VENDITTI Dishes on DEMON KNIGHTS, CONSTANTINE & I, VAMPIRE
Demon Knights #17Robert Venditti's start on Demon Knights this week may have interfered with his job on Constantine, but he's hoping fans will still give the title a chance. After all, his dedication to Demon Knights is what limited his time on Constantine.
With this week's Demon Knight #16, Venditti is creating a jumping-on point for the title, which he calls one of the most unique in superhero comics. Set in the Medieval era of the DCU, it chronicles the universe's earliest heroes through an action-packed, humorous tone.
And although DC has also announced that I, Vampire is ending in April, fans of that title can also look for those characters in Demon Knights, as Venditti begins a storyline this week that ties into the history of vampires in the DCU.
But while new readers can pick up Demon Knights #16 for a fresh start to the title, Venditti also promises that the departure of Paul Cornell from Demon Knights doesn't mean it's undergoing a drastic change. Bernard Chang will stick around as artist, and although issue #16 will pick up 30 years after Cornell's final issue #15, the change to the tone won't be a drastic as the change in year. In fact, Venditti is hoping to keep the action-heavy, humorous approach indicative of the book so far.
Venditti may be a fairly new name to hard-core DC readers, but he's got a ton of experience under his belt as part of the staff at Top Shelf, where he was best known for his comic-turned-Bruce Willis movie Surrogates. Besides his start this week on Demon Knights), he's also currently writing the relaunch of X-O Manowar for Valiant — plus he's got something else cooking for DC.
Newsarama talked with Venditti to find out more about his work on Demon Knights, what took him away from Constantine, and how the I, Vampire tie-in will work as he starts his run this week.
Newsarama: Robert, you're bringing the Demon Knights team 30 years into the future from the last issue. What does that do for the book and for the team?
Robert Venditti: One of the things we want to do is have this clean jumping on point for readers, and it seemed like, with me coming on the book at this juncture, it would be a good time to do that. So moving 30 years into the future was one of the ways we thought we could do that.
And we really wanted to have it affect all the team members individually. So I think when you get to the end of issue #15, and you see what Paul did there, and how things get left with a lot of characters — whether it be Exoristos and the Shining Knight, or Horsewoman, or Vandal Savage or the dynamic between Xanadu and Jason Blood and Etrigan. Every single one of those things is going to be different when you open up the pages to issue #16.
That doesn't mean we're doing away with everything that Paul did. Quite the opposite. I'm a huge fan of what Paul did on the book, and we're building on that. But I think what people are going to see is this time jump has affected each character differently, and in some ways that I think are going to surprise people.
Nrama: There's been quite a bit of humor in Demon Knights since it launched. Is it still going to lean that way?
Venditti: That's definitely my intention. That was one of the aspects of the book that I think made it so unique, and Paul was able to create this Medieval action-heavy story that also had this great wit and this great humor to it. And I definitely do want to carry forward with that.
Demon Knights #17We're going to introduce a character in #17 who's going to be Horsewoman's new horse. And he has a bit of humor to him. And I think that we've got some other moments that — you know, Vandal Savage is always a crowd-pleaser, and we have some moments with him in #16 and #17 that are funny. But I would say that they are funny in a very dark way, which I think is in keeping with his character.
Nrama: There's a mention of vampires. Is that the challenge for the team for the whole first story arc?
Venditti: Very much so. But the thing that I liked about it is the idea that, you know, as readers and consumers of pop culture, we're familiar with what vampires are. But going back to this point in history, this would be something that they had never encountered and had no idea what it was.
And so their approach to it, mainly through Al Jabr, as more of a science-minded, reason-minded character, is to approach it almost like you would any other disease. And so he has this way of looking at it that is, at the same time, very ahead of his time, for what people would think and their concepts of infectious disease and how those things were spread at that era in history. But also, at the same time, it's rather ill-informed because he doesn't realize what exactly the nature of this threat is.
So I felt like that would be a really interesting thing, to take something that's so familiar and put it in a scenario where nobody really knew what it was, and see what it looks like from that angle.
Nrama: The characters in I, Vampire, Andrew Bennett and Mary Seward, were both turned into a vampires in the Middle Ages. Since you're dealing with vampires, does that mean we might see a tie-in to I, Vampire,?
Venditti: It does. Yes. It ties in with some of that mythology, sort of a pre-cursor to those kind of things, but involving similar characters and things like that. So there will be a link between those two books, although not necessarily in terms of direct narrative. But certainly in terms of crossover between ideas and characters and that kind of thing.
Nrama: Thirty years is going to age some of these characters. Will that change the dynamic of the team?
Venditti: Yeah, absolutely. And that was one of the things that I thought would be compelling about the time jump, because they're not all immortal. So it is going to affect different characters differently.
And so, what role do they have in the team in that scenario? What are the effects of not aging versus the effect of aging? And how do they view each other differently and things like that?
Nrama: From the covers, it looks like Jason Blood might be a featured character? Or are they all getting a little bit of time?
Venditti: They're all getting a little bit of time and he is going to be a featured character, but in a way that is, I think, going to be completely unexpected. His character and Etrigan are really sort of the key to the first two issues of this four-issue arc specifically, and even beyond that, they play a major role in the last two issues of the arc as well. But how exactly that plays out, I think, is something that I hope surprises people.
The last page of issue #16 is just a great hook, and I think Bernard really sold it with the art. He elevates the script every time he puts pen to paper. And we're really hoping that the last page that people are going to leave issue #16 with is going to make them want to see what happens in the next three issues.
Nrama: What does Bernard bring to the book?
Venditti: He's such a great collaborator. He's a talented guy. He's very fast, but very good. I learn from watching what he does with the scripts, which is one of the things I like most about working with artists, is being able to see how they take my script and what they do with that, and being able to use that to hopefully make myself a better writer, and translate some of that into my scripting. Because I don't come from an art background and I don't pretend to understand art in a lot of ways, so it's very much a learning process for someone like me.
So to work with someone like Bernard who's been in this game for quite awhile and does such high quality work, and always has such great ideas, it's really something that can only benefit the book and benefit me as a writer as well.
Nrama: We just got the news yesterday that you're no longer writing Constantine. What happened to take you off the book, and does that mean we'll see you on a different title for the publisher?
Venditti: I began writing Demon Knights with a finite story in mind, but DC liked my ideas and scripts so much they asked me to stay on the title. That put me in the position of having more books on my schedule than I was comfortable writing. If I start missing deadlines or, worse, rushing scripts, that doesn't help anybody.
So [Co-Publisher] Dan [DiDio], [Editor in Chief] Bob [Harras] and I talked and decided Constantine was the one to let go. I'm sorry to lose a chance to work on the character, but it ended up being the best possible solution.
And for anyone searching for controversy, I'll just add that Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes, and I go way back, since we're all part of the Top Shelf family. I was glad when they stepped in on Constantine. Relieved, actually, since I didn't want my editor to be left hanging.
Nrama: Then to finish up, what do you want to tell readers about what you're hoping to bring to Demon Knights?
Venditti: What I really want to achieve with this arc and my run on the book is, yes, to have a new jumping-on point for new readers, but also to not make it look like the 15 issues that came prior — or 16 if you count the zero — never happened. You know? It's very much in keeping with what Paul was doing with the book.
I think one of the great things Paul was able to do was to have so many of these plotlines that were hanging out there that were thoughts and ideas that any one of them could tugged on, and you could get a story arc out of it.
And really, that's what we're doing here. This whole arc grew out of a single panel that I came across when reading up on the book. There was one panel in issue #4, as soon as I saw it, this whole arc came to me. And I don't know if I would have had the idea if I wasn't tugging on this thread that had already been woven into the series already.
So it's very much in keeping with what has gone before, but it's also a point for new readers to jump on.
And really in terms of what I want to bring to the book — because I want to continue this action Medieval story that I feel like is unique in terms of what people can get on the stands — it's a book that at the same time, operates within the DC continuity because it's a sort of deep history on events.
You were mentioning I, Vampire, and this is a deep history on events that transpire later in the present-day DCU. But at the same time, because it is so far back in history, it also kind of operates outside that continuity. So it's really in a unique stage. And I want to be able to maintain that and give readers a satisfying reading experience every issue. And if they want that larger sort of tapestry in the DCU, it's there. And if they just want a fun, medieval story, then that's there as well.
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