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Exploring Dark Corridor With Rich Tommaso [Interview]

Image Comics: One thing I really enjoy about DARK CORRIDOR is how unabashedly "comic book-y" it is. You use little arrows to guide the reader, the sound effects are exuberant, and it seems like you're taking full advantage of the form to tell this otherwise street-level crime story. What appeals to you about leaving no holds barred when it comes to working on a comic?

Rich Tommaso: When I was deciding on what to do at Image, I thought about how there's just so much realism out there in comics. In television and film too, whether it's zombies, superheroes, or cops and robbers, everyone seems to go for the "make it real" approach. I thought, maybe my work would stand out among everything else If I broke out of that for once and just let my imagination run free. Make up crazy-faced Dick Tracy-like characters and hell, make up the entire city they live in as well. Especially since this comic was going to be MOST Image readers' introduction to my work, I decided—even though I love the realistic approach, I would go outside my personal world for this one.

IC: DARK CORRIDOR has a large cast and a zig-zagging timeline. Why did you choose this approach to the series?

RT: I've always wanted to do an epic-sized mob story, something on the scale of a Goodfellas, The Godfather, or The Sopranos. But again, to do that in a realistic or serious vein would have been just treading over that same, well-worn path. It would be hard by this point to say anything those epics haven't already said. Instead, I wanted to do something that turned those old mafioso themes on their head. I had two separate scripts I was trying to choose between. One was densely populated by your garden variety criminal: thieves, drug dealers, pimps, murderers. The other was about seven young women who violently lashed-out against the mafia. I found that a lot of the characters and themes were similar and could easily be blended together, so I made them into one big story.

IC: A town whose legitimate and illegitimate business is run by criminals is a pretty good hook. For the newcomers out there, what kind of a place is Red Circle?

RT: In the real world, government institutions are thought to be highly corrupted. But attempts are made to keep any political scandals, crimes, and conspiracies hidden. Red Circle doesn't need anyone to crack any conspiracy. Everyone knows that the entire city is run by corrupt means. Its citizens know that if they became involved in any underworld activity: gambling, prostitution, drugs, gun running—OR join the governing, law enforcing body of the city—and they screwed up somehow, they would be killed off immediately—and even in broad daylight, if necessary.

IC: DARK CORRIDOR deals with intense subject matter in a way that's almost best described as casual. There aren't a lot of people making big speeches about their goals, but several characters get involved in bad situations and kinda...fret about it. Do you have a preferred tone for the crime stories you enjoy reading or watching?

RT: To go back on what I'd stated earlier about realism, even though this is a wild, Dick-Tracy-proportion-like comic story, I will always want readers to have a good sense of just who these characters are. It's tricky to do with something so highly stylized, but it can work out fine if written carefully. Kill Bill is a VERY cartoony and outlandish story, but despite that, I think Tarantino does a great job of making those sword wielding characters totally three-dimensional people when he needs them to be. I think it's a good idea to never "look down" on anything you work on. Whether it's your life story or a horror genre tale, each deserves to be told with the same amount of care and attention to detail.

IC: In the back matter, you mention your love of action movies, and even include a little bit of Brian De Palma's Scarface in one scene. What movies do DARK CORRIDOR readers need to check out?

RT: The easiest question is the most difficult one to answer...I've watched a crazy amount of movies in my time and still watch a lot more than I probably should. But for folks interested in the mood and themes of DARK CORRIDOR, I'd say check out John Boorman's Point Blank, Jack Hill's Switchblade Sisters, Akira Kurosawa's High and Low, Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Peter Yates' The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, Teruo Ishii's Bind Woman's Curse, Steven Soderbergh's The Limey, Stephen Frears' The Hit, Toshiya Fujita's Lady Snowblood, Bertrand Tavernier's Coup De Torchon...

DARK CORRIDOR #5 is out today. If you'd like to start at the beginning, DARK CORRIDOR #1 is on sale now!