Comics industry veteran Chip Mosher and legendary artist Peter Krause have launched the Kickstarter for Blacking Out, a 56-page graphic novel presented in the hardcover European album format. Colorist Giulia Brusco, letterer Ed Dukeshire, and designer Tom Muller join the pair in this sucker-punch tale of a disgraced ex-cop, Conrad, unraveling an unsolved murder during Southern California’s fire season.
In Blacking Out, Conrad follows a lone clue—a discarded crucifix—to unravel the death of Karen Littleton, whose body was found amid a blaze that scorched 10,000 acres. Conrad’s search leads him to clash with the victim’s father and prime suspect, Robert Littleton, as well as hostile former colleagues on the local police force. All the while, Conrad combats his alcoholism and fading faculties.
We got a chance to talk to Mosher about the comic, how his career influenced the release, and how you need to trust your collaborators. You have about one day to back the Kickstarter.
Graphic Policy: The comic has been worked on for four years, since 2016…
Chip Mosher: Yeah, the final version of it.
GP: I know you’re a fan of noir and crime stories but where did the idea for this comic come from?
CM: When I moved to California, about 20 years ago, I was struck by a lot of different things. The difference between growing up in Texas, where you have hurricanes and tornadoes. Everyone was freaking out at how I was going to deal with the earthquakes. I moved out and there was a 6.0 earthquake and I looked out at the palm trees swaying and the pool waves. Then I moved out here and the real thing is the fire season. Being a crime fan, there’s no real great story about crime and fire. I wanted to do something with that. There was a fire on 5, so I got in my car and took my camera to take some pictures. I wanted to take photos of the post-apocalyptic beauty. After a few hours of doing that, much longer than I should have, the story hit me like a ton of bricks and it went from there.
GP: The town that it takes place in is a small town and it reminds me more of small town middle America than California…
CM: The thing about growing up in Texas, especially Houston, there are more miles of freeways in Houston than there is in Los Angeles. I grew up loving to drive and exploring. There are tons of towns like Edendale around the greater LA area and San Diego. I envision it like that area with a bunch of small towns with long stretches of nothing in between.
GP: The town and the town are characters in a lot of ways. When you designed the story, how much of that is that you, and how much is the art team?
CM: The script that Peter Krause worked from initially is fairly descriptive of the places and the car. But, the photography I did, there’s a photobook at the $15 level, it’s a bunch of collages I did. I drove around Southern California. One of the characters is a mechanic the garage, so I took photos of that. Anita’s house, the bar, the liquor store, photos of the car, the look at feel is a great alchemy of my work going into Peter’s head and it coming out on the page. Some of it is what I envirioned and some of it different but very cool. I gave Peter a lot of freedom the freedom of the storytelling and the look and feel of the book.
GP: Is there anything about that particualr car that stood out or mattered? I read it and I can’t picture any other car being used. It just wouldn’t feel right.
CM: That’s a testament to Pete’s style. Pete has a love of old advertisements. I was looking through some files he shared. He found an old 70s ad for the car. I think the testament that you can’t imagine the story with any other car is Pete and Giulia Brusco who helped sell it.
GP: How did the team come together?
CM: Pete was the first domino to fall. When I decided to pull the trigger on this, I really wanted to work with someone in the deepest way. A really collaborative nature. I finally convinced Pete, he thought the story it’s way too dark for him. I approached Tom Mueller really early on and get the feel of what we were doing. I contacted Tom once Pete started working on it and I’d send Tom things periodically. Giulia is someone I’ve been a fan of for a long time. I was a fan of her work on Scalped. So I pulled her in. Ed Dukeshire is amazing. Ed was my ride or die at BOOM! Letterers these days don’t get any time to do their work.
GP: You’ve been on all sides of the business.
CM: I have.
GP: Did that influence you at all? How did the story change? The presentation?
CM: I’m a little bit long in my career, though the least prolific comic creator the world has ever seen. I wanted a book I could pull off the shelf in 30 and 40 years and say “that’s great.” I’ve been lucky enough in my day job to got to France and fell in love with that European 40-page format and knew it’s what I wanted to emulate. The storytelling is different. The panels are longer the pages taller. More a widescreen format. I think I have the confidence to work with people who have great track records and tell them to take their time. I didn’t give anyone a deadline. My deadline was how long would it take? They’re professionals who deliver all the time. So I had honest conversations and being in the place I am in my life and career and have the faith it’d show in these products.
GP: Did you change anything at all with digital? It’s become a greater thing in the industry and I’ve been fascinated to see how that impacts the creative process.
CM: I find reading digital comics so easy and there are so many different ways to approach it. I’m a comiXology Guided View partisan but I don’t think there were any changes because someone was going to read it digitally.
GP: I’ve read European format and haven’t really thought if there’s a difference between that and American styles being formatted digitally. Nothing jumps out about the experience.
CM: It just works. There’s different pros and cons on the approaches and certainly optimize for digital reading but first and foremost but it’s an oversized BD book.
GP: The color reminds me a lot of 70s noir film. Did you have input?
CM: My approach is hire the right people and get out of the way. You have to trust people. If you pick the right people, it’s easy to get out of the way and let them do their best work.
GP: The discarded curcifix stands out to me in the comic. It not just ties into the death of Karen but the fall of Conrad from grace. Are these things you think of as a writer?
CM: All of that is in there. I don’t want to spoil it. I picked her last name subconsciously. Her last name is Littleton, which is a reference to the Colorado town. There’s a lot of that.
GP: Same with the name of the town?
CM: Edendale was the name of Hollywood before it was called Hollywood.
GP: I don’t know that.
CM: You’re giving away my moves. There’s some subtext with the town being what Hollywood was named…
GP: Is there anything with the population of the town? Is it a random number?
CM: I forget. I might have pulled that from somewhere. There’s a bar I like in Silver Lake called Edendale. It was known as the home of the most major movie studios. I don’t want to give too much away. When I’m picking character names and titles, I always have double and triple meanings. Spoiler, if you read Left on Mission, the main character is Emma and if you listen to the Hot Chocolate song, it’ll spoil the whole story for you. Recorded by Sisters of Mercy.
GP: I don’t think I know that song.
CM: It’s a great song.
GP: I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for chatting and looking forward to getting the book in my hands.