The following is an interview with celebrated graphic designer and illustrator Kelly McMahon and comic book writer Mat Groom on their Kickstarter campaign launch for the murder mystery card game, Bad Blood. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with McMahon and Groom about their shared experience of bringing the card game and its accompanying story to life, the incredible backer rewards available to supporters, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent launch of your Kickstarter campaign! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you share with us about the premise of this card game and the genesis behind your collaboration?
Kelly McMahon: Bad Blood invites you to fill the well-polished shoes of journalist Joseph Field and uncover the mystery behind Dee Dumas’ murder. His journal is the key to solving this crime; read through his findings and decipher the clues across the deck of cards and you might just find yourself unraveling the threads of a diabolical conspiracy. Or grab a drink and try your hand at a game of poker as the body count grows, it’s your call…
More than just a deck of 54 playing cards, Bad Blood is a stylish, illustrated tribute to the 1920s, with stunning art deco-inspired card designs. And that’s just the beginning, because each character card brings to life a different faction of the one-time solve murder mystery written by Mat Groom that can be played alongside any traditional card game.
I had been sitting on this concept of playing cards with clues and mystery narrative for almost two years, and when I brought a rough draft of the idea to Mat, he had the brilliant idea of linking the narrative and the cards together with a journal, and we dived in from there! I’ve long admired Mat’s work; it’s been an absolute pleasure to build this out with him.
Mat Groom: Kelly came to me with the idea of what she wanted to do pretty much fully formed, and I thought it was such a clever and exciting project. Out of my comfort zone, for sure, but the good sort of challenge. And I’m such a fan of Kelly’s work that it was a no-brainer.
BD: Kelly, your design work and illustrations have appeared across various artistic mediums. What can you tell us about your approach to designing the 1920s aesthetic of this new deck, and how did your experience compare to your prior work designing the Imperium playing cards?
KM: I must say, I learnt a lot putting the Imperium deck together. There were so many things about traditional playing cards that I was unaware of before starting the project. I felt more confident approaching the Bad Blood deck. I had an understanding of how to set up the designs which is one of the hardest parts of these projects. I also understood how to lay out the cards for both functionality and aesthetic. I often get caught up in the aesthetic and compromise the functionality and then have to go back and rework what I’ve done, but this time I knew the specs I needed to work within.
I approached the Bad Blood deck differently to Imperium. Imperium focused more on the aesthetic of my style and the patterns of the suits, whereas Bad Blood indulges more in the concept and story, from the characters to the box and the pips cards— the narrative and “mystery” concept is a focal point in the design. Once I build out my concept, then I add the aesthetic inspiration through the shape language, colours, and the attire of the characters. The functionality of the “mystery” did, however, dictate a lot of the layout for Bad Blood.
BD: Mat, how would you describe your creative process in bringing the murder mystery story to life, and did you find that this process differed from your narrative work in the sequential art medium?
MG: It differed quite a bit, yeah! At first, it was something more akin to game design – figuring out how to handle clues, misdirections… basically, how to make solving the mystery achievable and fun. But after that, it was a little closer to what I’m used to: building out worlds and characters.
In some way, it was even more fun, because mysteries kind of necessitate spending time with narratively unimportant characters, so it’s not obvious who the key players are. Every character in this world gets love and attention, and that makes it feel so real and lived-in.
BD: You are both no stranger to crowdfunding, having successfully Kickstarted prior card games and comic book series, respectively. For other creators who may be interested in utilizing Kickstarter, what benefits do you feel that the platform provides to creators?
KM: Kickstarter is an incredible platform. It helps independent artists and creatives get projects of the ground that otherwise may not come to life otherwise. This alone is a stand-out benefit, but beyond the initial project, my favourite aspect of this is the community— you can find a new and often enthusiastic audience for your project and future work. Kickstarter is a space where people are looking to support creative industry and innovation, and there is something very special about that in 2023. Many artists feel that social media is all about “content creation,” and we like to hope we are producing something more special than “content.” Kickstarter gives us a space to celebrate our projects and recognise the labour that goes into it.
MG: Obviously, it helps independent artists bring their work to the world, often when they wouldn’t be able to any other way, but my favourite part is the community aspect. Inviting people in to play a part in the project coming to life gives them a sort of ownership, they become really invested. Sometimes, creating art can be a distant, solitary thing, but the Kickstarter community regularly shows how enthusiastic and supportive so many people are.
BD: Are there any particular backer rewards that you would like to highlight for the campaign?
KM: Of course! We are offering not only the deck of cards but the physical “journal” / art book, an ashcan comic, as well as a 2” collectors edition enamel pin and limited edition prints. With stretch goals to add luxe finishes to both the journal and deck of cards!
The deck features 55 poker-sized (2.5″ x 3.5”) playing cards, including 2 jokers and a QR code journal card. Each card is complete with a two-way back design, printed on German Black Core stock, sealed in tuck box packaging with a waterproof matte laminate finish & spot varnish.
The journal / art book is 40+ pages featuring the storyline to the game, written by Mat, as well as behind-the-scenes character development and a look at how the project came together.
And last, but not least, we have a stunning 8-page ashcan comic that shares a glimpse of our sinful metropolis, brought to life with the art of Nicoletta Baldari, story by Mat Groom, and edited by Kyle Higgins. This reward in particular I’m VERY excited about!
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
KM: I have a few exciting projects coming up, most of which I can’t talk about. But the one that I can tell you about is the enamel pin set I designed for the Massive-Verse. The set features Radiant Black, Pink, Yellow and Red, as well as Rogue Sun, The Dead Lucky, Inferno Girl Red, and NO/ONE. It will drop at NYCC next month, available exclusively from the Black Market Narrative booth (3810) which will be next to my booth (3809) on the main show floor. I was honoured to be asked to collaborate on this one!
To celebrate the Inferno Girl Read: Book 2 campaign, the IGR pin is available as an add-on through the Kickstarter at a discounted rate.
MG: Well, there’s the Kickstarter campaign for Inferno Girl Read: Books One + Two which is either in its final days or will have just finished, depending on when you read this. There are some other things on the horizon, but nothing I can talk about just yet!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about Bad Blood and your other work?
MG: You can find me on Twitter/X with @mathewgroom, or you can head to my website (matgroom.com).