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The Color Of Evil: Joe Casey talks “The Black Plague”

by  in Comic News Comment
The Color Of Evil: Joe Casey talks “The Black Plague”
“The Black Plague” cover by Mike Mayhew

He took apart the WildCats and put them back together like you never expected. He brought back “done in one” tales to Superman comics. He’s chronicling the early years of Marvel’s biggest heroes. And now Joe Casey is about to explore the world of super-villains. Fanboys, tighten those capes and hold onto your utility belts, because this July, Boom! Studios is bringing you “The Black Plague.” Written by Casey, the one-shot features Dave Johnson on covers and designs; Mike Mayhew on an exclusive variant cover; and newcomer Julia Bacellar handling the interior pencils. CBR news caught up with Casey to learn more about the book, though the scribe was quite enigmatic in his revelations.

“All I can really say about it at this point is… the disease is the cure,” smiled Casey, from behind his trademark sunglasses. “How about this… in the super-villain community, you never know exactly who your friends are. Or, more importantly, who they were. Not bad for bullshitting, eh…?”

When it comes to the characters in the series, Casey is equally guarded about their identities, as he wants the entire experience of “Plague” to be completely new to the reader. “I’d feel like I was cheating the readers if I laid it all out here. We want ’em to check out the book for themselves. Needless to say, we’ll be dealing with characters with a skewed sense of morality and we’ll explore a dark underbelly or two.

“I’d say this series is more akin to the early work I did on ‘Wildcats Vol.2’ or maybe even ‘Codeflesh,'” continued Casey “Mix that with a little ’70s-era superhero badness and I think you’d be close to describing the vibe of ‘The Black Plague.’ We’re out to tell a great story here. But, of course, as Howard Chaykin would say, ‘It’s not going to replace sex.’ We’re going to have some fun, though.”

It may surprise some, but this book didn’t quite originate at Boom!: it was originally pitched to a much different company. But as life is wont to do, the rejection has been a blessing in disguise. “Well, out here in Hollywoodland, no good idea goes unused. I’d pitched a fairly extensive revamp of a fairly obscure Marvel character last fall to an assistant editor who ended up getting cold feet (as assistant editors sometimes do, God bless ’em). In the meantime, I’d come up with this set-up and story that I thought was pretty damn good. Luckily, Ross Richie agreed and with a few tweaks to avoid any potential infringements we were off and running. Might’ve made a decent Marvel book, but it’ll make a better BOOM! book.

“Granted, it was a pitch for a D-list character (and ‘D-list’ may be too kind of a description, although I always thought the character was cool). What I was most pleased with was the plot, which was what I carried over in ‘The Black Plague’ with very few adjustments.”

“The Black Plague” cover by Dave Johnson

While fans associate Casey with DC/Wildstorm most prominently, his association with Boom! Studios came out of something equally important to him as comics: friendship. “Ross and I have mutual friends– Dave Johnson, Mark Waid, John Rogers— so it was inevitable that our paths would cross. We both like the same era of ‘Iron Man’ comic books, so working together was a foregone conclusion. Ross listens to his creators and works with them to present each book in the best way. He’s playing things extremely smart while still taking artistic and creative chances with the material, and I like to see that in an upstart publisher.”

In the case of Johnson, the artist and Casey have worked together in more than just comics, and your kids may already be big fans of their work. If not, they probably will be when they next watch Cartoon Network. “Dave is definitely great,” says Casey. “We’ve already been working together, in a way, when Dave was the lead designer on ‘Ben 10,’ the animated series we, Man Of Action, created and which is now kicking kids’ asses nationwide on Cartoon Network. And Dave has worked with Ross already on several occasions, so it just fell into place that he would bring his design sense to ‘The Black Plague.'”

The name Julia Bacellar isn’t likely one you know, but by Casey’s estimation, you will quite soon. From Cammo on “The Intimates,” to Dustin Nguyen on “Wildcats,” Casey’s quite famous for working with burgeoning, under the radar, future all stars. “Ross found her and showed me some sample pages. They looked good, so I gave the okay. Julia’s got a slick, mainstream style that’s needed for a book like this. I just write the scripts as straightforward as I can. Hopefully, it’ll all turn out beautifully– a series we can all be proud of.”

Still, this wouldn’t be a Joe Casey series without something a little zany, and he reveals, “I think there’s a Black Plague theme song being written, in the style of the great ’70s crime shows. We’re talking to different songwriters right now. Hopefully, the guy that did the ‘Rockford Files’ theme is still around and kicking…”

CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.

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