Making stuff up is magic: Evan Dorkin and Veronica Fish talk ‘Blackwood’, horror, and the art of standing out



Dark Horse’s supernatural fantasy hits shelves May 30.

Blackwood is a new series from Dark Horse with Evan Dorkin (Beasts of Burden, Milk and Cheese, Dork) on writing duties and Veronica Fish (Slam, Archie, The Wendy Project) doing art, about a group of kids who attend a school for the dark arts. AiPT! sat down with them to talk about the new series, their inspirations, and the collaborative process.

AiPT!: Mr. Dorkin, you’re not new to paranormal stories, but what inspired you to do a school based story like Blackwood, as opposed to another framing device?

Evan Dorkin: I didn’t set out to do a school story. The concept for Blackwood came out of my trying to work up a horror anthology without using the traditional anthology format. I love anthologies, but they’re treated like a hot box of cancer in the direct market. The anthology aspect ended up disappearing in the process as the school element became more important. A school is a classic device because it lets you bring characters together in an environment where everyone is off balance and isolated. The characters get taken out of their old lives and have to adjust to a new life with new rules. It gives you a lot to work with, even before the ghosts and monsters come in.

AiPT!: Ms. Fish, your more recent work has been rather light in tone. What brought you to this project and made you want to work on it?

Veronica Fish: Precisely the fact that it was mostly unexplored territory. Years ago, I was working on a huge Frankenstein graphic novel in my spare time, which was pretty dark, but I had to shelve it once other work started coming in. It was these unused pages that Evan saw and responded to, so I’m happy to have an outlet to do creepier stuff again.

AiPT!: There are a lot of different types of magic styles out there. What is the magic in Blackwood like?

Dorkin: I’m more interested in the characters and situations than exploring how magic works or showing the reader all the research I did about scrying or whatever. I like to let things speak for themselves as much as possible on the page and keep things moving. In that way, it’s similar to how things work in Beasts of Burden: magic is real; it’s a part of the world that some people deal with every day. Unofficially both series share the same world. The big difference is that since Blackwood is about people, we can use hands-on stuff — books, weapons, charms, potions, alchemy. I try to keep an inner logic to everything, but I don’t have a set system of magic worked out. It’s all over the place, borrowing from many sources. And we make stuff up. Making stuff up is a sort of magic, I guess. That sounds really corny, but I’m leaving it there.

Fish: I’m looking forward to getting to draw a big mishmash of things. Stage magic, alchemy, demonic spirits and conjuring, scientific contraptions and creepy monsters. It is a pretty big bag of tricks.

AiPT!: What inspired the tone of Blackwood? Was it anything either of you have gone through? Or was it more a fascination with the darker aspects of our world? Or maybe something else?

Fish: I’ve always wanted to get to draw dark stuff, tap into the shadowy material. I was happy Evan saw something in my work he felt would work for Blackwood.

Dorkin: I just wanted to write more horror stories. And I was thinking a lot about ’80s horror comedies like Return of the Living Dead and Re-Animator while working the pitches up. I knew I wanted humor and some gross-out stuff in the mix. Things really jumped forward when Veronica began designing the characters, and the look of the series started taking shape. The characters became real and started developing their own voices and affecting the overall tone of things. Blackwood‘s still developing. We’re getting to know more about the characters and the way things work and feel as we get more pages done.

AiPT!: There are a lot of stories out there about spooky schools and the like. How do you two plan to set Blackwood apart?

Fish: Evan is just a master of character and plot, but personally I just really care about these characters. Their personalities are so engaging. My husband and I just love when the next script comes in and we get to read what happens to them next. I don’t really know what I’m doing, just scrambling as hard as possible to make this project the best it can be.

Dorkin: The three of us are working really hard to give the reader a complete comic book. A genuine story with engaging characters, some solid laughs, some good creepy horror stuff and stylish visuals. I always say that if the creators are having fun that comes across on the page. And we’re having a lot of fun with Blackwood.

AiPT!: What was the collaborative process like for you two, especially since Mr. Dorkin has had solo work before?

Fish: I really love the current process we have. Evan will send in a script and my husband Andy and I will do a bunch of thumbnails and layouts together — in case the other has a better idea — and put it all together for the team to see. Then Evan will scribble over those layouts with even better ideas and then it’s on to penciling and inking. We all have similar storytelling instincts so bouncing ideas off each other is so inspiring; it really gets me excited to get to work every morning.

Dorkin: It’s a lot of back-and-forth, like Veronica said. Things will change from script to layouts, layouts and pencils will spark new ideas, everyone has suggestions and questions. It’s a collaborative effort. Team Blackwood.