SPOILER WARNING: Some minor spoilers for the first arc of Black Cloud below!
Black Cloud is one of the most exciting new Image Comics releases of the year. Just last week, it wrapped its first arc, with protagonist Zelda attempting to clean up the huge messes she unleashed upon both the real world and her native world of stories. The first arc, by writers Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon, artist Greg Hinkle, and colorist Matt Wilson, was a wild ride as readers got to learn about Zelda’s mysterious world, her heritage, and the dangers it poses to the real world.
The final issue of the arc is out now, and the first paperback volume, collecting the first five issues, will be arriving in stores on Oct. 11. Here’s the synopsis for the book:
Zelda's about to start a war of dreams. In the days when story and reality were one, the old blood—people with the power to shape stories—built a new world to escape the future we all came to live in. Generations later, Zelda rejects the old blood's dreams and escapes into our world to run from destiny. But destiny has a nasty way of catching up to you.
We talked with the creative team about the series before it released, and now that the first story is complete, we thought we’d check back in with writer Ivan Brandon to ask him a few questions about the series thus far, and about its future. So read on for a look inside Black Cloud, and be sure to check out the preview of the first volume in the gallery at the bottom.
So we’re one arc into Black Cloud, a series about how stories effect reality. How has your reality (and the book’s) changed since you began working on it?
Ivan Brandon: Seems like our world and reality are a lot more susceptible to change these days and at a much more frantic pace. Zelda's world has to scramble to catch up! My reality is mostly the same; I'm in Los Angeles for a while working on screen projects in addition to my comics. To me from New York, Los Angeles is about as different as Zelda's realm is.
How has the fan response been to the series?
IB: It's been phenomenal. I've gotten a lot of great feedback from retailers all over the world and we've had some incredible reactions from readers... there was some cosplay at the San Diego Comic-Con. It's all very surreal to me.
This arc was kicked off by a politician hiring Zelda to take his son to her world so he can be out of the way during re-election. In her world, the kid wreaks havoc, while in the real world, his story becomes more powerful. Together they create a story that grows beyond their control, and it looks like Zelda has to try to put that genie back in the bottle now. So I guess my long-winded question is… how do you un-tell a story?
IB: I think in the real world we're all trying to find that out together right now.
One of the stories Zelda seems to have managed to get rid of was that of her family. We see that she killed the previous leader of the Cloud Clan, and refused to take her place as his successor. Will we be learning more about the Cloud Clan and its importance going forward?
IB: Without going into too much spoilery detail -- I think our heritage weighs on all of us to varying degrees, consciously or unconsciously. And Zelda's is bigger than even she knows. Too big to kill.
My favorite line of the series so far was one that I think encapsulates the book’s themes pretty well: “Just ‘cause you ran away doesn’t mean your stupid ideas followed you.” This is obviously aimed at Zelda, but it also seems like a commentary about the responsibilities storytellers have to their audience. Have you ever had ideas you put out there as a writer that you later regretted?
IB: Hahaha -- all of them? I think for most writers our work is pretty painful to revisit. Hopefully, that just means we're growing and more critical of ourselves than everyone else is.
Speaking of storytellers, how does the process of co-writing with Jason Latour work? Do you trade issues, or someone plots and someone else scripts?
IB: It evolves as it goes. We discuss a lot of both broad and specific story and character bits, and then one of us will nail that down into the loose structure of an issue and the other will chip away at that until it's a script that can be drawn from. But at every step we both haunt each other like over-opinionated ghosts.
There have been a lot of gorgeous pages from Greg Hinkle and Matt Wilson in the series so far, do you have a favorite page or one that surprised you in how it came together?
IB: Everyday there's a new one. They nail the giant other-worldly moments, but they also both really excel at subtle emotional beats. Sometimes there's just a hand or an expression that knocks me out. Those two guys are a dream team.
In my opinion one of the most interesting side characters you’ve introduced into the series so far is Naomi, who was one of the people who followed Zelda in her botched revolution in her world. Will we be seeing any more of her or the other “refugees” from Zelda’s world in the second arc?
IB: Naomi is a big part of the second arc for sure. And we're going to start to see a lot more connective tissue between the worlds.
Now that the foundation has been laid, so to speak, what aspects of the Black Cloud are you most excited to build up, or for readers to experience, in the second arc?
IB: Now that we've laid the foundation we get to tear it all up to keep folks on their toes. As the readers' understanding of both worlds evolves, so does Zelda's. And we're going to get to see the most weird and incredible elements spill over into our reality, but the biggest and scariest thing to discover is whether or not Zelda's capable of growing up.
Black Cloud, Volume 1 is on sale Oct. 11 from Image Comics. All art by Greg Hinkle and Matt Wilson.