Announced at Image Expo, Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel launch BLACKBIRD in October, a modern fantasy series set in the neon shadows of Los Angles. The co-creators have dubbed the series Harry Potter meets Riverdale: a modern, sexy, neon-lit magical drama.
Humphries spoke with Monkeys Fighting Robots to give you an inside look at his writing process, working with your artist, and creating a magical realm out of thin air.
SAM HUMPHRIES INTERVIEW
MFR: With independent comics, the first issue is so important to hook a reader. What are the essential elements that need to be in a first issue?
Humphries: I think first issues are over-fetishized in comics circles. I like studying second issues; they’re so much more difficult for me. Matt Fraction will tell you, “the second issue is the one you want to write, the first one explains why you want to write it.” Until the next giant stylistic leap forward, I think we’re just fine-tuning a lot of charted ground in first issues. Second issues are the undiscovered country.
MFR: With a book like BLACKBIRD, how much world-building is involved?
Humphries: A ton of world-building. But not just the world, the characters, too. Family trees are just as strong in this book as a thousand years of magic and California history. Death and grief too. There’s a lot of beautiful, spectacular magic and powerful wizards in this book, but it’s really all about that strong emotional core.
MFR: The neon colors and the spirit animal in BLACKBIRD made me think of ‘Coco.’ Does the magic in the book have a Latin origin?
Humphries: I love ‘Coco.’ It was my favorite movie of last year. The magic in this book does not have a specific Latin origin, but like innovation in America and in Los Angeles specifically, the discipline of magic in BLACKBIRD was developed by many people from many backgrounds. The source of magic in BLACKBIRD is very important. We catch a glimpse of the door in issue 1 — a place called the Grand Oasis, and an entity called the Beacon.
MFR: Talk about your relationship with Jen Bartel. Are your scripts very detailed, or does Jen have a lot of room to play?
Humphries: They’re both! And sometimes, they’re just the tip of the iceberg of lots of discussion we have together. This book came directly out of conversations Jen, and I started having a couple of years ago — things we wanted to see in comics, the kind of comics we wish we could read. Right off the bat, I asked Jen, what do you wanna draw? She started talking about magic, and mythological creatures, and neon, and Los Angeles, and hot people kissing…I thought, I’d read the hell out of that book. There is no BLACKBIRD without Jen and I talking together about what we love.
MFR: You could have created any main character to fit this story, what is it about Nina Rodriguez that makes her the perfect fit for the story?
Humphries: It’s the other way around — we created the story around Nina. It’s influenced by who she is and what she wants. How she sees herself in the world, and how she sees the world around her. Ever since a magical experience as a child, she’s felt deeply that magic does exist in the world…even if you can’t point to it, or touch it, or grab ahold of it. And every time she talks about it, everyone calls her crazy. As she stops being a victim of circumstance and starts taking charge of her life — that’s really where Blackbird begins!
MFR: BLACKBIRD is an ongoing series, how far do you have the story outlined?
Humphries: We’ve got enough story for at least 30 issues if we want to go that far. Hell, I could write thirty issues about the people who developed magic in Blackbird…thirty issues before we even get to the present day! But Nina is our favorite. She’s first in our heart.
BLACKBIRD hits your local comic book store on October 3, with cover A by Bartel and cover B by Fiona Staples.
In this neo-noir fantasy, Nina Rodriguez is positive that a secret magic world ruled by ruthless cabals is hiding just beneath the veneer of Los Angeles. The problem: everyone thinks she’s crazy. The bigger problem: she’s not crazy—she’s right. Can she unravel the mystery before the Great Beast catches up with her?
Are you adding BLACKBIRD to your pull list? Comment below with your thoughts.