by Jarrod Jones. Crime doesn’t sleep in the city of Creighton, so neither does The Black Ghost.
They’re a vigilante, the “mysterious figure” type you’d find lurking in the black inks of yellowed pulp serials. Think The Shadow, only now and they’re not cackling like a madman. They are, however, smashing crime in this beleaguered ‘burg with a showman’s flair for drama—long, black cape, fedora and domino mask, a smashing suit and gloves to match. Needless to say, The Black Ghost is news, and The Creighton Courier‘s very own ace reporter Lara Dominguez is on the case. (Much to her editor’s chagrin.)
Lara is the central character of The Black Ghost, a hard-edged reporter with an nose for news and a wavering sense of self-preservation. It’s her determination that drives this new comiXology series from writers Alex Segura and Monica Gallagher; it’s the lifeblood of this neo-noir, powering this series with double-fisted abandon and aided capably by the refreshingly vivid craft of co-creator and artist George Kambadais. Lara, like The Black Ghost, isn’t afraid to dive head-first into trouble—even if it that trouble comes with a high asking price.
“It was important to me to explore the struggles and mistakes of someone who’s trying to do the right thing, but also not exactly ready to do the right thing yet,” Gallagher tells me. “The people who exist in that gray area don’t necessarily get time to put their lives in order before they’re called to action.”
Gallagher’s Lethal Lit co-host Segura agrees. “We wanted a complex and conflicted protagonist that could bring the reader into her world and her past, to better understand her city—Creighton—and what’s going on there.
“Lara, to me, feels very real,” he continues. “She’s funny, haunted by her demons, driven, and so much more. We didn’t want to create someone that felt one-note or derivative.”
Ahead of its September 18 debut, Alex Segura and Monica Gallagher spoke with DoomRocket about The Black Ghost, working with co-creator George Kambadais, and how one captures the necessary elements that make up a proper neo-noir.
1. ‘The Black Ghost’ seeds a vigilante’s quest into the fertile ground of hard-bitten noir. Tell me about the concept of ‘The Black Ghost’, and how it came to life through you, the writing team, and artist George Kambadais.
Alex Segura: Monica and I had a great time co-creating and co-writing the podcast Lethal Lit, which had a ton of noir/mystery elements, but also swung in a YA direction, which was a lot of fun to experience. Once that concluded, our minds naturally drifted to what the next thing could be. We both have a background in comics, and I’ve always wanted to take a stab at writing a street-level hero, especially one that not only has nods to what’s come before, but adds elements from crime fiction and the kinds of books I enjoy reading and writing. So we went back and forth, and the Black Ghost started to come together. And instantly, it felt like more than the sum of its parts—something neither of us could really do alone. It hearkens back to the comics that I enjoyed reading as a fan—like Sandman Mystery Theater or The Question or Batwoman—but also feels grounded and different, which is part of the fun.
Once we had the big beats in place, George kind of completed the equation. He brings this dynamic, clear and evocative linework to it that you probably don’t expect at first, which is what makes it work. It has this intense, Batman: The Animated Series vibe to it that I just love, and once he was onboard, I think Monica and I both knew we were onto something special.
Monica Gallagher: After Lethal Lit, Alex and I had a bunch of ideas for collaborations, but a blend of comics/noir/kick-ass female lead was, of course, of immediate interest. I’m new to crime as a genre, so I’ve really enjoyed getting to peer in on the hardboiled fictional setting that Alex has been living in for so many successful novels. And I’ve always loved comics as a means for telling stories about characters dealing with not only external, sometimes extraordinary problems, but negotiating that with their internal struggles as well. Then George came on board and blew us away with his super sleek world-building and character development and I think Alex and I realized—oh wait, this is a lot better than we anticipated! [Laughs] So we can’t wait for people to see it!
2. A team of three conjuring a new creator-owned property—how do you go about navigating that particular creative process? How do you ensure that everyone comes away from the experience satisfied that their contributions have been properly represented?
AS: I think that’s a great question, and if I was working with anyone else I’d be more worried. But Monica and I came into this with about a year’s worth of being in the trenches together on Lethal Lit, taking notes, giving each other feedback, and working on tight deadlines. The Black Ghost felt almost like a victory lap—we knew how to work with each other, there was no ego, and it became hard to tell where my writing ended and hers began. It’s been a really creatively fulfilling experience.
With George, he just kind of came in and became the team MVP—fast, great, generous with his time and so damn flexible. There’s really no ego involved in the creation. We all know our roles but we’re also not afraid to chime in and toss our ideas around. It’s made for a really fun, organic working process.
MG: I think the trick with working as a group is trusting everyone’s expertise and being open to the collaboration part, rather than trying to wedge everyone into some established idea. Alex is incredibly easy to work with—always super generous and hard working, which is a rare combination. And then George has been so politely diligent, I’m kind of still waiting for someone to be the difficult one… maybe it’s me? Oh god, it’s me, isn’t it?
3. You and your team have established in the first issue of ‘The Black Ghost’ that the main character, Lara Dominguez, is a proper hardass befitting of the noir genre. And she’s a bit of an old soul, too. Who is Lara to you?
MG: Lara is someone with a lot of strengths and weaknesses and she very openly navigates between the two. She’s someone who can appear closed off when she wants to, but can’t hide how she can be warm and kind and fiercely loyal to those she cares about. It was important to me to explore the struggles and mistakes of someone who’s trying to do the right thing, but also not exactly ready to do the right thing yet. The people who exist in that gray area don’t necessarily get time to put their lives in order before they’re called to action.
AS: We wanted Lara to feel three-dimensional and real, so that meant she had to have flaws that didn’t feel forced. She had to be conflicted, and she had to be… stubborn, not immediately likable all the time. We wanted a complex and conflicted protagonist that could bring the reader into her world and her past, to better understand her city—Creighton—and what’s going on there. Lara, to me, feels very real—she’s funny, haunted by her demons, driven, and so much more. We didn’t want to create someone that felt one-note or derivative.
4. Alex, you’ve said in the past that it’s quite difficult for you to write stories that hurt your characters, that you “hate to torture” them. Has Lara’s story made you squirm in your writer’s chair in anyway yet? I’m trying to get a feel for the extremes we can expect from ‘The Black Ghost’.
AS: We do hate to torture them, but I also feel like writers have to torture their characters to some degree, at least for dramatic effect. Stories are about conflict, overcoming danger and challenges, and evolving. The stories that resonate the least with me are the ones that show the least amount of change from beginning to end—as if the character was just going through the motions.
In terms of The Black Ghost—I’d say the content is at about HBO/cable TV level. Some cursing, some violence, sexual situations, etc. Lara goes to some dark places. The Black Ghost deals with some intense moments. It’s not an all-ages book, if that’s what you’re asking, but it’s not just a mature readers title, either. I think it’s targeted at people who love the superhero genre but might want something a little off that beaten path.
As for squirming—I think you need that! I think you need to make yourself uncomfortable as a storyteller to really get that across to the reader. So, yes, there’ve been moments where Monica and I cringe and wonder if Lara is going to make it through. And that’s okay. That’s what makes for good story.
MG: One of my favorite editorial sessions so far was Alex and I negotiating how to limit and strategically place the number of F-bombs in the comic. Really made us stretch our creativity! I think the violence is necessary in a vigilante comic set in a rougher city, but it’s also important to show realistic fighting in a way that doesn’t romanticize or glorify it and definitely doesn’t sexualize it. I think the greatest danger to Lara most of the time is her own decision making—sorry about that, girl!
5. As I read ‘The Black Ghost’ I was reminded of another Alex Segura character, Pete Fernandez [from Segura’s novel, ‘Silent City’]. Lara and Pete share quite a few similarities: they both work at a spiraling newspaper, they’ve both suffered tragic losses, and they have a shocking lack of self-preservation. It’s an archetype, but an effective one, precisely like most of the anti-heroes (or would-be heroes) you’d find in stories such as these. As a crime writer, has Lara—considering the path her story will take in future issues—shifted your perspective on the crime genre in any way?
AS: Not for me, no—I like stories about messed up people overcoming their problems to save the day, or at least die trying. That’s constant. In terms of Pete vs. Lara, I think I wanted to spend more time in that headspace—the investigative journalist stepping outside the bounds of her role as a reporter and becoming the story, while at the same time trying to push down the demons haunting her mind. We try, as best we can, to not let Lara skate by. Every mistake and every action she takes has a consequence, and she’ll soon discover that chasing the big story at the expense of everything else will lead to some major pitfalls—some fatal.
6. On that tack, what stands out most about the Lara & Pete comparison is their shared professions. With journalists taking a severe browbeating these days, did you feel compelled to create characters who represent the absolute best that journalists can be, what they can contribute to society?
AS: I have a journalism background, and I feel strongly that journalists are doing important works, to speak generally. Shining a light on the dark corners of society is important, because there’s always be rich and powerful people eager to kick dirt over that, and conceal and obfuscate. Lara, much like Pete, doesn’t care about protocol and procedure—she just wants to get to the truth, and that’s very heroic to me, so it made perfect sense to see the story through her eyes.
7. Lara’s a staff writer on the police beat in ‘The Black Ghost’, and when she’s not shadowing this vigilante, she’s whipping up profiles on police higher-ups. Feels a bit like her editors aren’t appreciating the resourcefulness Lara brings to their paper. What’s the climate of policing in the world of ‘The Black Ghost’ and how will that affect Lara’s story going forward?
MG: Lara’s one of those reporters that editors hire because she’s curious and relentless… but then get annoyed that she’s curious and relentless. But you can’t just point Lara where you want to investigate and she can’t be bought, so in a city like Creighton it’s bound to be a source of conflict!
AS: You get an inkling of it during the first arc, because it’s part of a bigger problem—but you won’t see the full picture of what it means to be part of the Creighton PD until the second arc, and that’s by design. But it’s safe to say that not every Creighton cop walks the straight and narrow, and Lara is onto it.
8. Let’s talk about the design of ‘The Black Ghost’. George Kambadais’ work strikes me as a synthesis of Jenn St. Onge and Dan Christiensen, the latter having co-created the character Archer Coe, which shares visual similarities with The Black Ghost: Black cape, domino mask, plus the fedora of Batman’s childhood hero, the Grey Ghost. What elements did you want to bring to the first iteration of the Black Ghost? What does the storied romantic nature of the “mystery man” bring to a contemporary crime story such as this?
AS: I wasn’t familiar with Archer Coe, I’m sad to say! But I love [co-creator Jamie S. Rich], Dan and Jenn, and their work, so I’ll definitely check it out. George was definitely a find, as I noted earlier—he brought a really unexpected look to The Black Ghost and his world, which ended up being perfect, equally classic and modern. The hero’s look is meant to evoke the pulpy noir heroes of the Golden Age, for sure, hence the fedora and cape. But I’ll just note that not all is as it seems, and readers should rethink everything by the end of that first issue.
That’s all I want to say about that!
MG: Yes, I love Archer Coe, amazing comparison! Jamie always creates the most dapper characters, and Dan’s art perfectly emphasizes that. I like combining a modern, gritty city that can be too real and familiar in its ugliness with a vigilante whose sense of classic style makes them stand out even harder than just by being a vigilante in the first place. Is it a commentary on the corruption, or is it just a way of creating an idealistic hero for people to follow? Start reading to find out!
9. If you would, hit me with your all-time favorite film noir.
AS: Oh, easy. Double Indemnity. No doubt.
Check out this 7-page preview of ‘The Black Ghost’ #1, courtesy of comiXology!
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