Josh Eiserike talks about CHARM CITY

Josh Eiserike

Josh Eiserike is living the dream of all aspiring comic writers. He competed and won a chance to write a comic with Scout Comics. Josh was nice enough to stop by First Comics News to let our readers know all about Charm City.

First Comics News: You were the winner of Scout’s inaugural Script2Comic competition, congratulations. Was Charm City your entry?

Josh Eiserike: That is correct– CHARM CITY was the first prize winner of the inaugural Script2Comic competition. I read about it in Deadline, and as a longtime comics reader/writer/cartoonist, thought it was a great idea for a contest, so I entered… and, months later, was thrilled to find out that it won first place!

1st: How many of the five issues were completed with you and submitted to Scout?

Josh: None. Although I initially envisioned CHARM CITY as a comic, I wrote it as a spec pilot. I’m also a screenwriter, so to translate Hollywoodspeak, that means that I wrote it as if it were the first episode of a television show. But in my mind, I always knew it was a comic first, so when the Script2Comic competition came along, it was a no-brainer. Honestly, I’d have still made the book even without the competition!

1st: How long has it been from the time you won until the first issue was released?

Josh: About two and a half years. A while, for sure, but totally worth it.

1st: You are working with Scott Van Domelen and Lorenzo Palombo on Charm City. Did you pick the team or did Scout team you up?

Josh: Scout made those matches. I was nervous at first, because every comic I’ve ever made previously I selected the creative team. But the second I saw Scotty’s previous work (Scout’s excellent series SMOKETOWN), my reaction was “he’s perfect.” And he was! Lorenzo was floated to us a bit later in the process and I think he’s been perfect as well!

1st: Getting into the comic. Who is Alyssia Singer?

Josh: Alyssia Singer is a music blogger for the Baltimore Sun. When we first meet her, she’s fairly unhappy with her life in Baltimore. And although she won’t admit it, much of that stems from being estranged from her family. Her family’s part of an underground community of witches, living among us and practicing magic in secret for generations. And she’s been excommunicated for something she did when she was 17, breaking one of the community’s laws. Her father kicked her out of the house and she’s been dealing with the emotional trauma ever since.

1st: They say to write what you know. How much of your time as a music journalist is reflected in Alyssia?

Josh: So much of it. I wrote for a small paper in Northern Virginia and did some freelance for the alt-weekly in DC. Officially my job title was “features and entertainment reporter,” but I really focused my reporting on music and the local scene. I went to a ton of shows, lived for the advance albums that would show up on my desk or inbox, and really built my life around that… which meant regularly rolling into work around noon. I remember getting calls from my copy editor at 11 p.m.– they were trying to go to print and I was at a loud club and couldn’t hear a word he said (I don’t think the copy desk liked me very much). For Alyssia– pardon the reference– I dial that up to 11. She’s way cooler than I ever was: her tastes, her wardrobe, her attitude. I think I had a better work ethic though.

1st: How do the interactive QR codes work?

Josh: I love the intersection of comics and music– from Terry Moore literally writing sheet music into STRANGERS IN PARADISE, to what Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss are doing in WHAT’S THE FURTHEST PLACE FROM HERE? So my idea was that since Alyssia’s always listening to music was to include her soundtrack! How it works is there are moments throughout the book where I’ve stuck QR codes onto the page. Readers can cue up the songs and listen as they read, much as a needledrop in a movie or television show works. Hopefully, they’re not too distracting, but it’s a fun idea that captures the mood of the story at various moments… although there’s one song in #2 that’s so jarring and inappropriate, but then it’s recontextualized in #3… so it’s very much a part of the story! The biggest challenge for me, however, is as mentioned before, Alyssia’s tastes are much cooler than mine.

1st: What is the connection with the Baltimore Ravens?

Josh: Baltimore’s a big sports city. The Ravens are a great football team, and not to sound like a total cliche, but Baltimore’s a character in the story. But it goes deeper than that. For those who don’t know, the Ravens are actually a reference to Baltimore native Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem THE RAVEN… and some of my original ideas inspiring the book was a modern Poe-esque murder mystery. In #2 Alyssia goes to a witching bar, The Lenore (another Poe reference), that’s heavily inspired by Poe and the Victorian gothic aesthetic.

1st: Who is Renee Michels?

Josh: When we meet her, Renee’s a newly minted Ravens cheerleader. But she’s got a secret– something her closest friends and fellow cheerleaders don’t know: she’s also a witch.

1st: What type of powers does Renee have?

Josh: Renee has access to magic. The book is more character-driven than mythology-driven, so I don’t get too much into what magic can or can’t do… only that humans aren’t supposed to be able to channel magic, and for those that can it extracts a major physical toll. But to answer the question, in the first issue, we see Renee channel that magic much like the Emperor in Star Wars to shoot energy at an assailant… not something one might expect from a professional cheerleader!

1st: What is the Secret Underground Society of Witches?

Josh: The witching community is an underground sect of witches living among us. They’re governed by a chieftain and senior council, to make sure that all of the laws are followed and everyone is able to stay safe. Think… if the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter was a small community church.

1st: Who is Gabriel Singer?

Josh: Gabriel Singer is Alyssia’s younger brother. He’s the golden child of the family; his father’s favorite. And as such he’s able to maintain a relationship with his estranged older sister. When we first meet her, Gabriel’s her only link to the witching community and her family… although he makes much more of an effort to maintain the relationship than she does.

1st: Who is Byron Hartford?

Josh: Byron is Alyssia’s ex-boyfriend. When we first meet him, he’s basically a vegetable living in a psychiatric hospital. Alyssia still visits him every week.

1st: What happened to Byron?

Josh: Byron’s story is told through flashbacks in every issue– I don’t want to give too much away, but the reason he’s in a psychiatric hospital is tied to the reason Alyssia was excommunicated from the witching community. They were teenagers in love, a forbidden romance (witches aren’t allowed to date outside of the community) and Alyssia did something very, very stupid…

But how it works is every issue there’s the 22-page main story with the full creative team, followed by a four-page flashback story, drawn and colored entirely by me. Those flashbacks detail what happened to Byron and Alyssia’s fallout with her family, specifically her father.

1st: While most comics use pseudonyms, you used registered trademarks in your comic, how did you acquire the rights to license the Baltimore Ravens?

Josh: We didn’t… and we actually don’t use registered trademarks, in the book the cheerleading uniforms don’t have the Ravens logo on it; they merely say “Baltimore”. This was a big discussion about what we can and couldn’t put in print. For some of the locations Alyssia visits, like the Sound Garden, one of my favorite record stores, I actually reached out to the place and got their permission. There’s a celebrated indie band, Wye Oak, that shows up in #2, another one of my favorites, that I reached out to on a whim. I was floored when they agreed to appear in the book!

1st: When does the first issue ship?

Josh: CHARM CITY #1 hits stores July 19. It’s a very special book and I think people are going to love it!

I should also mention, however, that per Scout’s policy, there’s a three-month delay until #2 ships (October), with #3-5 then coming out each subsequent month (November, December, January). So if people like the book… be sure to preorder either at your LCS or directly from Scout at

1st: What makes Charm City so cool no true comic fan should miss it?

Josh: Great question. We pack a lot of story into these five issues, with tons of twists and turns. CHARM CITY is a serial killer murder mystery, with a very punk rock hero and sensibility. But it’s also a very emotional family drama, one of my friends told me that he teared up a bit reading #5.

Finally, one of my biggest influences and inspirations for the book was BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN. I love a murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing until that huge shocker of an ending that no one saw coming. That’s what we’re trying to do with CHARM CITY. There is a shocker of an ending and eagle-eyed readers might find the clues dropped along the way… it’s a book that rewards multiple readings!

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