Blackwood Smells Like Teen Spirit On Tide Pods
Mar 29, 2018
by Vince Brusio
Those who go astray from Mafioso or a ninja clan will be marked for death. Those who go astray from the supernatural will be marked for something else. You may not know what the consequences are immediately, but that’s the fun of seeing what’s going to happen to the band of teenagers we see in Evan Dorkin’s Blackwood #1 (MAR180038) from Dark Horse Comics. Read what landmines and alligator pits may be in store for this band of unlikely heroes in our PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview with Mr. Dorkin, who assures us that the young ones might become formidable foes of black magic…if they live long enough. Get the comic on May 30 at your local comic shop!
Vince Brusio: So, Evan. Give us the dirt on this modern-day twist where the Scooby gang is in charge of making ghosts instead of chasing them. Who are the players in this production of personalities? Put them in a police line-up for us. Who (or what) are we looking at in Blackwood #1 (MAR180038)?
Evan Dorkin: Our four main cast members are Wren Valentine (surly, combative and dealing with depression), Stephen Heller (self-styled loser dealing with severe guilt), Dennis Wolchinski (goodhearted, naive, dealing with a crisis of faith) and Reiko Oyuki (driven perfectionist dealing with a severe memory gap/identity issues). Each of them has been “marked” after surviving a tragic encounter with the supernatural, bringing them to the attention of Blackwood College's secret paranormal program. Blackwood is a centuries-old institution where occult investigators, researchers and practitioners have learned their trade. The students don't know that they've been scouted for the program, they find out after getting drawn into a series of deadly and mysterious events taking place during campus orientation.
Vince Brusio: What kind of psych war might there be between these young skulls full of mush? Who’s vying to be the leader? Or is there a failed attempt at democracy afoot? How well do these kids work as a team?
Evan Dorkin: That really remains to be seen. They've been thrown together by circumstance as well as some manipulation on the school's part, so they're not exactly a well-oiled, capable machine when we first meet them. They're socially awkward, wary of one another and wrapped up in themselves. No one really tries to assert any sort of pecking order, but Reiko has an advantage in that she's the least freaked out by everything. She's the only one of the four who can pick up someone's severed fingers of the floor without throwing up. Over time they'll become more adept at dealing with the occult and with others. If they live long enough.
Vince Brusio: What’s the inspiration for Blackwood itself? Were you once traumatized as a kid on your maiden voyage through Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride? Is this Harry Potter on acid cut with 70s Saturday morning cartoons? What brain chemistry cooked up this spook house?
Evan Dorkin: Actually, I was traumatized by the Haunted Mansion ride as a kid! I freaked out and bolted before they could shut the doors. I'm pathetic when it comes to that stuff. I love horror stuff, but I'm easily scared by horror movies and haunted house attractions. When I was a teenager I went with friends to the Longbranch Haunted House in New Jersey (RIP) and I was freaking out so badly other customers would wait up ahead and jump out to scare me.
Anyway, Blackwood unofficially takes place in the same world as Beasts of Burden, so a lot of the same horror and fantasy interests are in play. Weird fiction, horror books and movies, RPGs, the tropes everyone knows and loves. I guess the main difference – besides Blackwood being about people rather than animals – is the influence of 80's horror/comedy movies like Return of the Living Dead, Fright Night, Night of the Creeps, Waxwork, Re-Animator, etc. The school stuff was originally more Animal House in tone but it overwhelmed the horror so I dialed it down to more of a Real Genius thing, if that makes sense. Or Bad News Bears, actually, they're all pretty screwed up and hapless when we first meet them.
Vince Brusio: Did Veronica Fish’s artwork ever make you re-think your dialogue or narrative in certain panels?
Evan Dorkin: Definitely. It's usually the case when you're working with an artist who pays attention to the acting on the page, using expression and body language to help sell the characters as individuals. Good character acting can spark a new line, or help you realize you can cut something. Character design affects the writing as well, there are details I'll pick up on and use – in one case an article of clothing Veronica drew into a design became an important plot point. It was a perfect device to tie several story and character beats together and led to some helpful changes in the plot. There's a back-and-forth between art and script that can help spark ideas in both directions.
Vince Brusio: Does Blackwood ever harken back to any previous works you’ve done before like Hectic Planet? A humor angle? Or is this a new road test?
Evan Dorkin: It's funny you mention Hectic Planet because that's the dynamic I'm going for in regards to how the characters interact. There's the same mix of younger and older characters, different backgrounds and interests, all awkwardly meshing together while dealing with crazy crap. I like large ensemble casts, having secondary and recurring character s coming in and out and contributing to what's going on and building on what we know about them. There's also the theme of drifting individuals coming together to form new social groups in response to their families. That's something that tends to run through my writing. I want our readers to connect to the characters and situations so they want to come back and see what happens next.
Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.