How Patton Oswalt Brought "Beauty of Life" to 'Black Hammer: Visions'

Black Hammer Visions
Jason Wordie/Dark Horse Comics
Oswalt is the first writer to expand on the vision of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston's metatextual superhero property, with a story to be published in February.

Next month, the world of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer opens up to new voices with the launch of Black Hammer: Visions, an eight-issue anthology series expanding the creative talent working on the Eisner Award-winning property.

Black Hammer debuted in 2015, and is a metatextual property exploring the stories of a number of superheroes trapped in the town of Rockwood after saving the world from the threat of the Anti-God. Beyond the primary Black Hammer title, the property has produced multiple spin-offs, all written by Lemire, and is being developed as a multimedia property by Legendary.

Creators attached to the new Black Hammer: Visions series include Geoff Johns, Mariko Tomaki, Chip Zdarsky, Dean Kotz, and Patton Oswalt, with the latter contributing the series’ first issue, exploring the life of Golden Gail before the events of the series debut. It’s not easy being Golden Gail — as a result of being trapped in Rockwood, she’s lost her ability to change back from her superhero form, trapping the middle-aged woman inside the superpowered body of a nine-year-old girl… but Oswalt intends to draw out more than just the pathos of the character in his one-off story.

Black Hammer: Visions No. 1, featuring Oswalt and Kotz’s story, will be available digitally and in comic book stores Feb. 10. Ahead of its release, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Oswalt about his work on Visions’ debut issue.

What drew you to Black Hammer initially as a series?

I just loved the way they built this entire world and what they put into every level of its history and the different eras of it and how it mirrors so much of comic book pop culture but then goes into what the kind of human element would be under what would seem like just kind of disposable four-color comic strips. I just thought it was amazing.

What started off as a pastiche of all the different eras of comic books has really grown into its own thing in a really organic way.

Oh, yeah. I mean everything—from Black Hammer Squadron, the way that he goes into the different Vertigo universes, just all of it. There’s never been a false note in it.

How did you get involved with Black Hammer: Visions?

They asked if I wanted — I mean I had been, I tweeted about it because I had blurbed one of the books because I had reread them so many times. You know, as we speak now I’m reading Colonel Weird: Cosmagog, Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy, you know, all these — whatever else they have coming out in the future, the way that they are expanding it, so I guess one of them either emailed me or DM’d me. I can’t remember the actual process, but I jumped at the chance.

Were you able to pick which character you wanted to write for Visions, or did Jeff or Daniel pitch you a couple characters to write? How did you settle on Golden Gail?

I just, the idea of a kid growing up with all the knowledge of an adult as you’re stuck in this world, it was just very intriguing. I remember when I first read Black Hammer and they were making her go to school I was like “what was that like?” You know, she a fifty year old adult who understands the loss and beauty of life and know has to like, make friends. And in Black Hammer they said “well, we tried again” so they’d done this before. So how did they keep this ruse up? Then I just kind of started thinking in those terms I guess.

Yeah, that’s what I found the most interesting about your issue actually, is that instead of focusing on her powers, you really kind of focused on the curse of it all which is her inability to age. And I thought that was a really interesting way to approach the character.

I didn’t want to make it all seem like the whole thing is a curse. Like there’s moments of levity where she tries to make it fun and she tries to go “well, maybe I can help these girls grow up to be better and smarter because I have knowledge they need,” but it all just runs into like, there’s those bad days where you wake up and you think “I can’t do this again.” You know?

It really feels like you just kept with Jeff Lemire’s ethos with the series which is to just tell a very human story, and that’s one hundred percent what this felt like. For not just Golden Gail, but for the two friends she made as well.

Cool, yeah. That’s what I was going for!

What, if anything, do you want people to take away from your issue of Black Hammer: Visions?

I never like to say what I am expecting of the reader. I wanna be surprised by what they take away from it and what their expectations are. That’s the fun of being a writer to me.

Would you jump at a chance to be more involved in the Black Hammer Universe if given the opportunity?

Oh, absolutely! Clearly there are so many stories that have to be told, that are waiting to be told. For sure. You know, I have the whole guide to the Black Hammer Universe. I just love it.