From the post-apocalyptic paranoia of The Bunker to the time-spanning sagas of Doctor Who to the superheroic script-flipping of Skyman, Joshua Hale Fialkov is proving himself to be one of the most dynamic, compelling writers in comics. His wildly inventive take on familiar tropes and deft handling of dialogue makes his stories a joy to read. Today sees the release of Skyman #3, one of the flagship titles in Dark Horse’s recently revived Project Black Sky universe, which encompasses Captain Midnight, Ghost, and X, among others. Recently, I caught up with Fialkov over e-mail to pick his brain about relaunching Project Black Sky, helping to architect a shared universe, potentially returning to Doctor Who, and more.
Nerdist: Walk us through Project Black Sky a bit. I understand there’s a shared universe between Skyman and the other books in the line, but just how interconnected are they really? How much coordination is there with your fellow PBS writers?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: I think the idea is to make each of the book enhance the others without forcing readers to read them all. You can certainly understand Skyman without an intimate knowledge of all the other books, but there’s a lot of little nods and winks to what the bigger picture is. It’s sort of the best version of continuity, as far as I’m concerned. We’re doing books that theoretically appeal to the niche and the wider audience simultaneously, and hopefully serve to work as a gateway to the other titles. Or, at least, that’s what they’re paying me for.
N: What are some of the challenges and small pleasures of being part of relaunching a shared universe like this?
JHF: I’ve worked on a lot of “new universe” and relaunches over my work for hire career, and each one has been its own beast. I will say that the Dark Horse experience has been one of the easiest and most pleasurable. And a lot of that comes down to Mike having a very clear vision of what this universe is and should be.
N: How did you approach crafting this new take on Skyman? How does it differ from past iterations? Were you given an editorial edict or were you pretty much given free reign?
JHF: A little bit of both. They knew they wanted to have Skyman serve as a way to open up the stories both in terms of audience and in terms of character. The idea of addressing the inherent subtle racism of Golden Age comics was something we talked about on, quite literally, the first phone call. It was from that conversation that a lot of the story was grown. Once we got up and running, it was pretty much smooth sailing.
N: Now that you’re a few issues into it, how has the response been from the community?
JHF: Really strong, actually. The think I keep hearing is how much people like that the book is a straight forward superhero book that, rather than reinventing the wheel from scratch, is instead making you really LOOK at the wheel. I think my metaphor is falling apart.
N: You guys are also launching a massive alternate-reality-game-like campaign to promote the line. What can you tell us about that (that won’t get you killed by paramilitary commandos)?
JHF: It’s super cool, right? Y’know, the market is crowded right now, between double shipping and weekly titles, and as I’ve learned doing my creator owned work, it’s quite literally “By Any Means Necessary” to get your books in front of people. Doing it in a way that actually makes the marketing engaging and interesting, I think, is really the way to go.
N: The previous Skyman seems like a real dick, for lack of a better term. Have we seen the last of him? Will he and Eric have to throw down to determine who keeps the mantle?
JHF: For this series, yeah, but, we come out of this with a whole lot of vengeful people looking for a chance to get back at the face that has put them down. That face belongs to Skyman.
JHF: Doctor Who is the one title that, no matter how busy my schedule or how crappy the conditions (not that they were), I would be hard pressed to say no to it. I love the Doctor and the web that show has woven over the past fifty years so much, and having had even the tiniest bit of impact on that means more to me than almost anything I’ve ever done. When they announced Capaldi, there was that clip from The Thick of It of Capaldi in the bathroom where he gets called a bully and responds, “Don’t you EVER call me a bully… I’m MUCH worse.” When you see that, and you think about THAT performance with the Doctor… Oof. I can’t wait for the new series.
N: What comics are you reading and enjoying right now?
JHF: The Auteur from Oni is fantastic. I just read Beautiful Darkness from D+Q, which is AMAZING. And I just got a chance to read Captain Midnight‘s own Josh Williamson’s upcoming Nailbiter from Image, and it’s… well, it’s the beginning of amazing things from that guy. Highly, highly recommended.
Skyman #3 hits stores today. You can keep up with Joshua Hale Fialkov’s myriad projects on Twitter.