As the co-creator of AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire, Christopher Cantwell developed a talent for writing captivating, complicated characters who constantly revealed different facets of their personalities. He brings that skill to comics with She Could Fly, a new series from Dark Horse Comics’ Berger Books imprint that explores how a flying woman’s existence impacts different people. Featuring artwork by Martín Morazzo with colors by Miroslav Mrva, the series focuses on the turbulent mental state of a high school sophomore living in constant terror that she’s going to do harm to the people around her. She becomes fixated on the flying woman, but there are other, more overtly malevolent forces that share her fixation and put her in danger.
“Sixteen years ago while I was in film school, I had this idea about a woman who strapped a rotating fan to her back and plugged it into her cerebral cortex,” says Cantwell. “This is not that, but I’ve always had this image in my head of a mysterious woman in the sky. Seeing it through the eyes of a troubled teenage high schooler was a more recent development, but one still rooted in my own adolescent experience, being weird, and having private troubles with OCD and intrusive thoughts as a kid.”
She Could Fly is Cantwell’s comic-book debut, and his work in television taught him a valuable lesson that prepared him for the transition. “TV writing teaches you to be concise, and I can’t think of a more concise form of dramatic writing than comic books,” says Cantwell. “You are literally choosing specific tableau images with the artist for each panel and trying to condense your dialogue to the absolute basics, while still making it sound natural to the ear. Karen [Berger, editor] will tell you that I overwrote all my dialogue at first and had to condense. I sometimes imagine what an Aaron Sorkin comic would be like and my guess is it would be 40,000 pages long and take an artist 17 years to complete.”
Cantwell places a lot of trust in his collaborators, and the first issue gives Morazzo and Mrva a significant challenge with a script that jumps between grounded character moments and surreal horror. “Martín is incredible to work with because he takes my suggestions for panels and always elevates them,” says Cantwell. “I love the detail in faces he provides, and I am blown away by the angles he chooses to capture the action. I told him he would make a great director because he has such an instinctual grasp of where to place the ‘camera.’ He also drew spiders all over people in one scary sequence even though I didn’t ask him to and that was amazing.”
“From the moment Karen sent me the proposal, I was amazed by Christopher’s storytelling,” says Morazzo. “It was so well-written, and everything seemed so interesting! His vision for the story and, most importantly, how he created its characters was fascinating. They’re so real! Now, with a few issues done, and with all of the scripts read, I know how each character is going to react and interact. I feel like I know them, and, to me, that’s really what telling a good story is about. Later, when we were already working together, I watched his TV show—it didn’t air here in Argentina—and I understood that’s a constant in his work. Great stories and especially great characters.”
Morazzo isn’t making any big stylistic changes for She Could Fly, although he’s spending more time thinking about how page layouts inform the storytelling. He wants to reinforce the reality of the world Cantwell has created in his script, which means going even further with the detail in his linework. This exclusive preview of She Could Fly #1 spotlights the intensity of Morazzo and Mrva’s art, starting with a frightening panel of Luna attacking her mother, one of the multiple violent thoughts she has in this issue. Everything is tight and contained for the scene of Luna at home, but when she dreams of meeting the flying woman, everything opens up for a liberating page of them soaring through the clouds.
“With She Could Fly, I’m trying to give as much focus to detail as I can, particularly with places and characters,” says Morazzo. “Christopher has a very strong idea of how this world acts and looks, and I try to understand his vision and make it my own too. He is very descriptive, and that’s been so incredibly fun for me. I’ve learned a lot about clothes, places in general, and Chicago in particular. I cannot draw a street background without looking at it with Google Maps street-view first and using references later. It can be a little time consuming, but since the story happens in the real world, I’d hate if somebody who lives there cannot recognize it. On the other hand, I’d love for someone to feel that everything could happen in his or her neighborhood.”
“She Could Fly is a very emotional book, so a big part of the art is the characters acting, and that’s where I like to keep things simple,” says Morazzo. “Using cleaner faces and expressions to emphasize them, but to take a rest from detail too. I also use different camera angles to better show dynamics! You won’t find many static or calm moments in this story. The story goes from one scene to another, without many interludes, so I try to move along with each scene and not slow down the rhythm.” Readers can join Luna on her skyward journey by picking up She Could Fly #1 on July 11, but in the meanwhile, here’s a peek inside her troubled teenage mind.