2017 has been a hellish year, no doubt. So, what better way to turn that around — and continue the glourious celebration DC Comics has been hosting for the centennial birthday of legend Jack Kirby — than to literally bring Hell to Earth. And with it, comes its most famous citizen: the Demon Etrigan!
Ha! That kind of rhymed.
Here to chat about the new mini-series hitting stands next month, The Demon: Hell on Earth, are writer Andrew Constant and artist Brad Walker. The gentleman hit all the highlights from the dual (and aging) relationship between Jason Blood and his demonic alter ego, what Jack Kirby’s legacy means to them, and how Death Valley figures into it all.
Matt Santori: I want to hear from you both right away about your approach to Jason Blood and Etrigan as individuals and in terms of that duality you seem to be touching on immediately in the series.
Andrew Constant: By this stage, Jason and Etrigan have been bonded for a very long period of time, so they have this kind of fraternal hate that you can only have when you’re stuck with someone for days and days and days on end. It’s almost like they’re in a gentleman’s war of absolute antipathy, but within that, and throughout the series, there are moments where the anger flows through and takes over the issue.
Brad Walker: It’s an interesting example of a creature/host relationship, because if you read the old Kirby stuff, Jason Blood is super weird on his own. He’s not some normal guy who turned into a monster. He started out pretty weird.
So, I think you’re starting from a unique place, and visually there’s a huge contrast between them. You’re looking at different body types. I try to bring a bit of similarity in the way their faces move, but nothing that you could really pinpoint. Just something to give me a benchmark for their connection.
The relationship between the personalities, their interactions, are a lot of what’s fun for me and standing out in the story. And I think it may make Jason a little more relatable to the reader. Maybe he was originally a weirdo, but I want to make sure the reader feels through him.
AC: I don’t know if he’s weird. He’s just sort of… quirky. [laughs]
BW: He could have bodies in his freezer! If he was someone you knew in real life, he was your friend, and suddenly this person was arrested for murder, you might be like, “Well… Jason was always weird.”
AC: He’s a very charming, smart guy, but he definitely has his idiosyncrasies.
Visually, I think it’s something you see in the first issue: this disparity gets drawn upon more and more. It becomes pronounced just how different they are physically. Because they’ve spent so much time together, you get a sense that familiarity breeds contempt… but it also breeds same type.
I don’t think they always see how many similarities they have as well, and you’ll see that fraternal bond play through the book as well, but begrudgingly.
MS: You mention the Demon’s creator Jack Kirby, of course. With his 100th birthday this year…
AC: No pressure! [laughs]
MS: Ha! What aspects of his original Demon run stood out for you or struck you when you started the series?
AC: Brad is definitely the expert in comparison to me on Kirby, certainly, but I did a lot of reading. You know, it’s the energy of the character. I know it’s a common thing to say, but the energy of the art in the way the Demon was originally depicted does everything right. Both in terms of visual representation and making sure the page moves along.
Just how large all the stories are as well. There are quiet moments, but the Demon is never quiet himself. He always has this explosive energy. When I came on to the book, I didn’t want to have lots of talking heads or quiet moments. There has to be this kinetic energy, which Brad is so good at as well.
BW: I am a huge Kirby fan, and I could have approached the project with too much reverence, probably. I could have done a bad aping of Kirby approach, if not a line-for-line attempt to mimic him. But I wanted to consciously restrain myself from overdoing it. This should be its own thing, and I feel like after a point as an artist, if I’m laboring too much in honor of Kirby, I’m undermining the story Andrew is writing. And I didn’t want to do that either.
I tried to mostly bring along that sense of power that Kirby would have and that weight of character Kirby would give. Early in the first issue, we see the Demon and I lean more into a very Kirby look in terms of line and some of the ways I was interpreting his shape. He transforms in a way, later on in the script, in a way that I tried to pull back on the Kirby nods and just represent the power on the page.
The first time we see Etrigan as he will appear in our series, I really used the space of the page with him cropped on every edge. He can’t be contained by the comic book itself, and that was deliberate on my part. I wanted to give that aspect of Kirby as much as everything.
AC: It’s quite a powerful moment. It’s not a new Etrigan, but just a more powerful version of the character as the series develops.
BW: It would sound pretentious to say we were trying to “out Kirby” Kirby, but maybe “over Kirby.” [laughs] I’m trying to push as many of the aspects of my art as possible, without letting go of my own approach. I didn’t want to do a mimicking for six issues, but I definitely wanted to go “Full Kirby” in terms of the gravitas on the page.
MS: What about the rhyming, Andrew? I notice that’s missing from Etrigan’s speech at the start.
AC: He will rhyme in the book, but it’s an old relationship between Etrigan and Jason at this point. He’s a rhyming demon, and he’ll always be a rhyming demon.
But rhyming is something he does, to my mind, with a sense of joy or excitement. But he’s just so sick of Blood. He’s so annoyed and so angry that he’s still tied to this stupid person. He’s just got no need to perform around Blood. He doesn’t get anything from it. It’s not performance anxiety so much as performance banality.
You’ll see what happens when he does get away from Blood before too long. He gets that excitement back. He gets that jazz going. And the first thing he does as he gets to dance and play is rhyming.
BW: Andrew addresses the rhyming in the first issue, and I’ve got to say: we’ve been friends for years, and I think the line of dialogue is my favorite line in the issue. But it’s also the most “Andrew” line in the issue, to the point that I just hear his voice as I read it.
AC: It’s basically an old married couple that’s so fed up with each other.
MS: The title of the book “Hell on Earth” definitely pits these two different worlds, but in terms of Earth, we’re starting out in Death Valley. What made you choose that location and how does it play into the story for you?
AC: I’ve always loved Death Valley. It has such a lovely mystique to it. It’s weird. It’s off the beaten path. And as an outsider from another country, for me it has that extra level of distance to it. It makes it a very unique place. But coming from Australia, I am familiar with a lot of large, desert landscapes. It was pretty easy to imagine myself in a place like that.
It becomes clear throughout the later issues why the experience of Hell starts off in Death Valley. There’s also the nuclear aspect as well around Death Valley. Bomb testing and nuclear testing there made it easy to draw on that aspect as well.
BW: Yeah, I really took to the setting right from the start, and it’s almost a character in itself — both Death Valley and Hell. There’s a real similarity to the two of them, and it gave the series a certain familiarity for me to connect to. It gave it a uniqueness.
You know, Batman is in Gotham City and Superman is in Metropolis, and you look at both of those characters in relationship to those environments. It has a specific feeling as it relates to those characters, and Death Valley does the same thing for Jason and Etrigan. It was something that I loved about the series right away. Plus, it’s fun stuff to draw. I love landscapes.
MS: Any final thoughts about “Hell on Earth” as it approaches its release date?
AC: The cast grows throughout the series, and there are two classic characters that I think people are going to be very surprised to see.
BW: Yeah, there’s a character I’ve been enjoying that I’ve been wanting to post artwork for, but can’t, because I don’t want to spoil it.
Etrigan is a blast, and we’re trying to put a lot of personality into it.
AC: While the title is officially “Hell on Earth,” we could have named it “Hell Is Other People” because it’s really about the hells we have to carry around with our bad relationships. Jason and Etrigan, but there are also other old friends who come around. People who should have broken up a long time ago and relationships that are no fun for anyone but the reader.
BW: It’s got to feel not just like a Demon book, but like the Demon’s little corner of the DC Universe. It’s another thing I really enjoy about comics. Batman has his extended cast and Green Lantern has a huge extended cast. I like that this book looks at Demon the same way, and lets Demon be his own thing, without shamelessly tying him into every popular character in the DC Universe.
I think Demon fans will really enjoy it for that reason, but it will also be accessible enough for people who aren’t huge Demon fans going in. I think it’s very satisfying.
Andrew Constant and Brad Walker’s The Demon: Hell on Earth #1 hits comic shops and online November 15. Contact your shop today to pre-order!