Over twenty years before the debut of Marvel's Daredevil, there was another masked figure with that name fighting crime. And now after a half-century in Matt Murdock's shadow, Gail Simone is looking to give the original Daredevil his due.
Death Defying 'Devil #1 by Simone and her long-time collaborator Walter Geovani presents the two-colored hero as a "stripped-down badass" with a spiked belt and razor-sharp boomerangs. Simone, who currently writes DC's Flash 100-Page Giant featuring Captain Boomerang, said Death Defying 'Devil is a change for her to do a very different kind of book than what she's known for.
Simone spoke with Newsarama ahead of Death Defying 'Devil #1's August 7 debut, talking about the hero, the legacy, and the coolness of wielding a boomerang.
Newsarama: Gail, what's your take on the Death-Defying 'Devil?
Gail Simone: You know, one of the things I love about doing other genres than superheroes is, if you write a Conan story, Conan is pretty much on his own trying to resolve the issue. As much as I love working in the big universes, we are always wondering, “Okay, Hawkman has to fight off an alien attack…where’s Superman? Where’s Green Lantern?”
So I love these pulp-y heroes and golden agers who are really more on their own. I mean, there’s a lot of wonderful history with ‘Devil’s current iteration, but I love the idea of a guy tacking a problem without backup. To me, it wouldn’t even occur to him to call for help. He’s got that World War II can-do attitude. I love that he’s an urban vigilante who goes out fighting serious criminals with nothing but his fists and boomerangs, that kind of guy is always immensely appealing to me.
If you take Daredevil or Batman, take away their gimmicks and allies and chatter, you have this stripped-down badass, the Death-Defying ‘Devil.
That’s the guy I want to write, the guy who doesn’t have a cell phone in 2019.
I also think, but for some economic twists of fate, ‘Devil could have been one of the icon characters. He was tremendously popular, his book sold six million copies an issue at one point! We could easily be looking at Keanu Reeves playing him in a blockbuster movie. He has all those elements of a forever character. I am writing that guy that I think he should have become.
Nrama: I have to admit - I can't hold back from asking about the boomerang. Such a cool weapon, for me as a kid and now as an adult. As a writer, how much fun are you having of thinking of ways to use it?
Simone: Ha! I’ve been writing the Flash for the 100-page giant books for DC Comics and just had Captain Boomerang in it, and it really is a different approach, he uses it to do as much damage as possible, but how do you throw a razor-edged boomerang, as 'Devil does, and not just immediately kill the target?
It’s fun stuff. There is something wonderful about a boomerang, even a batarang is the same principle. You hold one, you want to throw one.
Nrama: Has Dynamite's Nick Barrucci figured out a way to get tie-in boomerangs for you to have at appearances?
Simone: This might be my favorite interview question ever. I would kill for a ‘Devil Boomerang.
Nrama: Back to more serious questions... what is Bart Hill up against in this story?
Simone: It’s essentially Rod Serling. I’m not kidding, either. Bart gets the living crap kicked out of him, and winds up in a boarding house where the poor tenants are essentially under siege by a criminal slumlord. But the house has secrets, some good, some horrid. And the ‘Devil is the only person who is willing to help these people.
It’s not like any superhero story I’ve ever told, there’s a real Outer Limits/Twilight Zone feel to it.
Nrama: This sounds like a bit of a haunted house story with the Winslow House. How would you describe the building, and its history?
Simone: It was once a home for gracious living, almost a mansion. But the area deteriorated, it’s in a rough, rough neighborhood, and a terrible crime was committed there that has left footprints on all the remaining tenants. There’s a faded b-movie actress, a disabled veteran, a woman suffering from PTSD, and they literally have nowhere else to go. They’re being forced out of their home by people who would kill them in a second if they had the chance, and then the ‘Devil shows up on the doorstep.
I love it, there’s a High Noon element to it that really appeals to me.
Nrama: This sounds like a bit of Kung Fu Hustle meets Assault on Precinct 13. What is the bigger story here?
Simone: That…that’s a very cool idea you just described. I would say the thing here is that no one, not even the ‘Devil, is remotely prepared for what’s coming.
It becomes a siege. What does a guy with boomerangs do when there’s an all out assault and innocents to protect?
Nrama: And for this, you are reunited with your trusted friend Walter Geovani. Together you two have done Clean Room, Red Sonja, and a bit of Tarzan - but I believe this is his first superhero story. What do you see as his strengths that you're calling upon for Death-Defying 'Devil?
Simone: A big part of why I wanted to do this is because of getting to work with Walter Geovani again. He’s more than an artist, he’s a partner, we always know we have each other’s backs, creatively. He always brings what’s in my head to the page, but better. Writers say this kind of stuff all the time, but this is a partnership that’s gone on for years and I hope goes on forever.
Walter wants to draw superheroes, it’s something he’s been wanting to do. So this is really celebratory for me, I get to write one of my favorite classic kickass characters, and Walter gets to strut his stuff with superheroes for the first time ever.
Nrama: And your strengths - are there certain things in this, surprising or obvious, that this hits upon in your own favorite things to write?
Simone: I think people will be surprised by this book, people are used to a lot of irreverence and banter from me. But that’s not what the ‘Devil is, he’s the guy you call when the wolves are at the door. He’s the guy who will throw hands when everyone else walks away.
So it’s a very different tone from me, the people who have read it were very surprised!
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with Death-Defying Devil?
Simone: I would love to see him take his place in comics, to regain a bit of that luster that he had. You know, his pedigree is some of the best creators in comics, and everything about him still works…he shows up in 2019 wearing the same outfit he wore during WW2 and he still looks scary and dangerous.
That’s pretty cool. I want to share that with new readers.