Fresh off the announcement that the first printing of Image Comics’ Black Cloud #1 has sold out at the distribution level, FreakSugar reached out to the series creators to have a quick talk about one of the biggest buzz books of 2017.
FreakSugar: Congratulations on selling out! Black Cloud #1 is swiftly going back to reprint. How does it feel to sell-out a comic that the audience-at-large hasn’t seen?
Ivan Brandon: It’s sort of unfathomable. We’ve been working on this crazy comic for so long it’s hard to think of it in tangible terms, much less as a thing that people seem to be reacting so strongly to. For my part I’ve got little heart emojis circling my head and I’m trying to avoid being pinched.
Jason Latour: I’ve been called a sell out many times. Actually doing it feels a lot better. I’m really grateful and flattered people gave the book a shot.
Greg Hinkle: Thank you! It’s pretty wild. I’m so thankful to everyone who’s given it a shot.
FS: Back on task, let’s talk about Black Cloud; what’s the premise? What inspired this project?
Brandon: Zelda’s the most promising descendant of a place where your stories can literally mold the world around you. She is born for greatness, but she has obstacles, namely herself. So when she incites a revolution she is exiled from the place where she has everything to a place where she has nothing. NYC. And now she has to figure out how to live with nothing in the shadow of everything.
Latour: Yeah, Zelda’s really screwed up in her past, but it’s really more of a “you can’t fire me! I quit!”- situation. The way things ended make her want to show her face anyway and prove to everyone she’s not ashamed. So though her hustle to eat here on Earth, is also her masochistic way of staying in touch with her past.
Of course both worlds get mixed up and cause her big problems.
FS: Black Cloud #1 is very fast paced; is this intentional? Or is it a byproduct of trying to front load a LOT of moving pieces for a complicated story? How do the two of you control the tempos of your narrative?
Brandon: Well, I think, for some people, it’s fast and we’ve heard from others that it’s a slow burn. I think the beauty of comics is the reader plays their own part in getting to the finish line.
Latour: I think some of how you interpret the pace has a lot to do with the types of comics you’re used to reading. People coming from superhero comics might come to it a certain way and the way someone used to reading old Vertigo comics might another. One thing I’m certain of is that we’re making a comic that asks you to engage.
FS: Black Cloud seems to have ample amounts of social commentary mixed in the background of the surreal narrative. Do the red hats mean more now in light how the election played out? Or was that intentional?
Brandon: We wrote a lot of this a long way back but obviously we’re all at the mercy of our environment to some degree.
Latour: Yeah, when we started this a lot of the dramatic changes in our society hadn’t quite reached their tipping point. A lot of what we deal with now was easier to laugh at for a lot of us, even if it was really uneasy laughter, y’know? So, to some degree, we were trying to cast our world in a light where that stuff felt scary…to look at it from a position of powerlessness, from the bottom up. And I dunno, maybe that’s a POV that’s becoming easier to relate to.
Also, it’s just a natural thing to do story-wise, to present this real, more button-downed world as somehow more demanding and stifling. Take Zelda, the all-powerful fantasy ruler, and invert it, so it’s the destitute Zelda of Earth.
FS: Is writing a project with a partner easier or more difficult? How does the workload breakdown?
Brandon: It’s just different, really. There are definitely advantages to having a different set of eyes and perspectives to help in trying to build a world.
Latour: My end goal is to be like Santa and lay around on my fat ass while my elf “work force” makes me look good to all the little boys and girls around the world.
No, it’s fun. It’s a different experience than anything I’ve done, even the stuff I’ve co-written. A big key is just communicating and getting on the same page philosophically, and, in that regard, it’s no different than most comics. But it’s nice to know you can do it with people you consider friends. Or, in Ivan’s case, an enemy you keep close.
FS: Greg, when you were approached to work on Black Cloud, what were some of your first creative impressions of the script? What did you want to bring to the table, in terms of visuals, to separate the “real” world from the “other” world in the story?
Hinkle: I was taken immediately with Jason and Ivan’s concept of Zelda’s world. A world composed of imagination has near endless possibilities, and is a very, very appealing idea to me. It’s a chance to really do some serious world building.
More than anything, I wanted Zelda’s world to feel layered. It’s a physical manifestation of generations stories. Told and retold and forgotten and revived. No two streets are alike and anything could be around the next corner.
FS: How has your skill as a visual storyteller changed from Airboy to Black Cloud? Did you alter your approach to the artwork in this project any?
Hinkle: As far as the actual drawing is concerned, I don’t know that I can really say if I’ve changed my approach too much. I did buy a new pen. I am trying to focus more on purposeful page composition and layouts, and guiding the eye through the panels. Matt’s colors are what’s really saving the day though. He’s providing so much depth and soul to every page, it’s such a treat to get to work with him.
FS: What has been your biggest challenge on Black Cloud?
Hinkle: So far, trying to push my imagination, and my own aesthetic, outside of their comfort zones. I don’t want this world of imagination to get stagnant or boring.
FS: Finishing up, does Black Cloud have a definitive end in place or is this project more sprawling in scope? As well as this project has been critically received, do the four of you have other plans for future projects?
Brandon: We’re not looking anywhere else. We’ve only just started this, that’s what our focus is, until we’re done. We’ll see when that is.
Be sure to check out FreakSugar’s early review of Black Cloud #1 and #2. The first issue hit shelves on Wednesday.