Smash Pages Q&A | Eric Palicki on ‘Black’s Myth’

With the collection now out from Ahoy Comics, writer Eric Palicki talks about the first volume of the supernatural ‘L.A. noir’ comic ‘Black’s Myth.’

In the past few years Eric Palicki has developed his reputation as a writer and editor thanks to comics like Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists, Fake Empire and No Angel, and anthologies like All We Ever Wanted, Dead Beats and This Nightmare Kills Fascists. For the Ahoy Comics series Black’s Myth, the collection of which was just released, Palicki re-teamed with artist Wendell Cavalcanti to tell the story of a werewolf named Strummer who lives in Los Angeles and avoids the supernatural world. Or tries to, at any rate.

The book is a dark noirish tale with a lot of humor, with Cavalcanti’s black and white artwork inside contrasted with the neon colors of Liana Kangas’ covers, the book screams “L.A. noir.” The supernatural angle, though, is all Palicki, and Black’s Myth feels like a book he’s been building towards, both in terms of subject and sensibility, and in his skill at storytelling.

The trade collection of the first was just released with a second volume coming out in the fall, and Palicki answered a few questions about the book.

Where did the idea behind Black’s Myth start?

Black’s Myth is an accumulation of a few good ideas I’ve had over the years, none of which was really a story on its own, but stitched together into a yarn I’m really proud of: the idea of a werewolf P.I. who uses her doglike senses as an advantage, the idea of a big game hunter who specialized in mythical creatures (and who stops apocalypses as a side benefit), and answering the question of whatever happened to Judas’s silver pieces. Protagonist, antagonist, MacGuffin…it’s all the ingredients for our compelling little tale.

The idea of a werewolf private eye fits squarely in the urban fantasy genre, which is a genre you clearly enjoy and have worked in previously. What do you like about urban fantasy and what are the tropes, the pitfalls, that you really wanted to steer clear of?

Well, in truth, I enjoy the tropes of supernatural horror, but I find them much more interesting when they’re driving a narrative instead of just used as setups for jump scares. I spent a lot of time in front of the television watching shows like Supernatural and Buffy, so I wanted to do something that pays homage without just aping them.

I once has an editor lump urban fantasy together as “stuff for the Twilight crowd” which I absolutely don’t think is a fair assessment of the genre, but I am conscious to write urban fantasy stories with a mature feel, lest I prove that editor right.

You previously worked with Wendell on Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists. What’s your working relationship like and what do you like about his work

Wendell and I have worked together on and off for more than fifteen years now, beginning with stupid little webcomics I wrote and posted on MySpace! Between Atlantis and Black’s Myth and tons of earlier work that hasn’t seen the light of day, I’d say we operate more or less on the same wavelength by now. 

Seeing his interpretation of my script is the best part of any book we do together, and I sincerely hope we can have a decades-long Brubaker/Phillips-type partnership. I would make comics with Wendell forever.

The book is uncolored and I’m curious what it was about Wendell’s inked art that you liked and thought that it didn’t need color. Or you thought color didn’t add anything to it?

I pitched the book in color, actually. You can see the original pitch pages, with colors by Dee Cunniffe, in the Black’s Myth trade paperback collection!

In full honesty, I was initially shocked by Ahoy’s decision to publish it in black and white, but the senior staff at Ahoy has like 100 years of combined experience in this industry, and Stuart, Tom, and Sarah absolutely knew what they were doing. Black and white was the right call, and I cannot argue with the results. Wendell’s lines are gorgeous and everything works beautifully on its own. 

And hey, the most popular indie comic of the past 20 years was also a non-superhero book in black and white, so I’d say Black’s Myth is in good company.

I’m curious about how you structure the issues and especially opening with a splash page and holding that opening beat. In a way that you use in the very final page, which is meant as a new beginning. What does that allow you to do and what do you enjoy about that approach?

I think it works nicely to establish the theme of the story – its mission statement – as each chapter needs to call back on that theme while also being its own distinct part of the overall narrative. “Some days don’t go how you’d expect” is a universal truth, even if your day or my day might not include vampires or a minotaur or extra potent silver bullets. 

And in the end, Black’s Myth is the story of Strummer Mercado coming to terms with a life that’s full of the unexpected, so it all fits.

And we’re doing something similar, but different, for volume two.

Obviously you wrote the first series as a standalone story, but the second one has been announced and I’m curious about writing a sequel, because without spoiling much, there is a new status quo for Strummer and for other characters at the end of the book. In a way that suggests that the next book will be different. Or to put it a different way, there’s clearly a reason the series is called Black’s Myth.

Volume two finds Strummer more firmly and consciously planted in LA’s supernatural underground, yes. She’s growing comfortable in her own skin(walker), finally. There’s also a woman in her life, which leads to a little unexpected tension with Ben, her best friend and business partner.

But you’re right. The book is called Black’s Myth for a reason, and volume two’s big mystery is going to once again center on our mysterious Rainsford Black, and the circumstances that bring him back into Strummer’s orbit – and specifically the circumstances under which she’d allow him back into her orbit after the events of volume one. It’s not a redemption arc for Rainsford, exactly, but the story will provide a little insight into what makes him tick.

The Black’s Myth collection is out now. The second Black’s Myth series is out at the end of the year. Is there anything else coming up you want to mention?

I just finished up a project for Blackbox Comics, a publisher I’ve never worked with. The book’s not like anything else I’ve written, and I’m pretty excited about how it’s coming together: Ninjas! Ghosts! Ninja ghosts! More to come when I’m allowed to talk about it.

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