The Last Stop on the Red Line Creators Break Down Their Bostonian Monsters

Paul Maybury & Sam Lotfi’s Boston-Set Creature Feature Debuts May 15th from Dark Horse Comics

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The <i>Last Stop on the Red Line</i> Creators Break Down Their Bostonian Monsters

Even if you ignore the oversized legacy of Hellboy, Dark Horse Comics has long been the home of horror comics, from imports like I Am a Hero to homegrown terrors Harrow County and House of Penance. Starting May 15th, a new supernatural series joins Dark Horse’s roster—and this one takes place in a city that rarely gets its sequential-art due. Boston-based writer Paul Maybury and artist Sam Lotfi, along with colorist John Rauch, aim to fix that with Last Stop on the Red Line, a four-issue mini-series that introduces a compassionate transit cop, a kind homeless man with deadly visions and a couple of (literal?) monsters. Along with an exclusive look at character bios and concept art, we’ve got commentary from Maybury and Lotfi explaining how Last Stop on the Red Line came about and what went into designing the book’s leading men, women and werewolves. Take a look at all of that below, and be sure to check out Last Stop on the Red Line #1 when it hits comic shops and digital retailers next month.

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Writer Paul Maybury:

Boston may conjure images of rabid Sox fans, green clovers, baked beans and Mark Wahlberg’s multimillion-dollar scowl. While I can’t deny the existence of the aforementioned, I can certainly ignore them while writing a series about my hometown. Last Stop on the Red Line, a four-issue series published by Dark Horse Comics, is a different vision of the City Upon the Hill. Spotlighting seldom depicted faces, the exclusion of tough-guy tropes, and yes… the complete omission of Southie. This story follows Transit Detective Migdalia Torres as she lands a seemingly impossible case. Her chance encounter with a vagrant called Yusef, who’s suffering from visions of a supernatural terror, holds the answers to a string of murders plaguing the subway.

Before this was a detective drama, the seed of Last Stop’s story was the idea that the people who we are blind to see the things that we cannot. Our homeless protagonist Yusef suffers from an injury related to the pons region of his brain, disrupting his sleep and his ability to dream. Only now, he’s experiencing vivid dreams of being trapped inside the bodies of women as they are brutally attacked on the train. To his horror, these very events are mirrored in the news when he awakes. Yusef’s days are spent surrounded by literal monsters but they’re his friends just the same. While the series opens to and deals with tragedy, it was important to me that the core cast be brought together by small acts of kindness, showcasing their humanity under layers of flaws.

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Last Stop on the Red Line #1 Cover Art by Sam Lotfi

Growing up in a city, I’d casually cross paths with people who were homeless; it wasn’t until I began high school that I actually came to know one of them. During my wait for the 39 bus, I’d make small talk with Walter, a homeless man who, through a program via his shelter, sold newspapers near the Boston Public Library. Walter had jokes, and with his imposing stature and his gold-toothed grin, he became a bonafide fixture of that corner. He was also a hound when it came to women passing by on their commute—with each encounter ending with his patented, gravel-lunged laughter. On a blistery day, Walter pointed out that I wasn’t wearing gloves. Instead of a jab, which I had braced myself for, he reached into the depths of his coat pocket and presented an extra pair of gloves. I’m still touched to this day by his random act of kindness. The fact that Walter even noticed a small thing like that astounds me. The following week I didn’t see Walter at the bus stop to give him his gloves back. In fact, I never saw him again.

Walter left an impression on me. I look back fondly on our idle conversations and at the same time I’m unnerved by his cat-calling. In hindsight, it’s far too easy for me to frown upon his behavior. The man’s flaws, much like his circumstance, were a product of socioeconomic issues and a distortion of masculine ideals, which are rich in the toxic water of Boston. I’d be a hypocrite to deny that I myself were not a product of that same dirty water. A key difference between Walter and I, is that I’ve had the luxury to focus on growth rather than where I slept, or how I filled my belly. My memories of Walter served as a basis for the characters featured in Last Stop on the Red Line. Their imperfections go hand in hand with their virtuous qualities… just like the rest of us.

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Artist Sam Lotfi:

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi

This subway scene was one of my early exploration drawings trying to get a feel for the environment, how to light the scene and how the characters could inhabit the world. At this point I was still exploring the characters’ specific facial proportions and features, so they look a bit different here.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi & Paul Maybury

Wolf
Wolf is the self-appointed leader of his pack of friends, as well as a sponsor at the Acorn Shelter. Wolf’s motives are anything but pure. His drug-dealing side business preys on those seeking relief.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi

Wolf didn’t have too many previous designs—he pretty much turned out pretty close to the final version. Since Paul wanted to show the monsters go through an evolution with each issue, I started with their final version, then scaled it back by four stages. It’s a fun challenge and I’m glad to have the opportunity because I can play and push their expressions as they evolve.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi & Paul Maybury

Zev
Zev believes himself to be a vampire. His ironic aversion to bodily fluids makes life on the streets nearly impossible for him cope. Zev relies heavily on his friends to help him get by.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi

Zev went through some previous designs that will never see the light of day. Yes, that was a bad vampire joke. His evolution was much more subtle than Wolf’s because it wasn’t as much of a stretch to go from a human head to his final design. For Zev, the transformation was mainly in pushing his hair, eye brows, ears, fangs and maybe a slightly elongated face through each issue. Overall, the really fun challenge in designing these characters was to give the readers a first impression of who they are when they first meet and pushing those designs so that by the end of the story, the reader has a different perspective on who the characters really are. I had a blast designing and drawing them, and I hope the readers will grow to love them as much I do.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi & Paul Maybury

Yusef
Not much is known about Yusef prior to his accident. His friend Wolf has secured him a spot at Boston’s Acorn Shelter. A safe place to sleep simply isn’t enough to quell the pervasive visions that haunt Yusef’s days and nights.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi

Yusef was the first character that I tied down the designs for and you can see here that there are still some slight variations between the final and previous design. He’s a tortured character and carries a lot of baggage, [and] I wanted to show that by making his overall head shape feel heavy as if cut out of stone. I gave him a heavy brow and deep-set eyes that say a lot if you to stare into them. In the end, we went with a block-shaped head and sharper corners around his features; this really helped him stand out from the rest of the cast. I think the mustache got progressively thinner too as his design evolved, but its a really fun shape to draw, so I’m pretty happy with it.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi & Paul Maybury

Migdalia Torres
Migdalia is a transit detective as well as a mother of two. Like many of us, she juggles a tumultuous personal and professional life. A bizarre case has fallen in her lap, and she’ll need to keep an open mind to solve it.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi

Migdalia was a bit more challenging to design because her facial features are inspired by a photo of real person. In order to keep her features consistent I had to break them down into specific guidelines. For example, her nose is about two-and-a-half eyeballs long; if I drew her nose any longer or shorter then she’d be off model. Her eyes and hair are her most expressive features, so that’s what I have the most fun with when drawing Mig.

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Last Stop on the Red Line Concept Art by Sam Lotfi & Paul Maybury

Ben Damon
With a pea coat on his back and coffee in his mitt, Ben is the archetypal image of a Boston detective. He’s recently been assigned a new partner: Detective Migdalia Torres.

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