CORNELL Teasing Mysteries of DCnU History in DEMON KNIGHTS
PAUL CORNELL Talks DEMON KNIGHTS
page 1The last time we talked with writer Paul Cornell, he detailed how his New 52 title Stormwatch is fleshing out the recent history of the DCnU.
But in his other New 52 title, Demon Knights, that history is going back even further. While it explores the medieval world of the DCU -- complete with a sword and sorcery slant -- it's still linking to what's happening in the present day of DC's other books.
Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Demon Knights features familiar faces from among established DC characters, like the Demon Etrigan, Madame Xanadu and Vandal Savage, but has added some new characters along with a few new takes on less well-known characters.
The comic has also presented a few intriguing mysteries that has fans talking, and Cornell was more than happy to address some of their questions as we talked to him about Demon Knights.
Newsarama: Paul, we've already talked about how Stormwatch reveals a lot of the history of the DCU. But you're also revealing a lot about the DCU through Demon Knights, aren't you?
Paul Cornell: We are. And it's fun to get to explore the past of the DCU and to find ways to link it to the present day.
Nrama: Do you have to coordinate this title with a lot of other writers, since you're touching upon so much of the DCU's history?
Cornell: Oh yeah! And that's actually part of the joy of it. One of the lovely things about being part of the "Edge" and "Dark" lines is that I really enjoy the company of my peers. There are so many good writers on those. And we're all in touch. We hang out.
I've been enjoying myself. I think there's an awful lot of creativity in the New 52. There are so many different flavors. That's the joy of it for me.
Nrama: We've gotten a hint that there might be a Swamp Thing show up in Demon Knights someday. Will you touch upon the history of a lot of different books?
Cornell: Only when it's apt. We're more likely to go for a big arc about something, rather than just touch on something in passing.
Nrama: You do have the little editor's footnotes.
Cornell: Oh yeah. This is part of enjoying working with Matt Idelson so much. I can assign an editor's note from him and give him a silly name in doing it.
page 2He's the chap who sprinkles jokes across my issues, often, and that's very welcome.
Nrama: You had a great debate about faith, magic and knowledge in the last issue. With this comic being so based in magic and Stormwatch being so sci-fi, it's interesting that this comic talked about the difference.
Cornell: I think, in medieval times in the DC Universe, it's a little easier, perhaps, to believe that magic is just another form of science. By the time of Lex Luthor, I couldn't have him seeing so many magic powered things without genuinely believing that there's such a thing in the world, even though he's such a rationalist. But back then, I think Al Jabr can claim that all magic is just advanced science, because he thinks it will eventually be discovered to be that.
Nrama: Will we learn more about the Horde, Mordru, and the Questing Queen, who are the main villains in this title?
Cornell: We'll learn a lot more about the Horde, because they're going to be the big bad in this title for a long time. We're not always going to be in this battle, but they'll be the background threat for a very long time.
We will soon learn what the Questing Queen's "quest" is, and why she's called that. And she's not Morgan le Fay. People have just actually assumed she is. I suppose they think there can only be one magical woman in a gown in medieval times? But no, this is not her.
And by the way, I've never said we're in Britain.
Nrama: Oh, it's not Britain?
Cornell: It's not Britain. It's not even a secret. We just didn't want to show too big a map and burden people with it, but we're somewhere in Southern France, as it would be regarded geographically now, not that France exists yet.
The Kingdom of Alba Sarum is basically where the kingdom of the Franks would be on a real world map. And that's why we're among the Visigoths, Ostrogoths and any other sort of Goths in the Gothic Empire, further south.
I always thought that since the modern DC globe had lots of countries on it that don't exist in the real world, why shouldn't the historical DC globe also, in the same way? So I've just invented the Kingdom of Alba Serum and plunked it down where big Frankish kingdoms would be.
Nrama: I think the biggest surprise to me, as a DC reader, has been how fun Vandal Savage is. A lot of writers have played him very straight in the past. When you approached the character, how did you come up with that portrayal of him, and why did you think it would fit?
Cornell: Well, I think it's part of his tone of voice. I've got Brian Blessed in my head very much when I write Vandal Savage. But not just the loud Brian Blessed, but the Shakespearian one as well. So he has this really delicate, precise tone of voice.
page 3And he knows what he wants, and he'll go and get it. And he doesn't care very much.
Actually, I think that attitude would tend to make you jolly, rather than bitter. After all, he's just spent many, many long years doing exactly what he likes.
My wife calls this -- she says I do this on panels at conventions as well in fiction all the time -- "Ha Ha Ha Bang."
To the people who are saying, "Oh, he's very jolly, isn't he?": He's not always going to be jolly.
People who remember Knight and Squire may remember "Ha Ha Ha Bang."
What we see of Vandal Savage now might not always be the case, and all these different sides belong to the same person.
But I'm very pleased at the reception for him.
Nrama: We just met Al Jabr, the medieval playboy of the group. Will we learn more about him?
Cornell: Yes. You might call him the engineer of the team.
Nrama: Why would you say that?
Cornell: Why not?
Nrama: OK, because... there's an "engineer" in another title you're writing. So... is this a hint to Al Jabr's powers or something?
Cornell: [Laughs] He doesn't have any powers. He's just a really skilled inventor.
Nrama: OK, we'll just keep it at that. Madame Xanadu and Etrigan are established characters, but somehow you made his rhyming even more cool.
Cornell: I think because he doesn't do it all the time, it just makes it better.
And I wanted him to be in armor, which I think helps. One thing I didn't like about the old Demon was the costume. I just thought it looked really odd. [Jack] Kirby draws anything to look good. But I just thought we could put some armor in it and make it look dragon-agey.
And with Madame Xanadu, we'll hear a reason why she is called by that name now. I keep seeing these little details being nitpicked on the Internet, but yes... I know "Xanadu" hasn't been around yet and all that. There's quite a nice little reason there, actually, and that's coming out. Be patient.
And you know, Pete Milligan and I have decided we're going to have a huge lunch in the near future and sort out all sorts of things Madame Xanadu-related, because we've already had several conversations. And we don't want to contradict each other.
page 4She's the Wolverine of the DC Universe. I mean, she's in how many books? She's in three books!
Nrama: You addressed Internet chatter in our Stormwatch interview too. Is it frustrating to see people jumping a little early at all these mysteries you planned to reveal more slowly?
Cornell: No, I like that they're wondering about these things, but I do want to fly a big flag to readers saying, "We thought about this stuff!"
We have considered a lot of the things you're worried about, and some of it hasn't been addressed because we're in the middle of the story, you know?
Nrama: Well, this battle started so fast and things started rolling along in the plot, but I assume we'll get all kinds of details about these characters' backgrounds, right?
Nrama: There are several mysterious characters in this book. Will we learn soon about Exoristos? Wow, that's tough to pronounce.
Cornell: I can't do it either. As she says, you need to get your tongue 'round it. The things I'm getting away with in this book...
But yeah, we're going to keep her mysterious for awhile. We've been talking about her as the "Logan" of the team. I think she's interesting because people don't know a lot about her. And we're going to drip-feed that. We're not going to blow all that at once.
Nrama: What about Horsewoman?
Cornell: There will be some big revelations soon. She's a major part of the second arc. Oops. Sorry. She survives the first arc.
Nrama: There are characters who don't?
Cornell: I always say, "Don't get too attached." There's not a guarantee for anyone.
But with Horsewoman, there's major stuff about her powers toward the end of this arc. At the moment she is, of necessity, a little divorced from the team. That will change.
She's very skittish. She travels on her own. She stays far away from everyone. It'll take her awhile to regard herself as part of anything.
So we'll get to know her slowly, as a group of people who don't even regard themselves as a team do.
Nrama: And I always did like the Shining Knight, from Grant Morrison's portrayal of her.
Cornell: Him or her.
Nrama: But Grant said it was actually "her," right? Oh wait, you haven't said in the new DC universe, have you?
Cornell: It's a him. She keeps insisting it is, anyway. Or he. Or she keeps insisting it's a him. So why aren't we taking him or her at their word?
Nrama: And it's a new universe, so who knows?
Nrama: But it looks like we'll find out more about the character in issue #4, right? Will we find out more about his/her history?
Cornell: Issue #4 of Demon Knights is going to be a really big issue. Mike Choi has delivered this wonderful art, and it's an issue where we look back to the Shining Knight's history, and forward as well. And it's where a lot of the connections with Stormwatch will start to become apparent.
page 5There are flash-forwards, there are flashbacks. We see entirely where the Shining Knight came from, and where they might be going, and what motivates them and why they're there.
We've decided with Demon Knights -- and actually, we're going to do this quite a lot -- between each arc, we'll slip in a flashback/flash-forward that will dive into individual characters in more detail.
I'm fascinated with the Shining Knight. The differences between my portrayal and Grant's portrayal: Grant's portrayal is very beautifully innocent and new, but mine, because she hasn't just leapt forward into the future, but she's lived through this enormous stretch of history, some of it very painful, she couldn't have a happy-go-lucky attitude. You know? She's much more cynical.
But you know, I think that honesty and genuineness is there underneath. I think they're the same person. It's just I couldn't imagine anybody who'd lived that long still being as light as that.
There's also, people have missed some things about the horse that are going to happen.
Nrama: Vanguard the horse?
Cornell: Yes. And that'll be a nice surprise, I think, to new readers.
Issue #4 is a big issue for Demon Knights.
And I'd like to point out something. Mike Choi's fantastic cover for that issue, with the sword through her, up in the sky, it might get obscured by the logo in the final version; I don't know. But in many ways, if it is, it's even more beautiful. There's just a bird of prey circling high above. And this is something out of the text. The bird of prey is a "Merlin." And I didn't ask him to do that; he just decided to do that.
Nrama: It also looks like a face in the clouds on that cover.
Cornell: Hmm. Really? Hmm.
It's tremendous work. And it's very different from the wonderful work that Diogenes is doing. So #4 will really look even more exciting.
Nrama: What does Diogenes bring to the comic?
Cornell: Diogenes is wonderful! I just get goosepimples from the stuff I get in my in-box all the time. He adds little things too.
Nrama: Such as?
Cornell: There's a lovely belly laugh that he's got the Shining Knight doing in a couple of issues time. And it's just beautiful.
coverAnd he's always got these little villagers in the background, doing things. And sometimes I'll just assign one of them a bit of dialogue.
The level of detail in his work is really nice. You know? You'd never doubt that there are lots of people in this village. It's great.
Nrama: And you said there are "flash-forwards?" From the past to the present?
Cornell: In issue #4, we'll be seeing flash-forwards to specific scenes from the future. I don't want to say more than that.
Nrama: We've seen solicitations going through January. We've been told that their fragile alliance is "in tatters" and someone is going to "break." Anything you can tell us about that, or anything else that's coming up?
This arc will end with the end of #7. And I've just plotted out #8 to #11. And that's an arc that's going to be set in Alba Serum, the city-state to the north. And it will tie-in big-time to another DC title.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!