Writer Greg Rucka is one of the biggest names in comics. Despite rising to stardom on DC's Batman titles, since the end of his "Punisher" run in 2013 he has been primarily focused on his creator-owned titles including "Stumptown" at Oni Press and "Lazarus" at Image Comics. That didn't stop him from making a major splash at Marvel, writing the current "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Shattered Empire" miniseries with art by his "Punisher" collaborator Marco Checchetto.
With plenty already on his plate, last month Rucka added another new creator-owned series to his resume, launching "Black Magick" at Image Comics with artist and co-creator Nicola Scott. While the book rests firmly in the crime and police procedural mold Rucka has covered in his career, it also adds in various supernatural elements the writer has only briefly had the chance to utilize in past stories.
At New York Comic Con, CBR TV's Jonah Weiland welcomed Rucka to the CBR Tiki Room above the show floor to talk about the Michael Lark-drawn "Lazarus," now reaching the end of its fourth arc, what fans can expect from "Black Magick" and Rucka's goals as a storyteller with it, as well as how and why he decided to take on a licensed comic like "Star Wars" at this stage in his career, offering plenty of advice for fellow creators in the process.
In part one of his conversation with CBR TV, Rucka his and Michael Lark's acclaimed Image Comics series "Lazarus." Rucka tees up a major finale to the "Poison" arc before the book takes a brief hiatus, discusses the heartbreaking fight between Forever and Sonia and why the book is a dark, familial crime saga instead of just Forever's story. He also talks about Jonah Carlyle's return in Issue #22, why he's just as important to the story as any other character, and the dangers of sympathizing with your protagonist.
On writing a "Star Wars" book and why you have to go into work for-hire with your eyes open:
Look, you know what I mean, it's Star Wars. Any time you enter into work for-hire, be it Marvel, be it DC, be it wherever, if you are not going into that arrangement with your eyes wide open, then more fool you. You are -- look, you're asking for trouble if you take the gig to write Batman and then you get angry when they say, "No, he can't go on a murderous rampage and kill 18 people." And it doesn't matter if you have the best "reason" why he would do it -- "but he was mind-controlled by the Joker" or whatnot -- they have every right to turn around and say, "The character's worth a lot more than you, sir, and you don't get to go out there and break that toy. You can't do it."
I used to feel that, and I feel one of the problems with work for-hire, is that there's a perpetuated sense of, "Oh, you're so lucky to be doing this job for us." And that's not the right relationship. The proper relationship is, "No, you guys are my client. You came to me. So I will deliver to you, but you've gotta arm me properly to do it. You have every right to go in there and say this does not meet the standards of the job. And you have every right [as the writer] to say, 'This is in flux.'" "Episode VII" is as locked as I suppose it's going to be, right, but Lucasfilm has every right to go in to a script and say, "That is very close to something that we are doing. Please change this." I'm not gonna sit there and go "No!" Part of what they're paying me for is the right to call at 3 in the morning and say, "We need it re-written in the next two hours." That said, they're my client and if they do that six times in a row, I have every right to say, "You need to pay me in full again," because comics is the only industry where that wouldn't trigger an automatic payment. If you were writing in Hollywood, you know you get two polishes -- you get a draft, the revision and two polishes, and you come at me after that, that triggers another payment. And I'm more than happy to do it, but like I said, "I don't work for you. You're my client."
I think that that is a very important thing for creators to remember these days, because to the Big 2 I think a lot of us are interchangeable. And that's not necessarily wrong. They've got multi-billion dollar characters and they've got -- the hall is full of people who would happily take on the writing jobs. The question is how many of them who are happy to do it can do it, and can do it well. And you get what you pay for.