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Baker's Dozen
Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill Baker.

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BAKER'S DOZEN for 09/10/2003
By The Demon Driven
Josh Dysart on The Demon: Driven Out mini-series

After his scripts for Hurricane Entertainment's runaway hit, Violent Messiahs, established his standing as a writer worth watching, a lot of folks wondered what Josh Dysart's next move might be after he finished working on that book's sequel, Violent Messiahs: Lamenting Pain. Well, the answer wasn't long in coming, and the resulting project, The Demon: Driven Out, goes on sale later today.

Since this marks Josh's first foray into doing work for a mainstream publisher, I thought it'd be the perfect time to talk with him about the new series and its origins, whether his approach to a company owned character differed greatly from his previous experiences, and inquire what he's got planned for the future. As you're about to discover for yourself, the answers Josh gave provided a lot of surprises, as well as a lot to look forward to.

Violent Messiahs: Book of Job Bill Baker: The first issue of your The Demon: Driven Out mini-series for DC hits the racks today. How'd you land the gig, and what are some of the reasons you took the assignment?

Joshua Dysart: Dan Didio liked Violent Messiahs so he approached Tone Rodriguez (the artist on VM) and I. There was some conceptual back and forth between DC and us, and finally Dan tossed The Demon out on the table.

I wrote a proposal, Joan Hilty got a hold of it and came on board as the editor. By the time everything was a go, Tone had become attached to John Carpenter's The Snake Pliskin Chronicles and was out of the running, so she brought Pop Mahn on board and we were off.

BB: How'd you feel about Dan's suggestion that you tackle Etrigan, and how much room did you get to play with the character?

JD: I was ecstatic to work on The Demon. We're talking about a character created by Jack Kirby who has since passed through the creative filters of Matt Wagner, Alan Moore, Alan Grant, Garth Ennis, etc. Because of all these great visionaries working on him, the character has ended up with a strong tradition of personal interpretation. I not only have room to come up with my own unique take; it's expected of me ... it's the mission statement.

BB: What can you tell us about the series, and your take on the titular character?

JD: Expect over the top mysticism, violence, the yakuza, a cool chick with a tattoo, a sadomasochistic demon (that's a given), exploding cars and techno-magic. It's the kind of piece where the creators promise shit like, "Issue #4 has the most unique demonic exorcism in the history of global fiction!!"

The ultimate goal is to craft all of that so that it ultimately illuminates character. I think Pop and I succeed. We'll see.

As far as Etrigan himself goes, I've depicted him as this slithering mass of muscle and boiling piss; bred and raised in the dark lava decorated kingdom of lies. He's inherently eased by suffering, both other's and his own. He's an evil murderous bastard. "Hell's good guy" is nowhere in sight.

The Demon: Driven Out BB: Does this tale fit into the continuity of the character and the DCU in general, or is that of secondary concern to you when it comes to telling a good story?

JD: I do tip my hat to some of The Demon's continuity, but in a very selective way. I touch on a few characters from the past. I pay lip service to the previous attempts by Jason Blood to separate himself from Etrigan, but ultimately continuity concerns are very secondary for me. The whole idea that this story fits into a larger context is interesting, but it can also be hindering.

As far as the overall DCU continuity, well, I'm even less concerned about that. I don't like the idea that this story occurs in the same universe where, daily, all these superheroes are caught up in alien invasions, the schemes of criminal masterminds, supernatural phenomena, etc. If my characters live in a world where Superman just saved all of Egypt from an ancient god of decay, and that heroic feet only makes page 13 of the New York Times, then that changes the way that the common population reacts to extraordinary situations. Placed in this context, if a Demon from hell appears in front of a person, then it's scary and life threatening, but no more so than if they were suddenly caught in an armed bank robbery. When The Demon appears in front of someone, I want that person to have been an atheist five minutes ago. I want them to be paralyzed and mumbling children's songs from their youth because everything they believe about the world has instantly been proven wrong and nothing is real. That's how I want my characters act, and that's how they do act, even though it's still, technically, the DCU.

BB: Up until now, you've been mainly known for your independent comics work. Did you face some new or different challenges working on this series, or was it pretty much business as usual for you?

JD: Uhm, well. There's been a little tightening of the reigns as far as what I can show and what I can't. Other than that, It's still pretty much the same job. I come up with an intent, I contemplate a structure, I make decisions about the nature of the narrative and then I do my best to execute it.

There are new obstacles in mainstream work to be sure, more editorial input for instance, but there's always new obstacles with every project. That's part of what makes each job a unique creative exorcise. [General laughter]

BB: Is this a sign of things to come? If so, how will that shift towards more mainstream work effect your indy output?

JD: If the mainstream will have me, I'll keep plugging away at it. I really love writing comics. There's something crazy about taking an image that's in your mind, turning it into a text description, then having it turned back into an image, this time in the physical world, by an artist who has an entirely separate set of sensibilities, motives, experiences and influences. It's just fun. I'd like to play this "game" with the best artists I can. To do that I need to achieve the highest professional level my abilities will allow.

How working in the mainstream will effect my indy output is anybody's guess. The hope is that the more mainstream work I do, the more indy output I'll produce, so that I'll feel balanced and whole. And hopefully that indy work will be a lot truer to my own intrinsic artistic sensitivity. Right now my indy stuff still wants to succeed commercially. It isn't creation for creation's sake. With the mainstream supporting me, I think I'd have the courage to become more experimental in my smaller work, which would bring me an immense amount of satisfaction.

BB: Are there any other characters at DC that you're dying to take a crack at? What about at Marvel?

JD: My natural inclination is to create original characters and original ideas, but that's not entirely possible for me right now, so then I start to think about the DC and the Marvel Universes, but I always come to the same conclusion. That is, that each character has her/his own theme, voice and potential. They all represent separate challenges creatively. I don't mean to dodge the question, but that's how I genuinely feel. I want to flex and grow as a creator, to do that I need to be able to work on anything. Now, having said all of that, there are a handful of established mainstream characters that I have a personal affinity for, but I'll just keep them to myself for now.

BB: Anything else in works -- whether it'll be released under an indy or mainstream publishing imprint -- that you can talk about at this time?

Violent Messiahs: Lamenting Pain JD: The conclusion to Violent Messiahs: Lamenting Pain came out just last week. (Sept 5th, '03 ed.) That'll be the last VM for a while, but by no means the end of the story. I'll be contributing a one shot to a new title from Archangel Studios that takes place in the same universe as The Red Star. That book is called Tales of the Red Star. Geoff Johns is doing the first issue; I'm doing the second. I just wrote a short Decoy story for Penny-Farthing Press. It'll be included in an upcoming anthology publication. Penny-Farthing Press should also be publishing my 6-issue mini-series Captain Gravity and The Power of Vril soon. Mike Lilly is fucking rocking the pencils on that book. It's my first super hero work and I wrote it two years ago, so I'm really jazzed -- and a little nervous -- to see it finally surface. I'm doing the American adaptation of a spunky cool ass manga by Hakase Mizuki called Ororon the Demon for Tokyo Pop. That's been really enjoyable. I haven't solidified my next mini-series yet. I kind of need to get on the ball and do that.

BB: What do you get out of working with DC, creatively, professionally and personally? And does doing stuff with great smaller publishers push the same buttons, or do they feed a different need entirely?

JD: Creatively, I get to play with these iconographic characters and exploit their rich histories. Professionally, DC gets my name and my sensibilities out there for a larger audience to dig on, which means I get one step closer to solidifying a lifestyle that is just one big long creative endeavor. And all of the above enriches my personal life.

On Violent Messiahs I could, relatively speaking, do anything. The process was much more organic. No pitches or breakdowns, just pure creation. I was reigned in once or twice, but that was on sensationalist stuff that just came popping out of my own perversions. As far as character and pacing decisions, that was all mine, and that's a wonderful freedom to have. I've grown a lot as a writer doing that work and it's still the closest I've come to the original intent, warts and all, I had imagined for a piece. That freedom is valuable to growth, and it's what self-publishing is all about. So yes, it's definitely serves a different purpose for me.

BB: What do you hope your readers -- both existing and newly garnered -- get out of The Demon: Driven Out?

JD: I want to deliver a character driven thrill ride. I want Ame, my protagonist, to become important to the reader and when all is said and done, for that reader to feel like they've just consumed something that was somehow both dense and light at the same time. That's not too much to ask, right? [General laughter]

BB: Anything you'd like to add before I let you go?

JD: Yeah. Vote in the next presidential election.

*****

For more information on Joshua Dysart's work on The Demon: Driven Out, check out www.dccomics.com or track him down at one of his many con appearances and ask him what he's got going on. For more on Violent Messiahs, head over to www.hurricanec.com or grab a copy here.

Oh, and don't forget to vote ... or you just might have a demonic visitation of your own.

<< 09/03/2003 | 09/10/2003 | 09/17/2003 >>

Discuss this column with me in World Famous Comics' General Forum.
Read my weekly blog, Speculative Friction, on my website BloodintheGutters.com.


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