On today’s episode, writer LaToya Morgan joined us to talk about her new comic Dark Blood, the upcoming project with J. J. Abrams, and her love of sci-fi. Morgan is a long time TV writer, having written for the Walking Dead, Shameless and Into the Badlands, and is now bringing her talents to comics with the new, Boom! Studios series, Dark Blood with artist Walt Barna. Dark Blood issues #1 & #2 are out now.
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Renee: [00:00:00] Okay, welcome back to spoiled country. On today’s episode, we are joined by the super talented Latoya Morgan LoToJa is a long time TV writer and producer whose works include the walking dead shameless parenthood into the Badlands. To name a few Latoya’s is now bringing your talents to the comic world with the new boom studio series.
Dark blood. Hello, Latoya, and welcome to spoiler country. How are you doing today? I am great.
LaToya Morgan: Hello? Hello.
Renee: Thank you for having me. What’s your day been like today? Any fun surprises or just a normal day?
LaToya Morgan: You know, it’s been a normal day in the life. You know, the news is out of control. So I’m trying to wean myself off of that and, you know, focus on the positive and having conversations like the one we’re going to have today with you.[00:01:00]
Renee: I, what I love is that you started with Warner brothers and you know, now I just heard that you signed a deal with Warner brothers, so you’ve kind of gone full circle. Can you tell us just a little bit about how you got from point a to point B.
LaToya Morgan: Yeah, it was really a surreal moment for me. I got into the Warner brothers writer’s workshop a few years ago in 2011.
And I applied a couple of times the first time I didn’t get in, you know, but I made it to the top 5%. So, you know, you gotta be persistent with some of these fellows. When I applied the second time I ended up getting in and the Warner brothers workshop is really wonderful because first of all, it’s they treat you like family.
It’s really inclusive and insular, and they give you all the tools that you need. To sort of learn how to work in a writers’ room. We have a simulated writers’ [00:02:00] room. We have a, the head of the program at the time, Chris Mack was kind of like our show runner. And so we would have to pitch to him and we would do outlines.
We would write scripts. And at the end of the program, they want you to. You know, go out into the world and you’d meet with showrunners and hopefully you are able to get a job out of that. And so, I’m with John Wells and thankfully he liked me and my writing enough to want to hire me and have me in a shameless while I was on season two.
So everybody, when you see in the credits, I was a very, very excited when my name was at the end of the credits as a staff writer. It’s still warms my heart to see it to this day. And yeah, and then, you know, I had a bunch of jobs in between, but then. When my deal at AMC ran out, Norma was shopping around, looking for the next home.
And Peter Roth at Warner brothers called me up and said, let’s have breakfast and talk. And the rest is history.
Renee: Does it feel kind of surreal a little bit? I mean, just in terms of where you’re [00:03:00] at now, you know what I mean? You’ve gotten pretty, you know, cheap a lot in the screenwriting world. And so how does that,
LaToya Morgan: I mean, it’s, I don’t believe it.
It was like literally every day I try to, my mom believes it. Everyone believes it, except for me, I’m almost like a wildly kind of, you know, like when he runs out off of the cliff and then he’s over the edge. And as soon as he looks down, that’s when he falls. So I’m just trying my best every day to not look down.
But I will say it is wonderful to be welcome back at one of the brothers. And they could not have been more happy to bring me back into the family. And every day I remember when I would be working on different shows, sometimes I would drive to Burbank and I would drive past one of our other studios.
And I was like, I’m coming back there someday. I’m coming back there. I would pass by all those posters and, and I did it. So you put it out in the universe, you can make it happen.
Renee: Speaking of family, I, it, it’s funny cause you look at shameless, [00:04:00] right? Walking, dead parenthood. Right. A lot of these shows seem really different from each other.
But one of the things I was thinking of when I was thinking about all those shows, because I’ve watched some of them and it’s like, there’s a sense of family, right? That, that it’s like the ties that bind. How do you connect or how do you switch. Stories that seemed so different.
LaToya Morgan: Yeah, that’s a really great question.
I think for me, you hit it right on the head. The thing that binds all those different stories together is that there are different types of family stories. So you have the traditional family story where the shameless in parenthood and then working on something like turn, it was about this group of friends who were so tight and so bonded, and they were up against like the biggest of circumstances, the revolutionary war.
And so they were a family and literally the stakes were their lives if they let each other down. So that’s a family story and, you know, just with a lot more [00:05:00] muskets in the explosions and you know, you’re working on something like into the Badlands or the walking dead, where everyone is kind of thrown into this crazy, you know, situation and they’re relying on each other.
And so that is a theme that I like to go back to in my work. But more than anything, it’s really the chance to tell really great character stories in those situations that are always, always follow. Yeah.
Renee: It’s definitely, I think about a lot of those characters stories as being people who are. You know, trying to do good, but are often in, you know, very hellish circumstances.
And then sometimes aren’t always doing good. Right. But are, are struggling with that. And is that something that you really like to write is, is sort of that struggle with characters? Cause I, I think I see that in.
LaToya Morgan: Yeah, I do. I love it when people are [00:06:00] striving and when they’re trying and failing, those are my favorite characters.
And even on the shows like I’ll use into the Badlands, for example, my favorite character was the widow, the chance to write for her character, who she was doing all the bad things. I mean, she was always getting in trouble. But she was such an underdog in that world and I just felt such an affinity for her.
And when she was trying to do that I, I guess that’s also what themes. I like the underdogs. I’d like, I like the people who are a little bit messy who don’t do the right thing every time, but learn along. Well,
Renee: I think that leads us really well into your new comic. And I want to talk about it a little bit more, but for those who don’t know what it’s about or who new to your comic, dark blood, can you tell us just a little bit about it from your standpoint?
LaToya Morgan: Sure sure. It’s the, the, the short, his law line is that it’s about a young man named Avery Aldridge. He is a war veteran. [00:07:00] The comic takes place in 1955. And so this was 10 years after, you know, he’s, he was fighting in the war. And now he finds himself also sort of fighting a war at home with, you know, the every day what we would now call microaggressions of what’s going on in the segregated south.
And he comes. Under mysterious circumstances to have some mysterious powers that are awakened inside of him and craziness ensues,
Renee: Microaggressions, I would say. And also some macro aggressions, like, there was I, I got to read it and I have to say, I really loved it, but one of the lines.
So you wrote was no matter how much you dress things up scratch deep enough and you will find something ugly. And I just, I mean, I almost lost it when I read that line because it so resonates to me with what is happening today. And I there’s, so, I mean, [00:08:00] You know, the more things change, the more they stay the same, but there are so many parallels to what I was seeing in Avery story and what we see happening today.
And I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about, if any of the things that are happening today influenced your writing in those comics.
LaToya Morgan: Oh yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we are living in some crazy times, right. And I, when I first. Got this idea. It was really a few years ago when you would turn on the news and, you know, you’d see people with Tiki torches, walking through Charlottesville and, you know, running people over with their cars and just, just a lot of oppression and a lot of, you know, very over racism discrimination just on display.
And it really, for me, it was. Looking into the pages of a history book. And I was like, whoa, this is happening. Now. These are the things that you would hope you would only have to read about that are now [00:09:00] really bubbling to the surface. And so I was really deeply disturbed by that to say the least. And what it made me want to do is to tell the story where you looked at something from history.
But where you put a genre bent to the story and so where you could kind of unpack some of them. The the darkness in some, some of the more challenging and troubling things about the times that have happened before, and that we’re now living through with an eye towards making people see things that they probably wouldn’t see if you did it in a straightforward way.
So. I, you know, I learned from the best, one of my writing heroes is rod Serling. And I loved growing up watching the Twilight zone and he was always able to sort of slip a message into a story that was really gripping and entertaining and a really thought provoking. And so that was really what I was trying to do with this, with this comic book.
Renee: Nice. I imagine like many [00:10:00] writers writing becomes an outlet. For how you might process, you know, what’s going on and yeah. It just, what a great opportunity, right? And this comic,
LaToya Morgan: listen, writing keeps me saying, I have to say this is so much going on in the world. And thankfully, you know, since a young age, I was always able to use writing as my creative outlet and to talk about things that people may not want to talk about.
But for me, it’s always good to get those things out. And Avery was. A really great vehicle that kind of talk about a lot of these issues because he’s just an ordinary man and he comes up, he comes into the extraordinary circle.
Renee: What kind of journey can we expect for Avery? I mean, no spoilers, of course, but is there, can you give us a little hint as to what we might see him go through in this comic?
LaToya Morgan: Yeah, I think, you know, the first thing that you see in issue one, and it continues throughout most of the [00:11:00] issues is the battle that Avery fights both at home which is kind of behind him enemy lines in a way. And then also you get to do flashbacks to when he was in the war. So you get to see him actually physically, truly behind enemy lines when he was fighting for this country.
And You know, I always was drawn to the idea that you can tell those stories simultaneously. And you know, I don’t think enough light has been shed on, you know, first of all, the, the red tails black soldiers in general, but specifically what they were able to do and world war II to be some of the most successful soldiers in American history indigenous.
Highlight them and show just the hardships that they had to go through when they came back after, you know, being heroes of the war and helping to save so many lives. So it was really for me, a delicate process of, you know, touching on that, but then also telling, you know, this fantastical story that [00:12:00] was you know, history reborn in a way it should be put into a blender and blend it up with a whole bunch of other special and delicious.
Renee: I think in, you know, there was another line that I really appreciated. It was like the man. You know, the mystery man was kind of like, I don’t care what you did. Right. And I, and I, you know, I’m thinking about war heroes who came back and it was like, it didn’t matter what you had done for your country.
Right. And I, you know, it doesn’t matter if you’re a school teacher or if you’re, you know, this amazing person that in America, In that time and arguably very much. So today you are seen only as a black man and how, again, how poignant that was, you know, in this comic and how I decided I really appreciated that, that writing here,
LaToya Morgan: I resonated.
I mean, I, you know, last year in 2020 was, you know, a Seminole [00:13:00] year for all of us, but there were just certain things. It just stuck with me so much in a very, very miserable people just trying to go home, walk home, drive home, go home. You can’t even do that. And so, that was why I wanted to start the comic the way that I do and then surprise people.
With what happened in that moment. So take this thing that has now become really familiar and actually, you know, unfortunately very consequential and terrifying and awful, but then flip it on its head and say, oh my God, whoa, I have not seen that before. So to make people lean in and figure out and try to go with the sort of, try to figure out what happened to Avery to get them to this place is something that I was really excited.
Renee: And it, I, it almost like to me, there was a sense of like, it doesn’t matter what happened. Because the consequences still are the same often times and in those situations. Right. So I really liked that it [00:14:00] was named, it was like, oh yeah, we don’t need to know, but, and it might come up later, right?
LaToya Morgan: Maybe just a little teaser, maybe something will come up with that.
Renee: I assume this is your first comic and you’ve obviously been a writer for your entire life, but how was it? Like, was there any major differences for writing for comics than what you’ve been writing before?
LaToya Morgan: Yeah, this wasn’t my first family. It’s probably the first one that people know about that I’ve written a couple of series for an independent comic company called Genoscope.
So I did a serious for Robinhood called the hunt. I wrote an original. Goddess ink for them. I did a couple of one shots for this series that they do called tales of terror, which was a lot of fun, like Twilight, Tony. But this was my first like real, like original. This is, I came up with everything[00:15:00]
it didn’t have to be tethered to anything that jumped out of, you know, my demented mind. But it was really the chance to tell a story. That I, I kind of played around with it as a movie originally, but then the more I thought about it and I love comic books. I’ve always loved comic books so much. Growing up as a kid, I was very much a Marvel kid.
I was all about Spider-Man. I was all about X-Men. I couldn’t draw just meet
my brother. Got those jeans. Drawn jeans. And I got the writing jeans apparently because I, you know, figured out how to write a comic. I bought, you know, Scott McCloud’s book and taught myself how to do it. And that was my, my way of you know, showing my love for comics is that, that I would write them.
But I love them so much. And so the, the opportunity to talk to them about this idea and for them to really get excited about it and say, Hey, we want to do this with you. I was over the moon. I was [00:16:00] so excited and so happy. And I’m really, you know, excited about the response that people have had, especially to the first issue as we’re coming up on the second issue coming out.
It, the response has been really great. And so it was really moving for me.
Renee: Well, and it’s interesting that you said X men as a influence because that’s another, when I think of another property, right. Like tells us or shows us how our society is in a way that is like, you know, oh, I, I want to thought about it like that because it’s like someone with a super power then you’re like, oh, okay.
I see it differently. So I can see a lot of parallels
LaToya Morgan: there. That was my absolute favorite thing about X-Men is that social commentary that was always in all of their stories and they were all. So unique. And they were all really poignant. That was the great thing about it. It always had the great action, but then these stories that really just gutted you and made you love those characters.
Renee: So [00:17:00] you’ve said in past interviews, That you don’t like
you said, and I don’t blame you on those that you don’t like to be pigeonholed genre. Right? You obviously have written for many different genres, but I am really interested to know, is there a genre or a story that you haven’t written you have not written for yet that you are interested in writing for?
LaToya Morgan: Oh, wow. Now you’re talking dirty to me doing that. Okay. There’s so many you know, I would love to do like a really straightforward, grounded science fiction project, whether that’s, you know, as a comic book or. A movie or a TV series. That’s something, you know, this kind of touches on that a little bit, but to really dig in and dive into that world, I would love I’m a big fan of this is gonna sound corny, but I [00:18:00] really love westerns.
So like stuff like unforgiven that is like my jam. Or what’s the one with doc holiday. Oh my God.
Oh my God. It’s so good that I would do in a heartbeat. Okay.
Renee: Good to know. So would you ever combine them like a Western Saifai situation?
LaToya Morgan: You can, but there’s something really delicious and pure about them on their own. But yeah, if that was a world to, to combine them both, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t want to say no.
Renee: Well, so you recently. Either have, or are going to be working with JJ Abrams, speaking of, sort of that world. And I’m curious, can you tell us anything about that project or?
LaToya Morgan: Yeah, I could tell you a little bit. Yeah. Yeah. Work with JJ Abrams currently. We had the nugget of an idea and we created it [00:19:00] together as a show called duster is set in the 1970s.
And it’s about a getaway driver for a crime syndicate. And he’s having to deal with his crazy personal life in his crazy crime life. And everything just is always blowing up in his face. And it’s lots of fun. It was rarely violent and, you know, fun and gritty. It’s really totally. Great Scorsese movies.
Terrentine Tino, the Cohen brothers, which, which I love. And we’re in the thick of it right now. You know, the showrunner of the show. We have a writer’s room going, which is really great. I have a bunch of fantastic writers with really wonderful, powerful voices who are in the trenches with me, helping me build this, this theories.
Yeah, we’re going to be shooting the pilot soon. So. I’m very excited about that, you know, COVID and Delta and all kinds of other things to deal with with crossing fingers, where we’re able to get that going. Nice.
Renee: Any other upcoming [00:20:00] projects that we should look out for any other comics maybe, or.
LaToya Morgan: If anyone wants to hire me to do more comics, please, please.
My door is open
boom phase. If you want to do more, let me know I’m ready.
Renee: And where can people find you if they want to find out more information about the work you’re working?
LaToya Morgan: Oh, my goodness. I am all over social media, especially Twitter way too much. My handle is at Morgana Inc. I’m on Twitter and on Instagram. So MLR, G a N I C I N K.
Renee: Wonderful. And I always want to give a little space at the end. Is there any other things that you want to touch on before we go? Because I feel like you’re just a wealth of knowledge and my creativity for that right now. [00:21:00]
LaToya Morgan: I I’ll say a couple of things. I think one of the reasons why I was so moved by the response to the first issue of dark blood, it started going into his third printing is because of how important it is to support black creators and creators of color, especially in a climate where you don’t get to see a lot of those projects.
So, that was really moving for me. And I would just say, As creators for all of us that are out there. I think it’s really important to remember that it may seem hard right now with everything that’s going on in the world. But if you’re persistent, if you continue pushing, you’re going to get to that.
Yes. I know. I get a lot. You know, people in my DMS or on Twitter, they’re saying, what is the best piece of advice you can give? And that is really the advice. Even in the story that I told about the one, the brother’s workshop I didn’t get in on the first try, I had to take my lumps and, and, and, and apply again and just be [00:22:00] persistent about it.
So I always tried to tell people to do that. And then lastly, I know I said two things. This is the third,
the most important. I think because of everything that’s going on in the world and everything is so heightened and people just pretty much crazy. I think it’s, it’s good for people to take breaks, to take in, to look out for each other to make sure you know, you’re all. Okay. Text people copy, we’ll see how they’re doing.
And for me, it’s really important to sort of lead with. The golden rule, you know, that my mom taught me, you know, to, to be kind to other people. And if we, if we can I think that’ll help in some small way to make the world a better place.
Renee: Oh, I love that. And it, it actually reminds me of where we kind of first started talking about with this idea of family.
Right. And building your community and finding that community. Because I think in these times, it’s also so important. [00:23:00] To support each other and, and create those networks where you can feel supported. So
LaToya Morgan: absolutely. We have to. Yeah.
Renee: Well that sounds wonderful. Talk to you all.
LaToya Morgan: Thank you so much for having
Well, and thanks again for being on the show. We’d love to have you back anytime. Maybe if boom or Marvel, you heard it. They’re just to keep putting that out in the universe,
LaToya Morgan: please.
Renee: Well, let’s say more than thanks again for being on spoiler countries. Latoya Morgan is a long time TV writer and producer whose works include as so many TV shows like the walking dead shameless parenthood to name a few.
But more recently, Latoya has released the new comic, dark blood out now from boom studios. And for those of you out there in the spoiler verse, I’m Renee, and you’ve been listening to [00:24:00] spoiler country.