In July of 2016, the team of Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, and Dave Stewart introduced the world to Black Hammer, the mindbending tale of Silver Age superheroes trapped in a The Outer Limits-esque unreality. The arc of those trapped heroes wrapped in 2019 with Black Hammer: Age of Doom, but the story of the Black Hammer-verse was anything but over.
Now, Lemire and Harrow County artist Tyler Crook are diving deeper into that universe with this year’s Colonel Weird: Cosmagog. The series will follow Colonel Randall Weird, the Adam-Strange-inspired cosmic adventurer that played a huge part in the original story.
Ahead of the four-issue series' debut on April 22, Newsarama spoke to Lemire and Crook about their experience in bringing to life the strangest corner of the Black Hammer-verse yet.
Newsarama: Starting off with a question for both of you: how did this collaboration for Colonel Weird: Cosmagog come about?
Jeff Lemire: I had really admired Tyler’s work on Harrow County, which launched at Dark Horse around the same time as Black Hammer. I even did a variant cover for Tyler and writer Cullen Bunn. So it seemed like a really natural fit for Tyler to come over and do a Black Hammer story. And Weird seemed like a great fit for his beautiful watercolor style which has a real dreamy feel that I loved for this story.
Tyler Crook: Yeah, what Jeff said. It seemed like I was talking about it with our editor, Daniel Chabon off and on for a long time, just waiting for my schedule to open up enough that I could do a whole series. Colonel Weird is one of my favorite characters in the Black Hammer universe so I was excited to get to draw him.
Nrama: Tyler, there's some imagery in Colonel Weird of mid-century rural America, a time period you've visited with your work on Harrow County. Did this part of the book's setting draw you to the project?
Crook: For sure! I love to draw period clothes and locations. I like doing the research and thinking about the story reasons for the way someone would have dressed in the past. This series digs into a couple different eras of Colonel Weird’s past and it’s been really fun to find ways to make them all feel unique and interesting.
Nrama: Jeff, how long have you known that there would be more to Colonel Weird's story than what happens in the first volumes of Black Hammer?
Lemire: Weird immediately became my favorite character to write in Black Hammer, and he also seemed to be a real fan favorite as well. And the nature of the character allows for a very expansive story. Weird’s connection to the Parazone allows him to traverse time and space and it seemed like the potential for him is almost infinite. So early on I knew that I would have many more stories to tell with the Colonel.
Nrama: Following up on that, we begin this story by finding that Colonel Weird has departed from his friends in the Black Hammer series. Without revealing too much, why didn't he end up with the rest of the gang?
Lemire: Weird’s connection to the Parazone sets him outside of the group, it always did. Even when they were all trapped on the farm, he was travelling to the past and future simultaneously.
But the real reason, at the risk of getting into spoiler territory for anyone who has not read all of Age of Doom, is that both Weird and Madame Dragonfly do not deserve the happiness and rest that the other heroes find at the end of Age of Doom. No matter what their intentions were they were complicate in deceiving the others and I think they both feel like they still need to atone for that.
Nrama: Tyler, can you talk about when you knew your style was right to tell this story? Trans-dimensional travel isn't typically done in watercolor, after all. When did you know this story and your art clicked?
Crook: Well, I hope that I could effectively tell any kind of story that I set my mind to. With any story whether it’s slice of life, horror or cosmic sci-fi, my focus is always on trying to find and express the emotional core of the characters and their goals. Jeff’s writing makes that super easy. By the second or third page, I felt like I’d clicked with the story pretty well.
Nrama: Speaking of trans-dimensional travel, there are some psychedelic scenes of Colonel Weird moving through the Parazone in this book, an event with which Black Hammer fans are very familiar. Tyler, can you touch on putting your own spin on drawing the Parazone?
Crook: Mostly, I’m leaning on all the great artists who have worked in the Black Hammer series before me. Maybe the only twist I’ve put on it was to give the Parazone a decidedly green, tint. But that was mostly a choice I made for clarity – to make sure the Parazone felt different from other locations.
Nrama: On that same subject: Jeff, could you tell us how much control Colonel Weird has over his travels? He seems to walk a line between choosing which time/reality to visit and being yanked there by other forces. Is it his own will, another force, both, or neither?
Lemire: That is a really great question and one that I don’t think even Weird knows the full answer to. How much is he being pulled by unseen forces and how much is his own subconscious influencing when and where he goes? This is a question and mystery that is at the core of this story and this character and one I fully intend to explore as we go forward.
Nrama: Does the first issue feature any visual clues as to what's happening to Colonel Weird now? If so, Tyler, where should we look for them?
Crook: I don’t know how to answer this one without spoilers so I’ll just say that all the clues are hidden between page 1 and page 22.
Nrama: And finally, Colonel Weird: Cosmagog is just four issues long. Jeff, will Cosmagog completely wrap up the character arc of Colonel Randall Weird, or is this just another chapter in a continuing story?
Lemire: I don’t think Randall Weird’s story will ever end. Anyone who read The Quantum Age knows he is around for a long long time to come. Colonel Weird travels the infinite and there are infinite stories to tell with him.