Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri's 2010 one-shot Demonic about a man who makes a deal with a devil has made a deal of its own for a second life.
Revived and revamped, Demonic returns August 17 with a new six-issue series by Christopher Sebela, Niko Walter, and Dan Brown. Taking inspiration from the original, this new series concerns a N.Y.P.D. detective who shares his body with a murder-loving demon after making a deadly deal to protect his family.
Newsarama spoke with Sebela about this new Faustian drama, how it differs from the original one-shot, and what's going on inside the detective and the demon's head in this internal battle.
Newsarama: Christopher, what is Demonic about?
Christopher Sebela: It’s about a couple different things. It’s a horror book and focuses on our main character, Scott Graves, and what he does when he’s made a deal with a demon and has to go out and kill for her to keep the things he loves safe. He has to violate everything he believes in and still go out and put on a badge and try to live up to some higher standard, living with the consequences of it.
But it’s also a horror story about dealing with all the choices you’ve made in your life that have brought you to this point. About confronting the fact that there are no time machines or magic spells that will rewrite things to make them better. If you’re in up to your waist in bad news and blood, you have to wade through it and find a way out. Then you have to find a way to put the memory of that in a box and move on from it. We’ve all done bad things and, if we’re lucky, we’ve put it in our rearview, but life leaves an indelible mark on you. Only in the case of Demonic, that mark can be more like a terrifying knife wound or massive blood loss.
Nrama: Who is Detective Scott Graves?
Sebela: On the surface, Scott’s got it all. He’s married to his childhood sweetheart, Jamie, they have a daughter, Lucy. He works as a cop, a detective, one of those noble defender types, trying to save lives and serve justice. But there’s only so long a normal guy and his ideals can withstand what the world has to offer before they both get a little tainted. I mean, even before the demon shows up, Scott’s haunted several times over by the things he’s gone through. When we meet him, he’s on the rebound from a bad stretch of road in his life he’s trying to put behind him. Back then he drank too much, cheated on his wife, put his family through hell and got as close to the brink as he could before pulling himself back. Now he’s put the pieces of his life back together and is trying to get them to stick.
When we say Scott is possessed, we mean it in a different kind of way. Scott is owned. He’s a piece of property and Aeshma, the demon inside him, holds the lease. They have a deal between them. Scott will go out and get her all the blood she demands and she’ll keep his family alive. Aeshma gives him some aspects of power to do these things, making it so when Scott puts on his mask, he’s a force of nature, doing all sorts of things people could only dream of. There’s something almost thrilling about it to Scott, if it wasn’t in service of slaughtering people.
When Aeshma shows up, it threatens to destroy everything Scott’s struggled against to achieve some kind of normal, happy life. Now he’s got to hold this shaky life together while he lives a new, bloodier one every time the sun goes down, when he has to go out and feed his demon. Throw in who is behind all this and the NYPD storming the streets to find this killer and Scott’s got a lot on his plate.
Nrama: Tell us more about Aeshma.
Sebela: Aeshma’s a demon who takes up residence in Scott’s body. They make a deal to keep Scott’s family safe and alive and in return, Scott has to go collect souls for her. The more the better, especially the more innocent. Aeshma has this end goal of souls that she wants, but what she really loves is taking Scott and making him corrupt himself, so that he’s the biggest monster walking the beat. He’s seen as so good and pure and standing for justice and fair play, but Aeshma nudges him over and over until he’s soaked in blood and hates every moment he has to put on the Demonic uniform and go do her bidding. Demons were around long before humans, so for her, getting to play with someone like Scott is like a kid picking the wings off a fly and watching it bang around trying to get free. It never can, and it never will, but watching it be hopeful that maybe if it tries hard enough is all the satisfaction in the world to her.
Nrama: Is the story about Graves' deal with the demon, or the crimes he investigates, or both?
Sebela: I didn’t want to do procedural with a twist, so there’s not a lot of crime-solving going on in this book, at least not in the traditional sense. Demonic focuses on how Scott and Aeshma get along, the deal that’s brokered between them and how Aeshma focuses on twisting the knife while Scott focuses on how to get out from under her thumb. It’s also about how all this came to be, how Scott isn’t just picked out of a hat to make this deal, it’s something that’s been coming for him for a long time, waiting for the right moment. And, finally, it’s about Scott trying to complete this deal without losing the life he’s doing all this to save, so he has to constantly look over his shoulder for cops he works alongside to see if they’re about to bear down on him and throw him in a deep dark hole.
Nrama: Why do you think you were approached to do Demonic?
Sebela: My editor approached me not long after the first issue of my book with Ibrahim Moustafa, High Crimes, came out. I think because that was a book dealing with a character facing something larger than life and doing it from a massively flawed perspective. Or maybe they just liked the way I wrote. I’ve also made it no secret that I’m a big fan of horror and have been all my life. I remember my editor thinking that Demonic would be up my alley and once I confirmed I could get super bloody if I wanted to, I knew it was too.
Nrama: And what made you want to do it?
Sebela: A lot of it was the horror aspect. I like blood and guts and severed fingers as much as the next horror geek, so getting a chance to go to town with it was something I’ve been wanting to do more of. It’s just finding the right way to do it so that it means something and isn’t just torture porn that exists for the sake of existing. I also really liked the family dynamics and that Scott was - based on everything he had to deal with and the story of him I told myself in my head - a really screwed-up person wrestling with a lot of ugly stuff. A big part of that are his past mistakes, which are more like monumental screw-ups, so there’s a constant ocean of regret and amends that’s he’s riding. But beyond the secrets and lies, but the fact that he’s been a cop for this long, processing everything he sees day in and out. Or that his whole life is soaked with this long-running tragedy that has finally found its way back to him.
Characters are my favorite part and trying to find a way to deal with a character who is, on the surface, a great cop and enviable family man, but who, underneath all that, is more corrupted than a lot of the people he arrests on a day to day basis. Throw in the Demonic aspect and it becomes a game of trying to live in the head of a person who juggles all these lies and tries to keep them straight to make his life make sense. I was all about wanting to live with that guy for a bit and figuring out what makes him get out of bed in the morning and how he’d deal with everything I wanted to toss at him.
Nrama: How is this connected to the story Robert Kirkman and Joe Benitez did in 2010's Pilot Season: Demonic one-shot?
Sebela: Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri came up with the original idea way back in 2009 as part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season. Then they made the first issue with Joe Benitez. When I got asked to come on board, it was to spin-off from that initial first issue and write the rest of the story. There was a lot of back and forth between myself, my editor Sean Mackiewicz and Kirkman. While we all liked that original #1 issue, we eventually came to the decision to have me rewrite it, taking the foundation and rebuilding it. We kept all the important parts, the characters and the core concept, but we approached it in a new way that incorporated that first incarnation, my own tastes and ideas and probably a lot of ideas that had changed in Robert’s head in the seven years in between.
Nrama: Can you tell us more about that process, working with Robert and Skybound?
Sebela: Robert wrote the original first issue of Demonic a long while ago and that’s what was given to me to read over and that’s the issue that got me interested in trying to tackle this concept. There was a lot of deciding what stuff we wanted to keep and what we wanted to start over from scratch on. The nice thing was there was no huge rush. Everyone wanted to get things right before we moved into scripting and arting. Once we got it to that place, I went off and wrote the scripts, getting notes from my editor and Robert. It was an incredibly smooth process all in all. There were notes on every issue, from big things to little things, but it was a fun kicking a lot of these ideas around and figuring out what worked and what we could lose while still keeping the heart of the story.