Meet comics' next monster hunter. And despite appearances, she might be a monster herself.
Wonder Woman artist Drew Johnson has created his own female hero in the form of monster hunter Matilda Finn. Set to debut in June's Midnight Society: The Black Lake from Dark Horse, Finn is a British operative who is tasked with dealing with the world's supernatural secrets. The wrinkle in that is there's one secret even she doesn't know: who she was before she was found washed up un a Dunwich beach a few years ago.
Midnight Society: The Black Lake dips into the world's most famous lake with supernatural lore - Loch Ness - and of course, the mythical monster beneath its waves. In what Johnson describes as an action story with pulp horror infused in its DNA, Midnight Society: The Black Lake is the long-time artist's first crack at a creator-owned series, and his first time writing a comic book as well.
Newsarama: Drew, how would you describe Midnight Society?
Drew Johnson: I've always thought of Midnight Society as a modern pulp tale of action, wonder, and suspense, with a healthy sprinkling of horror added for good measure.
Our first story arc, “The Black Lake,” tells the story of Matilda Finn, a British covert agent sent to join a frantic search and rescue mission after a crypto-zoological expedition and their famous leader disappear on Scotland's Loch Ness.Under the waters of that black lake, Matilda and her Special Boat Services team face the terrifying consequences of an adventurer's unquenchable desire for fame and fortune.
Nrama: What would you say the theme or style of this would be?
Johnson: This project is a blending of my favorite genre tropes: Secret agents, shadowy organizations, pulp adventure, monsters, and men and women of mystery.However, at its heart, “The Black Lake” is about the redemption of two of England's greatest adventurers, and the beginning of a journey that will lead to a lost woman finding her place and purpose among humanity.
Nrama: And what about Agent Matilda Finn -- who is she?
Johnson: That's one of the big questions of this series.Matilda washed up on a Dunwich beach several years ago, half dead and badly beaten.Alerted to her discovery, Arcturus Finn and his agents of Military Intelligence: Omega brought her in and aided in her return to health.
Nrama: Does she have any memory of her past?
Johnson: Unfortunately, to this day, Matilda has no memory of any previous life she may have had.Arcturus Finn named the amnesiac woman Matilda and took her under his wing, eventually training her as an agent in his secret organization, MI: Omega, where she flourished as his protégé and became one of the group's finest agents.
Nrama: Tell us more about the Midnight Society itself and its goals.
Johnson: The title Midnight Society isn't actually a group.It's a name that the famed adventurer, Arcturus Finn used to describe the varied species of mythical creatures that live in the shadows alongside human society.It was 1965, and he was speaking before a secret meeting of Parliament to request funding to create a new agency he called Military Intelligence: Omega.
The highly secret MI: Omega was to be tasked with extending a hand to this so-called “Midnight Society,” to welcome and integrate the long hidden creatures of myth into our everyday world, before our two societies could collide in a potentially violent fashion.
Finn's early efforts at inclusion and integration yielded positive results as many so-called "Mytho-Originated" individuals were approached, educated, and assisted in blending into human society.A few of these individuals chose to remain with MI: Omega, working as agents of Finn's organization.
Finn managed to create a sort of balance between the societies of Darkness and Light, as MI:O functioned as both ambassadors and as an internal, covert policing service for the Mytho-Originated.The agency has continued to fulfill its mission well, until recently....
Nrama: This inaugural story-arc is subtitled “The Black Lake” and involves the Loch Ness. What kind of research did you do into the facts and the speculation about the Loch Ness monster?
Johnson: I spent a good bit of time reading about the lake itself as well as the hoax that initially created the myth of the monster.The internet is of course, a treasure trove of scientific research and popular speculation regarding Nessie.In my wanderings through the mass of information, I stumbled on to a Daily Mail story of the anomalous rift in the floor of Loch Ness, dubbed Edward's Deep, where the Loch is mysteriously deeper than anywhere else, which I thought was fascinating.The idea of trying to explore an extra deep area of a lake that is so full of peat it's difficult to see underwater became a platform on which a story started to take shape for me.To make it all worse, I set the story at night.To me, the idea of being alone, hundreds of feet under water, inside a tiny submarine in a place so dark that light can barely shine out in front of you is just terrifying.
I also love the idea of the bleak darkness of the depths of the loch as a metaphor for Matilda's lost memory, and her deleted past.To me, the loch is a character in the story that represents the inner darkness stopping Matilda from truly understanding herself...The book isn't called The Black Lake solely in reference to the story's location.
Nrama: People know you quite well for your illustration work, particularly on Wonder Woman. But here you're branching out into creator-owned, and writing your first comic after co-writing G.I. Joe: Frontline. What led you to make the leap into writing and drawing, and creator-owned?
Johnson: It's something I've wanted to do for a long time.I've always had stories to tell.Drawing was my first love, though, and I wanted to hone my craft to a point where I'd be comfortable drawing the stories I'd been saving up over the years.
I've been truly excited for the opportunity to bring my first effort at an original project to Dark Horse Comics.I began my art career with them, and cut my teeth on Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron there.I met my editor, the excellent Philip Simon while at work on Star Wars: Infinities.It feels like coming home---Which is a great way to get to do a creator-owned project.
Nrama: And what made Midnight Society the idea of yours you latched onto to do first?
Johnson: Midnight Society was the one that took off running.Honestly, I started developing the characters, and they just started writing themselves.I think it's because I didn't come to it cold, with a glimmer of an idea that I was trying to expand upon and build from the ground up.I started with some characters that I thought would be fun to draw, that challenged me, and the stories organically grew up around them as a stew of all my favorite genres of literature, films, comics, music, and so on.
I'd never taken a stab a writing a large scale story before.I didn't know how to start, so I went out for coffee one night with a sketch book for writing and drawing, and just got to it.Next thing I knew, I had a broad outline for a pretty epic story with an ensemble of diverse characters.
Then I got really busy drawing comics and set it all aside for a few years.
Eventually, I picked it all up again and decided I'd like to make something happen with these ideas---However, the whole Midnight Society story was so large, that as a fledgling writer, I was deeply intimidated by it all.Common sense kicked in, and I realized I could just break off a small chunk of that story, and start off with that.
A four issue introductory story versus a fifty issue epic would be a lot less daunting to take on for me, and for my potential audience.That introductory story became “The Black Lake.”As the initial Midnight Society story, “The Black Lake” sows many seeds for the larger, continuing story that follows the events in Scotland.There are major consequences for the actions taken by MI:Omega at Loch Ness.