Comic Book Yeti contributor Alex Breen recently corresponded with Stephanie Phillips, writer of Black Sight, to discuss cultivating lasting relationships with editors, real-life inspirations, and what she enjoys most about writing horror comics. Black Sight issues #1 & 2 are available on Comixology HERE.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Stephanie, thank you for joining me today. First, can you give readers the premise for Black Sight and your inspirations behind this story?
STEPHANIE PHILLIPS: The story is about a woman taken into a C.I.A. black site in the 1960s and forced to undergo psychological torture. While this kind of thing infamously happened with a case like MK Ultra, it’s less commonly known that there were many different CIA black sites conducting experiments without oversight.
CBY: From the press release provided, I noticed an inspiration drawn from real-life CIA Black Site facilities. Are "real-life events," for lack of a better term, a frequent inspiration for your stories? If they are, can you provide any research tips for aspiring writers?
SP: Real life is weird. There’s tons of inspiration there. I’m not sure we have the space in this interview to talk about the research process… and I can promise it’s truly not that exciting, but I’m happy to talk about it at cons if someone wants to come find me.
"...I feel like the secret to a good editorial relationship is the secret to any good relationship… you will get along better with some people than others but when you find that person you click with, hold onto them. "
CBY: As an opening issue, I found Black Sight to be a chilling read, especially near the end. I know this isn't your first horror story, so what do you enjoy the most about writing horror comics?
SP: Scaring my mom. Seriously. She doesn’t like horror.
CBY: With Will Dennis as the editor of Black Sight, can you describe some of the contributions he brought to the story? In your opinion, what are the hallmarks of building a good working relationship with editors on projects?
SP: I feel like the secret to a good editorial relationship is the secret to any good relationship… you will get along better with some people than others, but when you find that person you click with, hold onto them. Despite Will’s many attempts to escape, I’m holding onto him. And I promise he’s not under ANY duress. I offer him three meals a day and a beer for a little treat when he behaves.
CBY: Since we’re nearing Halloween, are there any favorite horror comics you'd recommend for readers to check out?
SP: Something is Killing the Children is the obvious answer for a reason. It’s great.
CBY: It’s a shame this was my first exposure to Conor Boyle's art, as I was positively blown away with the atmosphere he brings to his pages. Can you go into what your collaborative process has been like for this story?
SP: Conor’s been great to work with and the story doesn’t work without him. His art adds a dream-like (or maybe nightmare-like) quality to the story that is really key to blurring the lines of reality.
CBY: The issue one cover art from Dave Johnson had me hooked from the moment I first laid eyes on the comic. Did you collaborate with Dave Johnson on cover concepts or was this a situation of letting him take it in his own direction? If it’s the former, how much input would you say you had in the cover process?
SP: We always talk a bit about the story, but the best possible thing I could do to help Dave is to get out of his way. He’s great and does not need me to direct him.
CBY: In addition to Black Sight’s main narrative, there’s also a four-page B&W supplemental story written by Daleyna Abril and illustrated by Marco Fodera. What was the inspiration behind the supplemental story? Did you always have Daleyna Abril and Marco Fodera in mind for the story?
SP: The story they’re telling is actually a true story. Just about everyone appearing is a real-life person, and this is the account of what actually happened to a man named Glickman. Daleyna was my research assistant while working on Black Sight, and we thought it would be really cool to allow her a chance to tell Glickman’s story in comic form. Daleyna pitched the concept, wrote the story, and Marco nailed the artwork. We knew we wanted to go with a black & white approach, and something different from Conor on the main story. We all agreed Marco was the best fit and got really lucky to have him on the story.
CBY: Also, regarding the supplemental story, was the co-editing role a collaborative experience with Will Dennis or how did that work?
SP: It was very collaborative. Working with Will is -- *get back in the closet, Will! It’s not time for your dinner yet! -- Sorry… What was I saying…? Oh yeah, we’re a great team and it was fun to work with him as co-editor.
CBY: Black Sight is being distributed through ComiXology Originals - can you describe for us what went into choosing them as the home for Black Sight? Does writing for ComiXology change your approach to writing the story vs your other print works?
SP: I like that ComiXology was really invested in bringing in a mix of established talent and new creators. There’s also a lot of freedom with the storytelling, so I think it was a good fit for Black Sight.
CBY: Apart from my research question, If there is one piece of advice you could give to aspiring comic writers, what would you say to them?
SP: Get a good attorney. This is not a glib comment. Bringing in someone with actual expertise to help us craft better deals means the potential for a better creative process.
CBY: Do you have any other upcoming comics of yours or your peers that you'd like to give a shout-out?
SP: Riley Rossmo is working on Sandman with Robert Vendetti. The first issue just came out and it was great. Riley is really perfect for Sandman and I’m excited to read more.
CBY: Stephanie, thank you so much for your time!