by Jarrod Jones. Crime comics will ignite a new kind of fire if Chip Mosher and Peter Krause have any say in it.
They’re the writer and artist, respectively, of Blacking Out, a new sordid crime thriller that twists and contorts the pathways between right and so, so wrong. Fueled by a healthy thirst for the cinematic, this team has beaten and forged a storytelling vessel into being that will send you careening towards an ending you will not see coming—I promise you that.
Blacking Out is a neo-noir that steps through the fog of a terrible murder investigation towards something that could be mistaken for retribution. The readers are led by a former cop named Conrad—”Connie” to the few who still call him friend—who seeks out the one clue that will crack the case of who killed Karen Littleton wide open. A discarded crucifix, one or two final favors to call in, and a head burdened by hangover and regret, that’s all Conrad has to work with. As he sifts through the hellish ashes of Karen’s final resting place—a wildfire that decimated almost 10,000 acres surrounding his small town—Conrad will be forced to face the ghosts of his own past, and perhaps find a future that he can call his own.
Blacking Out is an impressive outing for Mosher & Krause, who teamed up with colorist Giulia Brusco, letterer Ed Dukeshire, and designer extraordinaire Tom Muller to present their tale to those to dare the darker corners. The Kickstarter for Blacking Out has already far exceeded its production goal, but for those who want to score a copy of this unique crime comic experience for their very own, head over here.
In the meantime, I set out to get answers concerning Chip Mosher and Peter Krause’s Blacking Out, and these fellows did not disappoint.
1. Down-and-dirty crime comics are a personal favorite of mine, so naturally I quite enjoyed reading ‘Blacking Out’. It’s a very specific genre to work in, so I have to ask: What kind of creative demons were you looking to exorcise by making this particular story?
Chip Mosher: When I asked Pete to join me on this journey I felt like Darth Vader imploring Luke to “join me on the dark side!” [Laughs] He and I both are very happy-go-lucky guys. I just happen to like writing about the underbelly of certain characters—bad people doing bad things, as the back cover says. Exploring characters who are incredibly flawed… well, what writer doesn’t like that?
Peter Krause: Chip has been a buddy since back in the BOOM! Irredeemable days, and he’s a fairly jovial guy. When he approached me with the script for Blacking Out, I was taken aback. So bleak! But I started to think about the visual possibilities and it began to play out in my mind’s eye—almost like a film.
And as far as my own creative demons go—read Blacking Out and decide for yourself.
2. Tell me about Connie, the handlebar-mustachioed, alcoholic ex-cop who finds himself working an investigation into the terrible crime at the center of ‘Blacking Out’. How did Connie come to fruition? How did you land on this specific character?
CM: Connie is that really capable fuck-up you root for to do better. He’s a nasty piece of work and probably the best character I’ve written. He just popped in to my head one day and didn’t let go until I told his story.
PK: We don’t come right out and say that Blacking Out is of a specific era, but I think you can pick up on the art and place it. I was looking at actors of that time, hairstyles and such. So much fun to draw those fashions! Again, I’ll let the readers draw their own conclusions, but there were a handful of film stars that inspired Connie.
3. I look at ‘Blacking Out’ and there’s a clear appreciation for crime movies, neo-noir. A good majority of the panels are presented widescreen-style and look like stills from some tense thriller; more superficially, the book’s credits are splayed out over the beginning panel beats of the story, just as you’d find in any given film. Were either of you tapping into any specific influence with this story?
CM: I love old crime comics like Crime Does Not Pay and all those great old EC stories… I think the best sequential storytelling has a lot in common with film. Film and TV tells story through the juxtaposition of sound and images and comics tell stories thought the juxtaposition of images and the written word. Both mediums have their strengths. If you look at something like Bernie Krigstein’s Master Race… it’s something you couldn’t do in film or TV but you can do on the page and is incredibly cinematic at the same time while being unique to comics. I love the cinematic quality the European album size gave Pete to tell the story and how “widescreen” it feels versus normal comics. But yeah, on the film front, I’m a huge fan of Chinatown and wanting to do a SoCal crime story around fire vs. water was the inspiration.
PK: The credits splayed out over the beginning panel beats was one thing I bothered Chip about—maybe too much! I had dummied in some fonts before Ed Dukeshire and Tom Muller did the final touches, and I wanted to be sure that wasn’t lost—otherwise, that page just wouldn’t work. I certainly wanted a film-like touch there, maybe a bit like the opening to Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.
4. Tell me about your Kickstarter prep. What aspects or incentives did you know from the jump you wanted to have available for potential backers?
CM: Doing up the Lobby Card was so much fun. It was great to give the book to a stellar group of artists and see what scenes sparked their imagination. We have amazing art from Francesco Francavilla, Eduardo Risso, Jamal Igle, Emma Ríos, Mirka Andolfo, Jacob Phillips, Dan Panosian, Ryan Kelly, Patric Reynolds, Elise McCall, and a special card by Peter, too. I loved working with Francesco again. He and I did Left On Mission over 10 years ago, and I loved what he did with his card.
PK: The lobby card idea was all Chip’s, and did all the artists bring their “A” game—just some incredible work. I told Chip that I needed to do some original analog drawings for the stretch goals—since I work digitally, those additional drawings will be unique.
Are there any stretch goal incentives that you can tease here?
CM: Pete’s doing up a Lobby Card that we’ll be revealing later in the Kickstarter. No pressure, Pete.
PK: Believe me, I’m feeling the pressure.
5. Chip, as Head of Content for comiXology, your day job is to bring in new projects for production and then promote the heck out of them. With ‘Blacking Out’, how does it feel to be on the other side of this process for a change? There’s still the requisite amount of promotion, I’d think—possibly more?
CM: Oh yeah, it’s actually super instructive. Pete and I started working together before the comiXology Originals program was spun up and I moved in to the Head of Content role. So it’s actually been incredibly helpful to put myself in the creator’s mindset. I didn’t plan it to happen, but doing Blacking Out over the past 4 years has really helped me get better at my job.
6. For a story such as this, something terrible that could be yanked straight from real-world headlines, there’s a need to tap into a level of realism that other kinds of stories can work without. Peter, how did you approach character design, specifically when you were assembling Chip’s script into something visual?
PK: I think a more realistic or representational approach plays to my strengths. I love doing the research. Again, there were specific actors or visuals from the time that gave me a hook. For example, look at Connie’s ex-partner from the police force—I thought a slightly older and more jaded Race Bannon would work, and be a nice contrast to Connie’s wild, dark hair.
7. I wanted to talk a little about Ed Dukeshire’s letters, which are terrific, clean, not without a certain edge to them. What was the conversation concerning font choice/balloon shape when incorporating the dialogue onto the comics page? Was there a conscious decision to maximize the harder-edges of the story with the lettering?
CM: Ed is my ride or die. When I was at BOOM! doing marketing and sales, and whatever else needed to be done, Ed had my back. He’s an amazingly talented guy, who himself is a publisher via Digital Webbing and has been instrumental in breaking a lot of new talent via the Digital Webbing forum. Ed doesn’t get near enough credit for what he’s contributed to comics the last two decades. He’s a silent killer. On the lettering front, he’s in the top of the class. I really fell in love with the innovative approach he did on Mark Waid and Pete’s series, Irredeemable. The crazy stuff he does, changing font size, and fonts for word emphasis really takes it up a notch. I gave him a lettering script that had some emphasis instructions, but I also told him to let it rip. Use his gut. Ed can letter a book over a day or so, if he has to. On Blacking Out, Ed hand-drew all the word balloons. He labored over every page. I told him to take as long as he needed to make this the best work he’s ever done. And I think it is.
PK: Ed’s one of the best, and he worked so hard on this book—beyond the lettering. Chip let me know how he went above and beyond to make sure that the book would print well.
8. Then there’s Giulia Brusco’s colors, which not only lend a consistent palpability to the art but gives ‘Blacking Out’ a visual distinction. It’s soothing to look at the small-town hues—they’re conspicuously banal—but like any crime drama it’s not hard to spot the cracks of the underworld just underneath. How did your collaboration with Giulia bring this about?
CM: Giulia is magic. Again, as with Ed, I told her to take the time she needed to do her best work. And she did. She would send us screen shots of all the pages in thumbnails to show that she was making headway. Everyone has their own process, and Giulia works on a ton of the pages at the same time in differing degrees of completion and then… one day it was done. And it was perfect. We sent the pages. They came back. And that was it. You don’t give genius notes. You just accept genius and her coloring on this is stunning.
PK: There were panels that Giulia colored that matched up with what I had pictured in my mind’s eye, and then there were panels that just blew me away with her approach. It’s almost like the hues get more intense as we get further into the story. I’ve had some great colorists enhance my lines, and Giulia’s work is right up there with Bellaire and Fitzpatrick.
9. Something struck me as I was reading this story. As Connie investigates a child’s murder, the surrounding forests are being ravaged by wildfire. The winds change, suddenly people’s lives are changed, too. Devastation is ever just a day away. With that I find an added thematic strength in ‘Blacking Out’; it’s about chance as much as it is about redemption. So I wanted to ask both of you: How much do you think chance should dictate our fates? Are we at the mercy of dumb luck or do we have a responsibility to ourselves to steer our destinies towards something resembling a good life—or good enough?
CM: It’s said, the luck is when opportunity meets preparation, and I think that’s true. The universe throws a ton of curve balls at us and it’s really how you react that reveals your character, and I think Blacking Out is at its core level a bunch of reactions that reveal the true character of every character in the book.
PK: We’d like to think that we’re steering our own ship, but the winds and waves have more to do with our journey than we’re comfortable with.
10. If you would, tell us about your favorite crime movie, please.
CM: Having the privilege to attend Angoulême International Comics Festival in France the last bunch of years, I fell in love with what the French call bande dessinée or BD—which is what we call the oversized European hardcover format. So it’s only fitting that one of my inspirations is the work of Jean Pierre Melville. Le Samourai is one of my favorites. The color palate on that movie is insane. Alain Delon. Very French. But also very cool. Very noir. Anything by Jean Pierre Melville is worth watching!
PK: The Third Man—does that fit the definition of a crime movie? It’s certainly noir. I just love that film. And the perfect ending, which diverged from the novella. I think I need to watch it again tonight!
The Kickstarter for ‘Blacking Out’ is live. For more information about incentive tiers and how to chip in, click on this.
Check out this 3-page preview of ‘Blacking Out’:
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