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INTERVIEW: Simone Takes a Modern Approach to Dynamite's Golden Age Daredevil

Long before Daredevil, The Man Without Fear roamed the rooftops of Marvel Comics' Hell's Kitchen, the Golden Age of Comics had its own like-named character. Predating Marvel’s version by over two decades, Lev Gleason Publications’ Daredevil was created by Jack Binder and Jack Cole in 1940. Beneath the costume was the mute adventurer Bart Hill, who donned the mask for over 15 years before getting pushed out of his own title. The comic was eventually cancelled, and Daredevil ultimately fell into obscurity, and then into the public domain.

That legal wrinkle, however, allowed Daredevil to finally emerge from literary limbo decades later. Other publishers began releasing their own adventures of the hero, albeit with different monikers due to copyright reasons. Eventually, Dynamite Entertainment took its first crack at the character in 2008, naming him The Death-Defying ‘Devil.

Dynamite now has a new eponymous miniseries on tap, written by Gail Simone and drawn by her Clean Room and Red Sonja/Tarzan collaborator Walter Geovani. The Death-Defying 'Devil is the publisher's first series featuring the character in a solo capacity since that initial volume. Simone spoke with CBR about the upcoming title, discussing her approach to the character and working again with Geovani.

CBR: Dynamite's press release says the story explores the cast of the series, which largely sounds like a group of normal, everyday people. Is 'Devil the focal point of the story, or is the character more of a vehicle to tell more human, relatable kinds of stories?

Gail Simone: Kind of the opposite, in fact. The 'Devil finds himself in a boarding house that’s under siege, almost as if it’s in a war zone. And the cops are with the bad guys, in this case.

The problem is, everyone in the house has a secret – a really weird secret. That’s the fun of it, taking a very, very down-to-Earth and stoic hero and putting him smack dab in the middle of the Twilight Zone. What happens when you take this relatively normal guy and just surround him with the unknown? It’s not like any superhero story I’ve ever written, and I’m having a ball.

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The classic 'Devil's traditionally been very down-to-Earth, as you say, but Dynamite's previous series kind of rewrote the nature of the character. Will you be building on those developments, or is your story more of an independent standalone?

I thought the previous series was great. We are taking some cues from it, but we also want people to be able to come aboard without knowing any previous history. That’s always the goal. It’s not unique to this book, but I hate the idea of continuity being a barrier to entry. It’s supposed to be the frosting on the cake, not a barbed-wire fence around the cake.

I think of the 'Devil as something like DC’s Wildcat. He’s most interesting when it’s just him in a dark alley. He doesn’t need a satellite or a secret fortress at the North Pole. He just needs his fists, his boomerangs, and room to swing a punch. I dig those kinds of heroes a lot, and he’s one of the originals! Only publishing weirdness has kept him from being one of comics' iconic characters.

Speaking of Wildcat, you've done urban, street-level heroes before – Batgirl and Birds of Prey most notably. What kind of unique approach are you bringing to 'Devil?

Most of those books were chatty, for one thing, and if there’s one thing the 'Devil isn’t, it’s "chatty." It’s interesting, because the trick is to create tension and empathy with far fewer words. I love it – it’s been a real challenge. But I have the benefit of having Walter Geovani doing the art, and he’s terrific at conveying silent emotion.

Are you drawing on any of those past works as inspiration?

I think this book is closer in some ways to Clean Room than Birds of Prey. It’s very definitely about the weird crap that’s on the other side of the door. I mean, every day we look at the news with trepidation, what horrible thing happened while we slept? That’s the vibe happening to the 'Devil in this book.

I love characters that have just an overdose of grit and moxie. Also, does anyone say "grit" or "moxie" anymore? I’m not entirely sure what they literally mean. But the 'Devil has them!

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Those terms harken back to the Golden Age, the era 'Devil was originally from, and the press release cites Bronze Age horror/mystery comics storytelling and modern heroism as inspirations for the series. Are you trying to blend these different eras as a kind of timeless story, or is there a specific era that you're trying to evoke?

It’s an experiment, to imagine a superhero, a two-fisted action character, in a story where reality is sort of rusting and twisting a little bit. It feels like something we haven’t seen before, like Rod Serling is narrating somewhere.

Imagine taking an Outer Limits episode and replacing the normal guy at the center of it with, say, Batman. I mean, it sounds goofy, but I like goofy, and some of my favorite stories come from a place of odd whimsey. Does Batman punch his way out? Does he think his way out? Is he paralyzed by the ground shifting under his feet? That’s what we’re exploring in this book.

Are you taking any special approach here due to 'Devil being a public domain property? Do you feel bound to the essence of the character as originally established, or do you feel free to change or tweak elements as needed?

Oh, I think the original stuff is great, I don’t think anyone will read this and feel we rebooted him.

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You've worked with artist Walter Geovani in the past – what draws you to him as a frequent collaborator?

Walter is just the best. I adore him. I’ve worked with several hundred artists, but Walter is in that echelon, like Nicola Scott and David Baldeon, where they just instinctively know what I’m asking for even if I ask inexpertly. Any of those three, if I give them a script, they make it better. I never have to ask for "fixes" because they fixed it all already. And Walter is someone very dear to my heart, I am doing this book to work with him again, and in a genre he loves that he hasn’t gotten to do yet.

How do the two of you collaborate on your stories?

We work full script, but he knows he can change anything he likes, and I’m good with it.

Do you have ideas for future 'Devil stories? What kinds of stories are you hoping to eventually tell with the character?

I think it’d be fun to continually put him in genres where he doesn’t belong. His original hit series, he got pushed out of by the comedy kid sidekicks of his own book. I think that’s interesting. I’d love to do a Weird Romance or Science Fiction Terror story with him, something where he’s an observer, who occasionally cracks someone with a right cross to the jaw. That’s fun to write!

Simone and Geovani's The Death-Defying 'Devil #1, colored by Adriano Augusto and lettered by Simon Bowland, goes on sale August 7.

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