Breaking Down Black Magick With Rucka & Scott [Interview]

Image Comics: Tell me about the magazine edition. What appeals to you about that format? How does it enhance the experience?

Greg Rucka: It's an opportunity to give the audience, the reader, a broader and deeper experience of the first issue, frankly. The core is fundamentally the same as in the "regular" version, of course—the comic pages are identical, the story is unchanged. But with the different format, and with the extra pages, we're able to expand further on what we've put into play. There's some fun stuff in there, some of our world-building, some hints at the direction the story is headed, and the depth of the world Nicola and I are creating. Then you add the ‘behind-the-scenes' elements, which I've personally always been a fan of seeing—looking at Nicola's process, for instance, her design work, how the characters evolved. These are all things that make the experience richer to me, so hopefully that'll translate and people will enjoy the extra bells and whistles.

IC: Juliette Capra and the LCS Valkyries get a special thanks in the first issue. Why is that?

GR: We reached out to the Valkyries through Juliette, so that's the primary reason you're seeing her name, at the least. Starting any new book these days is a challenge, even at the best of times, and all of us involved with BLACK MAGICK are, frankly, inordinately proud of what we've created and of what we've got coming, and we wanted to do all we could to build up some anticipation and excitement for the book. Working with retailers is incredibly important, and the Valkyries have actually made it quite easy to communicate with several stores around the country/world, so they were a very logical group to turn to, and one that we knew would provide us with some very valuable feedback. I should add that the Valkyries were not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only retailers or community we reached out to, but they were by and large the most vocal and immediate in their feedback. We wanted to say thank you to them in particular.

I should add—if I'm being perfectly honest—that we also very much wanted as much feedback as we could get from as many female readers as possible. Witchcraft and feminism are very much tied together, and—just from a personal perspective, here—I'm quite aware that I'm a guy writing this book, and while we're pretty gender-balanced on the creative side here, more eyes in that regard are always better. There's some potentially tricky stuff in issue one, for instance, and making certain that was handled and represented in a way that was both fair to the story and fair to the character...that shit matters to me a great deal.

IC: Nicola, what drew you to working with Greg? What's he bring to the table?

Nicola Scott: Greg likes to world-build like no one's business. There's always so much information behind what's scripted. So much research, so much respect for the subject hole he's decided to fall down. He has a deft understanding of complexity and nuance, not just subtext but layers of meaning if you chose to mine for it.

Then he tells me about an idea he has for this witch character.

So one of my favourite writers is telling me about an idea he has for one of my favourite subjects, witchcraft. I have a very particular taste when it comes to how I like my witchcraft portrayed, I don't see it often, and what he's pitching at me is loaded with what I want. Doubling down, he wants to work on it with me and he's super collaborative!

IC: You're doing the line work and tones on this series, with color assists by Chiara Arena. The approach to color in BLACK MAGICK is remarkable. How does having greater control over the final look of the comic affect your storytelling? Are you still doing a hard pencils-inks-washes-colors assembly line process, or is your workflow more loose and free now?

NS: I'm keeping a reasonable assembly discipline in place, otherwise I'd lose all momentum. It's a pretty different process for me though. I'm spending a lot more time getting my roughs right as, once I start inking, there's little opportunity to erase anything. Fortunately the line work happens pretty fast and I'm keeping it loose and light on detail. Then I start the ink wash right on the boards. This is the slowest part but all the form and texture happens here. The whole look of this series is about these earthy, layered, organic washes. I want it to feel like an artifact, to see the texture of the ink and the paper as well as the texture of the items and environments in the panels. It starts pretty loose, but of course I can't help myself, and it gets pretty detailed as I get in there with the darkest greys and the finest brush.

As for colour and its use in the storytelling, Chiara is being a trooper as she suffers through our endless fiddling of why, where, and what colour should be used. There's an in-story logic and we're defining the rules a little further each time.

IC: Greg, what appeals to you most about Nicola's work?

GR: This is trickier to answer than you might think, because back when we started this, oh so many years ago, just the initial conversations, I really had no idea how Nic would approach the book or what she would do with the art. The mind's eye works off previous expectations, right? And so I imagined a book in Nicola's style as I'd already experienced it—I knew the art would be dynamic and strong, that her storytelling would be excellent, and that she and I would be on the same page, so to speak.

Then she started turning in these pages, and I was more than a little blown back in my chair. Because this was nothing like what I'd imagined she would do, and yet it was absolutely right for the book. She was making choices that I felt were not only correct, but also incredibly brave. There are a lot of artists out there who will not take risks; they've found what works and they're sticking to it, and it works for them. Nicola approached this from zero, she threw everything out the window and said, okay, let's see what's right, here. She knew what she wanted, and she chased it.

I said that was brave, and I sincerely believe that. I can praise her to the skies for her professionalism, for her skill, but honestly? Her work has courage, and I love that.

IC: I think a lot of readers are expecting BLACK MAGICK to be a cop/crime comic, but I felt a little bit of horror lurking beneath the surface. What's your approach to the tone of BLACK MAGICK? What do you hope the readers feel when they're done with the first issue, or even the first arc?

GR: I'm bad at cleaving to genre. Is LAZARUS scifi? Or a mob-drama? Or a war comic? You know what I mean?

I started BLACK MAGICK thinking it would be more procedural than it ultimate has turned out to be, but I always knew I wanted to explore this legacy of magick and witchcraft, and in particular, what it meant to be someone who could influence the reality of others. That, in and of itself, is a little scary, when you stop to think about it. So certainly there are horror elements at work, here, though ideally these are more subtle, seeds that grow into something that is, perhaps, ultimately quite terrifying. I don't like stories where magick has no cost, where it's easy, where it's not given due thought and consideration. That's the stuff that interests me—not whether or not Rowan can use magick, but what the ramifications of that are really, what that means and what that does, and how the use of magick to solve one problem may create many other problems, all of them far worse.

Tonally, specifically...well, I very much want a sense of foreboding in these first few issues. There should be tension. And it should be, if not overtly frightening, at the very least decidedly concerning. But I don't think I'm terribly good at simply scaring people—the experience of reading WYTCHES, for instance, is not one I can (nor I think should) try to replicate. That was a book that legitimately scared me. At best, I figure maybe I'll give someone pause. I'll leave it to Nic to conjure the truly terrifying images!

BLACK MAGICK #1 is on sale now.