Joe Quesada had a surprising announcement in last Friday’s MyCup of Joe column. A fan mentioned enjoying Dead of Night Featuring Man-Thing, and Quesada took the cue to announce September’s Dead of Night Featuring Devil-Slayer, a new four-issue MAX mini-series. Written by Brian Keene, and featuring art by Kaare Andrews, the book will update the long-unused character, placing him “directly into some key events going on in the world today,” according to Quesada’s announcement.
With more details coming out of Wizard World Philadelphia, Newsarama spoke with horror novelist Brian Keene and editor Warren Simons about the upcoming revival.
Newsarama: Warren, why now for new Devil Slayer stories? Did the Defenders and Man-Thing revivals lead to this?
Warren Simons: Dead of Night Featuring Devil-Slayer will be a four-issue MAX limited series. Brian has noted that fans of classic Marvel horror titles will see some subtle nods to continuity, but this series wasn’t created as a result of either the recent Dead of Night: Man-Thing series for the MAX line, or the Defenders series.
NRAMA: Warren, what about Brian’s pitch made this the right story for a relatively obscure character?
WS: Tom Brevoort, Brian, and I had all been discussing Devil-Slayer, and how he was a fascinating character who might be perfect for a reinvention for the MAX line. Brian came up with a very intelligent and fresh take on the character, and put together a tremendous pitch that dealt with real-world matters in the classic Marvel fashion. Joe Q. added a few terrific ideas, and we think that this relatively obscure character could pack a helluva punch.
NRAMA: Brian, this is your first comics work for the “big two.” What about this character appeals to you that made you cross into this new realm?
Brian Keene: I’ve been a fan of The Defenders since childhood, and Devil Slayer was always one of my favorite members of the team—especially during J.M. DeMatteis’ wonderful run on the series. I’ve wanted to write comics for a long time, and Devil Slayer seemed like a good place to start (I also pitched Ka-zar and a few other second stringers).
BK: Nope. This is Sergeant Danny Sylva, US Army, taking up where Eric Payne left off.
That being said, the original Devil Slayer had a lot of interesting facets that I hope are reflected in this new incarnation. One of the most fascinating aspects of Eric Payne’s character was his dark side. He was a superhero who struggled with clinical depression, alcoholism and insanity. Today, we see similar pathos in Moon Knight, The Punisher, The Sentry, etc., but Devil Slayer always seemed more unstable—more brooding—to me. How many other superheroes tried to commit suicide via the Negative Zone?
The original Devil Slayer was a character full of contradictions. A Vietnam veteran turned Mob hitman turned occult assassin turned superhero turned Christian warrior. He believed he was doing God’s work, but at the same time, he was a member of a team that featured the Antichrist (Damion Hellstrom), other gods (Valkyrie) and Earth’s sorcerer supreme (Doctor Strange).
My goal is to bring some of those conflicts and contradictions to Danny Sylva, but at the same time, to give him his own set of foibles and weaknesses and a unique worldview more in line with today’s generation of readers.
NRAMA: The character of Devil Slayer already held a lot of darkness. His story is mired in demons, cults, and mystical powers. What does the move to the MAX line do for the character and his focus?
WS: This will be similar to the reinvention of TERROR, INC. we just finished for the MAX line. We’re excited to have Brian on board for this one, and while he’s got a keen understanding of Marvel continuity -- and would probably be comfortable working under any rating system -- the MAX line gives him a lot of room to cut loose.
BK: As a horror novelist, I’m not who’s not used to pulling his punches. So the MAX guidelines gives me room to play. I think we’ll be able to address complex, adult sociological, religious and political themes without the storytelling constraints of, say, Franklin Richards: Boy Genius (although I do love that book).
NRAMA: Payne’s powers and weapons changed a couple of times as his stories were told. Can you tell us what power set Danny has in this story?
BK: No powers. In truth, when we first meet his character, Danny has lost faith in just about everything—including costumed heroes with powers. He believes that a lot of the world’s current problems are partially their fault. So he has no mutant abilities. No gamma irradiation or radioactive spider bites or possession by Captain Universe. All he has are his wits, his military training, and his own determination to see things through. That being said, there are some similarities to the original Devil Slayer. He has a cape, although it’s not magical. And in the story’s setting, he’s got access to just about every type of weapon you can imagine.
NRAMA: Devil Slayer has had more than one run-in with the last Dead of Night star, Man-Thing. Can fans look for more of that in this series? What about any of his old pals from the Defenders? (After all, Hellstorm has been MAX-ed recently, as well…)
BK: Not in these initial four issues, at least (although eagle-eyed readers will spot a link to Hellstorm that might prove a harbinger of things to come). Old-school Marvelites will be pleased to know that they’ll see a darker, more sinister version of Bloodstone, as well as some subtle nods to some of the more obscure Marvel horror staples like Gideon the Devil Hunter. But no Man Thing or Son of Satan directly (although I’d kill to cut loose on either of those characters).
NRAMA: Is Kaare Andrews just doing the character designs, or the full art chores? If not, can you tell us who is?
WS: Kaare will be completing covers for the series. Chris Samnee, whose terrific artwork can be seen in Daredevil: Blood of the Tarantula, will be completing interiors.
NRAMA: Devil Slayer is a somewhat obscure character with a 30+ year background; how new-reader friendly will this series be?
BK: Extremely reader-friendly. You can pick this up with absolutely no knowledge of the previous Devil Slayer and you won’t miss a thing.
WS: I try to make sure that every book that I edit is new-reader-friendly. As we’re reinventing the character here, it will be 100% new-reader-friendly.
NRAMA: Brian, you mentioned on your website that this story takes place on the front-lines of Iraq. Did your Navy background bring you to this setting?
BK: Somewhat, I’m sure. That sense of camaraderie and brotherhood (even during peace time)—there’s no way to accurately and truly understand it unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. So that certainly plays into it. But I think more than my own experiences, I’m drawing on the experiences of readers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who have written to me over the past few years. They’re never far from my mind.
NRAMA: Brian, your “dream” to work for Marvel Comics is fulfilled. Has it been fun enough so far to steal you away from horror novels again in the future for more stories?
BK: Oh, hell yes. Warren’s already sick of me begging to write another one. (laughs)