Phil Hester Takes THE DARKNESS On His Darkest Days Yet
Phil Hester Closes THE DARKNESS Run
Someone once said never look a gift horse in the mouth, but when the gift is a supernatural curse like the Darkness at some point you have to start raising questions. And after fifteen years of carrying the burdens and the benefits that being the Darkness bearer have had for mobster Jackie Estacado, he’s thrown off the mantle and set his sights on the heart of the Darkness to protect his family.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about this upcoming issue, The Darkness #96?
Anyway, we get Romano Molenaar back on art duties, so we're playing to his strengths and throwing Jackie into realms that accentuate Romano's gift for fantasy.
Nrama: Jackie has been living with the Darkness for years – what is pushing him now to confront the dark forces that empower him?
Nrama: As strong as Jackie might be, he’s just an ordinary guy without the Darkness powers. What gives him the idea he’ll have a chance fighting the one thing that makes him more then a normal man?
Nrama: Can you tell us about the dimension the Darkness lives in, and what obstacles Jackie has once inside?
Hester: Well, it's best to think of it as a world unto itself. It contains multiple realities, all created by and controlled by the Darkness. This hellish dimension is where all past Darkness wielders are condemned to spend eternity, as are any of their victims judged corrupt enough to share their torment. It's a kind of nightmarish afterlife where hundreds of generations of Darkness wielders vie for supremacy, each staking out fiefdoms where they can, all part of the Darkness' very body. It's a never ending orgy of destruction and torment that Jackie has to work his way through, each level reflecting some inner turmoil of his own.
Hester: That's hard to say. I'd like to say I've made Jackie more relatable and his adversaries more interesting. I gave him some friends that actually lived through the experience, and some enemies who matched his power level. I suppose the challenge when writing a franchise character is to provide the change needed for character growth while staying true to the core concept. In Jackie's case it meant him becoming more self-aware, but remaining a complete and utter bastard.
Nrama: What would you say are the most personal moments for you in the series?
Hester: Well, it takes pace in The Darkness #99, so it's tough to talk about it without spoiling things. Let's just say Jackie gets a life review of sorts and makes some connections he thought were lost to him forever.
Besides that, it was probably the issue I wrote from the point of view of a mercenary sent to assassinate Jackie. We told it in the form of a long voicemail the hit-man leaves his daughter when he thinks he's about to die at Jackie's hand. I hope that story spoke to my larger goal in taking on the series. All along I've been trying to humanize some (sometimes literally) inhuman characters. By providing little details about their everyday existence, by giving them understandable motivations and desires, I hope I gave their actions some more heft.
Hester: It's time. Outside of Green Arrow, my run on The Darkness is the longest I've worked on any series, as artist or writer. If I can't spit out what I need to in 36 issues and almost four years, I should give up! Honestly, Matt Hawkins, Marc Silvestri, Filip Sablik and Rob Levin all took a huge chance when they brought me on board. I don't think they wanted to rehab the character or anything, because the book was always a fantastic concept, but I think they were eager to see what new ground we could cover. I hope I provided that, and now it's time to let David Hine shine his light under the rocks of the Top Cow universe and see what's growing there.
Hester: It's a nice, round number. It feels like a landmark and a good platform for David's launch. Looking back now, I'm very grateful for all the talented people I got to work with, especially Michael Broussard, Sheldon Mitchell, Jorge Lucas, and all the brilliant pinch-hitters who've stepped in to draw an issue or an arc. I feel like an anniversary issue gets this changing of the guard the attention it deserves. Let me know if you agree when you actually get your hands on #100, folks.