Interview: Gary Bloom of Howmark/Red Lance Comics

In Comic Books, Interviews by Iron Squid1 Comment

Okay everyone, we are here today to sit down and help promote Red Lance Comics new Mobile Card Game, Red Lance: Battlefield and here to do that is Gary Bloom the founder! I didn’t really have any snippy comments because I’m really tired and our format system has been failing horribly!




IS: For those who don’t know, who exactly is Howmark and Red Lance Comics?

GB: It’s actually Howmark for the comic company name, but Red Lance is a team that I created in a brand new world, essentially a “parallel” world so to speak. The main city from the comics is Centerpoint, a ficticious place in New York State. The fiction gets into Apraxis (fictional in Pennsylvania) and will expand into other cities that I’ve invented. It enables me to set everything in this world, but create the elements that I need to move the story forward.

IS: When coming up with character concepts, what was the most challenging part? How did you get into the mind sets of each character?

GB: What started everything was a desire for more gender neutrality in the comic realm. There are strong female characters who are scantily clad, other should-be quality characters that are placed as second class or are retcon versions of previously male characters. Then, there are comic universes where females are dominant, and they flip the script, downgrading male characters. What I wanted was something more uniform. Men and women, equally important, their power and deeds driving the storyline, not the gender. The most challenging part actually became disgarding old villainous tropes that veered into gender-based dismissal, or playing the, “don’t underestimate me because I’m…” for the heroes. It led to creating some very fun female villains, to the point that I’m making a conscious effort to dream up more male villains to even things out.

Getting into the mindset is a little tricky if I spend a week away from the creative side of things. What I try to do is go back, read the bios again, and read my notes. Bricker is a ridiculous flirt and doesn’t take what he does all that seriously while Stonefish possibly takes herself and her work a little too seriosuly. Sonaru and Raceway are bent on vengeance, but in different ways, Cinderhawk has her own special internal turmoil, and Blueprint is a mostly happy guy that is more scientist than hero. Adding more heroes and villains, always expanding the universe… sometimes I have conversations with myself. Sometimes my two year old answers.



IS: Why particularly a mobile based card game? I’d say that’s rather unique for an independent publisher!

GB: During my life, I’ve written a great deal of role playing games – written more of my own than played the existing ones – and I started thinking how I’d like to play the characters in this universe. Then I thought about it as a mobile game being the easiest way to take it with me, and wondered how I’d structure it to be fun but challenging. The cards aspect allowed me to put interesting restrictions behind it, and grant specific roles to different card types. In reality, when I tried to break out how I would organize it, the cards aspect became the most logical to me. From there, it got fun dreaming up new cards. My poor wife was woken in the middle of the night by mobile phone glow while I’d suddenly decide to add more notes for new cards. She’s been to a Comicon with me already, and will be at Croton Comicon on Columbus Day when I release the game… and the woman still sticks with me. She might be crazy!

IS: What kind of features will we see in this card game?

GB: The first aspect of the game is the ability to actually fight through Missions that come directly from the comic book and short fiction stories within the universe. My intent is to work out as many of the conflicts – from little skirmishes to major battles – as Missions for Red Lance: Battlefield players to play on. The interesting part will be the ability to take the players that you prefer in your deck into these battles, regardless of who was originally in the fight on the heroes’ side.

We have an adjustable playing field that the players will operate on. Field size will change from mission to mission, depending on its parameters. Cards are moved around the field of play to complete their objectives. Initially, we’re going to just have a simple battle aspect – go in and beat your opponent’s deck, defeating all of their playable cards. We’re already working on our next phase, however, to take part in rescue operations, defensive maneuvers and captures. You’ll have non-playable cards that work as accessories to your playable cards… for instance, special weapons that you can add, varying types of amunition, and boosts for healing and increasing abilities. We’re also working on a next phase to add special tweaks to certain cards based on their power set.

One of the most fun pieces that I’m anticipating is our weekly special card. All of the standard cards that you can pick up are going to be Level 1. You’ll be able to improve them based on earned experience points (giving it a standard RPG feel), but ever week we’ll have a special card that’s above the Level 1 or the standard companion cards. We’re going to cycle them, so you might not see one again for a while. The fun there is that it’ll create some interesting mixes for folks who do and don’t pick the cards up!



IS: So far what has the most fun been about designing a mobile based card game?

GB: You need to understand how this all started. When I first came up with the game, last winter, a buddy (who would become the lead developer) came over and we played it. We sat down and cut out pieces of paper to serve as cards, and wrote names and values on them; we did the same thing with a battlefield. I’d written a piece of program that would take the correct values of the cards and simulate the battle sequence and results. We sat there and played (for those wondering, yep, I won the fist ever game). We started talking about deck size and card behavior…. now here we are close to release and it’s been a lot of fun refining it from the humble beginnings. Truly digging into behavior and methodology, it’s been a blast!

IS: Your beta has been launched on September 14th, has it been a lot more shocking to find out how many people are interested in it?

GB: It’s not so much a shock, it’s more fun. I’ve sent things out to Facebook, for instance, and I had friends sign up for the beta that I’d never expect to have interest at all! The realities seem to be that more people play mobile games that we might expect, and more people are interest in comic book games than just the comic books themselves. That might have been a bigger shock in the beginning – people who I’d assumed were into comic books weren’t really interested in reading the books themselves.



IS: What kind of challenges did you have with developing the card game?

GB: It’s funny, but we have so many ideas that we want to put into place. What we’ve had to do is break things down, and continue breaking them down, to decide on phases. For instance, when we wanted to do all of these different mission types, we worried that it might get to be too confusing at first. So we’re going to roll out different mission types, slowly, in order to get the initial userbase understanding and comfortable. I’ve already got three phases mapped out, plus ideas for two extentions to this game… pacing myself is probably the biggest hurdle. I tend to get a little bit on the excited side. Remember my poor wife that I mentioned? Well, you can feel bad for some of my friends, too – I get really amped up about this universe!

IS: What is the future for the Red Lance Universe? Anything we can expect to see?

GB: You’ll recall I mentioned being a tad on the over exited side about this universe. It’s going to depend on how the first game does. My hope is that it’ll be able to fund some of my other projects. The initial storyline for Red Lance wrapped nicely in a 5-issue arc, so I’m taking a brief hiatus from that while we get Battlefield out. If all goes well, I’d like to start back up again for December or January with a new storyline… introduce a title for The Throng… give Stonefish her own title… and then we’ll see where the storylines go. From a gaming perspective, I’d like to get this out, and then I’d like to take on some of the other game concepts that both expand this game world, and move into other realms of mobile gaming. There might be a set of printed trading cards at some stage, too, but again, I’ll do my best to temper myself.


IS: What kind of goodies will we expect from the Kickstarter? (link below)

GB: There are two things that I find particularly cool. First, we’re giving away 25 Shields, our in-game currency. The higher level cards will cost shields – anywhere from 3 to 8 per card, depending on power level. You’ll also be able to use shields to add stamina (allowing you to play more missions faster) and to do other things from a premium position. Normally, you’ll be able to earn or buy them in the game, but giving away 25 is going to be pretty cool – a massive bump from the start of it all.

The even cooler things, to me, are the rewards enabling you to BECOME a hero or villain in the game. Seriously, we’ll get some photos of you into our artists hands. I’ll create a back story, just like the rest of the characters, assign you powers, dream up a costume, and you’ll be able to literally play YOURSELF on these missions. Or, if you’re feeling a bit evil, play against yourself. I’ve restrained myself from putting a Gary Bloom hero or villain into the universe… but there’s no reason everyone else can’t have that fun. Kickstarter finishes on Sunday evening, so people should get into it pretty quickly if they’re interested!