Possessed by a spirit that dwells within him, charged with protecting the people of New Orleans from ghastly creatures from the beyond, Shadowman has always been a dark character. With the revival of this classic Valiant series, Patrick Zircher and Justin Jordan have “hit the refresh button,” as Zircher says below, going back to the moment when Jack begins to experience himself as the Shadowman and moving forward from there. His old nemesis, Master Darque, is still in the picture, but Jack’s more immediate problem is a horrifying new villain, Mr. Twist. I talked to Zircher, penciler and co-writer of the series, about where he and Jordan plan to take Jack. Valiant also provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of Shadowman #3.
Robot 6: How did you get this gig? And did you start out as a co-writer as well as the artist, or did that just evolve?
Patrick Zircher: Warren Simons, Valiant’s executive editor, called. Warren and I had worked together at Marvel on Thor, Iron Fist, and several other books. Warren was one of Marvel’s best, and he has always been willing to let me expand as a creator. I first began inking my own work for Warren and we talked even then about writing, too. With Valiant, from the get-go we discussed it as well as drawing. The capacity of the writing has evolved. As I’ve shown what I can do, I’m, happily, writing more.
How do you and Justin work together?
Justin and I are trying different things both in plotting and scripting and haven’t really settled on a method. If we have an idea, we bring it up regardless of who originated the page. With two voices, a bit more revision is necessary to make sure we’re harmonizing, blending together. I think I’ve just described Simon and Garfunkel.
When did Shadowman come into your life? Which iteration of the character is the one that is most familiar to you?
I read several of the early Shadowman issues back in the day. That’s my first and strongest impression of the character. Shadowman went through various changes under the previous owners. Between Justin and I, we’ve managed a synthesis and at the same time hit the refresh button.
You have a new Jack, but beyond that, what changes did you make to the original concept of Shadowman, as he existed in the first Valiant universe?
The original concept of a hero living in New Orleans, struggling with a shadow spirit, or loa, inside him, is still the same. There are quite a few secondary changes, from his parentage to his origin to his powers to his supporting cast, but none of them conflict with who Shadowman is. With Jack himself, we want to show more of a contrast between Jack and who or what the Shadow loa is. Jack is essentially hosting another life form inside him and it’s a “must” that we explore this aspect of the character.
How did you deal with the challenge of writing for two sets of readers, those who are familiar with the earlier versions of the story and those who are coming it to the first time?
Every character has a core or essence of what they are, as well as visual cues that are their own. Those remain. After that, we want to take the character forward and make something that doesn’t rely on having read the early books. Some things will be familiar to older readers and some things won’t. This isn’t a title that was suspended for 6 months or a year. Shadowman has come back a generation later. It’s time for new things too.
What new visual elements are you bringing to the character?
We based him off of the early version and built from that. The mask is a bit more dramatic and skull-like, components were added to the body suit’s gloves, boots, and sleeves. He has two gris-gris pouches now and, most dramatically, a scythe-like Sengese blade. The blade is based on ritual swords from the voodoo regions of West Africa and comes to Shadowman as part of his heritage.
What about Twist? How did you come up with the concept and visuals for him?
Twist is composed of dozens of human bodies, lumped into a massive form. At the same time, the spark that ignited his existence came from the educated, sophisticated Master Darque. The result is a horrifying but somewhat urbane monster. In addition to stressing Twist’s urbanity through dialogue, we gave him a fine, outrageous, big, white tailored suit. In some way he’s inspired by the crazy villains of Batman comics, characters like Two-Face, Clayface and the Joker.
New Orleans is a very rich setting — how do you plan to take advantage of it or work it into the story?
New Orleans is a terrific setting. In the first arc, the French Quarter and the seawall at Lake Pontchartrain are seen, as well as a likeness of Baron Samedi. But aspects of the city can become cliche if they’re all thrown at the reader at once. The city will be a presence but we intend to work it in gradually.
By the end of Issue 2, Jack is still just getting used to his powers and his new life. What is the shape of this story? How long is the first arc and where will he be at the end of it?
The first arc is four issues, and it brings us to Jack realizing that his life has truly changed. Comic characters have been explored with more depth for the last 30 years and it wouldn’t ring true for us either if we jumped back to the Golden and Silver Age days of characters as nothing more than fighting toys. The emotional content of Shadowman is fueled by Jack’s new life, how much it has changed and what those changes are. There are also aspects of Jack’s life before he became Shadowman, and aspects of his family heritage, we want to explore further. There’s so much story to tell.
Below is an exclusive preview of Shadowman #3. You can see another preview at CBR.