An Obsessive Outcast Whose Alias Is Abbott
Nov 25, 2017
by Vince Brusio
Hugo Award-nominated novelist Saladin Ahmed and artist Sami Kivelä present one woman's search for the truth behind the dark occult forces that destroyed her family in BOOM! Studios new mini-series Abbott. Read our PREVIEWSworld interview with writer Saladin Ahmed, and look ask your local comic shop retailer about picking up a copy of Abbott #1 (NOV171307) in stores January 2018!
Vince Brusio: We’re introduced to this story learning that the main character, Elena Abbott, is a hard-nosed, chain smoking tabloid reporter. So, we already have an image of her in our head before we even finish reading the book’s solicitation. It would have been the same effect had you said she was a used-car salesman. Or a politician. The prejudice and expectation is already there. So how are we wrong? Or are we not? Should we already judge this book by the cover? Who is the real Elena Abbott?
Saladin Ahmed: Elena is in many ways a type—the driven investigator who just can’t let go of the truth. Like Carl Kolchak or Fox Mulder, her obsessive pursuit has made her a bit of an outcast in her field. So, in some ways you CAN judge this book by its cover: If you’re looking for a hard-boiled tale of a dogged hero facing the occult, Abbott will scratch that itch. But for a number of reasons (not the least that she’s a black woman “newspaperman” in the 1970s!), Elena Abbott isn’t the typical protagonist for this sort of story, and that’s going to be apparent from page 1.
Vince Brusio: We’re told that she’s investigating “grisly crimes that the police have ignored.” That’s a bold statement to make. Police are ignoring grisly crimes? That’s a cover-up. One that comes from the top. One that can’t last for long. So what do these crime scenes look like that makes them so bad they immediately get buried in a file cabinet’s X-Files? Yes, we are asking to peek under the sheet to see the corpse. Yes, now it’s our turn to be the tabloid reporter. How about some dirty laundry?
Saladin Ahmed:Well, we get a mutilated horse and a person who’s been sawn in half in issue 1, if that helps! More seriously, the crimes are ignored or misread by the authorities partially because they happen to what society regards as throwaway people, and partially because they are obscured by dark occult powers. Abbott writes about “throwaway people,” and she has a strange gift for seeing sorcery at work, for she once watched as living shadows murdered her husband. And now, she sees, the shadows have returned.
Vince Brusio: Who are the supporting characters in this story? Who has Elena’s back? Who wants to stab her in the back? Does she ever traipse through a den of thieves at times and not know it? Can we put the other people in her life against the wall, and ask them to hold still for the police line-up? We’d like to get to know the other personalities in Abbott.
Saladin Ahmed:Having covered the crime beat for years, Elena is quite at home in thieves’ dens! Her ex-girlfriend Amelia Chee is in fact a professional criminal. And whether Amelia has Abbott’s back or is going to stab it is an open question. But she’s just part of the colorful supporting cast around Abbott—Abbott’s cigar-chomping editor, Fred Missakian, is her toughest critic and her strongest supporter. Her (other) ex-husband James is what Fred calls “that rarest of things”—an honest cop. And in occult matters Elena gets counsel from the perpetually stoned hippy wizard, Sebastian Crowe.
Vince Brusio: Why was Sami Kivelä picked for this book? Why is the artwork spot-on for what you’re trying to do in Abbott? Tell us how the chemistry works.
Saladin Ahmed: Sami is FANTASTIC! His work on Beautiful Canvas sold me on him, and with Abbott he’s walking an immensely satisfying line between that clean, kinetic style and a grimier classic ’70s noir vibe. Readers are going to love it. As far as our collaboration, my scripting style on this series is fairly directive, so I try to be hands-off once Sami has the script in hand. It’s working great so far!
Vince Brusio: This is a five-issue series. A nice stretch for a story. A lot of room to build up characterization. Also a lot of time to do damage. So can you give us a bit more of a peek into the “forces” that took Elena’s husband? Rather than be content with seeing shadows, we’d love seeing a little more of the monsters. What exactly are the nature of these forces? How are they reflected in the artwork we see for the book in the November PREVIEWS?
Saladin Ahmed:I’m afraid I’m a pretty big believer in not showing the monster right away in horror movies, so I won’t do so here. But I’ll start by saying the “shadows” mentioned aren’t just metaphorical—they’re actual (un)living malevolent shadows creeping into our world from... somewhere. And Elena learns that she just might be destined to die trying to fight them.