The Demon: Hell on Earth #1 came out this week and dammit, was that not a good and adult read? If you haven’t read it, give it a chance, especially if you dig Vertigo and any of the great DC adult-themed books (I’m looking at you Deadman). We were especially excited after speaking to the creators last month.
With this series’ debut issue on the shelf, we decided to talk to writer Andrew Constant and artist Brad Walker about it and where Etrigan goes from here.
AiPT!: The tone of this book is just so perfect. Bravo to both of you. In the perfect world, how long would the story carry on, beyond the initial arc?
Andrew Constant: Thank you! Brad has done an amazing to job in not only capturing Etrigan, but also the setting of Death Valley. I love Etrigan, his character, and could run with him forever. Truly. I’ve got a lot of ideas, which no writer has ever said before, of course. But I’m honestly just grateful that Brad and I get to breathe life into one of the best anti-heroes of all time.
Brad Walker: It does feel like shorter term projects are the style these days and it’s too bad, because I feel like you just start to hit your stride around issue 3 or 4 of a book. I felt much better finishing up 3 than I did 1. It would be awesome if the book was well received and they asked us to come back and do a “sequel.” That would be really exciting to sit down together and think of where to go next. Andrew and I are old friends and the only bummer of this project is that it was already written before I came onboard. Being that we’re friends, it would be fun to sit down and talk out what we want the story to be together, ’cause that’s a hard situation to make happen in mainstream comics.
AiPT!: I was a huge fan of the Demon Knights New 52 series. Can fans of Demon Knights expect any familiar characters to pop up, outside of Madame Xanadu, of course?
Constant: Yeah, I loved that book as well. In some respects, Hell Is Earth could be considered a follow-on from that series. There are definitely other characters from Demon Knights popping up, but you’ll have to wait and see as to who that’ll be…
AiPT!: Brad, you’ve been playing around in the Aquaman side of the DC Universe for a while now and Etrigan seems the exact opposite in a lot of ways. For instance, the full-page spread of the screaming blast coming out of the nuclear warhead is incredible. Speaking of which, I loved how you used a blur technique in this page. Is this a digital effect and how do you approach the page? Is it all digital or a mix of digital and print?
Walker: Yeah, the blur was all from colorist Lee Loughridge. I worked pretty much completely traditional up until issue 3, where I started doing layouts digitally. But for all intents and purposes, that’s just preliminary stuff, and it’s still penciled traditionally once I work out the storytelling. Then it’s inked traditionally by Andrew and it finally goes digital when Lee colors it.
AiPT!: The opening pages show Jason Blood drinking heavily, is alcoholism an aspect of his character this series will explore?
Constant: No–Blood is just desperately trying to keep a resurging Etrigan at bay, stop him from mentally torturing him, and that is just the tool at hand. Things are pretty dark for Blood at the start of the book, but we quickly see a change in circumstance, not only for Blood, but for Death Valley, where the story takes place.
Walker: Our editors will probably be exploring it by issue 6! (I’m sorry, I know that’s insensitive to a very serious subject… but you ARE Adventures in Poor Taste!)
AiPT!: It appears you’ve flipped the script so to speak, Andrew, with Jason haunting Etrigan by the end of the issue. How has this opened up the story for you?
Constant: It’s allowed me to have a lot more opportunity for Blood and Etrigan to interact. I’ve always loved their chemistry, the mix of familiarity and open contempt, tension and combative rapport they can generate. With Blood now able to give as good as it gets again, there’s a lot of room for the sort of friction that makes for the type of partnerships I like to read and watch.
Walker: I played into that some visually, actually. It’s subtle, but the spiked collar and cuffs were me sort of pointing out that Etrigan is constrained in a way, now. It’s small, and no one would think much of it, but I like little, subconscious elements in design, like that.
AiPT!: The opening page really hit me, especially with how the background twists and then catches fire and the poor girl who is touched by it. Is it ever difficult to write and draw something that is unsettling?
Constant: I can’t answer for Brad, but I cut my teeth writing horror books. I work out what’s best for the the story and just write it–damn feeling unsettled. I usually find that if something is somewhat difficult to write down, especially with a book that contains horror elements like The Demon invariably does, it usually is the right thing for the book.
Walker: In a way. I think I tend to be rather literal in my art, and I have to stop and remind myself that I can push further. I don’t have to have everything be completely representative of real life. It’s good to do things to force you to stretch, like that. I always enjoyed that in the sci-fi books I did. You could just go completely off the rails in the settings and the technology, as long as it seemed somewhat plausible. So, this is probably a similar muscle, for me.
AiPT!: The realm of magic and the supernatural is an awesome and somewhat untouched area in the DCU. And it looks like we’re going to Hell next issue, though, a nuclear bomb is sort of a hell in itself. Are there any aspects in coming issues you’re excited for fans to see?
Walker: Hell’s coming to YOU, rather! (too much, Andrew??) One of the things I liked a lot about the script was, I felt like the setting (both Death Valley and Hell) seemed like characters, unto themselves. I think Andrew did a good job of giving the book an atmosphere to the point where Demon has HIS Gotham, or HIS Metropolis. This is Etrigan’s corner of the DCU, and I love that immersive feel that DC is good at capturing for its characters.
Constant: All of it–Hell literally comes to Earth, and with that the sort of hi-octane Etrigan fun that I love.
And there will be Minotaurs in trucker caps. Which is cool.
AiPT!: I wish you luck on this series, the first issue is wicked and has a Vertigo vibe that sets it apart. Last question, what is your favorite method of procrastination?
Walker: We love the Vertigo vibe people are catching! That’s something we both felt as we were doing it, and I wanted to play it up, without losing any of the big, punchy, punch superhero bombast that’s required. So, I’m glad that came across.
As far as procrastination, I’m terrified to answer. What if the editors read this?? They’ll know! They’ll KNOW!!
Constant: Thanks! You’re actually not the first person to mention the Vertigo angle, which is an awesome compliment. I think I own most of what Vertigo has published. The imprint has been a huge influence.
Procrastination? Video games. I’m currently replaying Alan Wake as we speak. Still bloody scary.
The Demon: Hell is Earth #1 came out this week, but if your comic shop ran out, you can purchase it on Amazon today. The Demon: Hell is Earth #2 will be released in comic stores December 27.