We talk new Black Mask comic series with Pat Shand and Emily Pearson.
Black Mask Studios has been putting out some of the most controversial and important comics due to the social commentary within. Comic book writer Pat Shand knows a bit about that with his acclaimed Breathless series, and it appears he’s going to do it again soon with new series Snap Flash Hustle. He’s teaming up with artist Emily Pearson, who recently blew readers away with The Wilds (mentioned quite a few times in our New Comic Book Day YouTube show).
I got the chance to talk shop with both creators to discuss this new series, which comes out November 28th.
AiPT!: Snap Flash Hustle mixes modeling with social media proclivities and of course a bit of crime. How much research went into creating this work?
Pat Shand: A lot of research, a lot of life. My wife, Amy, she has worked as an alt-model a lot, so my experiences going with her on those shoots informs a lot of the experiences that Haley Mori, the lead character of Snap Flash Hustle, goes through. Amy and I collaborate a lot, so talking through the ins-and-outs of her experiences was a natural part of my prep for this book. On the research side, I basically had to figure out a functioning way to run the business that’s the focus of the book: essentially, using social media and professional modeling as a way to hide a narcotics business and cartel connection in plain sight. There’s a lot that goes into this book – much more than we have time to show in the actual pages, of course, but it was key to make sure the business could actually exist.
AiPT!: Emily, are you also coloring this new series? I know Marissa Louise colored The Wilds…has coloring changed your approach to the work?
PS: One thing I want to say here about Emily’s work — just wait until you see the full issue. Seriously. I know Emily is going to be humble because she is amazing, but for real, for real… wait until you see the full art for our first issue. No one is f-----g with Emily in 2018. No one.
Emily Pearson: Haha, Pat’s my perfect hype man. I am coloring this book! I’m doing all the art, and then we have our amazing letterer, Jim Campbell. Coloring hasn’t changed the line art process too much. When I have an idea in my head of what the page should look like, it’s very simple and easy to communicate that. I have a lot of little details in my coloring style, either the way I paint faces (I always make noses red, I just can’t help it), or the textures that show through from the color washes I work off of. It was really a positive experience for me, so I hope that you guys like the end result.
AiPT!: With social media comes the tools you use on them and I have to ask, how much power is behind a hashtag?
PS: Hahaha I mean, social media is both our greatest weapon and greatest weakness at this point in our society. I used to think, just a few years ago, that it was the best thing humanity has ever created. Now? I think we’re totally f----d. Let’s see where I’m at in a few more years. Or, maybe let’s see where we’re all at, then.
EP: I 100% agree with Pat. It’s really wonderful to be able to talk to the people that read your comics and get to know them, however, there’s a lot of negativity and bigotry on social media, and it can get depressing to constantly see.
AiPT!: Possibly the most intriguing element of this first issue is the relationship of the main character. I haven’t seen a polyamorous relationship in comics before (or as you put it, a “throuple”). How much will you explore this in the four issue run?
PS: That draws a little from my life experiences, but something that interested me about this was the idea of financial contribution in a romantic pairing, and how a third partner complicates that. Who takes care of what? I wanted to throw as many financial complications into the mix as possible, because, I’ll be real, I’ve experienced all of that, haha. Haley Mori is a freelance model, and as a freelance writer, I’ve experienced massive pressure and anxiety as checks I expected to come… don’t. Really, Snap Flash Hustle is about debt and what it does to us.
Also, while I am monogamous, there was a time where I was sort of desperately looking for media that portrayed polyamory in any light. Good, bad, anything. I wanted to see it, wanted to feel seen, and there was really nothing. I know people who feel the same way that I felt. Even though my situation is different now and I am different, I thought that this book was a perfect chance to answer my own call that went unanswered.
AiPT!: Emily, I love how your art plays around with focus (backgrounds can feel blurry as if to draw our eye to the characters). How much goes into framing a panel with techniques like this?
EP: A lot of the “blurry” look I think comes from me loosening up a little in this book compared to my art on The Wilds. I wanted the background to be very simple, to just show color and basic lighting, and then go for an almost painted look for the faces, which I think gives it that “in focus” look.
AiPT!: These characters seem very rich, as if they have whole biographies written out. How much detail has gone into building them?
PS: Character comes first for me, always. This is all thanks to Emily, though. She designed the characters very early on in the process, way before I began writing, so we got to know them for a long time. We got to ask questions, develop their fears, desires, all that. Snap Flash Hustle focuses a lot on bad communication — the lies we tell each other to cover up fears, the fractured truths we share because we aren’t even honest with ourselves about what we want. There’s this bit in the first issue, just a line of dialogue that throws one of the characters’ entire persona into question — and that’s only the first time of a few that Emily and I do that in this series. We only really know people through what they show us. There’s a whole world beneath every person.
AiPT!: Pat, you just came off writing Breathless which is about drugs, and this book is about an underground drug business. Are there any political statements you or Emily trying to make here?
PS: I don’t know if I’d say that Breathless is about drugs. It has drugs in it, for sure, but to me it was more about what the monetization of survival does to people — how it robs us of our empathy. Snap Flash Hustle definitely touches more on the impact of the drugs themselves — certainly through someone very close to Haley — but the core of the series is exploring the horrors of debt. The easy pitch is that this is Breaking Bad by way of Sex and the City, and it’s definitely that, but we absolutely have something to say with this comic. One thing I love about Black Mask is that their titles get unabashedly political, so yeah, I think we fit in with that. I like to think, though, that instead of making a statement, we’re asking a question with Snap Flash Hustle. I like the idea of leaving readers thinking about the book after they put it down. That’s any creator’s dream, isn’t it?
AiPT!: Do either of you have other projects on the horizon? I know it’s early since this title isn’t out till November, but is there anything you’ll be working on together?
PS: We’re deep in Snap Flash Hustle right now, but I’m sure you’ll see more stuff from us in the future. As for me, I’m working on a bunch of creator-owned projects and a few works in other media. I’ve got Little Girl, my horror comic from Devil’s Due Publishing which is about a little ghost girl going on a murder spree, and discovering the truth about her death and life on the way. I also have my own company, Space Between Entertainment, which is the label I use for the projects I fund on Kickstarter. Right now, I’m prepping the launch of a Kickstarter for a YA-horror anthology called Spooky Girls, which is going to be a blast. For 2019, I have another book from Black Mask, I’m joining Josh Blaylock as co-writer on Mercy Sparx at Devil’s Due, and I have the third volume of my ongoing series — my heart and soul, pretty much — Destiny, NY hitting Kickstarter in February. Destiny, NY is the love story of a former magical girl and the last surviving daughter of a mystical crime empire.
EP: We’re also both involved in Death of the Horror Anthology, which is on Kickstarter until October 31st. I’m doing lot of stuff I can’t talk about yet, but my previous comic The Wilds written by Vita Ayala, a post-apocalyptic LGBT story, will be out in trade paperback soon. You’ll see some more stuff from us soon!
You can find Snap Flash Hustle #1 in comic shops Nov 28, 2018.