The mysterious hero the Black Ghost is one of the few shining lights left in the downtrodden Eastern seaboard city of Creighton. But while the residents accept the hero’s anonymity as the price of safety, a reporter new to the city is asking questions.
In the new comiXology Originals limited series The Black Ghost, writers Alex Segura and Monica Gallagher go from telling crime stories with the podcast Lethal Lit to telling them in comics – with help from artist George Kambadais.
With the series debuting earlier this week, Newsarama spoke with Segura – who himself is moonlightling from his dayjob as Archie Comics’ VP – to talk about The Black Ghost, who’s on his tail, and how this fits in with his larger body of work.
Newsarama: Alex, after years of you and I talking and me asking if your prose crime roots would intersect with comics, here we are with The Black Ghost. Part me of me wants to know what took so long, but the better question is why now? How did the stars align here?
Alex Segura: You’re absolutely right – it’s been a long time coming, but sometimes that’s OK. I’ve been writing novels – my fifth, Miami Midnight, hit last month – and working on some comic book stuff at my day job, Archie Comics.
At the same time, I also branched out to co-create/co-write the first season of Lethal Lit, a fictional crime podcast that got some great attention and buzz. That’s when I first connected with Monica, who I just really gelled with creatively. We make a great writing team, and complement each other really well, especially when it comes to crafting a mystery with strong, relatable characters.
So, once we finished the first Lethal Lit season, we definitely wanted to keep working together. I had an idea for a superhero noir comic in my files for a while – but hadn’t really fleshed it out beyond the broad strokes. I mentioned it to Monica and we both dove in and expanded the Black Ghost’s world and really liked what we came up with.
At the same time, I was talking to Chip Mosher at comiXology and this came up – he asked to see the pitch. Thankfully, he dug it, too. Once we got the green light, we started to assemble a real dream team of talent, including the amazing George Kambadais on art. He really adds a dynamism and unexpected-but-organic look to the series, and we’re so lucky to have him. Taylor Esposito is doing his usual amazing work on letters, plus rising star Ellie Wright on colors. The icing on the cake was getting longtime friend and former DC colleague Greg Lockard as our editor, and he’s saved our butts with regularity. Not to belabor the point – but it’s been a treat to work on this book, and add our voice to the long legacy of superhero vigilantes, with our own unique twist and take.
Nrama: How has your and Monica’s work on Lethal Lit influencing The Black Ghost?
Segura: Like I said, Monica and I really hit it off, and though we were done with the podcast, we wanted to keep working on something in the same wheelhouse.
The Black Ghost is very different from Lethal Lit in terms of setting and vibe, but a lot of the elements are similar, and those are elements you’ll find in anything Monica and I do – conflicted, flawed characters; a strong sense of place; dark humor; and lots of unexpected twists and detours. We like to keep readers on their toes, and I think you’ll see that with The Black Ghost – especially when you get to the last page of the first issue!
Lethal Lit was a great learning experience for us – we got to learn how to put together, write, and executive produce a major podcast, and that really helped us realize what we want our words to read or sound like – we learned how to advocate for certain things but also ho to collaborate. It was an amazing situation and it’s really given us the tools to do The Black Ghost, which is great.
Nrama: So in your own words, what is Black Ghost about?
Segura: On a meta level, it’s our love letter to crime and vigilante comics like The Question, Batwoman, Sandman Mystery Theater, and Jessica Jones – where we present readers with a protagonist that isn’t fully established or defined, and is just starting to learn the ropes of being a hero – and being a better person.
But, diving into the details a bit – the Black Ghost is the sole vigilante of Creighton, a once-shining Mid-Atlantic city that’s definitely on the decline. Riddled with corruption, violence, and a growing sense of unease, the Black Ghost stands as the only thing keeping the city from complete collapse.
At the same time, we meet Lara Dominguez, a troubled reporter who’s moved to Creighton from Miami to get a fresh start as a cops reporter. But instead of trying to focus on her new job and lay low, she’s become obsessed with the one story that might save her life, and career – figuring out the truth about Creighton’s mysterious, debonair hero – The Black Ghost.
Nrama: Once again you are using a reporter to peer into crime fiction. What is it about reporters and crime for you, Alex? Is it about asking questions, or something from your own time as a reporter for Wizard, Newsarama, and the Miami Herald?
Segura: Reporters and detectives have a lot of skills and abilities that overlap – inquisitiveness, knowledge of the city around them, a sense of defiance when it comes to the existing power structure – it’s a natural progression, and it’s something we explore in the first arc of The Black Ghost – at what point do you decide to stop talking about the story, and become part of it? And what do you do when that time comes?
I loved my journalism days, and I felt really empowered to bring voice to people’s stories that would otherwise be ignored – so that’s carried over to the Pete books and The Black Ghost – creating characters that push back on what the rules or, or question why things have to be a certain way. Pete and Lara are both stubborn, driven, and flawed people – and my novels and this series explore how those things can create problems for them.
Nrama: That being said, Lara Dominguez seems very different than Pete Fernandez. How would you describe her?
Segura: Lara’s been through a lot – and is having trouble dealing with it. As you read the first issue, you discover why she left Miami, and the cloud of tragedy that seems to be following her. In addition to her alcoholism, she’s also dealing with a significant case of PTSD, and those two things blend to create a very difficult daily life for her. She’s trying to hold it together and power through, but that’s not always the best solution.
What I like about Lara is that while she is a bit self-destructive, she’s very self-aware. She knows when she’s making a mistake and she knows when she’s made the wrong choice, and she’ll crack a joke and move on. She’s complicated and driven and I find her really easy to root for – which is what a writer hopes for: a complicated, messed up hero that is still somewhat likable, even when she’s doing the wrong thing.
Nrama: And who or what is the Black Ghost that she’s following?
Segura: The Black Ghost is part urban legend, part iconic hero. Monica and I really wanted to not only tell a modern, different activist/vigilante story, but we also wanted to tip our hats to the tropes of the genre – like the fictional city, Creighton, as a nod to Gotham or Opal City or places like that. So, in many ways, The Black Ghost is the iconic, skilled, and beloved hero of the city. But we soon learn there’s more to him than that, and there’s much more to why he came to Creighton in the first place.
Nrama: You and Monica are working here with George Kambadias, who brings a whole different element to this crime story. I don’t think he’d be typecast as a typical crime artist, but having him is bringing something unique to this book. As writer and I assume project manager, what made George the right person for this?
Segura: I’d agree that George isn’t the first person you’d think of when crafting a dark, noir comic – but that’s also what makes him the best-suited for it, because it flips your expectations. The look of The Black Ghost feels very Batman: The Animated Series to me, which is exactly what we hoped for – he gives it a modern and timeless feel at the same time, and he’s a master at action and facial expressions. Not to mention being fast and extremely professional. I can’t say enough good things about him. We really lucked out when he came onto the book.
Nrama: When people saw you were working on this – and it coming outside of Archie, some people were concerned about your continued role at Archie. You’ve written outside of Archie before in comics such as a short for DC and work on Image’s Where We Live – can you let people know how this fits with your Archie duties?
Segura: Were people worried? The simple answer is Archie doesn’t really do creator-owned books, and I have ideas that live outside of Archie in terms of comic book writing. It was just something that I had to run by my bosses there and get their OK, which happened, and we’re good to go.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with The Black Ghost?
Segura: The early days of this book remind me a lot of the moment I decided to write my own PI series with the Pete Fernandez books – I was a fan of the genre and wanted to add my voice to the chorus, and create a small slice of the pie for myself. The same thing is happening here, along with some great, amazing co-creators and collaborators. Monica, George, Taylor, Ellie, Greg, and myself want to create our own, unique take on the superhero vigilante, in the same footsteps as some of the characters we mention above. The idea of having this character and world that we’ve created live and breathe is really exciting, and we hope people dig the series and support it for a long, long time.