Not only did I get a chance to read the first few issues of the upcoming Demonic series, but I also had a chance to hit up writer Christopher Sebela (High Crimes, We(l)come Back) with some questions about the series. And you’re going to love it!
Demonic starts out as a classic cop drama, but there’s a weird undertone of demonic possession and a palpable presence of evil in the urban setting. The main characters are Scott and Dani, plainclothes beat cops who’ve been partners on the street for years. When a murder suspect bars herself in her apartment and drops the name Novo, Scott forces his way in for a private conversation, risking his life. But the murderer might be possessed or, worse, she might be evil itself, as she tells the cop “You’re already dead, just no one bothered to tell you.”
Things then spin out of control for family man Scott, with the beautiful Aeshma showing up and offering a devil’s bargain of a life for a soul, and the story takes a decidedly dark twist as we learn about Scott’s background and his childhood. A childhood spent partially with the cult-like Novo clergy. A childhood that broke him, however much he seeks to heal or deny his past…
TFAW: What’s the inspiration for the Demonic series? It’s a powerful storyline!
Christopher Sebela: Thanks! Well, Demonic originally happened long before I showed up. Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri did the original #1 issue way back in 2009 as part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season. When I got asked to come on board and write the whole story, there was a lot of back and forth between myself, my editor Sean Mackiewicz and Robert. While we all liked that original #1 issue, we eventually came to the decision to take the foundation and rebuild it from the ground up.
So, for me, the inspiration was very much about someone who appears to the world as a paragon of sorts and all the ugly things that everyone hides away under their exterior. Scott Graves is a cop, a husband, a father, he seemingly has it all, but he’s barely holding on to all of it. He’s had a lot of rough patches and is trying to be a better person, and the demons inside him become a bit more literal.
TFAW: You chose a male protagonist to have a dark side as manipulated by Aeshma. Why male?
Sebela: Scott Graves was already in place as the protagonist when I came on board, so I didn’t have a lot of choice there, but I thought it was an interesting dynamic to play with. Scott is, at first glance, very much the clean-cut, all-american generic hero-type dude role. And there’s nothing I love more than scraping away at that and showing how messed up people like that actually are when no one is looking. With Scott, it became about how he kind of deflects all the bad stuff he’s done onto other people in his life.
His partner, Dani, he pushes her away because of their past together. His wife and his daughter, he loves them, but he did wrong by them and maybe he kind of blames them for how hard he has to work at being a good person now. And Aeshma is the woman in his life of kind of exemplifies how he sees it all, a demon on his back who won’t let him forget who he is and what he did. It’s not a book that’s a huge screed about all this, but as tiny little subtle signifiers, I think it allows a couple of different ways to read into everything.
TFAW: What city do you have in mind as the setting? New York, perhaps?
Sebela: Yeah. At first I was going to sort of set it in “Anycity, USA” but the more I dug into Scott’s background and all the secrets that make up his life, it felt like a good match to put him in a city that gives off its own vibe of “greatest city in the world” but has a lot of corruption hidden away under the things we usually see in postcards and movies. NYC is a city that tears its past down and builds over it constantly, always trying to improve, always projecting a certain image, but it can never wipe away all those things that plagued it for so long. And still plague it. It’s very much is who Scott is, a guy who gives off one impression to everyone around him, but has a lot of ugliness tucked away under the surface.
TFAW: Really love Niko Walter’s art in this story too. How did you connect with him?
Sebela: That’s all due to my editor, Sean. He ran across Niko as we were working on the story and had that magic editorial eye that saw how his pages and my pages could come together to form something new and better. Collaboration is a weird alchemy and you can never tell exactly how it’s going to work out until you both get your hands dirty and start making the thing. Once I saw Niko’s initial pages, I was pretty excited about the kind of book Demonic was about to become.
TFAW: Scott’s blade hand seems very Wolverine-like. An inspiration?
Sebela: My head was a lot more in the horror sphere when working on Demonic, so I’d say Freddy Kreuger was a much more potent inspiration for me. The blades Scott wields as Demonic aren’t a part of him. They could just as easily have been bought at a flea market and shaped into the weapons he uses. I think there’s something infinitely more frightening about that, about knives as a whole, how they can be used, all the damage they can inflict while still leaving the victim alive. I think Wolverine would be way less likely to cut off pieces of a person with his claws than Scott is when he puts on his weapons.
TFAW: Who do you think is going to fall in love with this new series?
Sebela: Definitely horror fans. And not just slasher enthusiasts, but the kind of slow burn horror in movies like The Babadook or The Witch, where you feel unsettled from the get-go but it’s no so much about the jump scare and the screaming as it is about the squirmy feelings and kind of mumbling “oh no” to themselves. People who like dramas like Breaking Bad or The Americans or Mr. Robot — anything that really gets in up to its waist in characters that feel real and slightly broken and seeing how they react when thrown into situations that are well beyond anything they’ve had to deal with before. I wouldn’t have signed on if there wasn’t the opportunity to really dig in to Scott and his family and his job and pick at the threads of these things to see what kind of corruption I can find.
TFAW: What other books are you working on right now?
Sebela: Right now I’ve got Heartthrob with Robert Wilson IV and Nick Filardi coming out from Oni Press, a sort of lighthearted romance/crime book about heart transplants and semi-imaginary boyfriends. Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and I have joined forces again after our book We(l)come Back. We’re doing a book at Stela that’s a grindhouse version of Thelma & Louise. I’m also working on a two-issue Killer Croc story for DC’s Suicide Squad: Most Wanted that I’m really excited for people to see. Lastly, I’ll be putting out a non-fiction book about the time I lived in Tonopah, Nevada’s Clown Motel for a whole month. And I have secret stuff I cannot talk about or someone will hurt me.
TFAW: What comic books are you enjoying right now?
Sebela: Right now I’m really digging Shawn Aldridge and Scott Godlewski’s The Dark and Bloody. Easily one of the best horror books being put out. Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham’s The Violent as I’m a big crime geek and Ed is a master of that. Kate Leth and Brittany Williams’ Hellcat is never not completely fun and a nice change of pace from my usual doom and gloom. Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus is great and has been great through its whole run. Josh Williamson and Andrei Bressan’s Birthright is a fantasy book and I don’t normally like fantasy stuff, but it’s so well done I have no choice. Pretty Deadly and Bitch Planet from Kelly Sue are both masterpieces. Wicked + Divine. Sex Criminals. Harrow County. I have so many books on my list that are so good that they make me mad they’re that good. And they make me want to be better. But mostly mad.
Thanks for the informative interview, Christopher! And readers, grab a pre-order of Demonic #1 now, while you can. We think they’re going to go fast!