There's a thing about magic - you can't predict it. But in the case of Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott's Black Magick, you can predict it will return - it's just a matter of when.
The series went on hiatus back in May 2018 with an emotionally devestating cliffhanger in Black Magick #11, and both Scott and Rucka are halfway through the next arc - although they don't want to begin releasing it until its all confirmed for a monthly release schedule.
Scott spoke with Newsarama about Black Magick and where it stands, progress on the planned TV adaptaton, and shared inside details about her collaboration with Rucka and what she's doing in additional to the creator-owned wiccan noir.
Newsarama: Nicola, how did Greg approach you for Black Magick initially?
Nicola Scott: Greg and I have known each other for 14 years, we met before I started working at DC in fact. He was one of the writers at the company at the time that was trying to get me to work on his books before I had started at the company. He was part of the mechanism that got me a job there in the first place. We knew each other from back then and had wanted to work with each other. A couple of times little things had come up at DC, but nothing really major, which is what we wanted.
Only a few years after I got there he had left the company. He had branched out doing creator-owned work. He said to me then that these are the different projects I got going you should come on and do some with me. He rolled through a vague idea of two or three different things and Black Magick was one of them – straight away I wanted to do that. It was a good five years later that we finally got it off the ground.
Nrama: You also worked on Wonder Woman together, while Black Magick was going on. How did that affect your dynamic with each other and production of Black Magick?
Scott: It didn’t change our dynamic terribly much because we’ve already been knee deep in Black Magick for a good solid year at that stage. I was 2/3rds of the way finished on a Black Magick issue when Greg called me to say that this has just happened. "If you want to do it we will do it, but we need to start now."
I was like "Of course I want to do this, but when are we going to do Black Magick? I literally have a paint brush in my hand right now." He said we are going to have to put it on hold, and just have faith that the readers will be okay with this. By that afternoon I was submitting design ideas for her costume. It literally happened that fast, I was half-way through a page.
I live in Australia, and we had already planned that I would spend a couple of months in Portland, where he lives, that year. The idea was I would be working on Black Magick, and to do our creative work that we would do on Skype together, that we would be able to do it face-to-face. That was already part of the plan, but that just so happened to be when Wonder Woman was happening. So we ended up talking a whole lot of Wonder Woman instead. It was more intense because when you are doing work for DC you can’t set your own schedule.
In regards to Wonder Woman we had already spent a good decade talking about Wonder Woman ad nauseam. I don’t think we’ve ever come face-to-face and she hasn’t come up in conversation because that was the project he was working on at the time when we met. He and I feel really passionate about the character. She’s definitely my favorite character, and definitely one of his favorite characters. We’ve always seen eye-to-eye on who she is as a person.
Nrama: But you had to put down your paintbrush on Black Magick - but now you're back. How many issues do you and Greg have planned for Black Magick?
Scott: Originally it was 30 issues, and I think we are going to be pretty close to that. We will possibly be one or two issues over because we did that special issue #6 that was not part of the original plan – the flashback to her childhood. But because we took that break for Wonder Woman, we felt like we had to do something quite specific as a reintroduction of the ideas. That becomes sort of a bonus issue, and we might by the end of the run do a couple of more that aren’t part of the linear story, but flesh out the ideas behind it quite a bit. So I think somewhere between the 30-35 issues is what we are looking at.
Nrama: One of the biggest reasons fans seemed to like Black Magick has been the look and tone you give the series. What was your process in deciding on this gritty noir style for the book?
Scott: We’ve been talking about this project in an abstract way over the five-year period of him telling me about it and us starting.
When it came down to actually doing it, I gave myself a couple of months as prep time because I needed to design all the characters and the world. He and I needed to get on the same page for the look of the book and the visual tone of the story because we’d already between us coined the term a cult noir. It needed to be culty and it needed to be a noir detective story, and what that may look like.
I knew right away I wanted it to be moody, in a way a lot of my art up until that point didn’t have an opportunity to fall in that genre. In the process of designing our lead characters I found myself experimenting with a lot of different mediums - different paints, markers, pencils - wanting to do something different from what I was doing at DC. I wanted a lot of control over the finished product, of course, when you are doing work for hire you have limited control.
In the process of exploring creatively, as thoroughly as I could, I found myself being drawn more and more to painting the story. It gave me the atmosphere that I wanted. It gave me the depth that I wanted. It gave the book a real noir feeling.
When I told Greg about it – I said here are the examples of my experiments and here is the one I’m leaning towards and this is why, but the downside was it was going to take me twice as long because I’m drawing it and then I’m painting it and I’m painting it old school.
But we agreed since this is a passion project and we get to sort of control the schedule. It didn’t matter how long it took to do each issue. We would take our time to get it right. I asked how likely is it going to affect the book if it’s black and white? Greg looked at me – like what do you mean? I said I like the idea of this being like a black and white movie. It’s a little bit grainy, it’s a little bit atmospheric - like an old school noir detective movie, but we add these acidic waves of color whenever magic is happening. Witches can see the full light spectrum, and we are showing the readers what the witches can see.
He kind of really liked that idea, and when we got to demonstrate our first example of it in issue 1 in the diner. He was like that’s amazing because we can now use that as a storytelling device. That whenever we show color it’s the presence of legitimate magic. Like all good creative building blocks it sort of evolves organically.
Nrama: Black Magick #11 came out in May 2018. Can you give people an estimate on when the next issue will be?
Scott: Oh God – I don’t know. We were going really well straight off the bat of the last one, but least year Greg has had a lot of Hollywood work happening, a lot of his work being adapted – some of it he is doing himself. It has made an incredible impact on his schedule. I had figured that at the beginning of last year we would be focused and working, and when it was clear that wasn’t happening as much as either of us would like. I took that opportunity to do things that we had been putting off for years and years because being an artist in comics doesn’t leave you for much time for anything else. It’s a seven day a week job. So we moved, bought a house and renovated. That has kept me from getting furious at having no scripts to work on is that I have a house to play with.
We are at a point now that things have settled down for me, and things have kind of started to take shape for him. We’ve already got two and a bit issues in the can and we have a bit of that issue and two more to do before this arc of five is complete. It’s a little slow going at the moments, but hopefully not for too much longer. I’m expecting a script either today or tomorrow. I hope by mid-year we start releasing again because we have a couple banked up we should be able to release five in a row.
Nrama: After those five issues do you think you’ll have a regular three-month break as you did between the first and second arcs?
Scott: You never know because it’s such a slow process it’s incredibly enjoyable to do. The slowness isn’t a problem. I can get quite fast at this, but I can’t sustain fast at this. It’s very tempting for both of us for more mainstream short gigs, and while we want to focus on Black Magick as much as possible, if Greg finds himself distracted again by more Hollywood stuff and it looks like there is going to be a bit of a lag where he’s going to be able to deliver scripts then I’ll probably end up taking a couple of short, work for hire, DC gigs or something just to keep me busy because I get really itchy palms when I’m not busy.
Nrama: What can you tell us Black Magick’s upcoming arc?
Scott: The relationships between our characters have shifted. I think we are jumping forward about six months. I think that’s what we have decided. Yes, the dynamics between all our characters have shifted a little. Rowan has become a bit harder and meaner because she’s going through all of this alone. Alex has become way more inquisitive. Morgan doesn’t quite understand what the hell is happening, but knows Rowan is going through something hardcore and doesn’t really trust her anymore. I think that’s breaking his heart a little.
And things have escalated. It feels like the pace of the story has started to escalate because we are now moving into the middle act of the whole story. So it’s less of a slow reveal and a slow release of discoveries, it’s an escalating train that may spin out of control.
Nrama: What can you tell us about Rowan and Morgan’s relationship moving forward after Black Magick #11’s cliffhanger of Morgan wanting a new partner?
Scott: They are actively not talking to each other at the moment. They’ve been re-assigned partners. And I’m sure as the arc goes on some of that ice will thaw and some of it will ignite.
Considering they’ve been great friends since the academy and partners for a really long time. They’ve been each other’s work husband and wife. This is really tough, and it’s really tough on both of them because there is a lot of love, but a lot of knowledge that has been repressed. This lack of trust and faith in each other is really taking a toll.
Nrama: We get to see the balance Rowan tries to hold with her day job and magical responsibilities, but are we going to see this more with Alex as a school teacher as well? Maybe even other witches’ daily lives?
Scott: I think Rowan is starting to lose control of that balance. We have hinted at a significant, but varied witch culture Rowan and Alex participate in. At the beginning of issue 1 it isn’t really a circle of witches. It’s a circle of wiccans, and we revisit them again in I think issue 12. We go back to that circle, but some of those characters do pop up here and there. They will continue to pop up and will become more and more relevant. But there is also a sort of these real old school witches like Rowan and Alex that we were introduced to in issue #6 as part of Rowan’s awakening. They are the old school holders of the magic and the knowledge from the beginning of time. I think we are going to see some of them a bit more regularly too.
Nrama: Are there any specific, upcoming pages you are really excited for readers to see?
Scott: Oh yes! There are some very interesting relationships developing of all kinds. Relationships have taken a turn as some people are less close as they use to be, and some people are more close than they use to be. So that’s always a little bit fun. Rowan is getting a little more flippant with her magic, which is a little bit fun, not using it terribly much for a long time. She’s starting to flex her muscles a little bit, and sometimes a little thoughtlessly.
So that’s sort of interesting, the way that Greg is telling the story through character development and interaction is always the most fun thing about working with Greg on any script is how the story progresses with just how people are with each other. I love that kind of storytelling, it’s my favorite.
Nrama: It was announced that there’s a TV show in development for Black Magick. Do you have any creative involvement in the project? If so have there been any updates?
Scott: I just read the final draft of the pilot script. I know it’s currently looking for the right creative studio partners. I think is the right terminology for it. But from the beginning we were not super-doper involved, we are there more as consultants, and with each draft of the script and treatment it’s sent to us so we can look it through. It’s not so much for approval. It’s more for notes. The first draft there were a couple of notes, but that was really just general and broad as supposed to anything specific.
Greg and I talked quite a bit before we started shopping Black Magick around in the beginning that our involvement would be limited and it’s a completely different medium. They have more time, space, and people to develop the story. We know there is a lot more story than what is shown in the book because the book has limited space, and with just him writing it and just me drawing it there is a limit to how much we can get to. But between he and I we know the width and breathe of where the story can go. So that was very much part of the initial creative exchange was making sure that anyone who started developing the series knew the greater scope this particular story was being told.
Certainly, the pilot script has taken that information and have run with it, which is great, because through the one episode script we can see quite a few elements from different issues of the 11 that have come out. There are quite a few of scenes, moments, and dynamics that take place, which is quite fun to see how they are uninterrupted and how the story has been reassembled to indicate this broader scope.
I have my fingers crossed. Every comic book out there has an option out on it, and a lot of them have treatments in development at some point. Very few of them are actually getting made. So neither of us are super-doper holding our breath, but it would be really fun to see what they do with the material because what I have seen so far, writing wise, has been really interesting.
I would be really curious to see what they do visually to interpret the book because as much as I would love them to make a black and white show – I don’t know anyone investing in a black and white TV show. But you never know it could be exactly the hook for people to go, we should do this because a black and white show – old school, noir detective with an element of horror, witches, and a cult. Oh my God, I want to watch that show. This is part of the reason I want them to make it because I know it won’t be an exact retelling of our story. It’s an interpretation. I want to watch that show! Fingers crossed.
Nrama: Are there any other projects you are working on right now you would like to share?
Scott: I contributed to something that is coming out from DC that I’m pretty sure I can’t talk about. I was asked to participate in something that I can tell will be kind of a big deal. I was one of a few that got to be part of this project, that’s a bit exciting. There’s always rumbling about something that may or may not happen down the line, any of which would be really interesting if they do happen. One in particular would be fascinating if it happens. But nothing solid, and certainly nothing I can talk about right now.