Reporters protect a city by holding its guardians accountable for their actions. What happens, then, when a metropolis has become so corrupt that a masked vigilante is the only one expressing legitimate concern? How does a journalist hold such an individual accountable? How far would they go to uncover the vigilante's identity, and what would they do with that information once they obtained it?
These are some of the questions that fuel The Black Ghost, a new, five-issue ComiXology Original series by the creators and hosts of the mystery podcast Lethal Lit, Alex Segura and Monica Gallagher. The series, featuring art by George Kambadais and colors by Ellie Wright, chronicles a reporter's quest to save the soul of her city while uncovering the mystery of the titular, dapper vigilante.
CBR spoke with Gallagher, Segura, and Kambadais about their reporter protagonist, how the person she's hunting compares to some familiar street-level vigilantes, and the series' action and intrigue elements.
CBR: You built worlds together in Lethal Lit, but The Black Ghost takes place in a much larger setting --a city with a costumed vigilante. What inspired you to tell this story? Just how fantastic is the world you're building in The Black Ghost?
Alex Segura: I think The Black Ghost sprang from a desire to keep working together. Our creative process flows so well, it seemed like a shame to just hang it up after Lethal Lit ended. I had a rough idea for a noir vigilante that I sent to Monica, just as a springboard, and she immediately added so much to it, we had to keep it going.
The idea for Creighton came quickly, first as a nod to comic book history’s long line of fictional cities, and also as a way to create our own world, along the lines of what we did with Hollow Falls on Lethal Lit. There are a lot of nooks and crannies we could explore by creating the town and city that you can’t when you’re working within the constraints of a real place.
That said, the world of The Black Ghost is pretty grounded - I don’t think you’ll see supernatural or fantastical elements pop in, which is by design - we want to treat the idea as honestly as possible, while tweaking and twisting the idea of a street-level vigilante, and trying to strike the balance between paying homage to what’s come before and trying to push it forward a bit.
Monica Gallagher: Alex and I definitely weren't done exploring dark cities full of mysteries and characters navigating between them. [Laughs] But we wanted to do something darker, for an older audience, using comics as a medium, and I was excited to get more into the crime/noir scene that Alex knows so well. For me, the challenge was to present a vigilante story that was new and dealt as much with our main character's internal struggles as it did with her external ones. The city will always be there, and will always have more secrets to tell, but as readers we have to work along with Lara, at her pace to tear them apart.
Your protagonist is a reporter named Lara Dominguez, who becomes obsessed with the titular character. What drives Lara's obsession with the Black Ghost?
Segura: Lara’s always looking for truth - to her own success and detriment. The Black Ghost hits Lara - who’s reeling from her own traumatic backstory - in a unique way, and she feels a sort of kinship to this hero and what he stands for. Amidst the darkness of Creighton, the Black Ghost stands as a flicker of light, and she’s drawn to that. She wants to find out what makes this guy tick and how he can push back against the corruption and evil swarming over the city. It’s an obsession that forces Lara to ignore her own responsibilities at the paper, and she also ignores her own demons, too.
Gallagher: Lara is someone who's seen a lot of bad in her life, so she has no illusions about the world being a fairy tale place. The Black Ghost strikes her as someone she very much wants to believe in, but her reporter side is more focused on why they put on the mask and the suit in the first place. I think in her mind she's using the Black Ghost as a shield for how much she wants to involve herself - by telling herself she's only interested in the vigilante, she can maintain her distance from getting too directly involved in the city's problems.
What kind of vigilante is the Black Ghost? Do they have more in common with someone like Batman? Or the Punisher?
Segura: I think the Black Ghost we meet in the first issue definitely lines up more with classic street-level heroes like Batman, The Spirit and so on. He’s the city’s debonair protector - and that’s also appealing to Lara.
Gallagher: Personally, I think we have enough rage vigilantes out there. I like that the Black Ghost is super dapper - maybe their weapon of choice is charm?? Instantly classing up any brawl they get involved in, fighting with the force of style!
[Laughs]The Black Ghost is set in a town called Creighton. What kind of place is Creighton? Was it inspired by any real world locales?
Segura: Monica and I wanted to tell the story of a city in decline, of a place that maybe once had a lot of industry and business, but is struggling to keep up with the changing world. We liked the idea of having it on the coast - a Mid-Atlantic metropolis that might not be close in size to New York or Philly, but is a few rungs below. A kind of forgotten place that is desperate to survive. The Creighton we see in the first issue is rife with corruption and danger, and the Black Ghost seems to be the only “good guy” not taking a payoff.
Gallagher: Alex and I both wanted to present a place that was still struggling with its reputation -- or dealing with a reputation in decline, and we were both inspired by some east coast cities where I may or may not have lived. A lot of cities have identity crises, but some of them can still turn around if the citizens are paying attention and working to change them. They don't all have to become Gothams!
Who are some of the memorable figures that Lara will work with and run afoul of as she pursues the Black Ghost?
Segura: Right out of the gate, we meet Ernesto, Lara’s student and eventual sidekick of sorts. He’s a street-smart teenager who helps Lara navigate the dark corners of Creighton. Lara also has a hacktivist ally named LONE - a computer program run by an anonymous contact who shares Lara’s views on what’s going wrong in the city. We also meet Lara’s coworkers - her frenemy Lippman, her boss Maggie Braffet and more. In terms of villains, readers will learn about a gang that’s taking an active role in Creighton, lead by a mysterious thug named Barnabus. But I don’t want to spoil any more!
What can you tell us about the trouble Lara gets into as the story unfolds? Is The Black Ghost primarily a detective tale? Or is it an action piece as well?
Segura: It’s a blend of both. Lara is obviously digging for the truth - behind the Black Ghost, primarily, but also behind the scenes in the city. Something is bubbling under the surface in Creighton, and she feels like it’s on her to figure it out. But the book is also action-driven, and as it progresses, we learn that Lara is much more than we think, and that will play a big part on where things go.
Gallagher: We get to travel alongside Lara while she figures out exactly where her curiosity and drive will take her, who she'll interact with and how. What methods she uses to interact with people is entirely up to her!
What inspired the look, color palette, and character designs of Black Ghost?
George Kambadais: When me, Alex and Monica talked about the look of the book, we decided to go on a more Batman: The Animated Series direction. We thought we could tell this story much better that way. So, my number one source of inspiration for the look of the book is Bruce Timm and the world he created for Batman!
I also, love the golden age era of superhero comic books! The Black Ghost, in my mind, is a gentleman who fights crime in a very dark world. He doesn't belong in this world, it needs a different kind of hero. So I made his costume look like something between the Spirit, the Clock or the early Phantom Reporter.
Finally, the solicits indicate that this initial five issue miniseries is the Black Ghost's opening adventure. So do you have more chapters you'd like to tell? How big do you see this story and this world becoming?
Segura: I don’t want to speak for Monica or George, but I could write the Black Ghost for a long time - I love the character and the world we’ve created, and the project has really been a dream. We’ve got a rough idea for a second season, if sales permit, and after that we’ll see what happens.
Gallagher: The whole team - Alex, George, Greg, Ellie, Taylor - is awesome, so I'd love to work on this for longer, But I also think the more we're permitted to tell Lara's tale, the more interesting it becomes.
Segura: This story is two things, mainly - it’s our way of adding to the mythos of the comic book vigilante, characters like Daredevil, Batman, The Question, The Spirit, and creating something that adds to that, but we’re also trying to bring in elements from our other work - like Lethal Lit, the Pete Fernandez noir novels, Assassin Roommate - that can tweak and flip the script on the genre and its tropes in hopefully a cool way. The Black Ghost is more than it seems, and I think once people read the first issue, they’ll hopefully be surprised and ready for more. It’s really been a blast working with Monica and George on this. The rest of the team - including letterer Taylor Esposito, colorist Ellie Wright, and editor supreme, Greg Lockard - have been a complete dream to collaborate with as well. We hope the fans dig what we’ve come up with.
Gallagher: I really hope people think we're building something different here, that is both new while pulling from a lot of interests, genres, and characters that we love. I've been really excited about the collaboration and the new story it's brought to life, and I can't wait to share it with everyone!