Chip Zdarsky is certainly among comics’ busiest creator. (And the person with the 4th best beard.) In 2021 alone, he’s continued his amazing run on Daredevil, written for the Justice League and Spider-Man, and launched his own project/campaign with Substack (among other projects). His hugely busy, genre-leaping CV expands next month as he teams with artist Jacob Phillips for a brand-new series from Image Comics.
Newburn follows the titular “private detective without loyalties” (and a specific set of clients). As his latest case kicks off, Easton Newburn investigates the death of a man who stole from his mafia-connected family (who apparently “aren’t the ones who ordered the hit;” so guess there’ll be a second issue?) The resulting story is a gripping slice of modern noir, and the pair of Zdarsky and Phillips work together seamlessly to create a crime story that’s both deeply familiar and all together new.
Before Newburn issue #1 hits shelves on November 3, we spoke with Zdarsky via email, discussing the story’s development, how he approaches crime comics, working with Phillips, and much more.
AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for this series?
Chip Zdarsky: The world’s greatest private investigator works exclusively for all the crime families in New York City.
Our main character is Easton Newburn: a cold, calculated detective who acts like a U.N. inspector between the different crime nations: going in and inspecting, uncovering secrets and solving crimes between, and within, the families.
This keeps gang wars to a minimum, but it paints a target on Newburn and everyone he loves.
AIPT: What’s the appeal of creating crime comics? Is there ever a feeling that the market’s already saturated to a certain extent, or is that actually a good thing?
CZ: I just feel that we have a new take on superhero comics here and I think we’ll hopefully stand out on the shelves from Bat-Man and—oh, wait, you think crime comics are too saturated! Sorry, my bad!
AIPT: There’s some real Raymond Chandler vibes throughout issue #1. Was that a major influence, and what about his works is most appealing or influential?
CZ: Chandler wasn’t a direct influence, per se, but his influence can’t be avoided when you’re writing detective fiction! I’ll say though, the biggest difference between Phillip Marlowe and Easton Newburn is that Easton has parlayed his business into a fair amount of wealth.
AIPT: Similarly, are there any other books, films, shows, etc., crime or otherwise, that shaped the story or the art itself?
CZ: Again, nothing direct. Maybe TV procedurals like Law & Order or House? With Newburn, I’m trying to write done-in-one stories with inherent mysteries, so those shows were definite influences.
But most of my research went toward non-fiction, into the history of organized crime. The detective angle felt straight forward, but the mafia side needed a lot more work.
AIPT: What was the collaborative process like? How much of your other series, especially those crime-centric titles, influenced how you approached this project together?
CZ: I’m used to the grind of Marvel and DC books where a lot can get lost in the shuffle, so it’s been great working with Jacob on this. Like myself on Sex Criminals, he’s not only the artist, he’s the colorist and letterer as well! So it’s really been a dream going back and forth with him on this project as a partnership with only two partners. He’s so damn good and so damn fast, I vacillate between being overjoyed that I get to work with him and being incredibly upset that he’s so much better than I was at his age.
This whole book started because I reached out to Jacob and asked him what he wants to draw and then did my best to tailor a book around that. He seems to be enjoying it? I don’t know, have you asked him?? Does he still like me??
As for my previous projects, I’m the sum of all of them, y’know? I’ve often joked that I’m bad at career-ing since I bounce around between genres. If I was smart I’d have some goddamn focus! But after doing Stillwater, which is a horror/thriller and Daredevil, which is a superhero book but with an emphasis on the crime genre, this felt like a natural next step. I’ve always wanted to write a crime book and now I feel ready to.
AIPT: Is creating crime comics in 2021 different than it would be even just 5 to 10 years ago? I feel like it’s a combination of people being more aware/savvy nowadays and also a huge uptick in true-crime books/podcasts/etc.
CZ: I mean, I wasn’t creating them 5-10 years ago, so I’m not entirely sure! All I can do is write the book I want to read and hope it clicks with more than just me. Hopefully I’ve become savvier through my own media consumption the way others have!
AIPT: How do you balance things like procedure, which is so important in these kinds of books, with more creative license? Do you do a ton of research beforehand, or are you relying on the “language” of other, beloved crime tales?
CZ: Every issue requires research, some more than others. These are mysteries so I’m essentially working backwards, knowing who did it and doling out the clues to get there. The trick is to make sure the solutions work and hit the sweet spot of too hard for the reader to see it but not so hard that it feels impossible.
AIPT: I love the pacing of this book, and it builds the “crime” in such a perfect way. How much is that sense of pacing important to the story itself and how it might even look or feel?
CZ: Thanks! We’re playing with a 16-page format, fleshed out by text pages, so it’s designed to move fast. It’s really opened up a whole new way of writing for me. You’d think going from 20 to 16 pages would be easy, but you really learn quickly to trim panels and keep things moving!
AIPT: There’s a back-up story included called “Brooklyn Zirconia” from Nadia Shammas and Ziyed Yusuf Ayoub. Why was it important to include that, and even if it’s entirely unrelated, does it add anything to “chapter 1” of Newburn?
CZ: Yeah! We wanted to have the space to highlight cool new creators and give them an opportunity to try out some crime fiction! I met Nadia years ago at WonderCon and am really impressed with her writing, so I’m glad she agreed to join us! And Ziyed’s work is so cool, I think people will love the contrast of styles between his work and Jacob’s.
AIPT: Why should anyone pick up issue #1?
CZ: Jacob Phillips is the real deal. That Texas Blood (with Chris Condon) is a fantastic comic and he’s bringing that high level to Newburn. And I’m incredibly excited to give readers a fun new book with both done-in-one stories and a wider, overarching plot that will take us to really dangerous places. And Easton Newburn is super fun to write.
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