Breaking into comics can be tricky business for writers. While artists can more easily show off their craft, getting a script to the right person and actually getting them to read it is another story entirely. There seem to be as many routes into the industry as zombies in "The Walking Dead," but they all start with one simple step: write. That's what newcomer Duffy Boudreau did, but only after dropping out of law school and focusing on his craft while working a day job to pay the bills.
The results of that focus is "BlackAcre," set to debut from Image Comics in early December. The ongoing post-apocalyptic adventure series is drawn by Wendell Cavalcanti ("Invisible Scarlet O'Neil") with a first issue cover by Michael Avon Oeming. The series stars Hull, a career soldier who has spent his entire life living inside a walled city only to find himself assigned to venture out into the wilds beyond to track down a fellow soldier. CBR News spoke with Boudreau about everything from building the world of "BlackAcre" to Hull's response to this new assignment, but also how Boudreau structured his life to make the whole writing thing happen.
CBR News: Duffy, you're new to the world of comics. What did you do before that?
Duffy Boudreau: It's been a strange road. In my twenties I had a few different jobs, working at a tree service, waiting tables. In an attempt to be pragmatic I went to law school. But then I woke up one day and was like "Where the hell am I?" It was not a good moment, but definitely a necessary one. It made me realize I'd spent all this time avoiding a serious commitment to one thing I knew was important to me: writing. So I left, got a day job, and took one of those god-awful early shifts so I could be back at the computer by one-thirty every day. That's when the writing began in earnest, and I've been in a pretty good rhythm since.
Sounds like the decision is paying off. Tell me, what's the scope of "BlackAcre?" We know it's an ongoing, but do you already know how big the story you're telling is?
The world of "BlackAcre" is huge. From the very first outlines, I knew we had a lot of stories to tell. And the more we've been working on it, the larger it's grown, as some of those smaller parts of the world have crept out of the shadows and demanded attention. We've just started the art for Issue #6, and while it's technically the second arc, it's really chapter two of the larger story. I do have a target number for issues, but you'll never get it out of me -- it'd be an instant jinx!
How long has the idea for "BlackAcre" been kicking around your head, and how did it end up at Image?
Sometimes an idea grabs you, you become obsessed with it and you have to put it down on paper before you have any notion of how you're going to pitch it, and that's really how this book was born. About three years ago, I just started working on the thing, writing all the backstory for the world, doing the research, and the scripts for the first two issues came out of that.
"BlackAcre" ended up at Image because of [Publisher] Eric Stephenson. I met him years ago at Emerald City Comic Con, mentioned I was working on a book and asked if he'd be willing to take a look at it. Later, when he came back with good news, I was thrilled. I've always thought Image was this totally unique model, not only in the world of comics, but in other media as well. Now that they've brought on even more big-name writers, many of whom are a huge influence on me, the fact that I'm listed in the same catalogue as these creators? That's some serious pressure.
The book follows the adventures of a solider named Hull leaving his home to venture into the wilderness. What can you tell us about him and how this change in routine weighs on him?
Hull is a member of BlackAcre's elite security force, a fiercely loyal guy who was literally born into the military. He's a decorated and seasoned warrior. But because he's lived his life completely within this rigid structure of authority, his experience is somewhat limited. He's by no means naive, but he's used to things functioning a certain way. And he's reached a point in his career where his time handling the rough stuff has come to a close, he's about to transition into something more comfortable. Heading out beyond the wall would be grueling task for any of these soldiers, but for Hull it's a particularly drastic change.
Why is he sent out of the city and what kind of obstacles does he come across while out there?
Hull's sent out to uncover the fate of a fellow solider who happens to be one of his oldest, closest friends. As for the obstacles... well, the world on the other side of the wall has slipped into a new dark age, a fractured and brutal frontier overrun with bandits and fanatics. I don't want to reveal too much at this point, but there is one group we'll get a glimpse of in the preview pages -- a movement of true-believers stalking the countryside, trying to restore order to the chaos by cutting down anyone who dares to question them. And they're just one of his problems.
What made you want to tackle the vast expanses of the post-apocalyptic genre?
Yeah, it is a huge challenge. But I've always been fascinated by dystopian stories, so when the idea for the book came about, it seemed natural in a way. Those are the worlds I've always been drawn into, even when I was a kid. "BlackAcre" is most definitely a dystopian/sci-fi story, but it diverges somewhat from your typical 'post-apocalyptic' fare. You'll see a lot of the dynamics and conventions of the genre, but in a different overall context. I hope that doesn't sound too cryptic, I just don't want to spoil anything.
How did you wind up working with Wendell Cavalcanti as the book's artist?
I got lucky. It's tough to find an artist who's ready and willing to commit to such a large project. It's a lot of work so I can understand why someone would be cautious about attaching themselves for the long haul. But Wendell was ready to jump right in. He's worked in a bunch of genres down in Brazil, from superhero to sci-fi to westerns. From the minute I received his preliminary sketches I knew that he was definitely feeling the book. I'm amazed at each page he sends me, how fully he brings this world to life.
Speaking of artists, Michael Avon Oeming's doing the cover for the first issue. How did that come about?
Hope I don't embarrass him here by being too sappy, but Mike is one of the most supportive and generous guys I've ever met. When I first moved to Seattle we met at a house party. We hung out in this basement drinking beer and talking sci-fi films and we've been friends ever since. When I told him the project was happening, he immediately offered to draw the cover. I was completely floored an artist of his caliber would be willing to do that. And when I saw the final version, I still just couldn't believe it.
"BlackAcre" #1 by Duffy Boudreau and Wendell Cavalcanti arrives in stores from Image Comics December 5.