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Parker Newman depicts the darkness of silent era Hollywood in CITY OF DEMONS

Parker Newman stop by to chat with Andrew Irvin, Interviews Editor, about City of Demons, the forthcoming 12-issue miniseries from Blood Moon Comics. For fans of noir, Prohibition-era period pieces, and Los Angeles scenery, you need look no further!

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Parker, welcome to the Yeti Cave! You’d introduced City of Demons as a comic that “critically examines the pervasive darkness Hollywood has perpetuated for years, particularly focusing on the treatment of women and the careless attitude towards sexuality.” I lived in Los Angeles long enough to know exactly what you’re talking about (and I recommend Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon as a good example of creative license being applied to reflections on the sordid elements of Hollywood mythos). What led to you choosing this setting for your comic?



PARKER NEWMAN: As a film nerd and history buff, I was drawn to the setting of Los Angeles and the dark underbelly of Hollywood because it's a place where the glitz and glamour often mask a much more troubling reality. The history of Hollywood is rife with tales of exploitation, especially of women, and a cavalier attitude toward sexuality. I wanted to explore these themes in City of Demons to shine a light on the darker aspects of the industry that are often overlooked or glamorized. Setting my comic in this world allowed me to critically examine these issues while also engaging with a rich and complex cultural history that continues to resonate today.



CBY: I look forward to seeing how you unpack things further in subsequent issues. You’ve made a lot of really deliberate stylistic choices with the visuals of this comic, having teamed up with Ezeh Kingsley as illustrator and Nikki Powers as letterer for this series. Can you tell us a bit about how everyone met, and what the workflow has looked like for the team as you started pulling together this comic series?



PN: Absolutely! The collaboration on "City of Demons" came together quite organically. I first encountered Ezeh Kingsley's work through social media, where his unique and dynamic art style caught my eye. We connected and began discussing potential projects. Nikki Powers, our talented letterer, was also discovered on Fiverr. Her work stood out for its clarity and creative integration into the art.


Our workflow is highly collaborative. I start each issue by writing the outline and script, which I then hand off to Ezeh. He creates initial sketches, and we have back-and-forth discussions to refine the visuals until they perfectly capture the mood and narrative. Once the artwork is finalized, Nikki steps in to add the lettering, carefully ensuring that the text enhances rather than distracts from the visual storytelling.


We maintain open communication throughout the process. This collaborative effort allows us to blend our strengths and create a cohesive and compelling comic series that reflects our collective vision.



CBY: Learning about the characters in City of Demons, I was curious after seeing your choice to portray African American detectives given the Prohibition-era setting, and learned that the Los Angeles Police Department was hiring African American Officers as early as 1886 (Robert William Stewart and Roy Green were the first two), and onboarded African-American woman as a officer, Georgia Ann Robinson in 1919. How was your depiction of race and its role in shaping the main character’s perspective towards the scenes you’re constructing throughout the comic?



PN: I'm glad you brought this up. The inclusion of African American detectives in City of Demons was a deliberate choice to reflect the complex and often overlooked history of race in early 20th-century Los Angeles. The facts you mentioned about hiring practices provided a rich historical backdrop that I wanted to explore in the comic.


Our main character's perspective is deeply influenced by his experiences as an African American detective during the Prohibition era. He navigates a world rife with racial tension, corruption, and social injustice, which shapes his interactions and decisions. This lens allows us to delve into the broader issues of race and power dynamics within the context of Hollywood's darker side.


By portraying these characters, we're able to highlight their resilience and the unique challenges they faced, adding depth and authenticity to the narrative. It was important to me to honor their contributions and struggles, and to bring a nuanced portrayal of race to the forefront of the story.



CBY: On the note of embodying a time and place with your writing, you mentioned a record - “Somebody Loves Me” by George Whitman - and that sent me down a rabbit hole, reading about the origin of the term “album,” the history of long-play format, the move to vinyl from shellac, and then a listen to Paul Whiteman’s performance of George Gershwin’s 1924 hit, “Somebody Loves Me.” I love the research process that goes into worldbuilding, because of my personal threshold for suspension of disbelief. What does your research process look like when you’re building a story? 



PN: For me, the research process is one of the most exciting parts of worldbuilding. When I'm constructing a story, especially one set in a specific historical context like City of Demons, I start by immersing myself in the era. This involves reading books, articles, and firsthand accounts from the time to get a sense of the social, cultural, and political climate.


I also delve into visual references, looking at photographs, fashion, architecture, and even advertisements from the era to accurately depict the environment. This visual research ensures that every detail, from the clothing to the cityscape, aligns with the time period.


For the historical aspects, I explore archives and databases to uncover lesser-known facts, such as the early inclusion of African American officers in the LAPD, which adds depth and authenticity to the characters and their experiences.


Throughout this process, I maintain detailed notes and a reference library that I can continuously draw from. By weaving these meticulously researched elements into the narrative, I aim to create a world that not only feels believable but also enriches the reader’s understanding of the time and place.



CBY: Your efforts definitely inspired me to do some digging of my own! I enjoy the expressive nature of Ezeh’s art, and I think he’s done a good job of capturing the tight, claustrophobic soundstage of 20’s Silent Era Hollywood. There’s plenty of severe, directional lighting for the noir fans amongst us to enjoy. The lettering is not overtly stylized to period fonts, but is well-suited to the modern reader’s eye. There was an interesting choice - a loose, light brushstroke for the panel borders & gutters - can you share a bit more about that choice over, say, firm lines with a similarly clean look to the lettering, or a further immersion in period design with a 1920’s L.A. flourish? 



PN: Ezeh has a remarkable talent for capturing the mood and atmosphere of 1920s Silent Era Hollywood, and his use of that severe, directional lighting indeed pays homage to the noir aesthetic we love.


Regarding the panel borders and gutters, we opted for a loose, light brushstroke to create a specific effect. The choice was intentional to convey a sense of fluidity and tension within the scenes. Firm lines could have provided a cleaner, more rigid look, but we felt that the loose brushstrokes added a dynamic, almost unfinished quality that mirrors the uncertainty and chaos faced by the characters.


In the script I wrote, I included visuals like still frames from noir movies for Ezeh to use as references, particularly for the costuming of certain characters and the lighting effects. This helped ensure that the visual elements aligned with the story's tone and historical context. The approach also allows for a subtle contrast with the modern, clean look of the lettering, striking a balance between historical immersion and contemporary readability.


While further immersing the design in period-specific elements like 1920s fonts and flourishes could have been intriguing, we wanted to ensure the comic remained accessible and engaging to modern readers. The combination of these stylistic choices helps us create a visually compelling narrative that feels both authentic to the era and relevant to today’s audience.



CBY: One thing I really appreciate about your writing is the utility with which you put lines on the page - characters say what they say to the people that need to hear the details to move the story forward, and the exposition is in the scene. Since this is a 12-issue arc, and will comprise, I imagine, at least 240 pages as a graphic novel when completed, can you tell us a bit about how you diagram out your characters, plots, and pace your arc(s) over the course of the book?



PN: Thank you for your kind words! Planning out a 12-issue arc like City of Demons involves a meticulous process of character development, plot structuring, and pacing to ensure a cohesive and engaging narrative across, as you mentioned, approximately 240 pages.


While I outline the overarching story arc and key plot points, I also embrace the fluid nature of creativity. I believe in allowing room for spontaneous moments and unexpected developments that can enrich the story. These moments often arise during the writing process and can lead to exciting new directions or deeper character insights.


Character development is central to this approach. I create detailed profiles for each character, but I remain open to their growth and evolution as the story unfolds. This flexibility allows me to adapt and refine the narrative organically, ensuring that each issue contributes meaningfully to the overall arc while allowing for creative surprises.


Pacing is another aspect where flexibility is crucial. I diagram the flow of each issue but remain attentive to the natural rhythm of the story. This includes adjusting the placement of key events or revelations based on how the narrative develops during the writing and collaboration process.


Collaboration with the illustrator and letterer further enhances this dynamic approach, as their interpretations and creative contributions often inspire new ideas or refine existing ones.


By embracing spontaneity and maintaining a flexible approach to plotting and character development, I aim to create a graphic novel that feels alive and dynamic, capturing both planned narrative arcs and the magic of unexpected creative moments.



CBY: And I won’t spoil it further, but that utility of the medium - there are instances where women are mentioned/shown, but not heard from, and there’s a power of anticipation as a reader, I have been trained to expect from good storytelling when an element is introduced but not yet engaged with (e.g. - the principle of Chekov’s gun). This hearkens back to my initial question - you’ve put the racial animosity upfront in the installments I’ve read, but can you unpack some of the sexuality and gender dimensions you’re exploring without giving anything more substantial away about the issues to come?



PN: In the series, I aim to delve into the complexities of power dynamics, particularly how they intersect with gender and sexuality during the Prohibition-era setting. This includes examining how women navigate a male-dominated industry like Hollywood, where opportunities often come with strings attached and where their voices may be overshadowed or silenced.


Additionally, the portrayal of racial animosity upfront is paralleled by the exploration of how gender and sexuality shape characters' experiences and choices. Issues of identity, agency, and the pursuit of personal and professional fulfillment in a challenging environment are themes that unfold gradually throughout the series.


By weaving these dimensions into the narrative, I hope to provoke thought and reflection on historical and contemporary issues surrounding gender and sexuality. It's about creating a multifaceted portrayal of characters who navigate complex social landscapes, where their identities and aspirations are shaped by both personal agency and external pressures.


Maintaining a balance between revealing and preserving narrative surprises is crucial, ensuring that readers continue to anticipate how these themes will evolve and impact the characters' journeys in City of Demons.



CBY: Again, without spoiling anything substantive (I hope); there are two families introduced named Boyle and Sullivan. I’m aware of Boyle Heights and Sullivan Canyon in the Los Angeles area, which I assume are unrelated. Did you have any specific points of reference from either the history of Los Angeles or other noir/crime media that you have looked to for inspiration in City of Demons? What other stories, both fact and fiction, fed into the formulation of this comic?



PN: Absolutely! In crafting City of Demons, I drew inspiration from a wide range of sources that span both historical accounts and influential noir/crime media. Los Angeles itself, with its rich and often tumultuous history, served as a primary reference point. I explored the city's Prohibition-era underworld, drawing on real-life events and figures that shaped its cultural landscape.


Fictionally, the first season of True Detective was a significant influence, particularly in its portrayal of complex characters, atmospheric storytelling, and intertwining narratives that reveal deeper truths about society and human nature. 


Moreover, I found inspiration in comics that push the boundaries of storytelling and explore complex themes. Alan Moore's From Hell and Watchmen, known for their intricate plots and deep philosophical themes, influenced my approach to narrative complexity and character development. Frank Miller's Batman: Year One contributed to the gritty realism and exploration of the origins of a hero within a corrupt and morally ambiguous world.


By drawing on these diverse influences, City of Demons aims to blend historical authenticity with imaginative storytelling, offering readers a nuanced and compelling exploration of Los Angeles' past while paying homage to the rich tradition of noir and crime fiction.



CBY: As far as solid reference material, I think you've drawn upon some of the greats. Now, City of Demons is coming out through Blood Moon Comics, which has a horror/sci-fi genre catalogue I definitely need to explore further. Can you tell our readers a bit about how you ended up working with Keith Rommel & Lawrence Knorr on getting this book out to the public?



PN: Working with Keith Rommel and Lawrence Knorr at Blood Moon Comics has been a fantastic collaboration that stemmed from a shared passion for storytelling and a mutual appreciation for the horror and sci-fi genres. Keith and Lawrence have built a remarkable catalogue of works that delve into the darker realms of fiction, which aligns perfectly with the atmospheric and thematic elements of City of Demons.


Our partnership came about through discussions about the comic's themes and ambitions, and their enthusiasm for the project matched my own vision for bringing this story to life. Their expertise in publishing and their commitment to supporting independent creators made Blood Moon Comics an ideal home for City of Demons.


Together, we've worked tirelessly to ensure that the comic reaches its audience, leveraging their established platform and network to introduce the series to readers who appreciate horror, noir, and intricate storytelling. It's been a collaborative effort rooted in a shared dedication to delivering compelling and thought-provoking narratives that resonate with readers of diverse genres.


I'm excited to continue this journey with Blood Moon Comics and to share City of Demons with readers who are eager to explore its dark and immersive world.



CBY: I always like to close by offering creators an opportunity to share with our readers the comics and other creations (film, music, literature, etc.) that is catching their attention and inspiring them beyond the comics they’ve come to discuss. What should our readers ensure they don’t miss from what you’ve been checking out lately?



PN: I just finished reading the Chip Zdarsky run on Daredevil, which has been incredibly gripping, and The Last Ronin graphic novel, which offers a powerful and emotional take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both are absolutely worth your time for their storytelling and artistic excellence.



CBY: Parker, thanks for joining us in the Yeti Cave to discuss this forthcoming miniseries. Please feel free to share any portfolio, publication and social media links so our audience may explore your work beyond this interview!



PN: Please follow our Instagram at cityofdemons_comic for exclusive content! The miniseries debuts March 22, 2025. Get notified at https://www.bloodmooncomicsllc.com/product-page/city-of-demons




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