Holly Black Talks Putting Words in Lucifer's Mouth

(Photo: DC Entertainment)

This week, The Spiderwick Chronicles author Holly Black will see the release not only of Lucifer #9, which she worked on with artist Lee Garbett, colorist Antonio Fabela and letterer Todd Klein, but also the series' first collected edition, titled Lucifer Volume 1: Cold Heaven.

Her first ongoing series in comics, Black learned a lot about comics as a business and as a creative endeavor in her first half a year on the title, while revitalizing a character who has been a fan-favorite for years but has been mostly absent from comic shop shelves for a while.

And, of course, her run started right around the same time FOX started up a television show featuring her lead character, which is handy timing.

Black joined ComicBook.com to discuss not only today's Lucifer #9 but the first trade paperback, out in direct market comic shops this week and available on Amazon and other non-specialty retailers in September.

You can get both books by visiting your local comic shop, or get a digital copy on ComiXology here (for #9) and here (for the trade paperback).

This is your first foray into DC and their fandom and all that kind of stuff. How are you liking comics, so far?

Yeah, this is the first time I've ever done a monthly comic, I've done graphic novels before, in a different way. The learning curve on plotting an individual issue of an individual comic was, I think, the most intimidating thing.

It's been a lot of fun and I finally feel like I'm getting more of a sense of it and how you pace it out. It's really exciting to have longtime Lucifer lovers come talk to me online and write to me. It's been a really great experience.

As you're moving forward, looking at the first trade paperback, are you fairly satisfied with how that all came together? You're talking about a learning curve for pacing issues but I'd imagine that a single, standalone 120-page graphic novel is more or less like stuff you've done in the past.

Yeah, thinking of it as one story that has chapters, I guess, was how I thought of it. I really had to convert my way of thinking.

I actually remember talking to Neil Gaiman about this really early on. He said that to think of each issue like a novel. I would look up horrified like, "What do you mean? This is terrible." It was really helpful to just change my way of thinking that these are not chapters. They're stories that stand by themselves. They're not short stories, either; they're something different.

You're also not at all doing the TV show. They're very different animals. Have you encountered those people who have come into the comics because of the show and had a response from them yet?

Not really. I think that there's so much canon that they see where they are a little bit. I don't think they stumble into our run...maybe they will with the trade. With the individual issues that was less of the way that they accessed it. I think that they probably went back and read Mike Carey's run and/or Gaiman. I think that if they did read a floppy, they understood that this was the story that was in process.

For me, the TV show came fairly late in my actual writing, even though it came pretty early in the book coming out. It was this moment of, "Oh, this is what this is," because I hadn't seen any of it before anyone else.

I experienced it so late that it really didn't wind up having any real impact [on the comic]. It was just really interesting that it was happening. It was interesting to see the kind of decisions that they made. Specifically, I was really interested how sympathetic their version of Lucifer was.

For people who pick up this trade paperback and what to jump on board this kind of moving train of monthly comics, first of all, is number 9 a good jumping on point or should they try to backpedal and fill in that blank?

I think probably, I would go with the trade. I think that when you start with Cold Heaven, that you can get on board and you don't necessarily need to know what came before. Given the enormity of what did come before, I think nine might not be the way to go.

For the people that have been reading all along, what can you tease about what's coming up in the second half of the second arc?

We're going to find out who's been telling the story the whole time. They've had a sort of narrator's voice, and it turns out that actually belongs to somebody.

We're also going to get see a couple more characters that people have been asking about from Mike Carey's run like, "What happened to them?" We're going to find out.

I think one of the things I really enjoy is the way you've built this world that almost feels, I guess this is kind of self evident any way, I enjoy the fact that it feels like such a fantasy book. When you look at the scene in the bar early on, where it's like, " oh yeah, you've got the random bartender he's a fly."

I think Lee Garbett has just done an amazing job. I'm willing to accept that a part of it is me, but such a huge part is we really making the people feel real and building up those spaces. Doing stuff in the background that gives it that sense.

When we re-enter hell in the more recent issues, the background scene is so spectacular, there's just so much to see. There's so much story in those backgrounds. It's been one of the most amazing things for me. When you're a person who writes a story by yourself you never get the experience of seeing it reflected back to you and see it become just so much better by somebody else doing this collaborative work adding all of this stuff to it.

As a big comic book nerd, one of the things that always strikes me is that coloring and lettering are super important to making your book look kind of polished and professional. Coming in as someone who hasn't really worked in comics before, did you talk with Antonio [Fabela] and Todd [Klein] early on or was that something where after you had the first issue done, you were like, "oh crap, there's a lot more people on this team?"

I must confess to my shame, it was the latter. You're right, that's the stuff that really changes what it is in a way that when you're in it, until you're seeing sort of how that works, you don't realize. Seeing the colors and seeing the letters and seeing how people have different voices in the way the lettering is done.

Especially in a book where you have a protagonist who has custom lettering. I look at the page and it's like immediately when he speaks it's different than when everybody else speaks. Which I think sets a tone for the book that's hard to shake off.

I think that was really probably the most profound experience of having written the issue and having gone through all of this and actually getting the issue back and really weirdly seeing the stuff I wrote in that font was probably one of the biggest moments of, "oh my God! This is really Lucifer. I have put words in his mouth."

In the fight for hell, obviously, that is some hugely widescreen storytelling. Is there kind of a difference in the approach of how you do a single issue of when you're battling angels in hell versus when you're doing Lucifer at the bar?

I think the thing that I came to realize, happily before I started this, was just how much page space and paneling creates pacing.


So yeah, absolutely you really want those wide shots and you want those big moments. The big moments aren't just big narrative terms, they're big visual terms. There are these big visual surprises. Then in the bar there's these quiet times and these weird quite surprises that I think also narratively have momentum and have urgency and also that stuff that sort of sticks with you.

If you can get that and I know I'm not saying that's the easiest thing I think those are the pleasures of reading a book like this.