It’s the not knowing that’s the worst part, like the sun being replaced by a black sun for twenty-four hours. Sixteen years ago, that’s exactly what happened in writer, Dario Sicchio, and artist, Letizia Cadonici‘s, new series, Children of the Black Sun. At the time nobody knew why or how long it would last. Four years later it happened again, but while it’s been twelve years since the last black sun event, for the children conceived during those two days there’s been no forgetting the circumstances of their birth.
With colors by Francesco Segala and letters by Ingegni, issue two left off with two of the children — Matthew and Clementine — trying to wrap their heads around having special abilities. Ahead of issue three being released this week, it was great to be able to ask Sicchio and Cadonici about the characters over email and to find out what a follow-up series to Children of the Black Sun might look like.
Cover Art by Letizia Cadonici
Rachel Bellwoar: Many first issues struggle with how to deliver exposition, yet (in a stroke of genius) Children of the Black Sun uses children’s art to bring readers up to speed. Did you do any research into art therapy or dig up any childhood drawings of your own for inspiration?
Letizia Cadonici: Yes, it’s a very effective and impactful idea Dario had. It sets the tone and puts out all the necessary information without feeling too much of an info dump on the reader. I didn’t do any specific research per se for that intro, but I wanted it to be unsettling in a very specific way. I wanted to give the impression that a kid represented a very traumatic situation without fully understanding what it truly meant. It had to be a somewhat violent and sad scene, but in a very simplistic way. And it’s perfectly counterbalanced by a later panel in which we see Matt’s mother telling the story of the second black sun: there we see the true horror of that event as remembered by an adult and the reader realizes how things really went on! For me, the most deeply disquieting part is when Chris draws the black sun, kinda indulging in that gesture of scrubbling the page. For me, that is the true symbol of the trauma that the post-black sun generation holds in itself.
Bellwoar: Throughout the series we see various scientists try and pose theories for why the black sun events happened. Where did the idea for these videologs come from, and was the science easy to come up with or did it become progressively harder to invent new theories?
Dario Sicchio: That was equally really fun and reeeally hard. There are 6 scientists-videologs in Children of The Black Sun. When I started writing the series I had, like, three of them already in mind. I had to do extensive research for the other half, using real science/philosophy and bending those notion as gracefully as I could to fit the impossible events depicted in the story. That was tricky, because you can’t just open up Google and search for “theories that can justify a second, dark sun.” So it was interesting. Obviously the idea was to give to the reader a variety of possible explanations, without confirming nor debunk a specific one. I spent so much effort in that little game that I found some new fake-explanations that felt really potentially valid to me.
Bellwoar: Even before we see his red eyes, Matthew’s vocabulary gives him away as being different from his peers. What made you want to make that distinction both visual and apparent just in the way Matthew speaks?
Sicchio & Cadonici: We wanted to have a main character that used the reader’s empathy in a very weird way. We worked really hard to create a story that, without using excessively outlandish elements, made the reader feel constantly unsure and unsettled. Matthew was to be the center of that feeling. A strange and suffering character that does his best to be reassuring, a bringer of peace and understanding. He tries so hard to be kind and helpful that he results being even more weird. To enhance that concept, I always drew him with smooth lines and very non-confrontational poses, even when he’s taunted by something.
Cover Art by Letizia Cadonici
Bellwoar: The Children of the Black Sun are very different from each other, too, though. While Ivan and Ophelia are introduced as doubles for Matthew and Clementine, how have the First Generation dealt with their ostracization differently from the Second Generation, and what was it like coming up with their character designs, since they are so similar?
Cadonici: Dario gave me some hints about where he wanted to go with those characters and I started from there. Ivan was to be from a rich family, who was very ashamed to have a CoTBS in their house; that sparked his antagonization towards his parents and his search for a proud identity for himself and his peers. Matthew is more of a regular kid, with a healthy and normal family, who wants to be integrated and to be sort of a spokesperson for CoTBS integration. So we thought of giving him a rather strange looking outfit, with a large suit: imagining he stole it from his absent father and used it to appear more trustworthy to his classmates. Clementine was more of a wild guess: we wanted her to be both fragile/sweet and kind of eerie. I’m very proud of her design! In the end, I had no clear direction for Ophelia apart from the fact that she had to be kind of sexy in a weird way. We know almost nothing of her, so I just wanted to make sure she was a very unsettling and fascinating character.
Bellwoar: Brightvale, on the other hand, is a town filled with interesting, character actor faces. Is there a character who’s been especially rewarding to draw or write in close-up?
Cadonici: I didn’t give it so much thought. I’m a very instinctive artist and tend to simply be influenced by the story and try no to be too self-conscious about what I’m doing. So, every character is drawn with elements that speaks to me about their personality or the purpose they serve in the story. One example that comes to mind is Mr. Petit, who had to be a very kind man, but also someone who wanted to disappear in every situation he’s in. Or Molly, the religious-zealot mother of Chris. She had to be scary, imposing and falsely kind with others. So I drew a very lean figure, with hair that remembered almost a veil, but decided to give her no eyebrows, to make her more cold and non-empathetic.
Bellwoar: Adults play an interesting role in this series as well. Did you always want to make their stories as prevalent as those of the children?
Sicchio: In my mind, this is a story about identity and the search of a place in an hostile world. So the focus of our attention always was the children of the black sun. But, when I started writing the actual script, I didn’t want the adults to be a shapeless shadow with simplistic personalities. I tried to give each one of them complex and conflicting traits. Even Mrs. Autumn, the kind teacher that helps Clementine throughout the story, in issue 3 she admits to be equally frightened by her diversity as everybody else: she just tries to appear a better person. If I will ever have the chance to do a follow up story to Children of The Black Sun, I always thought that should be a story about parents.
Cover Art by Letizia Cadonici
Bellwoar: Stephen was just someone Matthew waved to in issue one but in issue three we get to learn a little more about him. How fun has it been figuring out how to pace these reveals?
Sicchio: I don’t want to give too much away, but I had the need to make the reader aware of the fact that, even if Brightvale is a small town, there are more CoTBS that the four we follow in the story. So I needed a CoTBS that is present and recognizable in the story, but that is not in its center stage. Plus, he has a role: he’s the trapped one. Not everybody who is the victim of discrimination, be it in the outside world or in his own home, has the strength or the opportunity to evade and embark on his own quest for self-discovery. Poor Stephen is a victim and his life never gave him a chance to discover there’s more out there.
Bellwoar: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Dario and Letizia!
The first two issues of Children of the Black Sun are available now from Ablaze. Children of the Black Sun #3 goes on sale Wednesday March 8th.
It’s the not knowing that’s the worst part, like the sun being replaced by a black sun for twenty-four hours.COMICONRead More