INTERVIEW: Return to Spiral City with Jeff Lemire and Caitlin Yarsky’s Black Hammer: Reborn

A costumed Black woman smashes down a big black hammer

Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s superhero saga, Black Hammer, returns with a whole new story, set 20 years after the Lucy Weber took up the mantle her father left behind. The legacy her father left behind, the secrets of what has happened over the past two decades, and the crushing frustrations of her everyday life weigh heavy on Lucy. Having teased this new story for some time, only to have it delayed by the pandemic Lemire, joined by Caitlin Yarsky (Bliss, Coyotes), are ready to welcome you have to Spiral City in Black Hammer: Reborn.

A costumed Black woman with a big afro holds a big hammer. She and the hammer are covered in blood and there is a look of shock on her face

First of all, Caitlin, Black Hammer is a long time classic that you are getting to be a part of for the first time. How did you become involved in the project and how does it feel to step into this universe?

Yarsky: I submitted some comic art for the project (pages from Bliss for Image, and a Buffy short story for BOOM!). Dark Horse got back to me about Jeff’s interest in working together, at which point I did a Liz Lemon-y dance of joy and signed on! And, of course, the story is incredible and engrossing — I was already in love with the characters so I couldn’t be happier to add my own art to the Black Hammer world.

Jeff, you’ve said that Black Hammer: Reborn is the culmination of everything you’ve been working towards. You’ve talked about how Lucy’s role has evolved over time beyond your original intentions for the story. How and when did the ideas for this new era take shape?

Lemire: I struggled for quite a while with this series. It’s been in development for the better part of two years. When I finished Black Hammer: Age of Doom I knew that the next series would focus on Lucy Weber as the new Black Hammer and would depict her living up to the name and the legacy of her father as our universe’s greatest super hero. I wrote several drafts and issues in this direction and it just felt a bit too much like a generic super hero story. What made Black Hammer special was that it juxtaposed super hero elements and tropes with more down to earth character driven stories of our ex-heroes on the farm. These new scripts were lacking that element that made it feel like Black Hammer.

After some trial and error and a lot of thought I came up with the idea of jumping ahead twenty-five years and seeing Lucy at middle-age with a family with her super hero life all in the past. And then we could flash back, like we did in the original Black Hammer to see how she got from being the world’s greatest hero to retired and living a domestic life in Spiral City. I could juxtapose Lucy’s family life with her super hero past. It all clicked from there. We had a Lucy that was much more complicated and filled with flaws and much more interesting to write. And it felt much more in line with what I had dome in the original Black Hammer without just repeating the same stories.

You’ve been teasing Black Hammer: Reborn for a while. How does it feel to finally release this story to the world?

Lemire: It feels really really great. I have been writing this series for at least two year maybe more. And it started to feel more like an abstract thought experiment than a comic book for a while there. And then Caitlin joined us and artwork started to come in and it began to feel real again. And now with the release getting close it really does feel like Black Hammer is about to return in a big way. I can’t wait for readers to see where we go now. I think it will surprise a lot of long-time fans and keep them guessing. And having Caitlin as a partner has been terrific. She makes these characters so real.

What we see of Lucy’s downtrodden life in the first issue is painfully relatable. What kind of experiences and inspiration did you call on to write and illustrate the burden of Lucy’s day-to-day struggles? How is Lucy Weber’s Mid-Life Crisis on Multiple Earths different from those midlife crises the rest of us face (aside from the obvious ‘most of us aren’t superheroes’ part)?

Lemire: Well, I hate to say it but it’s not hard to draw form my own mid-life experiences and those of my own wife, and family and friends. Black Hammer has always been more about real world dilemmas than super hero ones, so being able to tell a more contemporary story of a mother and a wife and someone struggling to find their place I the world again was really appealing to me. Lucy had it all. And then she lost it. Now she has a family that she loves, and that’s great too, but there is something missing. And that’s where our story begins.

Lucy Weber deals with a surly teen and preteen in the morning as they get ready to go to school and work

Tell us a bit about your creative process. What was the back-and-forth and sharing of ideas like?

Lemire: Well, in this case I was very much in a vacuum initially because I was creating the first chunk of Black Hammer Reborn scripts without an artist attached yet. And as I said before that was hard and made the book feel less “real”. As soon as Caitlin became our artist Lucy and her family started to come alive in my head again. So, there was not a lot of back and forth initially, but as I wrote the later scripts I was able to write with Caitlin in mind and that really grounded the characters for me.

I understand that there are twelve issues ready to go for this new Phase II core book of the Black Hammer story. Can we expect to see Black Hammer: Reborn wrap up its storyline within these issues, or is this only the beginning?

Lemire: This is only the beginning. I have started on what comes next after these initial twelve and it’d definitely our biggest story yet.

The first issue of the latest entry in the Black Hammer universe will be available in stores this June.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.