Duane Swierczynski put Greg Hettinger, the star of his series from Archie’s Dark Circle imprint, through the ringer in the first arc of The Black Hood. Throughout “The Bullet’s Kiss” arc, Swierczynski’s background as a crime novelist shined through the pages, as each chapter of the five-part series read like an addictive crime novel. It was impossible to put down (the series evoked my love of Marvel’s Alias, complete with the art of Michael Gaydos himself!). After a brief interlude, The Black Hood now returns to Philadelphia in a new arc, entitled: “The Lonely Crusade.”
The first issue of “The Lonely Crusade” releases this Wednesday, and author Dwayne Swierczynski recently sat down with the Comics Beat to tell us all about it:
Alex Jones: So Greg Hettinger is done right? The Black Hood is finished busting crime forever?
Duane Swierczynski: Yep, it’s over. The next 20 to 25 issues will be all about Greg doing some DIY repairs on his Philly row house, as well as his struggles to eat more kale and read all of Proust. We’re changing the name of the comic to Life With Greg.
Jones: Greg Hettinger’s time as The Black Hood culminated in something massive at the end of “The Bullet’s Kiss,” can you tease what’s next in the “The Lonely Crusade?”
Swierczynski: Okay, so I was kidding about the Proust.
If “Bullet’s Kiss” was an origin story of sorts, then “The Lonely Crusade” is the Black Hood’s first encounter with a supervillain team—of sorts. I qualify it, because I think these “Crusaders” are not like most bad guys. They’re just as determined and angry and unhinged as the Black Hood himself, so it’ll be great fun to see them clash.
Jones: Instead of asking the “why Philadelphia” question, I have a better one: how has Philadelphia changed after the fallout from “The Bullet’s Kiss”?
Swierczynski: After the big reveal of the identity of The Connection, you’d think there’d be massive change and sweeping reform right? I mean, the bad guy was the goddamned [REDACTED]’s little [REDACTED]. But this is Philadelphia, man. It takes a lot to move the civic needle here. So it’s pretty much business as usual. Dirty business.
Speaking of, will the high profile of Hettinger from the newscasts still haunt him? Oh yeah. Greg’s terrified of being outed, and I think some part of him knows he won’t be able to maintain the ruse forever.
Jones: How many people in the city do you think have pieced together The Black Hood’s secret identity? He was caught with his mask off a few times already, if memory serves me right.
Swierczynski: Not many people know the truth at the moment—the guys who saw him without the mask aren’t the most reliable witnesses, and Greg’s friend Jessie isn’t about to go running to the Philadelphia Daily News. But all of this is going to change in the next arc. In a big way.
Jones: Will the title still evoke that same grim tone oozing from the last arc?
Swierczynski: Absolutely. Same grim ooze, with some heaping tablespoons of brutality and heartbreak and betrayal added to the mix. But I’m also excited to do some proper world-building in this next arc, too. Hopefully, Philly will feel like a much richer and complex place, and not just an urban hellhole where hope goes to die.
Jones: What was it like to reunite with Michael Gaydos after working on the previous story with Howard Chaykin?
Swierczynski: There were flowers. There were apologies. We had long talks in the moonlight…Obviously, I’m thrilled that Gaydos is back for Chapter Seven, but that surreal, sunbaked California vibe that Howard Chaykin brought to Chapter Six was a break I think we all needed. You need some light to appreciate the dark.
Jones: What aspects does Gaydos lend to The Black Hood?
Swierczynski: With Gaydos, I feel like my story is in the hands of a film director who has a knack for putting his camera in the most interesting and revealing places. My scripts indicate what’s happening in a given panel, but he brings it all to life.
Jones: With The Black Hood being a realistic title, when Hettinger gets in a fight with a baddie, the results are often brutal. To keep the series realistic, do you find that you often have to space things out to work around the character’s physical limits?
Swierczynski: Oh yeah. So much of the plot is driven by natural limitations—this is not a book where the hero just dusts himself off and looks perfectly fine. As much as I love the James Bond films, I watched parts of Spectre shaking my head. Daniel Craig is punched in the face, like, dozens of times, but he always looks model-perfect in the next scene. One solid punch can ruin your face forever.
Jones: Speaking of physical limits, how is Greg’s prescription addiction coming along since we saw him last, also how much time will pass between the new arc and the stand-alone issue?
Swierczynski: Roughly, a few months. Enough time for Greg to pull his shit back together as best he can. What can you tell us about the “The Crusaders”? Well, I teased them earlier, but let’s just say that they represent our country’s worst impulses and prejudices come to life.
Jones: Can you tease anything about the solicit in issue #9 especially when considering the following phrase: “Nobody’s going to walk away clean?”
Swierczynski: I think people will be genuinely surprised by where this arc ends up. All along, Alex Segura (my editor) and I have been structuring this like a crime novel (which is why you see the chapter numbers instead of issue numbers on every cover).
We’re building toward something big—and cool, I think—so the story won’t be following the typical patterns.
Jones: How do you think The Black Hood fits in the wider Dark Circle line?
Swierczynski: Well, the Black Hood appeared first, so the question is—how do the Shield and the Hangman fit in with the Black Hood? (I do wonder what they would discuss if they all met up in a diner one night.)
Jones: Any last words on the series?
Swierczynski: Last words? We’re just getting started!
THE BLACK HOOD #7
Script: Duane Swierczynski
Art: Michael Gaydos, Jesus Aburto, Rachel Deering
Cover: Francesco Francavilla
Variant Cover: David Mack
“The Lonely Crusade, Part 1” Greg Hettinger returns to Philadelphia and promises his closest friend, Jessie Dupree, that his hood-wearing vigilante days are over. But it’s a promise he’s going to struggle to keep—especially when a gang calling themselves “The Crusaders” are prowling the City of Brotherly Love, scooping up “undesirables” and asking if they want to be saved… The second action-packed arc of The Black Hood begins here!
On Sale Date: 11/25
32-page, full color comic
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics