Sponsored: Interview with Red Belt Creator James Findlay
The Tokusatsu Network interviews James Findlay, an independent artist and creator behind the tokusatsu-inspired comic, Red Belt.
How did you discover your passion for art?
It was a few months after I dropped out of Architecture, I had no direction in my life, feeling down, then one day I tried drawing. Suddenly I had an outlet for all these stories I always had rolling around in my head and could put form to then.
I started going to art school and drawing a webcomic called Heavy Mech. It Sucked, it really sucked, but I drew a lot of it and it started to suck less! I eventually fell out of Heavy Mech, started The Pendulum, fell out of that: and now here we are with Red Belt!
I have regrets and things I would of liked to do better with those first two comics (and Red Belt for that matter) but I’ve learned a lot from them.
When and how did you discover tokusatsu?
Like a lot of people I watched Power Rangers as a kid, (starting with Lightspeed Rescue going until Ninjastorm) but what really got me into the genre is when I started watching Kamen Rider W. I loved the complex power set W had, able to switch and combine 6 different abilities for 9 possible combinations. Then the Fang memory switching up the formula, Lost Driver allowing the use of only 1 memory, It was a deep power system, and all done in live action! Oh man, and it was all framed in a thrilling and goofy detective drama with lovable characters, deep themes and fantastic fight choreography.
I continued with OOO (my all time fave), Fourze, (some of) Wizard, Gaim, Drive, etc. All with a complex power system and these little quirks and trends that make this genre so memorable.
Can you tell us how you came up with Red Belt?
It all started with the Power System, the concept of “here’s this power, what ability would it have if it was applied to a gun or a dagger or maybe even an attachment to a suit”. The Red Belt, the Green Magnum and the Blue Dagger. 3 weapons, 3 heroes, each time they defeat an enemy they gain a power, and each power would act differently depending on who uses it. THAT is the backbone of Red Belt, but what I really wanted to make sure I did right where the Villajns.
I… LOVE a good “Monster of the Week”! Some might say it’s formulaic but it’s a formula that Works! Making up a new villain for each story challenges you, makes you think of new situations, new powers, new dynamics. Joker, Lex Luthor, Doctor Octopus: all great villains, each first made as a “done in one” back in the day. A new goofball to slap on the cover to make the kids say “Aww man, how’s Spider-man supposed to fight a dude who’s made of Sand?”
Oh and Freak Of The Week is Toku’s bread and butter! This one’s a Cobraman. This one spits Acid. This one is a samurai that represents the dangers dealing justice with extreme measures. This one is the Rhythm Game one! This one has a Baseball for a head. Some hit, some are dumb, but each are a new IDEA the hero has to deal with!
Can you walk through the process when creating a page for Red Belt?
Typically I have the major events of each page laid out beforehand. Once I figure what needs to go onto the page I lay out the panels, pencil sketch the scenes, ink (I do all the dialogue by hand currently), scan, colour digitally, add effects if needed, then post.
I’m always trying new things with my process. Right now I’m seeing if I can get away with only roughly drawing the background layout, then adding details in the inking process to give it a busier look.
Where can we read Red Belt and find more of your art?
It’s manly posted on http://redbelt.smackjeeves.com but I also mirror on Tapas here: https://m.tapas.io/series/Redbelt
Do you have any other projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
I usually try doing a drawing a day on my Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/th3gadfly
I’m trying to find time to do a side Horror Comic called Bloody Eddy I’ll try to sell ashcans of at next summer’s local Art Crawl.