On a hectic Kapow Comic Convention floor, CBR News spoke with writer Paul Cornell, one of the architects behind DC Comics’ New 52, for a quick discussion about “Demon Knights,” writing dark subject matter versus working with humor and the expanded opportunities DC’s relaunch has presented to genres beyond super heroes. Cornell also touches on his “Doctor Who” work, his new Vertigo series “Saucer Country” and “London Calling,” his upcoming prose novel.
CBR News: With the New 52 firmly established and the dust having settled, what are your thoughts on it? Are you still as excited about DC’s relaunch as you were in the beginning?
Paul Cornell: Very much so. I think it has brought a much bigger audience to the comics, and the fact that we can fly something like “Demon Knights,” which would never have gotten off the ground before the relaunch. That is very pleasurable.â€¨â€¨Why would “Demon Knights” have been problematic in the old regime?
Sales-wise, the New 52 has managed to support a lot of other genres outside super heroes, and that is wonderful. Take something like “All-Star Western,” which has the same creative team behind it as “Jonah Hex” but is doing much better business. That’s what it’s given to the industry.
Are you particularly proud of your work on “Demon Knights?” It’s got a dark and challenging subject matter —
I do darkness, but I’m not a great fan of it. Something like “Saucer Country” is something I’m immensely proud of. Ryan Kelly is just doing amazing work on that and that’s a very personal project. That is a story I’ve literally been wanting to tell for decades, and I finally have a way to do it.
Your Lex Luthor arc in “Action Comics” walked that dark line quite well. It had dark elements, but it wasn’t too grim. Do you think when dealing with villainy there is a tendency to just go too far?
I just think there’s a law of diminishing returns, that there are pleasures to be had elsewhere, particularly in the area of humor. But humor is not the most popular direction to take a comic in these days.â€¨â€¨Why do you think that is? To me humor is just as effective a way to get into someone’s psyche as horror.â€¨â€¨Absolutely. As soon as a character makes you laugh, you’re on their side.
Your work, not only within DC but outside of it, tackles so many different genres and styles. Do you find it hard to maintain that balance?
It’s very difficult to write prose and comics on the same day. I have to, because that’s the nature of the job, but you really have to take a break and get your mental gears into a different order.
Away from comics you wrote a celebrated “Doctor Who” two-parter adapted from your own book, “Human Nature.” Would you like to return and write some more?â€¨â€¨Of course, but there are no plans about that as of yet. The 11th Doctor is a wonderful character, though.
I’ve heard you say before that despite being the English writer at DC, you feel your work doesn’t have a British style. Why is that? â€¨â€¨No, I don’t think it does. If I brought an English sensibility to something like “Saucer Country,” that would be very bad!
But, with a reference that might be lost on an American audience my next novel ,which is out in December, will be “The Sweeney” does “Buffy.” It’s called “London Falling” and it’s an urban fantasy about modern police dealing with the supernatural.
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