Janie Jones “Strummer” Mercado, werewolf detective, returns June 21 to face dark elements of L.A.’s supernatural underground in a new comic book mini-series. Black’s Myth: Key to Her Heart from Ahoy Comics is once again written by Eric Palicki with art from Wendell Cavalcanti (BlackAcre). Cover artist is Liana Kangas. Readers can also be on the lookout for an incentive cover variant from Tim Seeley.
Strummer, and her djinn partner, Ben Si’lat, tackled a big supernatural case in Black’s Myth Vol. 1 that author Christopher Golden called “…more fun than most of us deserve.”
A new quest is at hand from a familiar client, and with the new release on the horizon, Wicked Horror posed a few questions for Palicki. He’s a Seattle-based writer who’s also known for Fake Empire and No Angel, with contributions to the story collections Everything is Going Wrong, Mine!, and Marvel’s Guardians of Infinity.
Wicked Horror: Your protagonist in Black’s Myth comics from Ahoy Comics, Janie Jones “Strummer” Mercado, is a werewolf detective. I’m sure you’ve answered this question before, but since Wicked Horror readers may not have heard and we’re talking werewolves first and foremost, do you have any classic influences? Lon Chaney Jr., the first Werewolf of London or the American werewolf a few people might have run across? What’s your favorite?
Eric Palicki: My most vivid memory is of the 1994 film Wolf. Who wouldn’t love Jack Nicholson and James Spader chewing scenery as dueling werewolves?!
Wicked Horror: And what about on the P.I. front? Who’s your favorite fictional private detective, and what was your first encounter with said character?
Eric Palicki: Black’s Myth took root as a story after I watched The Maltese Falcon and thought “Wouldn’t this be cool if it had monsters?” I suppose my answer is Sam Spade, but I also love Chinatown’s Jake Gittes and I’m just now seeing the Jack Nicholson connection between this and my answer to the previous question.
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Wicked Horror: Strummer and djinn partner, Ben Si’lat, tackled what I’d call a massive dark fantasy case drawing on fun aspects of magic and myth. It was certainly a case perfectly suited for a werewolf protagonist. Strummer, Ben and another key character will be returning in the new mini-series, Black’s Myth: The Key to His Heart. Can you tell us who that is and the general direction Key to His Heart will take?
Eric Palicki: Rainsford Black, who was Strummer’s client in the first volume and who lent his name to the title, returns in this story. In spite of the shifting relationship, Strummer and Ben once again find themselves drawn into Black’s orbit in a case that will hopefully flesh out the character and humanize him for audiences who saw him as a villain in the first story.
Wicked Horror: When you’re crafting a tale, do you give a lot of thought to juggling scares or horror elements and elements that might seem like part of the fantasy canon? We’re not giving too much away if we note there’s a unicorn in the mix, right?
Eric Palicki: A unicorn! A minotaur! Vampires!
I think supernatural horror elements work best in the same light as fantasy elements in stories, more as a means to illuminate human failings, human evils—which is what really terrifies me—than as scary elements in and of themselves.
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Wicked Horror: How do you go about researching Black’s Myth tales?
Eric Palicki: So much of the mythology of Black’s Myth comes from a lifetime of reading and absorbing mythology, folklore, and horror fiction, which were my teenage obsessions. For new material, I have a network of likeminded creative folks to bounce ideas off. I was able to fold in some Brazilian folklore into issue two, at Wendell’s request, and I was able to lean on him for ideas.
Wicked Horror: Of course the story’s not all about the magic and myth. There’s a personal angle too. Strummer has a relationship going in this series. How’s that working out?
Eric Palicki: When we find Strummer at the start of this new volume, she’s in a burgeoning relationship with Carly Barnhardt, a carryover from the first story. Thing are going great, but this wouldn’t be a noir horror tale if we didn’t put these characters through hell. I’m sorry in advance if readers are expecting ‘happily ever after.’
Wicked Horror: How much do you try to devote to the character side of things in a story that’s unfolding in 20-odd pages?
Eric Palicki: It’s all character! At least, I hope it is.
Characters are what drive a good story. If Strummer and Ben were different people, this story would have taken a different shape.
Wicked Horror: Here’s another you may have answered before, but what’s the collaborative process like with artist Wendell Cavalcanti? How much detail to you try to pour into a script, and how much do you trust to the artist?
Eric Palicki: Wendell and I have been collaborators for going on twenty years now, and the trust has only grown over time. We chat all the time, and he’s truly a collaborative partner in this endeavor. I hope we can keep making comics together forever.
Wicked Horror: Detective stories certainly blossomed in black-and-white film (like The Maltese Falcon), and comics or graphic novels have paid tribute and had fun with that style on the page with things like Sin City and DC and Marvel noir titles. What benefits do you see for Black’s Myth as a black and white comic.
Eric Palicki: I wrote the first volume in anticipation that you’d see it in color, but we made the decision relatively late in the book’s development to publish it in black and white. I had some initial reservations, but I think it was ultimately the right decision. With volume 2, I was able to write for black and white from the start, and Wendell’s use of light and shadows do a great job of building atmosphere in the story.
Wicked Horror: Before we go, what’s the final, thumbnail message about Black’s Myth: The Key to His Heart? Why should readers rush to their comics shops on June 21?
Eric Palicki: The team is doing the work of our careers to build a comedic werewolf noir that builds on the first volume while remaining accessible on its own. I’m particularly proud of the first issue, which is a largely self-contained story that opens up Strummer’s world for readers new and old.