Regardless of what that carton in your fridge says, your life’s about to get much, much pulpier.
One of our favorite artists and a regular in our Best of the Week in Covers feature, Francesco Francavilla (Batman: The Black Mirror) is unleashing one of his own creations on the unsuspecting criminals of Colt City in an all new Black Beetle serial for Dark Horse Presents. “Night Shift” begins in DHP #11, due out April 18th, but we don’t have to wait until then for a sneak peek at the bug-eyed avenger and the nefarious threats he faces in the coming months.
We talked to Francavilla about his creation as well as his signature nostalgic style:
iFanboy – Let’s give the people some history. How long have you been tinkering with the Black Beetle character? How personal is this creation to you and what does it mean to see him in the pages of Dark Horse Presents?
Francesco Francavilla – I’ve been tinkering with what came to be THE BLACK BEETLE for a few years now—the quintessential pulp hero protecting the streets of a fictional city—but the very first Black Beetle as we know him today came to paper at the beginning of the past decade.
Once I had defined his character, name, look, and setting, I slowly started to build the universe (including Colt City) around him. The story itself has evolved and now it’s a much bigger, wider scheme which I can’t wait to unveil to the public, one page at the time.
I’ve been self-publishing some web stories and print ashcans for the last several years, but having him now in the pages of Dark Horse Presents is like seeing your kid graduating and getting out there in the world to start building his own future. Once again, a huge thanks to Mike Richardson and all the folks at Dark Horse for asking me to bring THE BLACK BEETLE to DHP: I can’t think of a better publisher to get these stories out to a much wider audience.
iFanboy – Just as your name is synonymous with a revival in a pulp style of art, the Black Beetle carries the torch for a bygone era in serial adventures. What characters or stories inspired his creation?
F.F. – I guess the short answer for the inspiration is: all and none. Definitely the BLACK BEETLE does owe a lot to the many pulp and noir movies and serials from the 30s to the 50s I’ve been watching all my life, and also to more recent productions.
And I’d say it’s also owes a good bit to classic crime and pulp writers like Hammett and Chandler. So I’ve tried to take all those influences and put a unique spin and my own stamp on it to really make The BLACK BEETLE its own thing with clear pulp and noir influences, but I’m also trying to bring something new and fresh to the genre. Time (and readers) will tell if I’ve succeeded.
iF – What can you tell us about the latest adventures of Black Beetle? Is it all under the cowl or does his civilian life play any kind of role?
F.F. – When approaching “Night Shift” for DHP, I wanted to make sure the story was accessible to everyone, both those who are already familiar with The Black Beetle and those who get to meet him for the first time. The format itself (3 short installments of 8 pages) played in my favor and let me focus on our hero and introduce the vibe/mood of the Black Beetle.
I can’t give too many details on the story because I don’t want to spoil it, but I am confident it will entertain the readers and introduce the Black Beetle to a wider audience.
For the same reason, we will not get to see his civilian alter ego (which is a major plot point in a future story) in Night Shift, but I will be revealing something that will play a major role in the Black Beetle mythology.
iF – While we have you here, can you tell us a bit about your involvement with Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing over at DC?
F.F. – After the success of our collaboration on BATMAN THE BLACK MIRROR, it was definitely a mutual agreement between Scott and me that we need to try to work together as often as we could. We’ve been talking for a while about having me work on some issues of the SWAMP THING, which I was very excited about since I’m a long-time fan of both the character and its creators, especially Bernie Wrightson. We had just to wait for the stars to align and the right story to come along. I think DC just announced that I’ll be doing interior art on Issue 10. Of course we both hope there will be more down the road, but right now we are working together to make this issue a little gem of creepy horror.