[Before he was a crime writer, Alex Segura was busily overseeing the edgy, amazing reboot of Archie Comics. Now, he's murging his murder-mystery career with his comics life, in The Black Ghost, a new noir comics collaboration with Monica Gallagher. It's a delight to offer this conversation between Alex and Monica. -Cory]
When we first announced plans to launch The Black Ghost – a crime/vigilante comic series from Comixology Originals, co-written by Monica and I, with art by George Kambadais, colors by Ellie Wright, letters by Taylor Esposito, and edits by Greg Lockard – we knew the kind of story we wanted to tell: a story about a woman overcoming her own demons to become the hero her city needs – vigilante mask and all.
The crux of the narrative was about how our eventual hero, Lara Dominguez – a grizzled cops reporter that's battling two obsessions: alcohol and her city, Creighton's, lone vigilante, The Black Ghost – makes it from zero to hero. Our tale mixes elements from our own past works – including the acclaimed iHeart podcast, Lethal Lit, and our respective gigs writing the Pete Fernandez Miami Mysteries and the webcomic Assassin Roommate – with the tropes of the street-level vigilante genre: the fictional city, the masked protector, the eager sidekick. Blended together, the end result was The Black Ghost – a book that hopefully feels like the perfect balance between classic, gritty vigilante comics and hardboiled crime fiction.
ALEX SEGURA: First off, have you been surprised by the response to the book? Was there a point where you thought – 'Huh, people are gonna be surprised by the end of #1'?
MONICA GALLAGHER: I'm thrilled at the response to the book so far! I feel like people were super amped about a noir, female-led vigilante story to begin with, and then luckily, we didn't let their expectations down. Like any creative project, I get super excited and then have that moment of panic like "wait, IS this any good, or am I the only one who's super excited about it?"
What's surprised you most in the process of developing this story from issue to issue?
AS: I was really surprised by how willing you – and George and the art team – were when it came to making pivots in the story that didn't necessarily fit into the original outline. Like, characters we never intended to be important suddenly getting a life of their own and becoming integral to the plot. Or details about certain characters that changed the dynamic, like Lara's history with her brother – which we'll learn a lot more of in subsequent issues.
Did you ever envision yourself writing this kind of comic? I'm so curious to hear about your comic book reading background, and the books that make you passionate about making comics.
MG: I love the noir/crime/vigilante genre, but I wasn't confident it was a world I could create in. I have several good friends who are SUPER into it, but I'm the newb that shows up to the Noir Party all like, "Hey guys, I've seen Sunset Boulevard … is that enough? Can I get in?" So I appreciate that you were kind enough to open the door for me, Alex! For creating comics in general, I don't want any genre to feel off-limits to me. Or if it does, that usually means I should do it!
I was originally heavily inspired by fantasy and teen horror books as a preteen, and then by a lot of romance, slice-of-life, and autobiographical comics as I got older. But watching a lot of TV shows like Buffy, Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Roseanne – really got me interested in the power of dialogue. No matter the genre or the world setting though, I think I'm always going to be enamored with creating relatable characters first. But if you're asking if I'd like to do a comic version of an old-school, 80's teen horror book, the answer is YES. All the yes.
Do you have a genre you're dying to write in, that feels completely different from anything you've written before? Or new creative ventures are you looking to get involved in?
AS: I love sci-fi. Ive written a few short stories and other things, but that's a space I feel really comfortable in. I love epic, large-scale space opera, and a lot of those stories can be really human. I also like team superhero books with intense emotional dynamics. I was an X-Men kid, so that all feels very natural to me. I'm a sucker for Claremont-style soap opera and subplots.
I want to talk about Lara a bit. I can speak to the characters that I think influence Lara, characters like Kate Kane/Batwoman, Jessica Jones, Veronica Mars, and Daredevil – but which ones come to mind for you? And did you ever hesitate while we were writing her? In the sense that, wow – we're making things really complicated for Lara?
MG: One of the things I love about writing characters is how they start to take shape as you're writing them. I had an outline of Lara's character in my head when we started, but I knew she would flesh out based on how she reacted to the situations we put her in. I was also super inspired by JJ and VM, but I also thought of characters like Anna Lucia in LOST and Misty Knight from Luke Cage – characters who remain driven throughout obstacles, both internal and external. I'm not sure where to draw the line between what's being too hard on a character, though – hopefully she'll tell us!
How important was it to you to make sure all the side characters were interesting, and not just there to prop up Lara or the narrative? Do you have any favorite supporting characters who influenced them?
AS: I love the background characters. I think it's something you and I did a lot on Lethal Lit, with characters like Detective Lehane or the guy running the coffee shop – you don't feel as contained or restricted, so you tend to cut loose more with these second-stringers, and then they end up stealing the show and really resonating!
There's a character we see in passing in #2 (The Black Ghost #2 is out Oct. 16 via Comixology Originals) who becomes surprisingly important, to the point where we had to weave them into the big conclusion – and they're nowhere in our original outline! I think characters have a life of their own and when you see them start to move around and do things without your prodding, that's when they're really cooking/interesting, and you have to give them the room to do stuff.
This has been a lot of fun. As we wind down – can you tease a bit about what's coming up?
MG: I'm super looking forward to readers getting to know Lara better, and to journey along with her as she makes good and bad decisions. Is it weird that I get excited about readers screaming at the page, like when watching a horror movie? "What are you doing, don't open that door!!" I also can't wait for readers to meet the new characters, and to see if they expect the twists and turns the story is going to take.
What are you most excited about introducing readers to when it comes to the city of Creighton?
AS: Creighton was a fun, spur-of-the-moment creation for us – I know we'd been planning on setting the series in a real place, but the idea of creating our own city – like we did with Hollow Falls in Lethal Lit – was too cool to ignore. I'm excited to peel back the layers of the city. Not to mention the city's sordid history.
In terms of teasing, I think after the end of #1, readers will have a greater, clearer sense of what the book is about – not just The Black Ghost through the eyes of Lara, but how Lara becomes the next Black Ghost – which isn't easy or guaranteed. There's a lot of weight to that, and I think we try and weave that message with some fun, Veronica Mars-ish action and suspense.
The Black Ghost #1 [Alex Segura and Monica Gallgher/Comixology]
The Black Ghost #2 [Alex Segura and Monica Gallgher/Comixology]