The Black Cloak explores life as a cop in a neo-noir fantasy world

Black Cloak chapter one excerpt
Black Cloak chapter one excerpt (Image credit: Meredeith McClaren/Becca Carey)

Crime happens every day - even in fantasy worlds. Despite there being magical beings and epic quests, fantasy realms still have their share of murder, petty crime, and everyday life - and a new series called The Black Cloak delves into those like a Law & Order spin-off in Middle-Earth.

The Black Cloak is a hard-boiled detective story set in a fantasy metropolis where elves, mermaids, and more live together and die together. Writer Kelly Thompson and artist Meredith McClaren are launching The Black Cloak on January 31 as the first in a series of planned comics on Thompson's SubStack newsletter. The duo worked together previously on the creator-owned original graphic novel Heart in a Box, but this time they're handling a straight-up crime/fantasy mash-up.

Black Cloak chapter one cover (Image credit: Meredeith McClaren/Becca Carey)

The police detectives in this story are the titular Black Cloaks.

"A Black Cloak is essentially the name for a homicide detective in this neo-noir fantasy world populated with wild creatures, who came together to vanquish a great evil a couple hundred years ago and are now struggling to get along in the last known city," Thompson tells Newsarama.

This new-noir fantasy world of Black Cloak s centered around the last-known city in the world, the only city to survive that war from hundreds of years ago - Kiros. 

The first few chapters of The Black Coat (which we got an early look at), reveal that this world is a nuanced but blended place, between the mermaids, the elves, the coffee shops, and technological devices like cameras. When asked about this world-building, Thompson says that it blossomed in the synergy between her and McClaren.

The Black Cloak chapter one excerpt

The Black Cloak chapter one excerpt (Image credit: Meredeith McClaren/Becca Carey)

"I'd say that while a lot of the original ideas came from my concept, the vast majority of what's working is down to Meredith being an absolutely killer artist and world builder who takes the very sad straw I give her and spins it into gold," says Thompson. 

"As the writer I have dumb ideas that I rattle off like 'guns! but make it magic-y!' -- and instead of just rolling her eyes at me, Meredith comes back with something brilliant. Always partner with people smarter and better than you are, this is my recipe for success!"

The Black Cloak chapter one excerpt

The Black Cloak chapter one excerpt (Image credit: Meredeith McClaren/Becca Carey)

As Thompson tells us, the world of Black Cloak is "a world that's leaning heavily on magic for things that don't even need to be magic… " But don't worry, there isn't massive exposition dumps or wordy pages - you learn about it as you go in the story.

"So we give readers a few captions on how this city came to be and then we just dump you directly into the homicide case and try to make all of it build as naturally and organically as possible," says the writer.

Thompson and McClaren originally planned to do small installments of Black Cloak on a weekly release schedule, but after talking with readers they pivoted to larger, monthly chapters. Thompson says the February and March chapters are already completed, and they are far enough ahead, work-wise, that they don't plan on missing any release dates now that The Black Cloak has begun.

The Black Cloak chapter one excerpt

The Black Cloak chapter one excerpt (Image credit: Meredeith McClaren/Becca Carey)

While these comics will debut on the Substack platform, Thompson says they will later be published in print with Image Comics.

"I know it's important to a lot of people to be able to hold print copies in their hands, and so I'm happy to assure people that these comics will eventually be beautiful Image books - which I am very excited about!" Thompson says. 

"But I do want to add that I think what the 'subscribe to my Substack' avenue is offering is more than just reading cool's about being part of an experience in building a comic. Watching it change and grow before your eyes, and being one of the insiders that not only get a peek behind that curtain, but the chance to engage with a community about it."

The Black Cloak chapter one is available now on Kelly Thompson's Substack

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)