Mary Shelley's Frankenstein had an overlooked subtitle - "The Modern Prometheus" - and prose novelist Victor LaValle is creating a 2017 modern monster sequel to the classic text at BOOM! with Destroyer.
LaValle is partnering with artist Dietrich Smith on a modern-day story about Frankenstein's Monster and the descendants of Edward Frankenstein, but cast against the tragic recent trend of black men, women, and children being gunned down by police.
LaValle primed himself for comics with a short in the Clive Barker anthology Hellraiser: Bestiary, and with Destroyer he is creating a story specifically for comic books. With the first issue of the six-part series scheduled to debut May 24, Newsarama spoke with LaValle about this modern-day update and the world it lives in.
Newsarama: Victor, who or what is the Destroyer?
Victor LaValle: The Destroyer is our central character, Dr. Jo Baker. She's the direct descendant of Edward Frankenstein, the only member of the Frankenstein clan who survives at the end of Mary Shelley's classic novel. Dr. Baker has taken up the family business, if you will, of being a "mad" scientist. While there are many threats to the world in this comic - including the original Monster and a 21st-century android - she's the one whose decisions will have the greatest repercussions.
Nrama:This revisits Mary Shelley's story of Frankenstein and his monster. What brought you back to this now legendary story?
LaValle: While the character of Frankenstein's Creation is eternally famous, Mary Shelley's novel is surprisingly under-read for such a seminal work. This made me wonder if I might be able to dig into the book and hotwire it for a very 21st-century story that I wanted to tell. The book, the story and the ideas, is just so rich that you can keep coming back to it if you do it right. So that's what I did.
Nrama: In BOOM!'s marketing, it’s said this seizes on current events in North America. What are they, and how do you approach them?
LaValle: While the book is plenty entertaining, this story was conceived in the wake of the more recent series of police shootings of black men, women, and children. Hell, there was another one just this past few weeks. Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old boy killed in a car, shot in the head by a cop with a rifle. Unfortunately, the real world keeps making those current events stay current. Sadly, this book will be relevant for many years to come.
Nrama: So you have Dr. Jo Baker – the Destroyer – but who are the primary characters all together?
LaValle: Our three main characters are Dr. Jo Baker, who I mentioned above; her son Akai, who was murdered by the Chicago Police and then brought back to life by his mother using modern technology (plus a little of the old Frankenstein magic); and the Frankenstein's Monster himself. The Monster had been living in isolation down in Antarctica, minding his own business, but an encounter with a whaling vessel draws him back into contact with humanity. And he is pissed.
Nrama: You did one comic prior to this - a short in 2014's Hellraiser: Bestiary. How'd you first get brought into comic books, and what led from Bestiary to your own original series?
LaValle: I had the incredible honor of doing that short for one of the seminal writers of my life, Mr. Clive Barker. I worked on that piece with an editor at BOOM!, Chris Rosa, and we had a good time hammering it out. He said that if I ever had an idea he'd be happy to hear a pitch. About two years later I pitched Destroyer. The folks at BOOM! were as excited about it as I was. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work from there.
Nrama:You're working here with Dietrich Smith, coming from prose where you decide what your story looks like. What's giving over trust - and the final form of the story - for Dietrich to illustrate?
LaValle: I'm such a controlling person! Just ask my younger sister. Ask my students. I really assume I always know what's best. I think my first script was, let's say, detailed. Then I got a look at just the opening page of the first issue and I understood how lucky I was to be working with Dietrich. My note probably said, "The Monster is sitting on an iceberg in the Antarctic." That's it. Take a look at the opening image that Dietrich came up with. Good God. It's majestic. I said a few prayers of thanks and got over myself. I am incredibly lucky to be working with him, as well as our colorist, Joana Lafuente, and for the amazing covers by Micaela Dawn. Plus, we got a Brian Stelfreeze variant cover!
Not to oversell this, but Dietrich’s pages are going to melt your brain. Also, the man knows how to make a heart being punched out a chest look downright beautiful.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for Destroyer?
LaValle: The point is to thrill you and make you think seriously. In a world where Captain America has lost his way, Destroyer is here to show you how it's done.