Black Mask Studios is putting out a lot of great work right now. Some of it maybe flying under the mainstream comic radar, but their titles are well worth tracking down. Last week, Ron McKenzie gave a stellar review for the studios Ballistic compilation, written by Adam Egypt Mortimer and illustrated by Darick Robertson. This week, we’ve got an interview with Matthew Rosenberg, writer of the series We Can Never Go Home, its second issue now currently available in shops and online. I was impressed with the first issue, and the second one carries on with the strong storytelling and excellent art. So check out my interview with Matthew and find out why you should really be reading We Can Never Go Home.
Andy Burns: Congrats on a really stunning first issues of We Can Never Go Home. I thought it was immediately compelling. For those who haven’t heard about it, give us the elevator pitch about what the comic is about.
Matthew Rosenberg: Thanks so much. We Can Never Go Home is the story of 2 teenagers in small town America. They are drawn together when they discover that they both have strange abilities and soon they find themselves in very deep trouble. The series is about what they choose to do from there.
Andy Burns: Where did the idea come from? Was it something you were sitting on for a while?
Matthew Rosenberg: We Can Never Go Home is a very heavily reworked version of the first comic I ever wrote actually. So yeah, I have been sitting on it for a while. As for where the idea came from? Obviously a lot is changed but the initial idea is somewhat autobiographical. I had a few very strange teenage years where I made some really bad choices. Someone I cared about ended up getting hurt and I always think about how I should have done more or what I could have done. So basically this book is the much cheaper alternative to me going to therapy.
Andy Burns: One of the most impressive aspects of the book for me was the way you wrote teen voices – they’re very real. Where do you think that talent comes from – did you watch a lot of teen dramas? Is it just something that came naturally?
Matthew Rosenberg: Haha. No I don’t watch a lot of teen dramas. I spend a lot of time on dialogue. I think it’s one of the most important part of comics and storytelling in general. It’s where character lives. I am a huge fan of writers like David Mamet, Whit Stillman, Elmore Leonard, and Brian Bendis, all writers who write what I call hyper-realized dialogue. It’s not for everyone but it’s what really speaks to me. I think there are a lot of writers who really like to operate in stereotypes. Good dialogue and good characters takes up space and all comic writers are pressed for space, so using tropes and stereotypes seems like a good shortcut.. But it is worth it to take the time and make sure that everyone has a real voice. Every character I write is based on a real person so I spend a lot of time walking them through different situations.
Andy Burns: Black Mask is really nurturing a roster of comics that I don’t think you find anywhere else – why was the studio the right fit for We Can Never Go Home?
Matthew Rosenberg: Well Black Mask has been amazing. Super supportive while still challenging me and pushing me when it counts. There aren’t a ton of publishers who can really put out books that will find readers right now, which is really unfortunate. And of those I think Black Mask is really looking to do things that other publishers won’t or can’t. There is a real feel there that a lot of comics are way too safe or they don’t have enough to say. My book isn’t as challenging as Space Riders or Mayday or Godkiller, but I know with where this story is going there are a lot of publishers who would not be ok with that. It’s a really nice feeling to know you can push things and your publisher is supportive of that.
Andy Burns: Tell me about your writing process when you’re working on an issue – day or night? Music going? If so, what are you listening to while working?
Matthew Rosenberg: Somehow I am very busy all the time. I’m not sure why. So I write whenever and wherever I can. In bed, on the train, at coffee shops, whatever. And I always listen to music. What I am listening to depends a lot on what I am writing. I can’t write dialogue while I listen to things with words so I listen to a lot of Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, Iceburn, Red Sparrowes, Silver Mt. Zion, This Will Destroy You, Aphex Twin. Stuff like that. But when I am outlining and writing pages I pretty much listen to anything that fits my mood. I don’t know how I choose, it’s not deliberate but when I wrote We Can Never Go Home I listened to a lot of Taylor Swift, Minor Threat, Johnny Cash, Sun Kil Moon, Cayetana, Immortal Technique, PAWS, Joyce Manor, Weekend, Rotting Out, and Ceremony. Those were all in heavy rotation.
Andy Burns: How many issues will We Can Never Go Home run? And what else have you got coming up?
Matthew Rosenberg: We Can Never Go Home is 5 issues. We know where it would go if we do more, but it becomes a very different book. We aren’t going to rewrite the ending or change what happens if is a breakout hit. There is a story we want to tell and that story is 5 issues.
Thanks to Matthew Rosenberg for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop. Find out about all things Black Mask Studios here.