For most of us, a nightmare is an easy thing to get rid off. We wake up, shake it off and get on with our lives. In the Marvel Universe, however, it can be much harder ordeal, especially since nightmares aren’t just a subconscious phenomenon – they’re actually the dominion of a powerful supernatural being. In the current “Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural” series by writer Rick Remender and artist Jefte Palo, Nightmare has accomplished the unthinkable – he’s established a foothold in the waking world and is slowly taking it over. Now it’s up to the series’ title character, fledgeling Sorcerer Supreme Jericho Drumm, to stop him. CBR News spoke with Remender about the series.
In Remender’s eyes, “Doctor Voodoo” has been about both establishing Jericho Drumm as the Marvel Universe’s new Sorcerer Supreme and reestablishing Nightmare as a major threat to the denizens of the MU. “I’ve always liked the character, and I wanted to find a way to sort of define what it is that he does. My approach to that was to imagine him as a force in the Marvel Universe called ‘The Unreal,'” Remender explained. “I coined the term ‘The Unreal’ for Nightmare because he’s sort of powered and given meaning through the subconscious mind of humanity. So those aspects are unreal, but in the fun, mystical world of the Marvel Universe, he exists. They bring him life.
“When he comes to Earth, and we’ll start to see more of this, there are some laws and limitations as to how things work,” Remender continued. “I’ll be establishing them throughout the arc, and I think it will make for a nice reveal at the end when you see what’s been weaved together and how Jericho Drumm deals with it. Whether or not he’s successful – wait and find out.”
In order to get his shot at defeating Nightmare’s invasion of Earth, Drumm is going to have to wrestle both his personal and literal demons. Remender recently revealed in “Doctor Voodoo” #3 that Nightmare has been using Drumm to implement his plan to conquer the waking world. “One of the things I wanted to do was make Nightmare a Jericho Drumm villain. Some of the things I’m adding to Drumm’s mythology and character stem from Nightmare’s manipulations,” Remender explained. “Jericho has this self-doubt, trauma and fear that he tries to suppress, but since it’s part of his subconscious mind, Nightmare has control and power over him. He’s been manipulating Jericho in his sleep and has been using him to set up a lot of what’s going on.”
One of the biggest ways Jericho has inadvertently aided Nightmare’s invasion plans was in establishing the very thing that the dream demon has been using to spread his influence across the waking world. “Jericho created these Scrying Stones that allowed him to mystically monitor the supernatural corners of the Marvel Universe. He pointed these stones at all the other candidates for Sorcerer Supreme and a few prominent supernatural bad guys. Then Nightmare uses these stones to try and take control of the people they’re observing,” Remender stated. “In issue #3, we saw Nightmare try to take over Doctor Doom and fail because Doom is protected by an “actuality shield”. He’s blanketed himself in reality, but the rest of the supernatural world wasn’t so fortunate.
“In issue #3, the Ghost Riders and the Hood showed up, and now all these supernatural characters who were once candidates for the title of Sorcerer Supreme have been infected by The Unreal. Nightmare is amassing them into an army that Jericho is going to have to do his best to defeat.”
Before Jericho is able to face Nightmare’s forces, he must break free from the dream demon’s influence. In the final scene of “Doctor Voodoo” #3, Jericho had been infected by The Unreal, so it looks as though when issue #4 hits stores on January 20th, that both waking world’s salvation and the title of Sorcerer Supreme will be in the hands of the ghost of Jericho’s brother, Daniel Drumm.
“I don’t want to give away too much in regards to that,” Remender said. “There’s a lot of fun zigs and zags, but I didn’t want Daniel to just be a supporting cast member. He’s an important character, and in issue #4 we see him taking on a big role, as Jericho has succumbed to Nightmare’s influence. I think that’s important. Daniel was the Houngan Supreme before Jericho, so when I was working out the beats and figuring out the plot, I got to the end of the second act of the series and it made sense to put Daniel in the spotlight. I had a real natural way to do it, knowing that Jericho was going to get taken out of the equation in issue #3.”
Daniel won’t be the only character stepping into the spotlight for the remaining issues of “Doctor Voodoo.” Since he’s one of the only mystical powers in the Marvel Universe not currently infected by The Unreal, Doctor Doom will play an important role in the series’ final two issues, and Remender has enjoyed the chance to involve the Latverian dictator in all the magical mayhem.
“When I was younger, I read John Byrne’s ‘Fantastic Four’ run and the Roger Stern-Mike Mignola graphic novel ‘Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment,’ and I really liked the idea that Doom wields both black science and black magic. He’s this brilliant, megalomaniacal, renaissance man of power, and he’s going to find it any way he can,” Remender remarked. “Doom definitely plays a huge role in the remaining chapters of this story, and all the events that are happening are seeds that are growing, which will have big payoffs. I think if you follow events from the first issue to the end of the fifth, when the series ends, you’ll get a sense of that.”
One such seed was the opening flashback in the series’ third issue to the time when Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme and Houngan Supreme teamed up to seal the portal to BondyÃ¨, the realm of the Voodoo Gods, the Loa. “There will be some interesting things with the Loa and BondyÃ¨. We’ll take a trip there and get an idea of what those characters are all about,” Remender revealed. “They will definitely play a role in the final act of the story.”
Apocalyptic supernatural action will abound in last chapter of “Doctor Voodoo,” or at least it will seem that way at first glance. “You have to understand that when you’re dealing with Nightmare, you never quite know what you’re looking at. What is he extracting? Whose mind’s eye are you seeing things through?” Remender explained. “I like the fact that with Nightmare on Earth, what you’re seeing is being filtered through the mind’s eye of many different people. So it’s possible that each person might have their own version of a living Nightmare.”
Remender has enjoyed the way his collaborator Jefte Palo has brought to life Nightmare and all the other aspects of his “Doctor Voodoo” scripts. “[Jefte’s] art continues to grow and grow. I think he’s like a young Mike Mignola meets Tim Sale. He’s got solid storytelling chops merged with a very stylized iconic approach with a nice use of heavy blacks,” Remender stated. “We’re deep into issue #5 right now, and his pages are dealing with the final conflict and I just couldn’t be happier with them.”
“Doctor Voodoo:Avenger of the Supernatural” comes to an end in February with issue #5, and with the series end, Remender will have answered a number of questions while having introduced several new plot threads into the supernatural corner of the Marvel Universe. “By the end of the fifth issue, all will be revealed and Nightmare has infested the planet, so ultimately the resolution of this story will leave behind a good bit of The Unreal residue, which will be a lot of fun to play with,” the writer explained. “And there is a big supernatural event that this story has been setting up in some ways, that will bleed the character over into ‘New Avengers’ for awhile, and I know there are some secret plans beyond that.”
The “Doctor Voodoo” series may be coming to a conclusion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Remender is finished with Jericho Drumm. “I have a couple of other things I’m working on at Marvel right now, and he may show up in one of those projects,” Remender said. “I really enjoy the supernatural elements and monsters of the Marvel Universe. So I’d definitely love to use Jericho Drumm again.”
Remender hopes that readers give the final two issues and the forthcoming collected edition of the series a chance. “I think when this is all collected into trade paperback, it will make for a nice introduction to the new Sorcerer Supreme,” the writer said. “And I hope people that might have this preconceived notion that they don’t like stories involving magic will pick up the series and give it a chance before making their mind up, because I think we’ve managed to infuse it with some of the over the top fun of someone like Grant Morrison, but at the same time ground it in a way that doesn’t allow magic to become a deus ex machina. We’re trying to solidify the rules of magic to make the stakes feel a little more real. So hopefully people with give this series a shot.”
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