Satanic panic was a very real thing that spread across the American landscape from 1950’s through the 1980’s. With that panic came a distrust and disdain for any bit of pop culture—be it games, film, and so on—that had even a whiff of demonic influence or appropriating demonic iconography. The world of music, including rock’n’roll, was not immune to such prejudice and scorn, something that writer Dan Panosian plays with in his upcoming comic book series Black Tape from AWA Studios.
In Black Tape, rock god Jack King is celebrated by adoring, obsessed fans who worship his talent and the persona he projects while performing. Following his death, his final unreleased album draws the attention of dark forces who want the tapes for their own nefarious ends, plaguing Jack’s widow in the process.
Mr. Panosian was kind enough to speak with me recently about the idea behind Black Tape, how the Satanic panic factored into the shaping of the series’ tale, the style of the book, and why AWA Studios is the perfect home for the comic.
Fans of 1970’s and 1980’s rock’n’roll, plots of the creepy horror comics of those decades, and interest in the history of the religious macabre should pick this book up when it hits in February.
FreakSugar: For folks thinking about checking out the book, what is the conceit of Black Tape?
Dan Panosian: In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s a book I’d like to read. A horror thriller that doesn’t rely on gore. It’s a ticking time bomb. There’s a nice build to it all and it’s very well drawn by Dalibor [Talajiae].
FS: From the start, we meet a whole host of characters in the first issue. What can you tell us about the cast that populates the series?
DP: Everyone is hiding something. Even if what they’re hiding is something helpful.
FS: You’ve said elsewhere that you’re particularly excited to tell this story. What is it about Black Tape that has you so eager to tell its tale?
DP: I’m a big fan of both classic Alfred Hitchcock horror and thrillers. This story blends so many genres that I’m fond of and because of the era in which it’s told, it’s worked out beautifully.
FS: Following up on that, what made AWA the publisher for Black Tape to land?
DP: [Editor] Axel Alonso “got it” immediately. He knew exactly what the story was and where to take it. That sort of confidence from a publisher and an editor breeds excitement. As soon as I felt that we were on the same page, I couldn’t imagine Black Tape being published anywhere else.
FS: Satanism and the dark permeate the book. Are there any pieces of media that have impacted your writing in Black Tape in particular?
DP: Religion primarily. Particularly how religion was perceived in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. America went from the idyllic notions of the ‘50s right into a fair amount of bedlam and social upheaval. Concepts like Satanism and the idea of a Devil behind the curtains were sensationalized. There was a great deal of fear mongering happening. I’m trying to capture that essence in this series. That Satan is somehow a very real threat. A very real evil. I feel we’re desensitized now to some degree.
FS: A mystery surrounds the premise of the book and Jack King. What was the inspiration for the story of Black Tape?
DP: I’m also a big fan of Umberto Eco and the way he weaves a story. I feel like his work is the primary inspiration for Black Tape.
FS: You’re a phenomenal artist who’s been in the comic industry for quite some time. What’s it like flexing your writing muscles?
DP: Equally enjoyable. These days, I write more books than I draw. I hope to continue writing more books and drawing less of them if I’m being honest.
FS: Following up on that, Dalibor Talajiae is providing stunning are for Black Tape. What’s the collaboration process like with Dalibor?
DP: Just the right amount. I trust Dalibor a great deal, and his style suits this book quite well. It’s not a superhero book. It’s not a Marvel or DC book. His style is gritty and very human. But there’s also a surreal aspect to what he puts on the page, and I feel he’s very talented. Our colorist [Ive Svorcina] is exceptional also, as is our letterer [Steve Wands]. I’ve been very fortunate.
FS: Are there any other projects that you’d like to discuss that are in the works?
DP: I’m excited about my collaboration with Scott Snyder on Canary and I’m very pleased with where that series is going. I illustrated two European graphic novels that Mad Cave will be publishing in 2023 with a new ending. Very exciting!
FS: Without giving too much away, is there anything you’d like to tease that we can expect to see coming up in Black Tape?
DP: Read it at night.
FS: What would be your final pitch to anyone still considering picking up the book?
DP: I would consider a threat of some kind. Blackmail if it were within my means. Force. I would consider almost any means to get someone to pick up Black Tape.
Black Tape #1 goes on sale Wednesday, February 1st, 2023, from AWA Studios.
From the official issue description:
Jack King was a rock’n’roll god who projected a stage persona on par with the devil. After Jack dies on stage, his widow, Cindy, grapples with grief and struggles to protect his legacy, unaware that she is being surrounded by dark forces that covet the master tapes to Jack’s final, unreleased album – a heavy metal masterpiece that just might open a doorway to hell.