The following is an interview with Devaki Neogi, artist of the upcoming Black Mask title, The Skeptics. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Neogi about how she came to work on the creator-owned series, her creative process in working with writer Tini Howard, as well as colorist Jen Hickman and letterer Aditya Bidikar, why the story will be impactful for readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your creator-owned series, The Skeptics! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the story, how would you describe its premise?
Devaki Neogi: It’s a 1960s set up. And we have these cool teenagers, Max and Mary, who don’t quite fit in. And by that I mean, they are different, misunderstood (peer pressure), but not bickering under pressure yet. We see they are soon plucked out and mentored by someone who kind of empowers them by giving them an important responsibility – to diffuse the Cold War – Russia and US. Are they superpowered teens or not is what guides the narrative, along with that the journey and an experience of a partnership that will be hard to forget or even let go may be!
BD: What inspired the creation of this series, and how did you come to work on the project?
DN: I came in once the series outline was plotted. Apparently, I was Tini [Howard]’s first choice, and the story was picked up by Black Mask. Matt (Pizzolo) reached out to me and I said YES — we were a team. At that stage I was already working with Black Mask on Kim n Kim covers. I must add that had it not been Matt being so forthcoming and Tini not being specific having me as an artist, I wouldn’t have been a part of this, so I am VERY thankful for having been given this opportunity by both of them.
BD: How do you feel that The Skeptics will resonate most strongly with readers?
DN: The Skeptics is a teen audience story, but it’s very fun and a smart read, too. Even with adult readers it will strike a cord, [becauase] it’s got a certain nostalgia to it – visually and in its essence. Teen stuff, a nerdy undertone, cocky attitude – we all have lived through it, haven’t we? You can read and look back at your days, and at a time period that it takes the readers through this journey, it gives a certain retro flavor to it. I think most likely an all-ages audience will take to the book.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in working with writer Tini Howard, as well as colorist Jen Hickman and letterer Aditya Bidikar?
DN: We are doing so great together. It’s a perfect team, of good colleagues/friends getting together and working on the book. Jen was known to Tini, and I have known Aditya for some time – they were our individual preferences – and that way we all knew each other and everyone at the same time are professionals to the core! Tini is very unique as a professional – creative, smart, charming, and very easygoing. And, actually, you can see that in her writing. She knows what can work and what not. She is the team leader, and she takes care of every member to keep them happy. At the very outset, we exchanged our separate ideas of how we looked at the tone, the characters, etc. We both were on the same page, so it really clicked!
BD: What makes publisher Black Mask Studios a great home for The Skeptics?
DN: Black Mask, primarily Matt, handpicks every story. So, the USP of the story is of young heroes who are challenging the system, not fitting in, always questioning and even changing the narrative. Plus, it’s unique for the time period it’s set in. I think that’s why we feel at home at Black Mask.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DN: Yes, there are 2 comic book projects that are also releasing this coming month beside The Skeptics. One is with Power and Magic Press, a Kickstarter graphic anthology project that ran until the end of September for getting funded. I’m illustrating one of the comics in it, a story named TE PERDI, with writer Maria Lorens. You can learn more about it here. The story revolves around the LOVE and LOSS of a queer couple. It’s beautiful! The second project is also a comic book anthology – Bangalore Graphic Novel. The story is 81 Richmond Road written by Andrew David (a.k.a. CG Salamander). It is a crime story narrated as adapted from a real-life incident that occurred in my city (Bengaluru) back in the 1990s. It’s a thrill! Besides, The Skeptics #1-4 will release all throughout October, November, December, and January.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Skeptics and your other work?