Joshua Hale Fiakolv: Tackling an established character like The Darkness is a completely different exercise than what I do most of the time. I spend most of my time working on my esoteric, singular, creator owned books, squirreled away in a corner where all fear to tread. But, I like to that it’s because of my time spent working on my own stuff that I can come into a character and give a fresh take.
Or at least that’s what I tell my editors.
The truth of it is that it’s a helluva lot of fun to write characters you already know and love. It’s partially out of laziness, I mean, I know what the Darkness can do, I know what he sounds like, I know how he approaches situations. The challenge becomes putting that character with those strengths and weaknesses in an interesting setting.
When I came to Filip Sablik with my pitch for High Noon, I was knee deep in the research for another western book, and watching three or four Western Noir’s a day (Day of the Stranger is one of the best films ever made, go watch it, please.) And the obvious pun of a character who’s power comes from the Darkness having a gun fight at the only time, you’d think, you can have a gun fight, just stuck with me. How would the Darkness face that huge obstacle?
Now, I figured I’d push my luck, and go for one of the former Darkness bearers. This lets me be freer with the character, and allows us to go for broke, because, y’know, we’re not going to kill Jackie off, but we may just throw Ramon down a hole to die.
The next step for me, which I think Matt can attest to, was figuring out what it meant for The Darkness to exist in the old west. A place of wide open spaces and blaring, sun-drenched sands. How would he adapt? What would that life be.
For me, the answer is he moves from pueblo to pueblo, taking over the village until they figure out he’s vulnerable in the sunlight, and then doing it all over again. Which gives us our beginning, Ramon totally unafraid and unimpressed by the hangman’s noose in the afternoon sun. Late afternoon sun, that is.
Matt Timson: Josh’s initial description of Ramon, although pretty cool, sounded like my worst nightmare to draw: bandanas made of scorpions, spurs made of gila monsters and lots and lots of knives, chains and hooks. It all sounded good in theory, but I knew that I’d lose the plot if I had to keep that going from panel to panel, page to page- so I went for a more streamlined version instead. I wanted him to still look like a cowboy, for the most part- but one that would make you s**t your pants if he looked across the room at you.Personally, I would s**t my pants if I thought that this guy was looking at me.
After the initial concept, there was some talk of a poncho (Josh was keen for the thunderbird motif on it. I didn’t really like it mixed with the duster, though (Which I definitely wanted to keep), so we compromised and I put the thunderbird on the back of the duster instead. You’ll also notice extra guns, ammo and knives on the second revision- something that I sneakily reduced down to the ammo belts once drawing got underway. I kept waiting for somebody to call me on it, but nobody ever did- so I just carried on!
I soon realised that Ramon was a lot less conflicted than Jackie is and I wanted to reflect that in his appearance- which is why he quickly ended up looking a lot more demonic. I was really given a lot of freedom with the way that pretty much everyone and everything looked, to be honest- which I really appreciated.
Fialkov: From there, for me, I wanted to show readers who’d never read a Western why exactly I love the genre. The idea of not having anything but your gun to protect you is... slightly off. This was an age of machines and innovation, and, if you’re the Darkness that means you can do all kinds of crazy steampunks stuff. Like the dynamite launcher and gatling gun.
Timson: I remember the day that I showed a friend the panel where we first see Ramon’s horse and gatling guns. I was really pleased with it- until he pointed me in the direction of the Jonah Hex trailer- and then I was really quite miserable! Nobody’s ever going to look at that design and not think that we ripped it off! By the time we got around to doing the cover, I asked if we could leave them out, for exactly that reason. Being a natural born party pooper, I also talked Josh out of dynamite launchers (also attached to the horse) just because it seemed like a lot less hassle to throw a stick of dynamite than to fire it out of some kind of convoluted launcher. I obviously think about this stuff a bit too much.
Fialkov: And for the record, I wrote the gatling gun LONG before the Jonah Hex movie did a less awesome version.
Timson: I absolutely loved the Obscuritos and knew exactly how I would draw them from the outset. They were based on a character doodle from way back that’d never really found a suitable home. As far as I was concerned, he was tailor made for the the role of Obscurito and I was pleased to be able to use him at last!
Fialkov: So, considering all of these things, what it would mean to not only have the power of a god, but to be able to craft new life out of nothing, little obedient servants (known in the regular Darkness as Darklings, but here as Obscuritos), would mean, hey, no need for a gang, which means...
Bam. There’s your story. Ramon Estecado is a scumbag who finds himself face to face with the gang he abandoned, forced to face them in broad daylight. And, because no hero worth his weight fights his equal, they’ve been cursed, turned into half man, half demon.
If that’s not a Western you can get behind, I don’t know what is.
The Darkness #90 continues Jackie’s story on March 2,, 2011