Marvel's Secret Wars was one of the biggest money-making titles of 2015, and now the writer behind it is exploring the dark side of money around the world - with magic and a few murders sprinkled in.
Debuting August 10, Image Comics' The Black Monday Murders pairs Jonathan Hickman with Tomm Coker in what they call "a crypto-noir seires about the power of dirty, filthy money." Both ex patriates of sorts from the Big Two superhero system, Hickman and Coker have found success in their individual creator-owned works and come together in this, their latest creator-owned Image Comics' effort.
Newsarama spoke with Hickman about this new series, his thoughts on the influence of money in a micro and macro level in the world, as well as seguing from Marvel exclusive writer to what he calls "undivided loyalties" to his own personal work.
Newsarama: Jonathan, what is The Black Monday Murders about?
Jonathan Hickman: It’s basically a noir mystery about schools of magic set in the world of global finance. The general conceit of the book is 'magic is real' but that the only 'real' magic in the world is the creation of wealth.
There’s a lot more to the story, but I think that’s the high concept bit. Market economies existing as artificial constructs so certain groups can more easily congregate power isn’t an idea people have trouble grasping nowadays.
We’re just pointing out that 'magic' generally operates on the same principle.
Also there are murders.
Nrama: This story cuts to the heart of the idea of ‘dirty money,’ taking it down an even darker fictional route. Has the idea of doing a story centering on money been something you’ve had brewing for a while?
Hickman: It is. But I don’t think that’s surprising.
I’m not sure I know any industry professionals that don’t have some ‘take’ on what’s happened in the last decade, or haven’t weaseled this stuff into a story they’ve told. It’s timely. It’s important. I don’t think there’s any denying that, but I really didn’t want to do a story about aristocracy or class or one-percenters or occupiers or whatever. Honestly, most commentary on that stuff seems incredibly simple, or worse, predictable. And I don’t mean that as an insult or anything, because I don’t think that has anything to do with talent or competence.
I mean, Margin Call was a good movie. The writing was sharp, the acting was pretty great, and I really enjoyed the snack, but you know what’s going to happen every single time a story is about man and money.
So I didn’t want to do that. The Black Monday Murders is about money as a force of nature. It’s not about human frailty or rebelling against a system, it’s more like storm chasing.
Nrama: These are some big concepts, but who are the key players in the storyline?
Hickman: Well, sure it’s big. I can’t help myself. But we’re mostly focused on the black sheep sister of wealthy banker who is murdered, and the detective trying to solve the case.
They both fall in a hole. It doesn’t have a bottom.
Nrama: The solicitation for the first issue uses the word “Mammon,” which is a Christian New Testament word for greed and material wealth. Are there some biblical overtones you’re aiming for here?
Hickman: Sure. There are some biblical overtones. I believe the Christ said a few things regarding money and death by unnatural causes.
You should google Jesus was a ninja.
Nrama: I remember you inquiring about Tomm Coker publicly on Twitter last summer. Is this what that was about? If so, tell us why you sought him out and how you ultimately connected?
Hickman: It’s weird because time has flown by and in a lot of ways I feel like it was just last year I put out my first book, The Nightly News. So sometimes when the germ of a book is floating around in my head, I start thinking about the art and imagine that someone like Tomm would do a great job on it and I wonder if I can maybe find someone who can do an acceptable facsimile of his style.
Then I remember my last few years at Marvel and Image I’ve sold a few copies of books and think, “Hey, maybe the real Tomm Coker would say yes.”
He did, and I’m very happy about it. Tomm’s just great. He’s on The Black Monday Murders #4 right now and we’re having a good time.
Nrama: This is your first creator-owned series launched after your nine year career at Marvel is seemingly over. What’s it like to have come full circle, and being primarily doing creator-owned comic books again?
Hickman: Oh, I love Image. I love being home. I slept for about three months after I finished up with my Marvel stuff, but once I got out of bed and got back to work, I realized how excited I was to be working on new stuff.
It’s weird because virtually everything I’ve ever written has been published - I’ve basically grown up as a creator in public. I don’t talk to people about it, but I assume that there’s been some sort of progression in the art. I know at the end there I was doing too much work and I’m sure there was a regression as well. But personally, I’m just now feeling like I know what I’m doing and, more importantly, what I want to do.
Nrama: So how did those Marvel years, especially Secret Wars, affect you – in general, and specific to The Black Monday Murders?
Hickman: Well, I really like the people at Marvel. I love the characters. The fans are a product of the times and that’s a bit of a bummer, but it’s understandable.
They think I should write Avengers comics, and instead I write Jonathan Hickman comics. The most gratifying thing about Image is that when someone buys my books over there it’s not because they have strong feelings about Iron Man, it’s because they like my books.
The new, more-linear me appreciates undivided loyalties.
Nrama: How do you see yourself now? A creator-owned comic book author? A writer who could do more than just comic books? What?
Hickman: I just tell stories, man. I don’t care so much about the arena. I just want to work at a certain velocity and I don’t want to be bored.
Specifically, in terms of comics, what I want to do right now is package the books in accordance with the demands of the narrative I’ve constructed. I don’t want to have to squeeze the thing into 20 pages just because 20 pages is what we do.
I have the luxury of not having to do that right now. So I’m not.