Black ops meet black magic in Shadow Service

Black ops meet black magic in the upcoming creator-owned comic book series Shadow Service.

(Image credit: Vault Comics)

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Writer Cavan Scott and artist Corin Howell introduce you to this world of mages, maguses, and wizards, and the people that try to make sense of it all.

“Worried your partner is cheating? Need a missing person found? Gina Meyers is the private investigator for you,” reads Vault Comics’ synopsis. “Sure, she’s a witch who worries that her powers make her more of a monster than the crooks she’s trying to catch, but it’s not like London’s criminal underworld is literally going to hell… is it?”

The rough and tumble Londoner begins the story thinking she’s one of the rare few who can practice magic, but once she falls in with the clandestine group MI666 she’s exposed to a world of magic that’s white, black, and everything in between.

For writer Cavan Scott, this is his first foray into creator-owned comics – leaving the familiar hallmark of established characters and worlds behind to create his own with artist Corin Howell. With the first issue due out on August 19, Newsarama caught up with the Shadow Service writer to find out more about this series and how it all started out with a song.

Newsarama: Cavan, what was the first spark of Shadow Service? Did it start with the characters or did it start with the concept?

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Cavan Scott: I’ve been playing around with the concept of supernatural spies for years, so I guess it originally came from the concept, although I could never find the right hook. Then, quite randomly, VCTRY’s cover of ‘Black Magic Woman’ from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina soundtrack (opens in new tab) shuffled into play one evening on my phone. Listening to the track, the character of Gina Meyer came together almost fully formed in my head. Suddenly all the pieces fell into place. 

Her story was the lynchpin for everything, a witch working as a private detective that is recruited by Britain’s supernatural secret service… or MI666 as it’s known to its enemies. 

Nrama: On the surface, it looks very inspired by Hammer Horror with a pretty liberal dash of Malcolm Hulke. Was this intentional or sort of a happy accident?

Scott: I fell in love with monsters from an early age, thanks to my two obsessions – Doctor Who and Hammer. Actually, there was another obsession growing up – James Bond. Shadow Service is the combination of all three. The perfect melting pot of the inside of my head. 

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(Image credit: Vault Comics)

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Three unlettered pages from Shadow Service #1

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(Image credit: Vault Comics)

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Nrama: How did you approach scripting? You’ve handled licensed comics before as well as prose and audio play scripts, did the freedom of a creator-owned title allow you to be a bit looser in your scene construction or plotting?

Scott: I’m an outliner through and through, mainly because of my background in licensed worlds, so I’ve planned everything out in exhaustive detail. That’s not to say it hasn’t evolved over time. 

Both my co-creator, Corin Howell, and our wonderful editor, Tay Taylor, have both had a major impact on the way the story unfurled; Corin because of her world-building and incredible demon designs, and Tay by constantly pushing me to do better and not take the easiest path. 

While the original idea was mine, the result is a team-book on and off the page. 

Nrama: How do you envision the scope of the title? Do you think of it as an ongoing series or a limited series?

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Scott: This first run is ten issues long, but we definitely have plans for more if Shadow Service bewitches an audience. Gina’s story is only the beginning. 

Nrama: Talk to us a bit about the world of Shadow Service. It seems like you are playing with some well-known monsters and mythologies, but how much did you want to put your own spin on this brand of horror?

Scott: Well, I’m hoping that we will definitely be exploring our own take on the myths we tackle and the body horror does ramp up over the first few issues, especially as Gina gets drawn into MI666’s web. 

Every agent on MI666’s books has their own abilities and, in no small part, their own curse to live with. And then there’s Hex, the agency’s mysterious spy-master, who has been pulling the strings for a long, long time. 

Up to the point she first encounters them, Gina has always believed that she was unique, operating largely on her own. She has no idea about the scope of the magical world and, more importantly, the criminal underworld that has existed for centuries at the heart of London. And when I say ‘underworld,’ I mean in the demonic sense. 

Everybody she encounters is broken in some way or another, from Edwin, her rat familiar (although no-one should call him that to his face) to Gideon Quill, the shady gangster who may or may not have links to various levels of hell. 

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This is definitely a character-based story, where the lines of who you can trust are blurred and someone is always ready to either stab you in the back or devour your soul, sometimes both at the same time. And that’s before we get to the car-chases, assassination attempts, betrayals, and gadgets – all delivered with a sprinkle of brimstone. 

Nrama: So we have a nice mixture of British occultism and the criminal underworld. Did you do any sort of background research into criminality or that sort of thing? Obviously this isn’t a “crime” comic, but the threads are absolutely there.

Scott: I watch a lot of true crime docs and have always been a fan of gangster stories. Jake Arnott’s The Long Firm (opens in new tab) was a massive influence on my first ever Doctor Who script way back in 2001.

Nrama: Big Finish’s Doctor Who – Project: Twilight (opens in new tab).

Scott: It’s still one of my favorite books to this day. 

Nrama: You also mentioned that Gina is operating, at least at first, in a vacuum, assuming she is one of the only magic users. Will we see this sort of magical isolation extend to other characters or organizations?

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Scott: There are going to be many different levels to the supernatural world. Gina has been shielded in many ways from the wider supernatural communities for reasons that will be revealed over time. 

Nrama: Speaking of organizations, MI666 is obviously localized to the U.K. but do other parts of the world have their own “services” as well? No spoilers, of course, but I’ll admit to being intrigued at the idea of a Magic Interpol.

Scott: Well, that would be telling! I’m hoping that this is only the beginning and we’ll be able to expand on the world we hint about in these first few issues. The action definitely shifts from Britain later in this first run. 

Nrama: Who has been your favorite character to write so far? Do you play favorites in your casts?

Scott: Oh, that’s a hard question. Readers won’t meet him in #1 but I love writing Hex. He’s so cool, especially how Corin draws him. I think readers are going to love him a lot. 

Nrama: Finally, what is something you hope readers take away from Shadow Service #1?

Scott: That we are only scraping the surface to this world. There’s a lot going on beneath the action and, in the tradition of all good spy stories, no one is who or what they seem.

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