|"Black Summer" #0 cover and promotional image|
"First there were the Seven Guns: a group of young politically-aware scientist-adventurers who modified their own bodies for street-fighting in order to take back their West Coast city from a corrupt police force, criminal local government and rapacious private security forces," Ellis told CBR News of the story behind "Black Summer." "One died. One was crippled. The others drifted apart. And today, John Horus, the most committed of the original team, is walking into the White House. He's worked with the President on social justice issues. He is the Good Guy. But he's been thinking about his role in the country for a long time. And he's not here to say hello.
|"Black Summer" #0, page 2|
"He's been asking himself the question that informs the book: where do you draw the line? If you're totally committed to the idea of covering your face and taking on a fake name and standing outside the law in order to fight for justice – where do you stop? Crime pervades society. We're all aware of corporations that behave in a criminal manner. Is that as far as you go?
"If, in fact, your perspective is such that you believe your President to have prosecuted an illegal war and thereby caused the deaths of thousands of people – isn't that a crime? Do you let that pass?"
There's a diverse cast to be found in "Black Summer," a fact that shouldn't surprise readers of Ellis' nuanced work on "The Authority" and "Planetary," but the scribe isn't going to give away too much away quite yet. "I've covered John Horus a little. There's the guy who used to be Tom Noir; now missing most of a leg from the carbomb explosion that killed his lover and fellow Gun, Laura Torch, a few years back. He hasn't left his apartment in a year and is steadily drinking himself to death. Which means he slept through most of the first day's events, and woke up as a wanted man. John Horus acted alone, you see, without consulting his old friends: but the government and the people don't know that. So he wakes up to find that the remaining Guns are now considered the greatest threat to life and liberty in the United States. And, as an alcoholic cripple, he's absolutely the weakest link.
|"Black Summer" #0, page 4|
"Because, to make it clear: John Horus, a man with the personal destructive capability of a fleet of Apache helicopters, walked into the Oval Office and killed the President."
Though Ellis is no stranger to superheroes, the impetus for making "Black Summer" came from a surprising place – a bet between Ellis and Avatar head honcho William Christensen. "William and I have an easy, longtime friendship and we do this a lot," revealed Ellis. "And he bet me I couldn't come up with a high-concept superhero 'event' book that naturally featured all new characters and ideas, but also hit some of the notes of a standard Big Two event program. Huge technical challenge, and I like those, because they keep me sharp. It took me more than a year, mind you... Until I hit on the two ideas. What if a superhero killed the President? And the underpinning: where do you draw the line?"
|"Black Summer" #0, page 5|
Though you might expect otherwise, Ellis said that "Black Summer" wasn't influenced by current world events and politics. "That was just a useful chassis to roll the thing out on, and it throws some useful spin," said Ellis. "Half the potential audience is going to see John Horus as the bad guy, and that's not without merit. Half the audience is going to see him as the Good Guy, and I can see where they're coming from too. I take no public position.I'm writing it from both angles at once and letting people make up their own minds."
|"Black Summer" #0 wrap-around cover|
"Honestly, I'm more worried about the things I say in my novel, 'Crooked Little Vein,' which is also out this summer."
|"Black Summer" #0, page 6|
While some may see a comparison to Ellis' Marvel Comics series "Thunderbolts," featuring some questionable characters, they're hardly as morally ambiguous as you might think. "I don't think there's anything morally ambiguous about the Thunderbolts," said Ellis. "They're all monsters, maniacs and moral mutants. Even Songbird's a freak, bless her little heart. Who says, 'I know what my path to redemption is! I'll shag someone called Baron Zemo!?'"
With Marvel's "Civil War" and even DC Comics' "Identity Crisis," it seems that the oft-romanced vigilantism of superheroes is being called into question. "Well, it's hardly new," said Ellis."All these things are cyclical. And I'm not sure you can characterize DC's current output like that, they seem really focused on classic broad-sweep superheroics right now. It comes down, I think, to what I said before: what are the questions left to ask? And a lot of the questions left to ask are sociopolitical. It's an aspect of these decadent days we find ourselves in. Pigs with two heads are abroad in the land. The British military is trying to loft a communications satellite grid called Skynet. These are the End Times."
CBR's Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.
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