Andrew Constant and Brad Walker break down their upcoming Etrigan-focused series “The Demon: Hell is Earth.”
Etrigan the Demon is one of the most interesting supernatural characters in the DC Universe and he’s one of Hell’s most notorious demons. The character has lived for centuries and even showed up in Batman: The Animated Series. During the New 52 era, DC released Demon Knights, set during the dark ages and featuring an Etrigan that was fancy free. He’s now bonded to a human named Jason Blood, slumming it in Death Valley, and starring in his own series, The Demon: Hell is Earth, on November 15th.
The new mini-series is written by Andrew Constant and drawn by Brad Walker, both of which were kind enough to answer a few pre-release questions! Not only do we talk about the new series, but their backgrounds, the series’ Jack Kirby influences and more.
AiPT!: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. Etrigan has such a rich past, not the least of which is the Demon Knights New 52 series back in 2012. How much research goes into a character with such a storied past?
Andrew Constant: Quite a lot. While Etrigan is one of my favorite characters of all time, I knew I couldn’t count on pure recall to make Etrigan and Blood work. I read anything that I could find — Kirby (of course), The Ennis run, Demon Knights, Matt Wagner’s mini-series, and so on. But I also was conscious of making sure I didn’t Xerox what has gone before.
“Hell Is Earth” is, in some respects, a follow up to the Demon Knights series, but still also very much its own thing.
Brad Walker: I haven’t read through the Demon Knights stuff, sadly. I wasn’t catching it when it came out, and the first trade has been out of print for a while. I just got some PDFs of it recently from DC but haven’t tackled it yet. My feeling is that you wanna be careful with reference going into a project. Maybe it’s more relevant to artists, but you run the risk of getting too locked into other takes and other eras and not letting the thing you’re working on breathe and have its own identity. I have the Kirby hardcover next to my desk if I’m in a dynamics emergency, and I have the Ennis/McCrea stuff. But I haven’t been looking through it all that much as I go because I think you’re better off to serve the story you’re drawing, rather than serve previous material.
AiPT!: What made you guys fall in love with comics?
Walker: I really escaped into them, as a kid. I was drawn to the morality and the heroism of most of the big, classic characters. That’s still what comics are, to me, even in an age where it’s possibly taking a back seat to darker tones and moral gray areas. That said, The Demon actually plays in a lot of those dark corners and I think, professionally, it can be fun (and produce interesting work) to play against type. Part of why I took this series is because it didn’t seem like something I expected them to offer me. So, it’s fun to push my work in ways that I feel aren’t what’s expected or what is most commonly regarded as my sensibilities.
Constant: Short Answer? My mom.
Long Answer? I had a super bad speech impediment when I was young, and my speech therapist told my mom that reading a lot would be a great help in my treatment. My mom used to watch me get all wide-eyed in the news agency at the Batman and Superman books, and would grab anything that got me excited. She did read them herself, at first, and was pleasantly surprised to find the language to be more intricate and complex than what I was reading in school, for the most part.
I still remember the first comic issue I fell in love with, specifically: Detective Comics #585 – the first in a two-part story that introduced The Ratcatcher to the DCU. Burnt my little eyes out.
…that ran on, didn’t it?
AiPT!: This is one of Kirby’s lesser known creations. How did Kirby’s work influence you and this new series?
Constant: To be succinct now, Kirby has always been an influence. And in the year of his 100th Birthday, his creative shadow looms larger than ever. Most importantly, for me, is to do the character justice and give Etrigan the sort of revved up, outrageous, out-of-control adventure that he deserves.
But yeah, Kirby is King.
Walker: I’m a huge Kirby guy, and if I didn’t consciously restrain myself, this could’ve easily just been a big love letter. I didn’t want to do that, because it seems unnecessary and self-serving, at the expense of Andrew’s original story. So, I tried to pull on some less Kirby influences at the same time, and try to bring the Kirby out in Etrigan’s character, itself, mostly. His visual weight and power on the page. I try to make him look seethingly dynamic, in frame, often pushing at the corners of the panels and pages. Kirby was so fascinating in the way that the physical constraints of the comic page couldn’t ever hold him. So, when I draw Etrigan, I try to channel that.
AiPT!: Back in May, the Trinity Annual reminded me of how flipping cool Etrigan is. How should fans of the character expect you to take the character forward?
Walker: I’m trying to focus on his personality, and how he interacts with Jason Blood, particularly. There’s a lot of humor in their interactions, and I love to lean into stuff like that. Comics have such a range of tone they can achieve in a single story. It’s exciting to make stories that are funny one minute, chilling the next, and heart pounding, immediately after. And hopefully readers feel the same way when they read this, cause that’s something I know we’re trying to pull off.
Constant: A part of me wants to say, “Wait and see, buy the book and you won’t be disappointed,” but, in essence, we are allowing Etrigan to BE Etrigan, all tail and teeth and malevolent intelligence, while exposing him to conflicts both old (Blood) and new (a Hell on Earth, amongst others). We are being true to who the character is, while also allowing him to be plunged into fresh scenarios that allow Etrigan to have a LOT of fun.
So yeah, I guess wait and see is the answer!
AiPT!: Brad, were there any challenges in drawing this character and his world that you weren’t expecting?
Walker: Hmmm. I wanna say no? But that sounds naive. Every new gig comes with some growing pains. Etrigan, as much as he’s a classic, doesn’t feel like he’s SUCH a huge character that we’re being meticulously scrutinized by either the fanbase or editorial. I think editorial would like us to do something interesting and exciting. And I think die-hard Etrigan fans are just happy to get another series with him. So, knock on wood, I think this is one that stands a chance to please everybody. Hahaha! Also, it’s relatively contained as its own thing. So, if there are fans who just like the art as they flip through it, but know nothing about the Demon, they should be able to get into it, no problem.
Constant: The series takes place in the current DCU. It is its own self-contained thing, but saying that we are bringing in a lot of characters that have always been important to Etrigan, that are currently in the DCU. You can read the book and enjoy the story on its own, under the glaring sun of its setting in Death Valley… which isn’t that different to a lot the places in, my home, Australia.
Walker: I think one of the book’s strong suits is that it’s connected to the greater universe, but it’s not constrained by it. I love a good crossover, but my favorite comics are the ones that are fun, exciting rides, all on their own, with a tone and an atmosphere that feel unique. The kind that you can sit down and read without working too much. So, it’s in the world of Rebirth, and Metal, and Doomsday Clock, but you don’t need to read anything else to enjoy this. You can drop right in.
AiPT!: Andrew, the rhyming dialogue of the character… is there a trick to making it work? Do you hate it or love it?
Constant: The trick is just get stuck in and do it. I love it when it works, and when it doesn’t… well, I get to make Etrigan rhyme. That should never feel like a chore.
Walker: Whether you’re a scrawny, New York artist or a lumberjack under the Australian sun, the rhyming is loved by everyone. Hard to say if it’s a psychosis, a speech impediment, or a personality quirk, but it doesn’t really matter. Andrew makes it work! (I wish I’d rhymed every answer. Maybe not, just thinking about it might give me brain cancer).
AiPT!: The look and summary for the book gives it an almost Quentin Tarantino vibe to me, but what about you guys? If Hollywood made a movie based on your series who would you have direct and why?
Walker: Ooooo… I like a Tarantino comparison for it. I don’t know, I’m horrible at these things. It feels like a demented western to me. Who would do something like that?
Constant: I’m a massive Denis Villeneuve fan. His version of the Etrigan would be terrifying and exciting in equal measure.
Do you hear that, Hollywood?! (tumbleweeds blow past).
The Demon: Hell is Earth #1 hits comic shelves November 15, 2017 (order cut-off is 10/23!) or you can preorder it on Amazon today.