"Black-Eyed Kids #1" first look
Credit: AfterShock Comics
Credit: AfterShock Comics

One of the newest urban legends is that of Black-Eyed children, and it’s coming to comic books.

AfterShock Comics publisher Joe Pruett is returning to comic book writing, penning a new creator-owned series titled Black-Eyed Kids with artist Szymon Kudranski. Based on modern folklore but with a fictional twist, Black-Eyed Kids is aimed at being a “creepy” survival horror story.

With Black-Eyed Kids #1 scheduled to debut April 20, Newsarama talked with the publisher/writer about picking up the pen again, connecting with Spawn artist Szymon Kudranski, and how he feels as a parent with these Black-Eyed children.

Credit: AfterShock Comics

Newsarama: Joe, what is Black-Eyed Kids about?

Joe Pruett: Black-Eyed Kids is based on, what I hope, is an urban legend. There have been scores of reports through the last couple of decades or of solitary or small groups of teens who approach persons, asking for a ride, or to use a phone, or whatnot. These children are olive-skinned, talk politely, and usually dressed in clothes that may be a little bit out of date. When they approach you, you notice two things. The first, that you are suddenly and uncontrollably overcome with a dread, a fear, that you have no idea of why. Secondly, you notice their eyes. Solid black. No white. No iris.

While there have been numerous accounts of interactions with these children, there have only been a scattered handful (if that many) or person who actually allowed the Black-Eyed Kids into their homes. The only one I know of off-hand, fled from their home shortly after.

I just thought that nothing says “creepy” like creepy children. The Shining, creepy. Children of the Corn, creepy. Etc. The legend fascinated me, so I had to write about it.

Credit: AfterShock Comics

Nrama:  So just how do these Black-Eyed children come about?

Pruett: No one knows for certain. Theories range from aliens, other dimensional beings, the Nephilim, etc. All potentially quite scary in their own way.

Nrama: What I mean is in your story, how do they come about?

Pruett: I decided not to focus solely on things I might have read on the internet and instead create a possible scenario and background from my own sometimes frightening and also disturbing imagination. 

Nrama: Is this survival piece like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Children of the Corn

Pruett: I think every good, classic horror story is a survival piece. You either learn to survive or you die. I also think with good horror there has to be some emotional attachment to it by the characters, either a relative, a home, a destination, etc. 

Credit: AfterShock Comics

Black-Eyed Kids, at its core, is about family, about secrets, and about consequences. Family should come first. Secrets have a habit of getting out, leading to consequences for actions, both past and present.

This is not The Walking Dead, I'm trying to cash in that unparalleled success, but if fans of The Walking Dead (of which there are legion) want to buy my comic, I won't turn them away.

Nrama: This may be too personal, but do you have children? If so, how as a parent does this type of fictional situation make you feel?

Pruett: Oh, I have kids. Six of them! All beautiful and great in their own unique ways. I count myself very fortunate. I always wanted to repopulate the world in my image, so I'm doing my part.

As a parent, sure, it would freak me out if my kids behaved the way that some of these kids will in the series, especially the kids we meet in Black-Eyed Kids #1, but, at the same time, I know that this a fantasy world that I've created in this series, so I don't really think too much about the realistic aspect of it as much.

Nrama: Joe, it’s good to see you doing more writing – last time you wrote a story was in Lion Forge’s Knight Rider or the great short in Rocketeer Adventures with Tony Harris. What brought you back in to write, and do it with your own creator-owned series?

Credit: AfterShock Comics

Pruett: I've always worn both hats, being partly on the publishing side of things and partly in the creative side of things. I love to write and tell stories. Even more, I love to tell my own stories with my own characters. Don't get me wrong, I like playing in other people's playgrounds (Rocketeer, X-Men, Gen13, etc.), but, at the end of the day, I'm a child of the independent comic book scene of the '80s (as a reader) and the '90s (as a creator), so my roots will always lead back to creator-owned comics. 

Nrama: How long has the idea for Black-Eyed Kids been with you, and how did it develop?

Pruett: Black-Eyed Kids is something I've been playing around with for a few years. The version that I finally settled on is not the version that I started with a few years back. It's taken on a life of its own, which, to me, is the fun part of being a writer. Your comic is your child. You give birth to it, nurture it, feed it, but eventually you have to step back and let it reach maturity. It becomes self-aware and has its own personality and you can only hope that you give it the foundation that it needs to succeed. I'm extremely happy where it has ended up, not only story-wise, but also my artistic partners, Szymon, Guy, and Marshall, and, most especially, with all the guys here at AfterShock. I honestly believe this is my best work to date and am beyond excited to see what kind of response it gets. I know I'm loving writing it. 

Nrama: You mentioned Szymon, who’s illustrating this. He is an in-demand artist for DC and Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. How’d you connect with him to do this creator-owned project together?

Credit: AfterShock Comics

Pruett: You can thank our editor, Mike Marts, for that. Mike had worked with Szymon while at DC, so when we first started talking about potential artists for AfterShock projects (not just Black-Eyed Kids artists) Szymon was one of the guys that Mike recommended.

The funny thing is that Mike had actually started to talk to Szymon about drawing another one of our titles first. I was privately disappointed as I had not yet pitched Black-Eyed Kids to the creative committee (yes, even the Publisher has to pitch his own series for approval) and I had thought that Szymon would have been perfect for my series. When Black-Eyed Kids was approved I asked if I could use him for it and Mike, being the gentleman that he is, quickly backed me up on that suggestion. Szymon has been great to work with. The man is the fastest artist I've ever seen and has been a pure joy to partner with on this series. Love his work so far. Amazing! Can't wait for everyone to see it.

Nrama:  Are you looking forward to the seemingly inevitable cosplay for this series at conventions?

Pruett: Hadn't really thought much about that, but, Yeah!. That would be pretty awesome to see some teenagers walking around with black eyes. Probably be a bit creepy.

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