have carte blanche or was there anything Radco specifically wanted to see from the project?

CONRAD: This concept was entirely conceived by Ed Laroche, so when he brought it to us, we just let him do whatever he wanted to do with it. Of course, as editors, we have some input to the story, but it had nothing to do with the characters or anything like that at all.

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FANGORIA: Considering you want to put Radco releases on as many platforms as possible, does the digital side of the marketplace influence the designs of your graphic novel?

CONRAD: That was sort of a non-issue to us because as a small and new company trying to make a name for itself and find a place in the zeitgeist, as it were, we knew we just had to get our stuff out everywhere possible and see where people might respond to it. I know there are some books that do better out there digitally than they do in print, and vice versa, but we have that freedom in being a new company that these titles would work anywhere. Our titles are going to feel cinematic no matter what medium that it’s in, and of course, having that option is something we have to look forward and hope our readers look forward to as well.

FANGORIA: Going from A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT to BAD SUMMER, is Radco looking to be exclusively in the horror business? If not, are you afraid of adopting that label after such strong genre titles?

CONRAD: That’s a good question, and that’s something we ask ourselves every day as well in terms of being categorized as a genre or horror imprint. Honestly? It’s okay with us since those are the stories that are appealing to us. That’s not something we’re specifically aiming towards; it’s just something circumstantial at the moment.

These are the stories that appeal to us and jump out at us, and they’re titles we’ve had success with. We think we’re extraordinarily lucky to have been able to work on A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT projects as well as the opportunity to work with Ed on BAD SUMMER. For people like Ed and Ana Lily Amirpour to see what we’re doing, it makes sense to them and it makes them want to be a part of it, and that’s huge for us.

I guess that label doesn’t really matter, at least to me, and if people look to us for that genre, that’s great because the stories are great and that’s what we want to put out. We’re open to any genre, but if it’s got an HBO-level of detail and independent creativity, we’re interested.

FANGORIA: Both your work with A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT and BAD SUMMER feel like tight, contained stories. To that effect, is Radco in the business for one-shot titles or are you guys open to a long-running serialized narrative?

CONRAD: That’s a tough question. No one has approached us with anything like that, and anything we’ve been given to read is always pretty finite, I think. For what we are doing, I think contained mini-series are great, and if a story needed a 10 graphic novel series, I think we could do that as long as the story is perfect, but as for an on-going series? I don’t think we’ve even thought about that.

We are just naturally episodic and cinematic in that way where if something has a good beginning and good ending, that’s it for the story. An on-going series is something that, from here on out, is something we’d be interested in, but it’s not something we’ve really discussed or targeted, really. Having stories that are contained lends itself to the artistry of them, and that’s something that appeals to us, actually. These are completed stories, and we want people to have access to them as a whole; we don’t want to keep people hanging, and there’s already so much of that stuff out there.

Obviously, with the big 2 companies, there’s all of these comic book series and some are currently on their 700th issue. I think we’re okay with keeping these stories contained and accessible for the moment. Besides, with Radco properties, the artists actually own the material they bring to us, so if they decide they want to extend its life via TV or film, that’s their decision to make.

FANGORIA: Does Radco have anything else they’re developing at the moment? And if there’s more to the world of BAD SUMMER, would Radco be open to developing a second volume of that story with Ed Laroche?

CONRAD: I’ll answer the second part of the question first with a resounding “Yes.” We definitely have plans in the works to revisit the world of BAD SUMMER, and we’re definitely excited for that. Working with Ed was so great, and Radco is actually going to have more of a presence in the narrative for the story, and we’re excited that Ed wants to work with us on that level. I can say that we’ll be keeping the story in Los Angeles, although we may be visiting other parts of Los Angeles, and we may see different characters reacting to the heat wave. We’re super excited about it, and that’s what we have going on for BAD SUMMER.

We actually also have more plans for A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT as well. We’ve got four issues to go and we’re almost done with issue 3. Outside of those projects, we have so much lined up for 2015, and we have some great people on board that we’ll be working with, but you’ll have to stay tuned on that to find out who. We’ve also got some original material coming out as well, so there’s a lot happening soon.

For more information or to purchase A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT or BAD SUMMER graphic novels, you can visit the official Radco site here.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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