Todd Black is the writer and creator of Guardians, a new comic book series from Black Magic Wolf Productions.
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Black Ship Books: Here’s a really obvious first question — how did you get into making comics?
Todd Black: Well, I’ve honestly been into superheroes my whole life. I grew up on Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, Justice League, etc. And nowadays I watch Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and just about every superhero movie that’s coming out these days. So honestly it was almost inevitable that I got into doing something superhero-related.
As it were, I one day just asked myself, “If I was going to make a comic, what kind of story would I tell?” And that’s where the first idea of Guardians came into play. At first, I was just going to make it like a four-part movies series, and I fleshed that out. But as time went on, I realized I wanted to tell more about my heroes, and so the comic idea came to be. Then, at a comic book convention called C2E2, I got the kick in the pants I needed (by none other than legendary writer Matt Fraction) and my journey began.
BSB: What are some big influences (characters, companies, creators) on your work, on Guardians or in general?
TB: Well like I said, I grew up on both Marvel and DC. But I get influences from everywhere. I just take what I’ve learned, and what I’ve liked, and I put it into the comic in one shape or form. Some of the characters, villains especially, were as simple as “what if I took this character, added this and this, and subtracted that. How would that look? Would it work?” I think that’s how a lot of writers do things: it’s not just one influence, it’s many.
TB: Email and ads!!! Haha. But seriously, it is how we came together. For Guardians #0, I met the penciler/inker Chua Eng Chee after posting an ad. He was really good, but he didn’t want to do coloring. Alex Garcia, I was actually working with on another project, and he saw my ad and was interested, so he became our colorist and letterer.
After Guardians #0 was done, Eng Chee had to leave sadly, and I was unsure of how to proceed, Alex stepped up, and said “I can do everything”, and he did. So #1-#3 is all drawn and lettered by Alex, and he gets better with every issue. We just got done drawing the cover for #4, and it is absolutely stunning. I really hope I get to work with him for a long time.
BSB: Give us the “Readers’ Digest” version — who are our heroes and what are they up against?
TB: Our heroes, the Guardians, Element and Chaos, are two heroes created by a deity to protect a city that has called out for help. In essence, the people’s prayers are answered, and the Guardians are born.
Yet you’re going to find out that the Guardians aren’t just blank slates to the people, they’re blank slates to themselves. They know their mission, they know what they can do, but they don’t know how to interact with the people they’re protecting. No people skills, at all. And it causes them to ask some very deep questions about their purpose, and about themselves.
TB: Umm….I’m not sure “emulate” is the right word. Do I strive to be as epic as DC or Marvel? Sure, maybe. I think every writer, especially those who write superhero comics, strive to be like the ones who have set the tone before them. Yet I really don’t try and compare my comic to theirs, it’s a disservice to both sides. There will be comparisons, I’ve already had them for the Guardians themselves, to two different pairings on both sides! That’s just the fun of it.
What sets Guardians apart is really the relationship between Element and Chaos themselves. They’re brothers, they trust each other completely, yet they have totally different views on the world. And they’re both right in a way. Guardians #1 opens with a discussion between them about what their role in the world is. It was a fun thing to write as I got to show both of their perspectives and how they arrived at them. Their journey from issue #0 onward will really be about their relationship to both each other, and to the people of Delta City, and it’ll be quite a journey they have to undertake.
BSB: The two main characters of Guardians, Element and Chaos, are brothers. This might be a dense question, but are there any religious/mythological archetypes underlying the story? The “elemental” aspect is obviously tied to Eastern spirituality (and even medieval Western mysticism), but is there also, for example, a Cain/Abel, Romulus/Remus aspect to those characters’ genesis?
TB: No, not really. At least not in the “they are clearly beings based on this religious text or mythology” or something like that. I explain in Guardians #0 that Element and Chaos kind of represent the world itself. The idea of balance is key in the story. Element represents nature, the natural order of the world. Whereas Chaos is the unknown, which many think means evil, but it doesn’t. Darkness is necessary to survive. What’s day without night? Light without shadows and shade? And on and on. Element looks like the hero you’re supposed to have, Chaos doesn’t, but he’s still a hero.
So just as much as its Element and Chaos’ story about living, it’s also about the people of Delta City reacting, adapting, and experiencing the arrival of the Guardians. Will they be fully accepting of the heroes they asked for? Some will, some won’t, some will adore them, some will fear them. It’s again the balance of things. And it will lead to some great moments…and some terrible mistakes.
BSB: Elevator pitch time! In one sentence, tell us what makes Guardians the coolest thing any of us will ever see.
TB: Great art, deep story, plenty of laughs, and a ton of great action sequences. Can I do two sentences? Guardians #3 has chaos dragons!
BSB: What’s coming soon for Todd Black? For Guardians?
Well we just wrapped up Guardians #3, which is the end of our first story arc, “The Winds of Change”. We’re hoping to start #4 soon, but we need to wait and see how sales do and how the fans react to the arc. If things go well, we’ll start immediately, if not…well we’re not giving up! Guardians is too special for me to give up on it.
A preview to help excite: Guardians #4 and #5 will feature a new villain called Phase. He’s very… gifted… but not in the way you’re expecting. And he’s totally different from our first villain Tempest. He’ll test the Guardians in different ways than Tempest did and it’ll make them ask a pretty deep question about the role of “fun” in the world. Weird, huh?
As for me personally, I’m going to be going to Chicago Comic-Con, C2E2, to help promote Guardians even further. I honestly want nothing more than to continue to write Guardians forever… or at least until Skynet takes over and… well, you know. Ha, ha. Anyway I’m doing everything I can to make Guardians a success.
The only other thing I’m trying to get going is a SHAZAM! TV Series, I’ve written a bunch of scripts for it and I really think it could work, especially with the success of Arrow. I can’t say what’s going on behind-the-scenes, but just like I’m trying to make Guardians a success, I’m doing the same for SHAZAM!. I love these projects, and I want to see them go big.
BSB: Thanks for your time, Todd! I think a SHAZAM! show would be pretty bad-ass as well. Best of luck with that, Guardians, and everything else! Everybody, be sure to check out Guardians and its free zero issue at Guardians-Comic.com!