EXCLUSIVE: Dark Horse, Van Lente Launch "Secret Files of Project Black Sky" Webcomic

Like many a superhero story, the universe of Dark Horse Comics' Project Black Sky line began with a crashed space ship. But from there, things have taken a number of unexpected turns, from the time jumping of Captain Midnight to the psychic espionage of Brain Boy.

To help show readers how unexpected their world is, Dark Horse is today launching a "Secret Files of Project Black Sky" webcomic at www.projectblacksky.net. Written by "Brain Boy" scribe Fred Van Lente, the "Secret Files" comics feature a number of short stories that fill in the background of the titular clandestine organization over a span of eight decades. With the first comic - "The Field," with art by Steve Ellis - launching today at 9:30 Pacific, CBR News has the exclusive news on the full run of webcomics as well as Van Lente's take on why Project Black Sky will upend classic superhero stories.

The first short story from "Secret Files" will be posted in its entirety today, then, from May through September, www.projectblacksky.net will update with new pages at a regular clip. After today's "The Field," readers can pick up the "Project Black Sky" one-shot tomorrow for Free Comic Book Day (see CBR's exclusive preview, here). Then next week, a second story titled "The Launch" will update every day Monday through Friday as drawn by FCBD special artist Michael Broussard. Next up is "The Ring," also drawn by Ellis, before "The Base" arrives with a seven-day-a-week release schedule and art from Guiu Vilanova. That takes the series into September, when a still-secret final chapter wraps the "Secret Files" run.

"Early on, I thought of Project Black Sky's 'Secret Files' as a kind of 'Twilight Zone' with superheroes," Van Lente explained. "We revisit some classic stories and show how they worked differently in the Dark Horse Hero world -- they're twisted 'origin' tales, with surprising or unexpected endings. I wanted to try out that anthology, short story format on the web, where attention spans are limited -- webcomics seem to lend themselves to either short bursts of content, or long endless sagas. 'Secret Files' is the latter transforming into the former."

Today's "The Field" twists perhaps the most familiar superhero set up of all time. "'The Field' is the shortest of the stories -- it's more of a teaser, really -- so saying anything more about it would ruin the whole thing," the writer told CBR. "But it definitely sets the tone for the 'Secret Files' by merging 1938's most famous character debut with 1938's most infamous extraterrestrial incident. Steve does a great job handling art chores on that one, too."

Van Lente says the "Secret Files" stories will combine with the Free Comic Book Day one-shot to give readers of titles like "Captain Midnight," "Ghost" and "X" a complete picture of the Dark Horse universe. "In 'FCBD,' Captain Midnight aptly describes Black Sky as an agency 'founded to combat horrors, but became a horror itself.' Each one of the 'Secret Files' shows how Black Sky has secretly influenced the development of the Dark Horse world, and why it looks so much more different than other superhero universes. We get some idea of why they're so damn weird -- and paranoid.

"Let's just say they don't protect their world from threats from beyond space, but from the multiverse itself. And that has brought them into contact with many heroes and would­-be-­heroes over the years."

The webcomic format will be used as a storytelling advantage as the tales break out over the week's ahead. "It means every few panels, there's a 'page turn,' or at least a micro-­cliffhanger, as one waits for the next day's screen to load," Van Lente said. "It's pretty cool. The art is very spectacular, and I'm interested to see how it all comes together when the site goes live."

From there, the webcomics will cover decades' worth of Project Black Sky history. "Each 'Secret File' jumps to a different incident in a different decade, and shows how the agents of Project: Black Sky investigated -- and annihilated -- weird 'super' threats specific to that era," Van Lente said. "'The Launch,' set in 1961, was inspired by some of the reaction by the casting of Michael B. Jordan in a certain superhero film. Michael Broussard draws that one, and he really just killed it. The FCBD book looks great, but what he does here will turn heads.

"'The Ring' is drawn by my longtime collaborator and pal Steve Ellis, and is set in 1957. Once you figure out the theme of what we're going for here, the title itself is a big clue to what it's all about.

"'The Base' is done by newcomer Guiu Vilanova, whose work I liked so much I'm snagging him for a creator-­owned project! This one is set in the 1970s and has some amazing hair. It's set in a top­secret facility on the US/Canadian border where they're experimenting on this guy -- something about enhanced healing, I believe."

For the new twists on old tropes, readers can check out the "Secret Files of Project Black Sky" series starting today at 9:30 Pacific at www.projectblacksky.net

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