When the traditional detective story is injected with supernatural elements, the results are usually mixed. Without a proper balance of elements from both genres, the story is often found searching for a center and can become a hodgepodge of motifs from the hard-boiled detective and horror traditions. On the other hand, when these elements fit together, the results are satisfying for fans of either genre.
Eric Palicki and Wendell Cavalcanti’s Black’s Myth (from Ahoy Comics) successfully navigates this problem, and adds in a healthy dose of punk rock aesthetic to boot. Palicki spoke to us about the origins of Black’s Myth and how one puts together a classic genre mash-up for today’s comic audiences in this exclusive interview.
What was the genesis for Black’s Myth?
Eric Palicki: Oh, gosh. Black’s Myth is the product of a few good ideas, which weren’t quite stories on their own, left to percolate in my brain until they fused together and became the proper narrative that ended up on the page. I’d wanted to do a werewolf detective story for awhile, and when I put that together with the notion of turning Judas’ silver pieces into monster-killing bullets, I finally had a case for Strummer to solve. Rainsford Black, Strummer’s new client, has a very interesting hobby — one necessitating those special bullets — which readers will learn more about in issue two.
Black’s Myth combines film noir and horror elements. Do you find that these genres are an easy fit with each other?
Palicki: I do! Whether it’s the moody atmosphere, the characters of questionable intent or morality, or the heightened sense of dread, either genre feels as if it could be a natural extension of the other.
Your lead character/detective Strummer is a werewolf. Why did you go with a werewolf over other possible monsters for her? In a similar vein, why a djinn for Ben?
Palicki: As Strummer herself explains, being a werewolf gives her certain advantages and makes her well-suited for the job: heightened senses of smell, sight, hearing, and for the specific case that kicks off our book, her access to LA’s secret supernatural underground makes her the perfect detective to go looking for the missing artifact.
As for Ben, he’d be the first to remind you he’s only half-djinn. A big theme of the book is about finding your place in the world, and for Ben, being a part of two cultures and not feeling like he belongs in either is a big part of his journey.
Do you feel black and white instead of color lends itself to horror and crime comics?
Palicki: Sure! There’s a strong tradition of black and white classics in both genres (never mind the similar tradition in Hollywood; The Maltese Falcon is probably the single biggest inspiration for this story): Sin City and Stray Bullets, the Warren and EC horror stories. I was admittedly a bit nervous about publishing Black’s Myth in black and white, until I was reminded of the existence and success of The Walking Dead.
Thoughts on collaborating with artist Wendell Cavalcanti on Black’s Myth?
Palicki: Wendell and I have been collaborating on and off for almost 15 years, beginning with a webcomic called The Undertaker’s Daughter, originally hosted on my website but lost, alas, when I switched hosts. But we also did Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists at Scout, and before that, an untold number of pitches. Wendell and I mostly operate on the same wavelength, I feel, and I hope for more collaborations in the near future.
Most pages in the first issue of Black’s Myth use six to nine panels. Do those amount of panels heighten the suspense, investigative aspects of the comic?
Palicki: Exactly that! Plus, grids help establishing pacing and give the story a naturally cinematic feel.
Why was it important for Strummer to have a punk rock aesthetic and why is Los Angeles the quintessential setting for a detective story?
Palicki: Well, she’s named after Clash frontman Joe Strummer, for one thing. As I mentioned, Black’s Myth is about outcasts finding your place and people in the world — in addition to the mystery and violence, of course! — and so it felt natural to lean into a punk rock ethos.
As for LA, the setting is part reverence to the great noir stories that came before–Chinatown, The Big Sleep, and so on–and part necessity. Los Angeles is a city big enough, crowded enough, and weird enough, you’d believe a secret supernatural community could thrive there.
Palicki: I have a few unannounced projects I’m juggling at the moment. In addition, I’ll be launching the Kickstarter for Manticore, a new graphic novella collaboration with Christopher Peterson, this July.
Black’s Myth #1 will be available in finer comic shops everywhere on July 7.