Life and Undeath in the Big Easy: Carey Talks "Voodoo Child"

New Orleans has served as a setting for numerous horror stories both real and fantastic. Now, the shadows of the Big Easy are home to a new horror character, Gabriel Moore, the star of "Voodoo Child" a new six-issue miniseries by creators Weston Cage and Nicholas Cage, writer Mike Carey and artist Dean Hyrapiet, published by Virgin Comics as part of its Voices line. CBR News spoke with Carey about the series, issue #3 of which is in stores this week.

"Voodoo Child" is Carey's first work with Virgin. He landed the assignment because of an old friend and colleague. "The crucial link in the chain to me is Mackenzie Cadenhead, the editor of the book," Mike Carey told CBR News. "I worked with her a lot at Marvel – on 'Spellbinders' and several other projects.When she left Marvel and became a commissioning editor at Virgin, she approached me about pitching some books for them.The situation I was in was a little complex because of other contractual commitments that I had, but Mackenzie is a fantastic editor and I really didn't want to pass up a chance to work with her.So we put our heads together and found a way to make it happen."

"Voodoo Child" was the first Virgin pitch sent to Carey. "We had talked about me maybe doing an arc on one of the first Virgin titles that was released but that didn't happen," Carey explained. "So Nicholas and Weston Cage's pitch was the first thing they specifically sent me.It was pretty irresistible because of the mixture of supernatural horror and political comment."

The Cages' plan for "Voodoo Child" was a highly detailed one. "It was a pretty full realization of the character of Gabriel Moore," Carey explained. "The plot dynamics were only sort of lightly sketched in and left for me to flesh out, but Nicholas and Weston had a very clear idea in their minds of what they wanted their main protagonist to be and what they wanted his arc to be. And that's the spine of the story."

Carey is developing the Cages' ideas, but he does not work directly with them on the book; he gets their input through his editor. However, Carey recently met the "Voodoo Child" creators for the first time in person."I met them at the San Diego Comic Con," Carey said, "There was a Q&A panel set up for them, where they were going to talk about the book and the inspiration for it. They invited me along to be part of that and it was a great pleasure to meet them both."

"Voodoo Child's" title character originally walked the streets of New Orleans over 140 years ago. "Gabriel Moore is a boy who lived in Louisiana during the run-up to the American Civil War," Carey stated. "His father, Mason Moore, owned a plantation but was also secretly an abolitionist working the Underground Railroad to give escaped slaves a chance to set up in the Northern states where slavery wasn't legal.

"Mason Moore is killed by some of his fellow citizens on the evening of the day when Louisiana secedes from the Union," Carey continued."Gabriel himself is also killed on the same night but his death is suspended. There's an intervention by a Voodoo priest named Billy Blameless who carries out a ritual which keeps Gabriel suspended between life and death for over 140 years. It's not until the present day that the ritual is completed by one of Billy Blameless's descendants, a priest named John Messenger, who's not a Voodoo Priest but a Christian priest. He wakes Gabe and brings him out of his grave and into the modern world."

The long gap between Billy Blameless' ritual and when it was finally completed has had an unforeseen side effect on Gabriel's return to the living world. "If the ritual had been completed in the 1860s when Gabe died he would have been a zombie," Carey explained. "He's not a zombie now, though, because there isn't enough of his physical form left. There's basically nothing to him except a living shadow which is both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on the situations he gets into."

Since he awoke and learned of his family's fate, Gabriel has been driven by intense emotions. "His main motivation is either justice or revenge; you could use either word to describe what drives him," Carey stated. "His father was killed by a guy named Sebastian Bussard, a very wealthy Louisiana landowner, and it so happens that Bussard's descendant is now the head of a corporation which is rebuilding New Orleans. He's been given major federal funding to rebuild the city after Katrina and there's something very strange and suspicious going on, on the streets of New Orleans at this time.

"Young girls are going missing in very large numbers," Carey continued. "There is evidence pointing to Martin Bussard, the descendant of the man who killed Gabe's father. So Gabe, in going after Bussard, is motivated pretty much by a conscious need to pay that family back for the wrong that was done to him. Gabe believes that he's doing the right thing but there are darker undercurrents to what is driving him."

Gabe's unique undead state has armed him with some formidable abilities to use in his quest for vengeance against the Bussard family. "He is of the shadows and he partakes of shadow," Carey explained. "So he can step out from the shadows and beat the bejesus out of you. Then when you went to try and hit him back there's only a shadow there."

Of course, being a living shadow also means that Gabriel has a very telling weakness. "He can only work at night," Carey said. "If he's in bright light there are an awful lot of things he can't do it all."

In issue #3 of "Voodoo Child," readers will find out more about Gabe's vulnerability to light. The issue picks up after the cliffhanger of issue #2, which saw Gabe being shot in bright light and bleeding shadows.

Gabe's shadow form abilities aren't the only supernatural powers he has at his command. "He also has an armory of voodoo magic, which was taught to him by Billy Blameless," Carey stated. "What he's able to use aren't exactly spells but there are particular supernatural things that he can do.For example, we see him in the first issue waking a dead man and questioning him by using a n'kisi , a Voodoo doll which he dips into the dead man's blood and then uses that as kind of a hook into the man's soul."

It will take all of the supernatural abilities Gabe has at his command to defeat the cabal of bad men that he's targeted for vengeance. As readers saw in "Voodoo Child" #1 and #2, the first link in the chain is a businessman named Donald Bridge. "He's a member of the conspiracy and he's brought certain thing to the table which we've already sort of seeded some clues to," Carey said. "There are a number of people who have pooled their resources in order to achieve a certain end. We don't yet know what the end is but Bridge is involved because he works for Sperry Bussard – this construction company – and he has access to certain things. He's a totally, corrupt, venal and in many ways fairly weak and contemptible man.But there are stronger men behind him, using him."

At the end of "Voodoo Child" #1, Gabriel tailed Bridge to a mysterious construction site, which will serve as a backdrop for many scenes in the series. "That's the yard where Sperry-Bussard keep their vehicles," Carey explained. "It's also where they've got their main New Orleans offices. It's all a bit rough and ready because it's been thrown up very quickly, so they can get started on the reconstruction work and on several projects that they've got going. It will figure in the story again. There's a link between that site and some of the things that are happening behind the scenes."

Donald Bridge and his employers at Sperry Bussard aren't Gabriel Moore's only enemies. In issues #2, Donald Bridge was seen talking on the phone to Emil Saint-Claire, a major organized crime figure in New Orleans and a man who seemed to know an awful lot about the true nature of Gabriel Moore. "He's a practitioner himself," Carey said. "He's a gangster, a pimp, and a drug pusher but he also dabbles in magic. He's got a good idea that Gabriel is a lot more than what he seems, which is why he gives Bridge the advice to stay in the light and not go into the shadows. Saint-Claire is not going to be a pushover. He knows what's coming for him and he knows how to defend against it."

Saint-Claire may seem like a fearsome enough foe but he's not Gabriel's ultimate enemy in the series. "He'll be part of the final showdown but he's not the big bad," Carey remarked. "There is someone else behind him who's more important and is manipulating things in a more indirect way."

Gabriel isn't the only person interested in the mysterious and sinister alliance between Sperry Bussard and the New Orleans Underworld. Two police officers, Detective Robert Julien and Rebecca Land, are investigating things as well. "Julien is in homicide and Land is in serious crimes and they're both very skilled and experienced detectives," Carey stated. "They're romantically and sexually involved but they sort of keep it hidden at the office and they do each other professional favors even though they're working on separate cases.

"Julien is concerned with the large numbers of dead gangsters who are turning up on the streets of New Orleans. He's become convinced that there is a gang war going on and two rival factions are taking shots at each others' people," Carey continued. "Rebecca is investigating the missing persons case, I mentioned earlier, where all these young, mainly black girls are being snatched off the streets. In issues #2 and #3 she's realizing that the scale of it is much bigger than she realized because in the chaos after Katrina with the breakdown in civil order a lot of records weren't kept. There are more girls involved than was initially realized. So these are the two cases that they've investigating and when the trails sort of dovetail they exchange information and watch each other's back."

At the end of "Voodoo Child" #2, the trail led Julien right into a confrontation between Donald Bridge and Gabriel Moore. "I think Julien is the more prominent character because it's Julien who becomes increasingly obsessed with Gabriel," Carey explained. "It's Julien who encounters Gabriel first and begins to get an inkling of what he is and what he's trying to do. As the series goes on that relationship between the boy and the man comes to the forefront."

John Messenger, the priest who revived Gabriel and is briefing him about the modern world, is another prominent supporting player in "Voodoo Child." "He's useful as a mentor and a source of information but even though he is a magic user he is of very little use to Gabriel as an ally in that regard," Carey explained. "He's largely helpless against Emil Saint-Claire because Saint-Claire has some of Messenger's heart's blood, which he keeps in a phial. In Voodoo you can use blood, fingernails and hair; if it comes from a person's body you can use it as a weapon against them. It's a form of sympathetic magic. So Messenger can't do anything directly against Saint-Claire. All he can do is tell Gabriel things and point him in the right direction."

The setting of Post-Katrina New Orleans was almost another character in the Cages' original ideas for "Voodoo Child," and in order to do the city justice, Carey felt he had to pay a visit and see it for himself. "I was particularly concerned about getting the details of Katrina and the aftermath right.I wanted to bring them into the book and embed them in a way that would be realistic," Carey explained. "The book is a supernatural horror story, to a large extent, and it's also a crime story – but it has genuine aspects of social commentary in it as well. There is a plot thread concerning the early failures of the Federal relief effort in New Orleans. There's also a plot thread concerning the alleged corruption and incompetence of some of the companies that were charged with rebuilding New Orleans. I wanted to make sure that the book didn't fall apart on a purely factual level and it depends so much on the setting that I felt like I had to go there myself and literally pace out the story. I decided where certain scenes were going to take place. I also talked with residents who were there during the crisis and the aftermath of Katrina. I tried to get the circumstantial details right as far as I could."

When it came to the voodoo aspects of the series, Carey did an extensive amount of research, but not all of it was first-hand. "While I was in New Orleans I went to some of the voodoo temples and museums.I chatted with a voodoo priest who was on duty at the museum in the French Quarter on the day I visited, but I have to admit that a lot of my voodoo research was carried out online," Carey said. "So to some extent it's superficial.But there's no attempt in the book to make the voodoo ceremonials a hundred percent realistic. Voodoo is a religion and I'm not trying to sort of 'lift the veil' on the religion. I just want it to seem authentic while you're reading it. Some of the incantations used are real but the ceremonies are largely invented."

"Voodoo Child" is a series that makes the most of its unique setting and tone, which blends elements gothic horror, noir, and realism. "One of the things that attracted me to the story in the first place and I think is a unique selling point, is that there's this kind of political edge to the story," Carey stated. "When we find out exactly what's going on there's a disturbing degree of realism to it in spite of all the fantasy and horror elements."

Carey feels another unique selling point of "Voodoo Child" is the art of Dean Hyrapiet, who he feels is a doing an amazing job bringing to life all the elements of the story, both fantastic and realistic, to life. "He's really pulled out all the stops on this book. He's doing spectacular and exciting page layouts," Carey said. "When I ask for something very specific in the way of structure or some visual effect that's essential to what I'm doing, he's very versatile and ready to experiment with different approaches. Dean is a pure pleasure to work with and he's definitely going somewhere in this business."

Carey recommends "Voodoo Child" to fans of horror, police procedurals or Vertigo readers who are looking for an engaging mystery with a unique setting. "It's a book that I'd say pick it up just to absorb the atmosphere of it," he said. "I think there is a richness to the visual texture, which is very attractive. I also think the mystery works in a way that is satisfying and fair. We put all our cards on the table and there is an answer which links everything together."

Now discuss this story in CBR's Indie comics forum.

x-men powers of x xavier
The End of Evolution: Powers of X Destroys the X-Men's Biggest Myth

More in Comics