Location, location, location. There are three of them that are important to this story: New York, Miami, and Brazil—Sao Paulo, to be precise.
New York is where Dan Goldman lived for the past several years, where he joined the Act-I-Vate collective and worked his two books, Shooting War and ’08.
Miami is where Goldman is from, where he spent his first 24 years, and where he lived, briefly, after 9/11, to comfort his panicking mother. It was that trip back home, nearly a decade ago, that convinced him to set his most recent work Red Light Properties in the sunny beach town of his youth.
Brazil is where Goldman has lived since December of last year—his wife Lilli is a native of that country. It’s a South American paradise where Goldman spends much of his days in the studio plugging away at Webcomic deadlines.
How’s paradise treating you?
[Laughs] Paradise is great. I’m in Sao Paulo.
You’re in a major city.
Yeah, yeah. Sao Paulo is ten times the six of New York City, and more dense, people-wise. It has this crazy buzz, like New York, but even more. It has like a funky chaos to it. I moved a couple weeks ago from an historically Japanese neighborhood. I moved after seven months. That was really fun, being there.
And now we’re in an area called Santa Cecilia, which is more—I think there’s a lot of history here, cultural, literary, and artistic. It has a totally different energy. I feel like the people are very educated. We’re across the street from a hospital, so I go downstairs for a coffee, and I’m surrounded by doctors. It’s just a totally different energy. I love it.
How long have you been out there?
Since December. I’m just a lot more relaxed than I was, living in the U.S.
Are you still a bit of a tourist? Are you still doing a lot of exploring?
Oh yeah, well the country is almost as big as the U.S., so there’s so much to see. I try to sneak away, every chance I get, but I am on this bi-weekly grind, at least for the next six weeks, with one weekend pass, where I can sneak off and do some stuff. We’ve done a lot of cool weekend trips. I’ve swum in rivers and hiked up jungle mountains. It’s awesome. It’s really inspiring. I can’t wait for all of this to start pouring out through my work again.
Right now, my work is very much in Miami, because of the project. I feel like there are these Brazilian nuggets starting to pop up. They’re going to turn into ideas relatively soon, I can feel it happening.
Are you from Miami?
Yeah, I grew up there. I lived there until I was 24.
Do you have to live in a place to really write about it?
Not at all, but I think it definitely helps. It depends on what your strengths are and how you write. I’m kind of noticing lately that, as I do different things—I’m writing a lot of stuff right now that nobody’s really seen or knows about. When I work on these things, I’m noticing these communalities in terms of my scripting and drawing. I kind of break myself into pieces—my personality. And then I let them fight each other.
There will be one piece in one character and one piece in another character. I found that every project that I’m working on is almost like a war with myself. So, if you can do that, you can pretty much set any story anywhere, but I guess it depends on who you work.
Is there something specific about Red Light Properties that necessitated it being set in Florida?
Not necessarily. When I started writing the first draft in 2001—a couple of months before 9/11—the story took place, instead of Miami Beach, it was in Park Slope in Brooklyn. After 9/11, I went back to Miami to visit my mom, because she was crazy. “Why are you going back to New York? You’re insane.”
But I went down there, and I had been working a lot with the story. Just driving around Miami, kind of clearing my head, it was just so perfect. I grew up there in the 80s and there were a lot of old people. A lot of them are dead now. It was that old Miami stereotype of old people with big cars. I grew up in that particular Miami.
I’m kind of putting Red Light there. It is present day, and I’m trying to have a lot of little flourishes of modern day Miami, but I’m also tipping my hat a lot into the Miami that I grew up in. People were dying all around me, because they were old. On some deep child memory-level, there’s something joined about Miami and death. I’d go pick up a dozen bagels for my dad at the bagel place on a Sunday morning, and before I left, the EMTs would come in, because someone had a heartattack in the restaurant.
That would happen all the time. There’s something fascinating to me about that and ghosts and haunted houses in general. It just seems like such a good fit.
Death is really at the core of the strip.
[Laughs] Yeah. Death and love. And family. I’m happy with the way that the relationships are uncurling—probably because I’ve been working with the characters on and off for nine years. I know them really well. I know their lives. It’s cool to finally start spooling it out. I’m coming to the end of the first book after holding onto this thing—I was doing Shooting War and I was covering the election and all this junk, and all this time, I just wanted to tell this story.
Was it informed by the stuff you worked on in the interim?
Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. I learned a lot with both projects. Shooting War was an incredible learning experience. It was a tough project.
It was done really quickly.
Yeah, it really was. And so was ’08, but I learned stuff from Shooting War that I applied to ’08 and got better at, and I’m jumping from there to here. There were a lot of lessons.