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Noir, Old West meet in “Red Plains” comic

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm •  Published: November 5, 2010


Writer Caryn A. Tate takes a noir-inspired trek through the Old West in “Red Plains,” a Web comic available via and

Tate aims for her Western to have an authentic flavor. Having grown up throughout the West, including spending time on a working ranch, Tate finds it difficult to stomach stereotypical Westerns.

“When we see cowboys in ‘Red Plains,’ they’re usually doing actual ranch work; people don’t have an endless supply of ammo, their horses get tired, violence has consequences, and there are no gunfights at high noon in the middle of the street,” she said in an interview with The Oklahoman.

The writer, who has lived in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and Washington, said she spends extensive time researching period details for the late 1800s setting of “Red Plains.”

“The artists and I make a concerted effort to be as historically accurate as possible,” she said. “For the look of it, I give the artists a lot of reference material — descriptions, photos and illustrations — to pull from as they help construct a story line. From something as detailed as period-accurate weapons to more general things that I tend to take for granted (like cowboy hats or getting on a horse on the left-hand side, not the right), we put a lot of effort into making ‘Red Plains’ a world.”

The morals and attitudes of the period are reflected in the characters actions as well.

“The handling of suspects, attitudes about intimacy, and medicine were wildly different,” Tate said. “Those are things that not only add to the feel of our stories but also become springboards into other tales as well.”

“Red Plains” follows three families and the conflict among them.

“‘Red Plains’ is the story of a town that’s full of violence, lust and corruption,” Tate said. “It’s a realistic and authentic tale that is set in the West, in 1880 currently. It’s historically accurate while being exciting and dramatic.”

The series is serialized at The first story line, “Red Plains: Range War” is also available for digital purchase at and

“Range War” is illustrated by artist Noel Tuazon.

“He’s amazing at portraying the body language and facial expressions of the characters, as well as the dark, looming shadows, all of which worked great on that story line,” Tate said. Artists Larry Watts, Gary Fitzgerald, Patrick Bezanson and Butch Mapa have worked on subsequent story lines.

“All the artists I’ve worked with are fantastic,” Tate said. “It’s really fun to work with such a variety of talent and see their take on the world of ‘Red Plains.’”

Crime noir and true crime mark a strong influence on “Red Plains.” Tate referenced “The Hitch Hiker” and “DOA” among her inspirations for the series. She said “The Wire” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” influenced her development of “Red Plains.”

“With both series, there is a lot more to them than initially meets the eye, and that had a profound effect on how I approach ‘Red Plains,’” she said.

- By Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman

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by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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