An interview with Chris Charlton on "Black of Heart"
An untraceable killer. A detective on the edge. A city that never sleeps. “Black of Heart” writer Chris Charlton joins us to discuss the mind bending noir series.
WHERE DID “BLACK OF HEART” COME FROM?
In my late 20's I started to develop an appreciation for film noir. Kubrick's "The Killing" is still one of my all-time favorite films. There are the "classics", but there are also a lot of lesser-known films that still hold their own. The moodiness, violence and fast-paced quips really checked a lot of boxes for me and that's what I wanted to bring to "BLACK OF HEART". Only David and I took it to another level. It's not just punching mobsters and a detective working his case - it's horror and anxiety and triangulating the reader with some of those noir tropes and turning others on their head. There is that element of “Seven” or “Silence of the Lambs” thrown into the mix with “Sin City” or “Double Indemnity”.
I’d been toying with the idea of a noir detective story for a while, just as I was putting "Binary Gray" together. I was in Denver, taking a cab to the airport. This was before Uber or maybe just at the start of that and it was the first time I’d been in something that was essentially some guy's car with a meter thing wedged into his dashboard and I honestly wasn't even paying attention to how "off" everything felt until I noticed the guy looking at me through his mirror and his hands shaking and it suddenly dawned on me just how much trust goes into this taxi/passenger relationship. It's a lot. I think my adrenaline spiked and I was in high alert, fight or flight mode. Then I started piecing together that this wasn't a traditional cab, that there was a DIY aspect to the setup on his dash and it really stuck with me. I think that same week I put together the basic blueprint for the main villain, "the vulture", and started tinkering with the plot landscape. Where could it be set? What year? What was happening at that time? And all of those things kind of came together really quickly, but a lot of it flowed from the bad guy and that cab ride.
WHAT ARE YOU BRINGING TO THE GENRE AND WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO LEAVE WITH YOUR READERS ON BOOK LIKE THIS?
Even though I tend to deal with heavier emotional issues in my work, I think deep down I am drawn to action and "BLACK OF HEART" does a great job of balancing that. The turmoil of the detective's personal life pushed up against these big set pieces in 1949 New York City, intense chases and the horror of the serial murders - all of it propped up on David's artwork, which is just cinematic and beautiful and really pulls you in even closer. I want anything I write to be a fun ride and something that sticks with you, whether it's the trauma of a scene, or terror, or a great piece of dialogue, and I think "BLACK OF HEART" holds all of those elements and really slaps you across the face with them. Every time you step in a cab, you should think of this book. In addition to that, there’s a lot of great history packed into the narrative, which is a lot of fun for me to research. What technology was or wasn’t available at that time? What were the limitations? It’s fun for me, as a history nerd, but it’s also one step closer to placing the story in a living, breathing world and I love that.
TELL ME ABOUT WORKING WITH DAVID HOLLENBACH AND WHAT THAT COLLABORATION WAS LIKE.
David is a fantastic guy and an incredible artist. With his mixed media style, every panel on every page is a work of art. We met through a mutual friend and he started doing some cover artwork for me on my offbeat superhero book, “Binary Gray”, and then a five page surreal short for a Twilight Zone style book called “Sleepless”. I just really enjoyed working with him, so when “BLACK OF HEART” was written, I asked what he thought and he was on board! He’s great to work with and bounce ideas off of. He takes it all very seriously and with his style, you never know exactly what you’re going to get. It could be ink, paint, collage, or a combination of all three. It’s really fresh and brings a realism to the story I’m telling. You can feel the pain. You can see the horror. The tension. It’s all there on the page.
CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THE USE OF COLOR AND HOW THAT TIES IN WITH THE NARRATIVE?
When we started off, the idea was to go black and white with splashes of color. Hot red blood. Bold yellow for the taxi. Sepia tones for the flashback scenes, etc. After the first issue, we discussed taking it further and so it developed into this thing where as the mystery unfolds you’re getting more and more color building up to the big, full color finale. I think we added blues and oranges in Issue #2 and new colors were being added as we went and you can even see it playing out on David’s cover artwork. I think it was a great way to break away from tradition and enhance the storytelling.
HOW AND WHERE CAN PEOPLE PICK UP ISSUE #1 OF “BLACK OF HEART”?
Go right now, in fact, RUN, to your Local Comic Shop and tell them you want “Black of Heart” from Source Point Press! Or even easier, run to your nearest phone and call your comic shop. Tell them you want a copy for each hand and then make them open the door for you when you leave. Writing cliffhangers is one my favorite things, so my advice is go ahead and add the series to your pull list, because you’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting to know what happens from issue to issue!
YOU ALSO HAVE ANOTHER BOOK FROM SPP COMING OUT IN NOVEMBER – HORROR DOUBLE FEATURE 2? CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR STORY IN THAT?
Absolutely. This was a horror short that I wrote a while back and self-published with artist Ryan Quackenbush, who has a very prominent and focused style and he really knocked it out of the park. But this is a unique kind of ghost story set in the 1960’s and it’s told from the perspective of the neighbor across the street, who’s trimming these very dead hedges and the whole thing has a creepy Crypt Keeper vibe and really this story is my love letter to Tales From the Crypt and Tales From the Darkside. The stuff I grew up watching.
So, without ruining the ending, it’s about a widow, Beverly Castle, whose children are killed, leaving her all alone and really struggling to accept this reality. When she realizes that the spirits of her children have inhabited two life-sized dolls, the story takes a real turn! When I was young, my aunt had this doll that was hers from the 1950’s called “Goldie”. It was roughly three feet tall. I never understood why she kept it and while I wouldn’t say it was ominous or menacing there were times where you would walk into a room and it would catch you by surprise. Now since I wrote this story, my aunt gave me Goldie and at first I thought it was great – here’s this creepy doll to scare my friends with, but now that some time has passed, I think I may need to discuss it with my therapist. Oh, she just gave me a very disapproving look. She did NOT like that I said that. I better go.
Source Point Press is a division of Ox Eye Media, publishing books, comics, and graphic novels. ‘Black of Heart’ is available to pre-order now and will be released Wednesday, Nov. 25.