Blackbird is an upcoming Image comic from Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel that’s been described as Harry Potter meets Riverdale. After checking out this series, we can assure you that’s true in many, many ways, from story and theme, all the way to visuals. Jen Bartel, coming from books like The Mighty Thor, and America, is the artist of this wild series, and we were lucky enough to chat with her about what to expect come October 3rd when Blackbird #1 hits shelves.

So I just finished issue #1 of Blackbird, and I immediately feel nostalgic for some of the fantasy stories I grew up with. What were some of the things that inspired this world?

I’m so happy to hear that—the feeling of nostalgia is super powerful and Sam and I really wanted to capture some of that in Blackbird. We talked at great length about our favorite properties as we were laying the foundation for the book—we wanted to draw inspiration from classic “down the rabbit hole” type stories like Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, and Spirited Away, but with a cool modern twist. Setting it in current Los Angeles really helped us ground some of those more fantastical elements, and I looked very heavily to the work of Nicolas Winding Refn for visual inspiration—he’s just so great at neon lighting and creating incredible atmosphere in unexpected places.   

You’ve worked with the Big Two, IDW, Dark Horse, and loads other publishers, on a lot of different titles. How would you describe Blackbird in comparison to other work you’ve done? The entire issue screams Jen Bartel, especially looking through your website!

I have been incredibly fortunate in my short time in comics to have worked on a really wide range of properties, and as much as I enjoy and appreciate those opportunities, Blackbird is where I got to be completely unleashed. There is no art director, there’s no licensor, there’s no final client—it’s ultimate freedom to create exactly how I want to, and it’s been an incredible ride so far. Blackbird is everything I love, distilled into a monthly comic book.

What’s the working relationship like between you and Sam? Is the idea for the book something that the two of you came up with together, and how did it evolve?

Sam and I have treated Blackbird as an equal 50/50 project from the get go—it was really important to us that we were both co-creators, rather than sticking strictly to our roles as “writer” and “artist”. I think because of this, things evolved very naturally out of casual conversation into a full fledged passion project. Even now, there are days where I’m penciling a page and I’ll call Sam up to tell him I want to change some things, and we’ll chat through how that might impact the greater story. Usually it results in him telling me to absolutely go for it—he’s a really great collaborator in that way.

Nina is a character dealing with a lot at one time, and issue #1 makes that really clear. What about her story is important? What makes Nina unique?

Nina is a young woman who has had to endure a lot of tragedy and pain, and it shows in her interactions with people—she’s got an armor that she refuses to take off, and it ends up keeping people out. It’s hard for Nina to allow herself to be vulnerable, she’s very accustomed to kind of being by herself and doing things by herself—so when her sister is kidnapped and she suddenly is in a position where she feels more alone than ever, she starts to realize it’s ok to ask for help.

How would you describe the person who you want to read this book the most? Is there anyone you think of when you’re working on it?

Gosh, I want every person who has ever felt a slight interest in comics but hesitated to actually walk into a comic shop—anyone who felt intimidated by the medium or just wasn’t sure where to start—to give it a try. One thing Sam and I talked about over and over was how important it was to us to make an accessible, easy-to-read book, and my hope is that people who maybe have a little less experience reading monthly comics will be able to pick up Blackbird and find it entertaining and fun.

Thanks for chatting with us, Jen! You and Sam definitely succeeded in making Blackbird #1 really approachable, and we’re excited to see where it goes from here!

To preorder Blackbird #1, check out this promo image made by Jen. If you’re one of those people too afraid to walk into a comic shop, don’t forget you can always buy digitally!

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