Supernatural noir has long been a staple of fictional storytelling, but writer Eric Palicki takes it to a whole other level. In his original miniseries Black’s Myth from AHOY Comics, Palicki introduces us to the world of private detectives Strummer and Ben, a werewolf and a half-djinn, respectively, who crack cases in sunny Southern California. In the original miniseries, their escapades brought them face-to-face with Biblical history in the form of Judas and his pieces of silver.
Now the duo are back in Black’s Myth: The Key to His Heart, debuting next Wednesday, June 21st, from AHOY. In Key to His Heart, Palicki—along with interior artist Wendell Cavalcanti and Liana Kangas on covers—the partners hope to help a young woman stop becoming a monster, as well as figure out why an old enemy is plaguing Stummer. Mr. Palicki spoke with me recently about the conceit of Black’s Myth and the newest volume, where the characters of Strummer and Ben find themselves in Black’s Myth: The Key to His Heart, working with the murders’ row of phenomenal creatives on the book, and the lure of the minotaur.
FreakSugar: For folks who aren’t familiar with Black’s Myth, what can you tell us about the original book?
Eric Palicki: Hi Jed! Good to talk to you again!
Black’s Myth tells the story of Janie Jones Mercado — Strummer to her friends — an LA-based private detective who happens to be a werewolf. When we catch up to Strummer in the first book, she’s mostly shunned the secret supernatural community and instead uses her gifts as a werewolf to solve cases for the oblivious normal folk of Southern California. These are, as she calls them, mundane cases.
One day, a man named Rainsford Black — the “Black” in “Black’s Myth” — approaches Strummer and her half-djinn partner Ben with a case that would bridge the mundane world and the supernatural: find thirty stolen bullets, supposedly cast from the Biblical Judas’ silver pieces.
That case, along with the consequences of Strummer’s decision to take it, forms the backbone of our first arc.
FS: The cast of characters is one of the best and most unique in comics. What can you tell us about who populates the world of Black’s Myth?
EP: Thank you! Besides Strummer and Ben, the first volume introduces us to Rainsford’s staff of mythical entities: Aster/Asterion, the minotaur and living statue Galatea. There’s also the vampire twins Dosferatu, a Lovecraftian demon who might also be Jack the Ripper…I could tell you more, but that would spoil the surprises for new readers. I will tell you, the characters you love make a return appearance in our new volume.
FS: Where do we find the cast of Black’s Myth: The Key to His Heart at the beginning of the story? How does the fallout/conclusion of the first miniseries connect with Volume Two?
EP: Comics is a fickle industry, and I never expected this book to find enough success to justify a second story. I might not have named it after Rainsford, Black if I’d known better. Without spoiling too much — go read volume 1 already! — things were…tense between Strummer and Rainsford last time they saw each other, so folding Mister Black back into the story was no easy task, but I wanted to keep that title accurate!
Overall, though, our second volume begins with a Strummer who’s much more comfortable in her own skin, exploring a new relationship and finally at peace with her place in the two worlds she inhabits.
Of course, this is noir, so it might not all stay unicorn farts and rainbows for long.
FS: If someone asked me to describe the feel of the book, I’d call it hardboiled horror. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
EP: I tend to think of it as supernatural noir, but you’re not far off! I also try not to never forget this is an AHOY book, so there’s a sense of humor in the book, even if it’s not truly “funny.”
FS: What are your influences for the title? What series or media do you feel inspired by?
EP: Black’s Myth began life after I watched The Maltese Falcon and thought “Wouldn’t it be cool if this had monsters in it?”
I tend to wear my influences on my sleeve, and for this, I even tweeted recently about the perfect Black’s Myth-inspired movie night: Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, Angel Heart, and then Cast a Deadly Spell, if you have time. Those movies hit all the important notes: noir mysteries with a hardboiled detective, supernatural intrigue, and a few laughs. If you’re especially ambitious, you can also watch Chinatown, the perfect LA-as-a-character mystery.
I also revisited Veronica Mars season 2 as I wrote our second volume. The way in which the second season introduces a whole new mystery while also building upon and informing season one makes for some incredibly underrated noir television.
FS: What’s the creative process been like, reuniting with the team? Do you have a shorthand at this point?
EP: I’ve been making comics with Wendell Cavalcanti for almost twenty years, beginning with little 4-page webcomics no one remembers, and including our book at Scout Comics, Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists. We’ve grown up together in this industry and he’s like a brother to me. I hope we can make comics together forever, because it’s about the easiest thing in the world.
And Liana Kangas? As I type this, I’m staring at an unpublished original Strummer piece that hangs above my desk. Liana’s a genius and her sensibilities were perfect for this book. Even though Liana and I have been friends for years, full credit goes to our outstanding editor Sarah Litt from recruiting Liana for these covers.
FS: AHOY Comics has made a name for publishing a wide array of different types of comic stories. What’s the collaboration been like with AHOY?
EP: AHOY has been the best collaborative experience I’ve ever had with a publisher. I’m honored by their faith in me and this book, even though it’s a little outside the norm for them — Black’s Myth has the dubious distinction of being their least funny title, which is generally not the position you want to be in when you’re working for a humor publisher. But they seem to like it, and I feel like it’s made me a better writer, trying to thread the needle between jokes and deadly seriousness in this book.
Plus, there are few better feelings in the world than a compliment from an industry legend like Stuart Moore or Tom Peyer.
FS: If you had one final pitch for potential readers, what would it be?
EP: I’m resisting the urge to end with “John Layman likes it. Isn’t that enough?”
Instead, let me say this: Aspiring writers are often told to tell the stories we’d want to read, and Black’s Myth is a cocktail of everything I love as an enjoyer of stories. This is the tale of an offbeat found family navigating LA’s secret supernatural underbelly to solve a mystery with intensely personal consequences.
Also, there’s a #$%@&^ minotaur.
Black’s Myth: The Key to His Heart #1 debuts Wednesday, June 21st, from AHOY Comics.
From the official press release announcing the series:
The acclaimed punk rock horror series BLACK’S MYTH by writer Eric Palicki (Atlantis Wasn’t Built For Tourists), artist Wendell Cavalcanti (BlackAcre), and superstar cover artist Liana Kangas (Trve Kvlt, She Said Destroy) is returning this summer with an all-new mini-series from AHOY Comics. The critically acclaimed comic features werewolf PI Janie Jones “Strummer” Mercado and her charming djinn assistant Ben Si’lat solving crimes in the “supernatural underground” thriving in Los Angeles. BLACK’S MYTH: THE KEY TO HIS HEART debuts in June, with an incentive cover by Tim Seeley.
“I’ve made a terrible mistake, and I don’t just mean pursuing a career in comics!” said writer Eric Palicki. “How can we continue calling our book Black’s Myth unless Strummer once again finds herself in the orbit of her enigmatic client-turned-nemesis Rainsford Black? Hopefully, Volume Two reveals Mister Black to be a little less mysterious and perhaps a tad more sympathetic, as Wendell and I build on the unanswered questions of the first volume while also delivering a new mystery for Strums and Ben to unravel.”
In her latest case, werewolf private eye Janie Jones “Strummer” Mercado tries to prevent a young girl from becoming a monster with the aid of her suave djinn assistant, Ben Si’lat. But will Strummer gain an intern instead? And why is an old enemy sending mysterious packages to her house?
“I’ve always loved werewolves, but I never thought I’d be working on a werewolf comic series,” said artist Wendell Cavalcanti. “And here I am for the second time (wow!), in a supernatural Los Angeles where I can draw werewolves, vampires, djinns, witches, and The Minotaur (there is only one). It’s exciting to show a little more of these characters. I can only say thank you very much to all of you.”
BLACK’S MYTH: THE KEY TO HIS HEART will be published monthly by AHOY Comics, with the first issue hitting stores on June 21, 2023, for $3.99. Like all AHOY titles, it will feature extra prose stories and illustrations.