New York City is a metropolis full of immigrants - but never one quite like Black Cloud's Zelda.
Zelda is a revolutionary from another world where fantasy and magic rule, but after being exiled to the comparably droll world of ours here she is broke and looking for a way to change that. Her idea? Selling discreet trips back to her fantasy homeland to the highest bidder. What could go wrong?
Originally announced at 2016's Image Expo, Black Cloud comes from writers Ivan Brandon and Jason Latour, with artists Greg Hinkle and Matt Wilson. Latour and Brandon opened up to Newsarama recently about the fantasy series and what elaborated a bit more on Zelda’s abilities and the kind of world she comes from.
Newsarama: Ivan, Jason, can you talk about Zelda's ability? How does her powers work because it’s not through sleeping "dreams", right?
Jason Latour: Well… no. Our lead character is a young woman named Zelda who’s from a strange land where the strongest imagination rules. But after a failed revolution, Zelda ends up busted and broke in New York City.
Though homeless and exiled, Zelda still has the keys to a magical realm. So she decides to use that to her advantage and shepherd rich kids back to her homeland as a hustle. Selling them the trip as a one of a kind experience. But it's not long before that goes sideways - and both her home and ours are out to get her.
Ivan Brandon: I wouldn't really say that Zelda has an ability so much as a charm. She's an adept and compelling storyteller, the ultimate currency where she's from. The problem is that the truth can seem malleable when you've got everyone's ear.
Nrama: So who is Zelda Barrett? What kind of heroine, if that's what she is, are we looking at here?
Brandon: I think she, and moreso everyone around her, would bristle at calling her a hero. She's a person with enormous potential who struggles mightily against her greatest nemesis: herself.
Latour: Zelda has kind of exiled herself to the space between fact and fiction. But her talent is turning one into the other. She doesn’t always feel like the hero. And for someone who can snap their fingers and make other people believe her version of reality… that’s a very dangerous and scary mental place to be. For her the lines have blurred beyond recognition and she’s trying to figure out how to redraw them. I think that’s very relatable in today’s world.
Nrama: You have Matt Wilson joining you on colors. What do you think it is that he brings best to the table?
Brandon: Matt's one of the best there is and nobody does mood and ambience like him. He was the first name in my head for this. There can be a tendency in modern comics to overplay light and effects to where they're at odds with the storytelling. Matt's all about subtlety without losing any of that punch.
Latour: Yeah man, underscore, bold and ditto all that. Matt’s one of the best colorists around. Having him is such a gift and a coup. He’s never getting these blackmail photos back.
Nrama: What was it about Greg's style that seemed for a perfect visual match for this kind of story?
Latour: This is a series that’s literally about taking a trip to a place where anything can happen. So much like Zelda is the tour guide of sorts in story, Greg also plays that role.
So, we really needed an artist who could fly us anywhere, but also give these flights of fancy a landing strip. I can’t tell you how difficult that is to do. To in the same drawing, synthesize your own imagination with a reality that other people can embrace. But Greg has done that masterfully again and again and again in this series. Watching him grow leaps and bounds with every challenge we think up has been a real joy for me as a cartoonist myself.
Brandon: Greg's got a way of adding depth and scale to things that exceeds the size of the panel it's supposed to be contained in. He builds a world (in this case more than one) that feels somehow familiar and like nothing we've ever seen. He somehow manages to ground the impossible. He has exceeded our wildest idea of what this book can be.
Nrama: What is Zelda's main opposition here? Is it political, is it a particular individual, or something less tangible?
Brandon: Zelda's main opposition is Zelda.
Latour: Oooo…so mysterious, Ivan.
Nrama: Black Cloud has a lot to deal with obtaining your aspirations, whether it's in one's career or something on a more personal basis, do you feel like you guys have achieved your own dreams?
Brandon: I wouldn't trust anyone who felt they had.
Latour: Yeah agreed. I mean, look that’s some of what this comic is about. In its most core fairy tale form it’s probably an exploration of that old saying: “be careful what you wish for”. Especially when you wish for talking battle cats and laser swords.