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Saladin Ahmed's been busy lately. In addition to keeping up with writing two ongoing young superhero series at Marvel Comics — The Magnificent Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man: Miles Morales — he also found time last year to launch a major Kickstarter campaign for Dragon, a new graphic novel built around the infamous Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula. But even that wasn't the full extent of Ahmed's new projects. He also went back to 1970s Detroit and a determined reporter working to get to the bottom of some very dark problems in her city.
This week, Ahmed and artist Sami Kivelä launched Abbott: 1973, the second volume of their acclaimed BOOM! Studios supernatural period drama Abbott, which follows journalist Elena Abbott as she investigates threats to Detroit that exist at the strange, dangerous intersection of white supremacy and supernatural menace. This time around, it's a new year and in some ways a whole new world for Elena. She's got a new job at a Black newspaper in the city, a new romance with an old friend, and she's getting better at controlling the strange "Lightbringer" powers she discovered she possessed in the previous volume. But of course, darkness is still following her, and as the election of Detroit's first Black mayor looms, Elena will find that the evil she thought she'd vanquished in the last volume was only the beginning.
SYFY WIRE reached out to Ahmed to talk about returning to Abbott two years after the first volume launched, collaborating with Kivelä, writing about issues from the 1970s that still feel relevant now, and much more. We even found time to ask about Miles Morales. Check out the full Q&A below, along with an exclusive preview of Abbott: 1973 #1 in the gallery.
How did the story for 1973 come about? Did you have it in your mind as you were writing the first Abbott miniseries or did you piece it together after the first issue came out?
I always planned to write more of Elena's story, so I knew some of the broad outlines, characters, themes, and historical stuff that I wanted to tackle. But for me, a lot of the shape of a thing takes place in the writing, so there are always surprises!
In the first issue at least, you seem to be pushing the "Detroit as a character" idea even further as the characters consider a major election, a new push of racism, a new newsroom, etc. What can you tell us about the ways you're growing the world around Elena in this volume?
Yes, as we open, Elena is working a new job at a Black newspaper. She's preparing for the election of the city's first Black mayor. The idea is to portray a world in transformation — despite racist narratives of decline, Detroit in the early '70s was a place of dynamic change, and Abbott: 1973 reflects that.
You're also expanding the mythology of the monsters Elena is tasked with fighting and her role as "Lightbringer." What can you tell us about what readers can expect from the supernatural side of things this time out?
In the first volume, Elena was sort of stumbling into her own power to stop Bellcamp, a wizard who was murdering Detroit residents and turning them into monsters. In Abbott: 1973, she is a more seasoned wielder of the Light, discovering new strengths and abilities. But she is also hunted by a whole council of wizards, each with their own frightening powers, each set on maintaining their stranglehold on Detroit.
Elena's personal life is also rather different as this volume begins, though she still hasn't totally relaxed into it. How did you shape that evolution from 1972 to 1973?
Elena's relationship with her gangster girlfriend Amelia is one of my favorite things to write in the whole world. In our new volume, Amelia is trying to get out of "the life" and they are living sort of half-openly together — an absolutely radical situation for two women given the time. And they have a puppy! But each woman will be driven to her limit in this series, and the drama will be intense.
As with the first volume, there are parallels within this story that form connections with our present moment. Did writing this series now ever inform your narrative choices in a conscious way or was it always just kind of shaping things thematically in the background?
Anyone who says the times and environment they write in doesn't affect what they write is lying — either to you or themselves. I was absolutely aware of echoes of the present moment when writing about elections and fake news and white supremacy in the '70s. But what's wild is how specifically some of this hideous stuff repeats. Months after I handed in these scripts about white supremacists trying to rig an election in Detroit, we here in Michigan watched the GOP try to do just that. The more things change...
How has your collaboration with Sami Kivelä evolved since Volume 1 of Abbott?
Trust. The first time we collaborated, I incorrectly assumed anyone not from Detroit drawing this book would need a lot of handholding. Sami proved me wrong about as hard as possible with his meticulous references and perfect tone. So this time around I learned to just back on up!
You were writing superhero books before you launched this creator-owned project, and you've done even more superhero work since. What has the work-for-hire comics writing taught you about yourself and your process that you're able to bring to Abbott?
I think my dialogue is less clunky!
You're also about to launch an ambitious new arc in Spider-Man: Miles Morales with his own Clone Saga. The phrase "Clone Saga" evokes a very classic Spider-Man feel for a lot of fans, but what can you tell us about the arc that you feel makes it a very particular Miles Morales kind of comic?
I can't tell much! We are keeping cards pretty close to the chest with the details on this one, but I can say that this is a storyline I've been thinking about for a very long time — attentive readers will see seeds that were planted many months ago are now bearing fruit. And stuff that happens here — new characters, status quo changes — will be felt for years!
Abbott: 1973 #1 is on sale now.