Recently, Josh Green got the chance to sit down with Rags Morales and take a sneak peek at the upcoming DC release, Black Tide.
Josh Green: You are mostly known for your works placed firmly in the DC Universe, with Identity Crisis and Hawkman being your two most commercial successes. Your upcoming book, First Wave, does have recognizable and iconic stars, but it pulls away from the typical mainstream appeal. What intrigued you to take on First Wave as your newest ongoing project?
Rags Morales: First, I have to mention the project’s name will be Black Tide. I think it was changed due to copyrights; but to continue, I guess in a word…fedoras. I like the opportunity to do other things in this medium; it’s a special thing for me to be able to play in other sandboxes. I know the meat and potatoes of this industry is superheroes, and I enjoy them, but this project is going to have things that I can do, and reasonably so, that aren’t your everyday thing. Tommy guns are sweet! Can you imagine me trying to get tommy guns and fedoras in JLA, and it being considered concurrent with today? But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. This isn’t a retro project, it’s an eclectic project. Tommy guns and fedora’s next to computers and iPods. This by far and away will be considered mainstream; it’s just that with certain elements you’ll have to suspend skepticism to “get”. Kinda like you have to suspend skepticism with regard to comic book timelines in general. Heroes never seem to age, or go through 4 seasons, but yet the times, technology, architecture, and vehicles around them change with modern day. To try an’ draw a conclusion on the timeline of this project will get you nowhere.
JG: Can you tell us more about the premise behind Black Tide?
RM: Without giving away too much, this project doesn’t have superpowers in this universe. Its heroes don’t rely on anything except wits and gizmos. The actual plotline, I can’t say, but it will make you take notice. Some things we’ve grown accustom to, will be challenged. To quote my partner Brian Azzarello, “I want people to read this book and say, ‘WHAT THE (insert your expletive here)!'”
JG: Does Black Tide take place in an alternate world? If so, is it part of the multiverse?
RM: It’s safe to say, yes. Things will not apply as we’ve seen for years. However, should this project inspire a change…it’s my belief DC would explore that. That by the way isn’t privileged information, just my opinion.
JG: Who has been your favorite Black Tide character to work on so far?
RM: All of them. I have the orders, and good fortune, to change up things and that’s always invigorating. It’s one thing to have my “take” on a character, giving it minor detail changes, but it’s another to do some wholesale changes. But if you’re asking me to get specific, I’d say my reimagining of Rima and the Blackhawks is fun. Doing the Spirit, the Avenger, and Doc Savage is cool since I’ve never had the chance to do these characters. There are others who I’m not comfortable in revealing…you’ll have to stay tuned for that.
JG: Since Black Tide is such a unique series, should your fans expect to see a vastly different artistic approach?
RM: I’ve been primarily a penciller for most of my career. With that, I’ve been paired with some of the greatest inkers this industry has; however working with others changes your intent in the final product. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not all of me. I’ll have the chance to draw instinctively and change my mind which of course, you don’t get to do once you hand things off to an artistic partner. The work will look different to people who are used to me being with the great talents of Michael Bair, or John Dell, or Mark Propst, to name a few. I’ll do some things with wash that should be fun because with everything being printed from jpegs, there’s more freedom there. I’m excited to see what comes of it. I’ll do my best to bring a sense of EC Comics with heroes.
JG: Tell me about the collaboration process with Brian Azzarello. Also, have you ever worked with Brian on other projects in the past?
RM: I mentioned back in 2005 in Toronto, I wanted to work with him. There’s a macho grit to his work that I love. It’s no bullshit stuff, and it doesn’t always have to be politically correct. It’s the kind of project I’ve always dreamed of doing. I struck gold with I.C. [Identity Crisis], not because of the success of it, but because there was such a mature content to it. I always thought of myself as doing Heavy Metal rather than Superman, even as far back as junior high school.
Brian is dreaming up brilliant stuff, and talking to him is awesome. Often when you work with a writer, you get marching orders and you do your best with that. Not since Geoff Johns has anyone really appreciated what I thought of something. That’s not to say other writers haven’t appreciated my work, but any changes are minor…designed to enhance. Brian actually called me up and we tossed around possibilities. I like the idea of being more invested in a plot. Makes me want to work that much harder because now I’m pulling for both of us, not just my portion.
Want to know what Brian is like? If you call him and get his outgoing message, it goes like this: “You’ve reached (phone number)…if you’d like to leave a message for either Jill Thompson or Brian Azzarello, leave it NOW.” This dude wants to kick your ass with Black Tide, and by the way, I’ll be holding you down so he can!
JG: When should we expect Black Tide to hit the comic shops?
RM: This is something that has yet to be decided. We were looking for something around the end of this year, but with licenses and the collaboration of outside influences, it’s not that easy to pinpoint. That, plus I’ll be penciling and inking 30 pages for each of 6 issues. They’re talking about spin-offs too, so I’m hoping to get to this as soon as possible. I’m anticipating losing a lot of sleep.
JG: Lastly, your Indigo story in Tales of the Corps hit shops last Wednesday. It has been reported that you helped design many of the Indigo lantern characters. Why do you think you were chosen to design the Indigo lanterns over any of the others? Is this the extent of your involvement in “Blackest Night”?
RM: Primitive tribes are something I do well, I guess. Geoff Johns wanted me to make them my own…to that end however, the changes in the characters were minor since their costumes were mostly done prior to my working on it. The biggest revelation I added was changing the staffs that the Indigo tribe has. Other than that, when people think of Indigo Tribe, there’s a specific quality to characters that is now established. Initially, I was supposed to do more spin-off work, but the opportunity to work on Black Tide was too enticing. Eddie Berganza, my editor of Superman/Batman, JLA, and Tales of the Corps was very gracious in allowing me to work with Brian and Joey Cavalieri.
JG: Thanks for the interview, Rags!
RM: Thank you!