The Devil’s In the Details
Horror fiction has repeatedly focused on the intrepid lone exorcist who determinedly waged a holy war against demonic possession, no matter what the personal cost. But Joshua Hale Fialkov is upping the ante: seven exorcists comprise humanity’s last line of defense... and they’re not waging war against a single demon, but against Satan and his entire unholy army in The Devilers.
Fialkov explained the premise of the series: “Seven of the world's greatest exorcists must team up to fight the forces of darkness when the deal between our world and hell breaks apart. It's a crazy big concept, right?”
“The concept for The Devilers was developed in-house,” Dynamite senior editor Joseph Rybandt explained, “and then further fleshed out with Joshua and Matt [artist Matt Triano] designing the characters once they were brought on board. From my perspective, I was looking to help craft a classic team book ala the glory days runs of the Uncanny X-Men or Teen Titans, only with a lot of fire and brimstone in place of mutant/teen angst.”
“The idea is that, for essentially all of human history, we've had a pact with the underworld,” Fialkov continued. “Heaven, Earth, and Hell are in a real estate war. Earth has been kept more or less out of it, except for when we die, then, Heaven and Hell can fight over our souls. We have... let's call them peace treaties with both sides. But, as our story starts, that treaty has been broken by the underworld, and our team is sent to find out why and by whom. Let's just say, there's a new boss... and he's much worse than the old boss.”
Who are these seven exorcists—where are they from, what experiences do they bring, do they have any history together, and are they all necessarily on the same page regarding their mission? “Well, each of them are replacing their predecessors,” Fialkov said. “There's people born with certain... skills, let's say, that make each of them the right and most powerful person of their faith. Some of our characters have no idea about their destinies when the story starts; some of them have been training their whole lives for this moment. Those who've prepared and those who haven't are definitely not on an even playing field, that's for sure!”
Most stories of exorcism are rather personal tales--the struggle for one soul against demonic forces. The Devilers escalates the threat to a whole new level, doesn’t it? “Oh sure, I think the idea that it's no longer about individual souls, but about the greater good and the whole world—or even the whole universe—puts these characters way above their pay grade. It's going to be a fight for the ages.”
Is there a strategy behind what seems like a major Dynamite emphasis on horror in recent months? “We’re strong in every genre, but I guess with flagship titles like Vampirella and Red Sonja, we’re going to circle around horror and fantasy more than most,” Rybandt said. “Now, specifically to The Devilers, it’s not splatter horror, but more old-school religious horror. The tagline around the office was ‘The Magnificent Seven meets The Exorcist,’ and while those movies may be a little old for your younger readers, they are high water marks of their respective genres and each masterpieces of filmmaking.”
Sagas of metaphysical wars for the sake of humanity have become more accepted in the mass media--shows like Supernatural are built around it, in fact. Why is this a more common theme today? Do turbulent times make people more willing to entertain thoughts of grand manifestations of evil? “I think everyone wants clean cut answers,” Fialkov replied. “There's no yes or no any more. If you look at political scandals today versus even twenty years ago... Bill Clinton having sex with an intern, definitely wrong. Richard Nixon's role in Watergate, definitely wrong. But, Barack Obama letting the NSA spy on us to prevent terrorism... not so clear cut, right? Even the rationale behind terrorism is so complicated that, while the act itself is completely evil, what's around it, what motivates it, is far more complicated. So, just like with zombies in popular culture, people hanker to see an obvious bad guy, a definitive 'other' that's someone we can root against.”
Most exorcism fiction is strongly religious in tone, and is often Revelation-based--will readers see any of that in The Devilers? “We tried to balance it so it's not just Judeo-Christian end times, but to include the other faiths and some of their religious iconography,” Fialkov explained.”In fact, I'd say that, tonally, we're a bit closer to the Mahabharata, with its atomic wars and distorted heroes. The one thing that unites just about all religions, from Islam to Scientology is this idea of great destruction and betrayal that's built into the foundation of the world. I don't know if there's a sociological explanation for it, other than it answers to some of our mistrust of the world at large.”
How does The Mahabharata influence work within the Satan framework, since Hinduism has no direct Satan equivalent? Even the asuras,to whom evil happenings are often ascribed, are not wholly evil; and the devas can be guilty of some pretty vicious actions at times. Is it tougher to incorporate a polytheistic faith like Hinduism into a metaphysical struggle that seems to be, at its heart, dualistic? “Right—and that's kind of the point,” Fialkov said. “There are arbitrary rules about who's good and who's bad and who's right and who's wrong, and each religion frames those questions differently. Getting to play with that approach with the basic dualities of faith has given us a lot of very, very fun stuff to play with.”
The Devilers is the latest high-profile project for Fialkov, who has done work for (among others) Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Oni, and now Dynamite. What’s changed with today's market that is making it more possible for top-tier talents to work simultaneously at a variety of publishers? “Well, it's a very different era than the old days,” Fialkov said. “I think just like it's less likely to work at some office job for twenty years—the age of being company men and women is over. We've had enough guiding lights the past few decades who've shown us that the key to success is to build your own empires. Whether it's the Image founders or Eastman & Laird or Robert Kirkman, the message has been well received by my generation of writers. Find places that let you make great stuff and let you be happy, and you'll be successful. I couldn't be luckier than with the amazing places I get to work at and for.”
”I think we’ve always been known for attaching the right talent to the right project and working with top tier creators across the line,” Rybandt added.
“For us, it’s all about the right voice for the book, both in the covers, writing and art. We generally tend to start with the writer and in this case, the concept was in hand and we reached out to Josh and he was interested and made time in his very busy schedule to make it work.
"Devilers with Joshua (Hale Fialkov) is the first in a line of books that are new properties that are creator driven. The retailers and fans know the Dynamite brand and the top tier creators coming on board, and it's focused heavily on the writers. We're beginning with Joshua, but we'll be rolling out in the next few months books with Peter Milligan, James Robinson, Rick Remender, Duane Swierczynski, Andy Diggle, Angela Cruickshank and more high profile writers with strong art teams, but the characters and teams will all be new, all introduced for the first time in their respective series. Creatively these are risks, but risks with great creators, so we decided that this would be a good time to take a financial risk as well. The Devilers is kicking off this initiative. While I'm fairly certain that we would do well at the current MSRP of $3.99, we wanted to give the books the best chance to get the widest audience possible, and we decided that would be to have the cover price at $2.99. This will allow more consumers to check out the series as anyone on the fence should be able to try it out. And we're also making this as risk free as possible for retailers. We're making the first issue of each series fully returnable, with no thresholds, no hoops, just order what you feel you can sell and help hand sell to your fans, and whatever you can't sell, you can return. If we can grow the audience, it's a win-win for everyone."
The Devilers #1, written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and illustrated by Matt Triano, is scheduled forJuly 16th release with an MSRP of $2.99. Jock provides the main cover art; in addition, Dynamite is offering a 1-for-50 Marc Silvestri exclusive variant art cover and a 1-for-100 black and white variant version of the Silvestri cover.
Reprinted from CSN with permission.