Everyone has a dark side. It’s that little voice inside your head that pushes you to act on your baser instincts rather than the broader good. This so-called “inner demon” has been the root of countless struggles over time both in the fiction and in the real world, and in the recently released one-shot Demonic -- that inner demon is has broken free.
Demonic is second in a line of titles being published by Top Cow for it’s current Pilot Season event series. As in years before, they’re presenting five one-shot titles that vie for a chance to “graduate” as it were to become full-fledged series. The two winners are chosen from reader’s votes – readers like you and me. In a novel twist on the third-annual Pilot Season books, Top Cow brought in prolific writer Robert Kirkman (Invincible, Walking Dead) to create and write all five issues this year – and Top Cow founder Marc Silvestri pitched in to help develop the stories and design its characters.
Released at the tail end of January and quickly sold out at the distributor level, Demonic puts Kirkman with veteran Top Cow artist Joe Benitez (Soulfire, The Darkness) to illustrate the story of a man whose own inner demon takes over from time-to-time.
“I don’t want to give too much away about the story,” said Benitez,” but it’s about a man who is literally, and figuratively, struggling with his demons.” For the lead character Scott Graves, the only way to put any sort of control on this possession and prevent the demon from turning on his wife and daughter is to go out and kill. This demon lives and breathes on the deaths of people, and Scott Graves must feed that hunger – but he tries to do it from the deaths of perceived evil men and women.
“I had a slightly religious background growing up,” revealed writer Robert Kirkman. “In that, we were always warned of demons and whatnot – and a young rebellious kid like me, I thought they were both terrifying and cool. As a writer, I wanted to do more stuff with demons and when I thought up the title “Demonic” it all fell into place. For all of these projects, they began with just a word – usually the title – which I developed into a story. For Demonic, it’s this guy being possessed by a demon and having superheroes.“
Kirkman continued, describing Demonic’s basic concept that “the demon is trying to force him to murder his wife and daughter, but obviously he doesn’t want to. But he tries to replace that murderous streak by going after other – more deserving in his mind – people.”
“The main character is definitely a vigilante, but against his will,” explained Marc Silvestri, who assisted in developing the stories with Kirkman and designed the characters. “The whole conceit is that this demon is trying to get him to kill his wife and kid. So, too appease it, he's going out and killing criminals. It's kind of a take on the whole Faustian archetype.”
When it came to drawing out the characters for the first time and deciding on a look, Silvestri used his years of experience and creativity but wasn’t afraid to switch things up. “I wanted to make sure that our hero and the demon that haunts him both looked unique. For the demon, not only did I decide to make her a female, I gave her a really warped look, which I thought was something we don't see a lot,” said Silvestri. “For Demonic, I wanted his costume to have a real world, cobbled together look. The mask was inspired by tribal masks, and the claws brought something new to the table.”
Given Silvestri’s track record of drawing women generally in a more beautiful light, this turn to depict the female demon as more monstrous than gorgeous provoked a lot of thought with the artist. “I thought changing the sex of the demon would immediately turn some preconceptions on their head,” said Silvestri, who is renowned for his depiction of beautiful women such as Witchblade. “To take it a step further, I made her pretty unattractive with a beard and warped features. When I passed the designs on to Joe, he really cranked it up and brought in some truly twisted insect features.”
This demonic take on the classic superhero vigilante roots might seem unusual, but for everyone involved it’s an intersection of some of their favorite genres.
Although an award-winning artist on his own, Marc Silvestri had too many projects to attempt to draw all of the Pilot Season books so he enlisted five artists from around the comics medium to draw his designs and Kirkman’s story. For Demonic, the choice of Joe Benitez was an easy one.
“I’ve been a fan of Joe’s stuff forever, going back to the early days with Weapon Zero,” said Kirkman, referring to an early title Benitez created for Top Cow in the 90s. “I was absolutely thrilled to get Joe on this project; he’s done a bang up job.”
“I love Joe’s work; he’s a genius, plain and simple,” stated Silvestri. “He was at the top of my list and Robert's list for Pilot Season. His sense of design is out of this world.”
Benitez, who had worked under the Top Cow umbrella on several occasions, had been talking with Top Cow publisher Filip Sablik early in 2009 about returning for new projects. “[Filip] mentioned that Marc and Robert were developing some new properties for their Pilot Season books and if I was interested in working on one,” said Benitez. “We discussed a few of the options, and Demonic seemed like the best fit for me. So I agreed to do it.
“I tend to be attracted to stories that have a darker, edgier nature to them,” explained series artist Joe Benitez. “I’m drawn to subjects that dwell on our more violent side.”
Although Kirkman is credited as the writer of all the Pilot Season books, the true development of each of the one-shots and their characters was a truly collaborative process for him and Marc Silvestri. “We met in person during Comic-Con International 2009 and began breaking the story down, and we continued to do it by email and phone later,” said Kirkman.
Each of these books is a departure for Kirkman from his mainstay Image titles Invincible and The Walking Dead… and that’s intentional.
“I’m always trying to push myself, particularly with new projects. I’m doing my best not to do anymore teen superhero or zombie books,” Kirkman laughs. “I do try to come up with as wide ranging of genre projects as possible to keep myself interested and active. I don’t really want to do the same thing twice. There’s a lot of books I haven’t had a chance to do yet in a variety of different genres... even romance.”
In an earlier interview at CBR, Kirkman teased a sixth project between him and Silvestri that didn’t make it into the Pilot Season line-up. Could this romance title be it?
“No, it isn’t a romance book. That project Silvestri ended up talking me out of. But there is a Kirkman/Silvestri romance going on outside of comics,” the writer jokes about the collaboration with his fellow Image partner.