Bringing back Vertigo's Lucifer series last fall was a daunting task for author Holly Black - not only following in the footsteps of the character's previous writers Neil Gaiman and Mike Carey, but also trying to untie the previously neatly tied-up story of Lucifer Morningstar. After all, the character had sworn off interacting with Heaven and Hell, riding off into the proverbial sunset at the end of Carey's seminal series.
Yet the new Lucifer series, which was part of Vertigo's revival in late 2015, hit the ground running with an unusual premise that would force Lucifer to come riding back after God was murdered, and Morningstar was one of the prime suspects, having to prove it wasn't him.
With the first collection out now and the ninth issue on stands Wednesday, Newsarama talked with series writer Holly Black about her and Lee Garbett's approach on the series so far and what comes next.
Newsarama: Holly, with the first collection coming out, was it a little daunting for you? You had to come up with a reason that Lucifer would be pulled back into this world, right?
Holly Black: It was immensely daunting! And it was immensely daunting because I am a huge fan of the character, from Neil Gaiman's run in Sandman, where he created him, and I'm a huge fan of Mike Carey's Lucifer.
So it was really intimidating to come in after the carefully closed-up ending that Mike Carey created. I mean, he really tied up an enormous number of things, I realized. And I had to sort of untie those somehow, and I had to do it in a way that was respectful of the canon.
And then it was daunting also to know that there were a lot of fans like me who would have a healthy amount of skepticism about somebody reopening this character.
Nrama: For people who might be interested in picking up that first collection, I think we can spoil what draws Lucifer back. God is murdered, right?
Black: God is dead, and we have to figure out whodunit.
So it's a little bit of noir L.A. murder mystery with Lucifer and his sidekick Gabriel trying to figure it out.
Nrama: And Lucifer is the accused.
Black: Yes, that is why they have to work together.
Nrama: There's also some pride there. Someone else killed God.
Black: Exactly. Nobody else can kill God but me!
Nrama: Looking at the whole collection, one of the key things for you was to find the voice of Lucifer - the dry wit, the irreverent tone. Did you bury yourself in Mike Carey's work? Or how did you find that voice?
Black: I think there are two Lucifers. There's Mike Carey's, who's very cold and always in control. And what he really wants more than anything is not to have anyone have any power over him.
And then you have Neil Gaiman's Lucifer, who is much more of a trickster figure, and much more unpredictable. Less cold; more unpredictable.
So I thought I'd fall someplace in the middle, because I like aspects of both characters, and I wasn't sure I could pull off either. They're very specific voices. And I had to say, "OK, this is the character, and here's what I think he's going to talk like." And my hope was that he sort of comes in the middle, although I don't know.
But the other thing about him was to make sure that he's never too good. Mike Carey did this really amazing trick of having him really draw you in so you really empathized with him, and then doing something so cruel that you would sort of snap back to yourself and be like, wait a minute. I'm identifying with this person who is terrible. But then you start to identify with him again.
So trying to figure out ways in which he can be somebody that you want to like, and really charming, but somebody you are drawn up short by is the challenge of writing him.
Nrama: And the character has to have that dark humor.
Black: Yes, and that part is really fun.
Nrama: Without spoiling too much about the resolution of that first collection and what Lucifer found out about God's death, I think it's interesting where the book is now. One of the things I liked about Lucifer #9 was that one of the characters said, "Whose side are you on these days?" to Lucifer. I thought that was a question that really speaks to the situation he's in right now.
Black: Right. When you take yourself out of the war between Heaven and Hell, which has become kind of a three-part war, he absented himself from it, and now that he's come back, things are different.
His alliances are not exactly where he remembers them to be, and I think that him taking a stand anywhere feels like being back in a more permanent way than he's comfortable being.
The premise, to me, of the story was, "What happens when you come back?" You can go away, and you can say you're out of the family drama, and say, you know, I'm totally not going to be dragged back in. But inevitably you get sucked back in to your old patterns and your old relationships.
So he's half in and half out, trying to figure out where he is going forward.
Nrama: One of the other important things about doing a Lucifer series is the art. What's it been like working with Lee, and what does he bring to the title?
Black: Lee is fantastic. I will never forget, really early on, I had this idea of a type of illustration I wanted, but as I wrote it, I thought, this is a ridiculous thing for anyone to ask. I shouldn't be asking for this. But he just did it! He was like, sure! Great!
And then I thought, I can ask for anything!
The range of what he can do, from the big, epic battles to the small, quiet moments is amazing. But I think the thing I love best is that, in the background of so much of what he draws, there are whole other stories taking place. There are characters doing things, and there are little cameos. And there are these really wonderful moments happening.
It's a really weird experience for me, going from being a prose novelist to writing something and then giving it to another person and seeing it come back so much richer and more than the thing you made.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there any final word you want to tell readers about what they can look for in issue #9 and beyond?
Black: We're going to find out who's been telling us the story the whole time.