HomeGaming and ProductsThe Very Personal Origins Behind Two Acclaimed ComiXology Series

The Very Personal Origins Behind Two Acclaimed ComiXology Series


While comiXology is home to many thousands of digital comics from nearly every major publisher, the service has also become a publisher unto itself. Among the growing library of comiXology Originals titles, The Black Ghost and Youth are easily among the most critically acclaimed. The former (from writers Monica Gallagher and Alex Segura and artists Marco Finnegan and George Kambadais) follows a troubled crime reporter working to uncover the truth about a costumed vigilante. The latter (by writer Curt Pires and artist Alex Diotto) is an X-Men-inspired tale about two queer teen runaways who stumble onto a much bigger world.

Both The Black Ghost and Youth: Season One are now being collected in trade paperback form, and IGN can exclusively present a new conversation between Segura and Pires. First, check out an exclusive preview of the next chapter of Youth: Season 2, then read on to see both creators talk about the very personal inspirations behind their respective books and why Youth might just scratch that X-Men itch.

Alex Segura: Curt, can you talk a little bit about how YOUTH came to be? I love how raw and cinematic it is. Not to sound trite, but it feels very real and lived in. Can you also share any literary or movie influences that spurred you toward this idea?

Curt Pires: Thanks man. Yeah, I think it really came, like a lot of the things I do, of a selfish desire to read this sort of book, and realizing it didn’t exactly exist yet? I was wondering why there wasn’t a teen/coming of age superhero book that felt as wild and raw as what myself and friends went through in our late teens and early twenties. That felt reflective of the world around us. There really wasn’t anything, so I felt like “Hey! I should make this.”

Influence wise I’d say the music of Frank Ocean was very central to things. And that film / album he did called “Endless.” Other big influences were things like the films of Harmony Korrine and Gaspar Noe. The sort of unfiltered and raw worldview they offered. Kids Harmony’s collab with Larry Clark was formative. As was Gaspar’s LOVE 3D – which was a film / borderline narrative porn that tracks the disintegration of a relationship over time. Also loved the rawness of Jonah Hill’s Mid 90s and how much of himself Jonah put into that film – it inspired me to unload a bunch more in YOUTH.

What about you? Reading BLACK GHOST I definitely got some Phillip Marlowe vibes….some Jessica Jones… which I loved… talk about what was rattling around your head when shaping this.

Segura: I love what you said there, because I think it’s so true – the best work, at least for me, comes from obsession. And the books I enjoy most feel…primal almost? Like they sprung from a desire of the creator to will an idea into existence. And that’s what I got while reading YOUTH. It just felt so fresh and alive. I had the same feeling with Black Ghost – Monica, George, and I really wanted to create a story that not only echoed these classic street-level hero elements, but also dealt with a lot of the things I love from classic PI stories. I’ve written a bunch of crime novels where I flip the script on the “hard-drinkin’ PI” trope – where the guy wearing a fedora knocks back a dozen martinis, then drives and saves the day. I wanted to show the consequences of addiction and the arc of a hero. How someone can really pull themselves out of the gutter and do some good. We’re all flawed people and I love exploring that. Marlowe and Jessica Jones, particularly the original [Brian] Bendis/[Michael] Gaydos run on Alias, were huge influences, totally. And I listened to a lot of Neko Case, too. I love exploring the gray areas of life and I think The Black Ghost gives readers a taste of two familiar things – superheroes and PI stories – but hopefully injects something very new and real.

The best work, at least for me, comes from obsession. And the books I enjoy most feel…primal almost?

I love the cliffhangers, especially the first one after the chase scene. The entire story seems to pivot from that moment and become something completely unexpected. Was there any anxiety in setting that up – were you worried that people might pump the brakes because it wasn’t what they expected? As a reader, I love, love, love when that happens. I truly believe in the adage that we, as creators, need to give reader what they need vs. what they want, and this felt like a great example of that. Can you talk about that a bit more?

Pires: Yeah, I definitely felt you were on to something with the depiction of Dominguez’s substance abuse. I think addiction is something that’s hard to get right in books and media. There’s a very ingrained cultural narrative about it. This idea that you have this demon / this battle, and then come out the other side, beat the thing and are cured.

It feels like more of a lifelong battle than that, and the truth is people who struggle with these things are liable to slip up and backslide too. I liked the moment where she sort of comes to God after letting the kid down. It also felt like she’d probably stumble going forward to. Point is it felt real. And interesting in the context of the hardboiled superhero story you were telling.

To be honest, I felt from the get go when I wrote that cliffhanger that I was on to something. I just felt like there was NO WAY people were gonna see that coming. And I personally love reveals like that. I think the last page splash is one of the most fun / sacred elements of comic book storytelling. That crazy reveal you throw in there to get people to come back for more. And I thought this was the best one I’d ever done. So I felt good. I guess I’ve learnt and tried to internalize the idea of not thinking too much about audience / critical reception and just focus on my instincts as a storyteller. I think being overly concerned with reception / external opinions is a very quick way to lose your mind.

I noticed you made Miami a part of Dominguez’s backstory. You’re from Miami right? What sort of role does geography / location play in your storytelling?

Segura: Yeah, agree. The second you start over-thinking how to make people happy as a storyteller, you’ve lost your way.

Yes, born and raised in Miami. I feel like Miami is a part of everything I write, aside from WFH stuff like Star Wars or Archie. Monica and I wanted Lara to be Latinx, so it made sense for her to be Cuban-American, and have that Miami connection, but I also wanted her to be somewhere else – so we created this Baltimore-like city in Creighton. Monica is from Baltimore, so it gave us the chance to blend both our backgrounds and create something new. For me, setting is a character – it can be as important as your protagonist if you play it well. My favorite crime novels feature setting prominently – whether it’s James Ellroy’s LA novels or Laura Lippman’s Baltimore stories, you feel like you’re being transported somewhere else. I wanted to have that feeling, while also winking and nodding to the “fictional city” element of classic superheroes. So we created a grittier, more realistic version of the Gotham ideal, I guess. It was fun to weave through the tropes and cherry-pick the stuff that works for us, while inverting the rest.

Can you talk a bit about the characters in YOUTH? They all felt really fleshed-out and real, especially when it came to dialogue and doing the bizarre, irrational things kids and teens do. Are they based on people you knew growing up?

Pires: That makes a lot of sense. I think where we come from is a big part of any author’s work, whether it’s conscious or not.

The setting of YOUTH is also really based on the sort of area I come from. Alberta in Canada. The comparison I always find myself making to make sense of it to people who have never been here is we’re Canada’s Montana. So for me, YOUTH has a lot of these bluffs, small derelict western towns as its backdrop. Mining towns that have been hollowed out since the crash.

I’ve really grown to love it here, but the kids in YOUTH represent that period of time in my life where I wanted nothing but to get away – which is I think something everyone goes through.

Yes, I sort of pulled inspiration from people I knew and situations I’d been in and used that as a diving off point. I wanted to be careful and respectful to not steal anyone’s story or tell anyone’s story that wasn’t my own, but a lot of it is sort of grounded in experiences I’ve gone through or people I spent time with.

Segura: Going back to the idea of addiction – I just wanted to say I thought you handled it really well in the first issue of the second arc, when the protagonist takes his first drink. It felt very honest.

What comics did you enjoy as a kid? Were there any that you felt influenced your work? I got a great [Chris] Claremont/New Mutants in overdrive vibe, which is totally my sweet spot.

Pires: Thanks man. That’s sort of a loosely paraphrased version of how I tried alcohol for the first time, so there was sort of a therapeutic element to writing that scene too.

I’m a bit younger than most folks realize. I’m 28. So my list is gonna be a lot different than I think most people expect. But for me it was like the [Alex] Maleev/[Brian] Bendis Daredevil and the [Jeph] Loeb/[Jim] Lee Batman “Hush” stuff. But I did get really into X Men shortly after that. I read Ultimate X-Men by [Mark] Millar and [Adam and Andy] Kubert and kept with that book as sort of the murders row of talent floated through it. I did eventually get into the Claremont stuff a bit later in life. I think there’s something so poignant in the Claremont stuff, and also in the earlier Stan Lee stuff. I think X Men was always sort of the most progressive and representative of the real world book in the Marvel Universe. So I wanted to recreate that feeling, that vibe but for a modern audience.

Stepping back a bit I think it’s fascinating that both our books are about the powerless, and in a lot of ways marginalized people being given access to a power / calling that’s greater than them. Where do you fall on that?

Segura: That’s a great observation – I think you’re right. For us, a big part of the journey was wanting to tell the superhero “story” from another perspective, not just your steel-jawed, middle-aged white guy trying to save the day by punching criminals. We wanted to play with legacy, and the weight of our pasts and how they shape us and kind of derail our messed up present, and I see a lot of that in YOUTH, too. Can our books be friends? [laughs]

You’re totally right about Claremont – at least that first, epic run. The characters felt real and flawed, and there was this sense of chaos and uncertainty – where anything could happen – that doesn’t really show up in more corporate comics anymore. I definitely felt that while reading YOUTH. It was unpredictable and wild in the best ways possible. I can’t wait for more.

The Black Ghost will be released in paperback on Tuesday, May 4. Youth: Season 1 is available in print now.

ComiXology Unlimited subscribers should also be keeping an eye on Snow Angels, a new post-apocalyptic sci-fi series from Old Man Logan writer Jeff Lemire and Batman: The Black Mirror artist Jock.


Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.

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