Talking Magic Myths and Coming of Age With Blackbirds Jen Bartel

first_imgWe’ve been able to catch up with a bunch of creators this summer to learn all about their new projects. Cullen Bunn and Mark Torres dish on their new series Cold Spots. Bob Frantz educates us on MetalSharkBro. Travis McElroy gushes about RPGs with The Adventure Zone. Read up on all the latest comic news here.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Magic and myths in the realm of coming of age stories are fascinating. We’re given such stories like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson to fill that role. We also have comics such as SuperMutant Magic Academy and Zodiac Starforce to fill that magic and myth charm. However, Blackbird does something a little different. Something a little unusual, but wickedly charming that touches on family, magic, myth, and coming of age in a vibrant, neon and brilliant new way.Geek had the opportunity to talk to Blackbird‘s co-creator and artist Jen Bartel about their captivating new upcoming series coming to shelves October 3rd.Thank you so much for talking with Geek! Blackbird is a book we were so excited about. The first issue is mesmerizing. Can you tell us a little bit about Blackbird?Thank you! Blackbird is a coming of age story about Nina Rodriguez, a young woman living in LA—she discovers a hidden world of magic when her sister is kidnapped by a mystical beast, and has to navigate through some pretty dicey situations because she’s convinced that she’s the only one who can save her.via Image ComicsBlackbird feels like a story within a story. It’s enriched in this mystical and mythical magic world beneath our own. Can you tell us a little bit about where the inspiration for this comic came from? Also, the inspiration behind your art? There are so many mythical elements in it.Aw wow, that feels like really high praise—thank you so much! I think part of what makes Blackbird feel as rich as it does is that Sam and I spent nearly six months just fleshing out the characters, world, mechanics, and symbolism together. We really took our time to develop something we felt happy with, and every step of it was a collaborative process, so we each brought our own strengths to the table.Sam was also incredibly receptive to writing for me specifically, so when I told him that I wanted to draw hot people and magic creatures all drenched in neon, he came up with a pitch around those things—but he gave it so much more depth by crafting a story that is ultimately about family, loss, and personal growth.As far as my art goes, I’ve always been the kind of artist that loves symbolism and hiding little easter eggs throughout everything I do—I never really excelled at narrative illustration and preferred to focus on hidden meanings of individual elements of my drawings. A lot of that has crossed over into my sequential art for Blackbird, including my love for mythology—specifically Asian mythology.via Image ComicsI feel like we have to talk a little bit about Nina. She’s instantly one of the most relatable characters in a strange way. Nina feels like the perfect into this world. Did you guys want to make her a kind of escapist within her coming of age story? She’s been through so much.I’m so glad to hear that! We really wanted Nina to be relatable, and more importantly, flawed. There’s so much pressure for female characters to model the “Strong Female Character” identity that it often feels like they don’t get the luxury of messing up, or being less than perfect.Nina is all kinds of imperfect when the story unfolds, and to your point, it’s because she’s been through a LOT. She’s really trying to figure out who she is and where she fits into the world, while still processing the grief of a major loss of a loved one. When the story begins, Nina is really just kind of letting life happen to her, rather than taking any kind of initiative or control for herself. I think a lot of young people these days feel a little defeated by the world, and Nina is no exception.Will she discover her path through this magical world with her own magic? I can’t wait for her do the stuff. Nina definitely will go down the rabbit hole of this underground magic world in Los Angeles, but whether she becomes part of it or not remains to be seen…. in later issues! ;)via Image ComicsWithout spoilers of course, can you tell us a little more about the Nina and Marisa and their relationship? Will this be a family affair throughout Blackbird? Absolutely—Nina and Marisa have that classic sister bond; sometimes (usually) they kind of hate each other, but they are always there for each other through thick and thin. Marisa is the older, responsible one, who has always taken care of Nina and made sure she had a place to sleep even when things were rough. Nina is the carefree younger sister, who thinks Marisa is stuffy and uptight and doesn’t always appreciate the things she does for her, so when Marisa goes missing, there is a definite role reversal that has to happen. And yes, we will definitely find out more about Nina’s family as the series progresses…!Thank you! I really just try my best to imagine these characters as if they were real people. Because Blackbird is set in modern LA, it’s important that the characters and environments are believable and even recognizable to locals. When Sam and I were first developing the pitch, I took a trip out to my hometown (I was born in LA, Sam is a resident) and we went all over North Hollywood (where Nina lives) so I could take tons of reference photos and do sketches of the locations and people. That really helped breathe life into the issues once I started drawing them.Can you tell us a little bit about the other characters and creatures we’ll meet within the comic? There is a small hint of what looks like to come. (And they’re so beautiful, but look hella suspicious.)You’re right to be suspicious! It’s unclear what the motives of The Great Beast are, what it even is, and whether it’s the only one of its kind or if there are more. It’s certainly not the only magical creature in Blackbird though—it wouldn’t be a story about magic without at least a few familiars, and maybe even shape-shifters…right?via Image ComicsIf you could be ANY magical creature or person, what would they be and why? Oooooh man. I think if I had to pick a magical creature, it’d be a pegasus from the Pastoral Symphony Fantasia sequence that pretty much informed all of my art as a child. They’re just so elegant, you know? Oh no, am I revealing that I was a horse girl as a kid? Whoops.Thank you again for talking with us. Where can our readers (via social media, website, etc.) find you? Are there any other projects or cons coming up for you?  I can only imagine how busy your schedule must be. Thank you! It was actually just announced that I’ll be drawing issue #6 of Black Panther, with Ta-Nehisi Coates writing. My last show of the year is going to be NYCC, and I’ll be debuting a whole new fall line of merch and prints! After that, I will hibernate for as long as possible, which, hopefully, this year will be more than three days.Here’s where to find me Stay on target Marvel Censors Criticism of America From Marvel Comics #1000Can Even Jonathan Hickman Save the X-Men? Blackbird #1 will be available on ComiXology and your local comic shop on October 3rd.last_img read more

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