Writer, LaToya Morgan, is no stranger to historical fiction. Having written and served as a producer on the TV show, TURN, Morgan is now bringing her talents to comics with the new, Boom! Studios series, Dark Blood. To tell us more about it, Morgan answered some questions over email, including why she loves writing action sequences so much.
RB: When did the idea for Dark Blood first come about?
LaToya Morgan: The idea for Dark Blood started to percolate for me about four years ago. Like most people who are riveted to their electronic devices, I remember distinctly seeing images of flaming tiki torches in Charlottesville on the news and in my social media feed. It gutted me and struck me to my core. The vitriol and threats of violence reminded me of a different time — a time we aren’t that far away from when you really think about it. History had become present. I’m a very passion-driven writer. After watching those events, I was ready to fight! My pen has always been my weapon of choice. So I dove down a rabbit hole, did my research, and really started sketching out the characters and story soon after that.
RB: Have you always been a fan of historical fiction?
LM: I’m a huge history nerd and research junkie so historical fiction has always been right in my wheelhouse. I also wrote on a historical drama for four years so I was no stranger to telling stories from a different era. Things like the 300 graphic novel and movie, and shows like The Man in the High Castle really resonated with me. And of course all things Watchmen, both the graphic novel and the limited series, were my jam.
RB: How familiar were you with the 40’s and 50’s going into this series, and was there any research you found especially helpful?
LM: I was familiar with the ’40s and ’50s but I did a really deep dive into the times as I got into the writing of the series. I especially wanted to handle Avery being a veteran with dexterity and care. I read a few really interesting news articles about a Tuskegee Airman who was shot down behind enemy lines towards the end of the war. I’d never heard the story before and it struck me that there are so many parts of this nation’s history, and Black history especially, that have not been fully explored. So that research became a jumping off point for what happens behind enemy lines in the series and some of the events that occur.
RB: On the flip side, were there any period details that you found difficult to research?
LM: I wouldn’t say that I found it difficult. I’d say it was sobering. The Civil Rights Movement wasn’t that long ago and today we’re still fighting many of the same fights. What I wanted was to examine some very specific parts of American history but not with an eye towards simply recounting historical events. I always had a genre element in mind when I began sketching out the series. In fact, the movie Chronicle was always a touchstone as part of the journey for Avery. I did my reading and revisited literature that I loved and combed through historical events and then sort of put it all in a genre blender. I wasn’t interested in simply placing a hero character in a specific time in history just for history’s sake. I wanted to create a world where this character could influence a pocket of time that some people might not know about in history so we can see those things in a whole different way.
RB: What can you tell us about the main character, Avery Aldridge?
LM: Avery Aldridge is a combat veteran and former Red Tails pilot with famed Tuskegee Airman. He’s “Double A” to his friends, a loving husband to his wife Emma and a wonderful father to his young daughter Grace. Since returning stateside, he’s had to take a job as a cook in his small hometown in Alabama, which is in the deeply segregated South. Even as a decorated veteran, Avery can’t escape the harsh treatment that comes from living there. One of the things I really wanted is for readers to get to know and love Avery. In the first issue, you can’t help but feel for him as he’s being followed down that dark alley or when he’s in the theater of war being shot down. We get to see him run the gamut of emotions — he’s brave under pressure, he’s tender and loving with his family, and we get to see him be artistic as well. There’s a small thread throughout the series where we see Avery doodling and drawing and it becomes an important factor in the story in later issues.
RB: When the first issue begins Avery is being followed and we later learn it’s because of something that happened at the diner Avery just left (or at least that’s the excuse that’s given). How important was it to you to leave the details vague and not show what happened?
LM: I’ve always been a fan of stories that just drop the audience into the middle of things. It allows you as a reader to be an essential part of putting the puzzle pieces together. I guess I like to make the audience work a little. I also knew that since I was playing around with timeframes, that a later issue would eventually circle back to what caused all of this for Avery. But if I’m honest, the reason the story starts the way it does is because that’s the first scene that flashed in my mind when the idea came to me. That sequence of a Black man being followed and attacked when all he wants to do is just get home safely, was the heart of the story for me in many ways. This is something familiar, that we’ve seen before, and I wanted to turn that on its head into something heart-stopping and unexpected. Fingers crossed that it worked.
RB: Was it fun getting to plan so many action sequences, specifically the air combat scenes during WWII?
LM: I LOVE action sequences — probably way more than anybody should. During my time working on TURN, which was set during the Revolutionary War, I got to write my fair share of combat action, including the Battle of Yorktown in the final season. As someone who’s read a lot about WWII it was fun to get into those details and then take it to the air and create a world that was rooted in Avery’s point of view as a Black combat pilot. Walt’s beautiful art really brings those combat sequences to life — you really feel you’re with him every step of the way. Plus it was a really good excuse to do homework and watch movies with cool air combat scenes like Hell’s Angels, Red Tails, and Top Gun.
RB: While the first issue jumps around in time a lot, Avery can’t seem to catch a break. It’s a very ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ kind of pace. Was that something you knew you wanted to set from the beginning?
LM: I always wanted to move around in time. I wanted the readers to be able to see both Avery as the man he is in the present and the events from the past that changed his life and created him. Hopefully, with each fragment of time you get to see a full, compelling picture of who Avery really is.
RB: Dark Blood also deals with PTSD and the treatment of Black pilots and serviceman after WWII. Was that an issue you always wanted to cover with this series?
LM: A person can’t go through a traumatic event like fighting in a war or surviving being shot down behind enemy lines without having some scars, both physically and emotionally. It’s often easier to deal with the physical ones but I wanted to explore the invisible ones as well. So many Black soldiers returned home after fighting for this country and were treated horribly. Avery is grappling with all those things while also simply trying to provide for his family. He was a hero in the theater of war but that struggle makes him an everyday hero to me as well. I wanted to shine a light on that but also give it that popcorn/genre flavor.
RB: Everything that happens in the first issue is talked about in conjunction to when the Variance is going to happen. Is there anything you can tease to Comicon readers about what the Variance might be?
LM: Without giving too much away I’ll say that we will definitely find out what the Variance is and what it means very soon. And there will be a reckoning for many characters in the series when we do. So stay tuned and keep reading!
RB: Thanks again for agreeing to this interview, LaToya!
Dark Blood #2 goes on sale August 25th and, if you missed the first issue, a second printing of Dark Blood #1 goes on sale next Wednesday, August 11th.