This fall, as part of the 25th anniversary of Matt Wagner's Grendel, Dark Horse will release a new eight-issue miniseries entitled "Behold the Devil" that will chronicle a mysterious incident from the life of Hunter Rose.
For those unfamiliar with the character, Rose whose tale was told in the recently re-released "Devil by the Deed," was a young prodigy who led a double life as the masked criminal mastermind Grendel. Though Rose died in that tale, flashback stories have helped flesh out the incidents from his infamous career, including a memorable duel with Batman.
In recent years, Wagner has limited his tales of Rose to short stories illustrated by other artists in the "Black, White and Red" and "Red, White and Black miniseries." He'll employ that format himself for Behold the Devil, his first extended story with Rose in more than a decade.
Wagner promised that "Behold the Devil" would appeal to "the new reader and the seasoned reader as well." "Part of the whole point was to kind of reintroduce people to Grendel, and try to incorporate its many different faces, while still making it a Hunter Rose story," Wagner told CBR News. "Hopefully, people will find it intriguing enough that they'll want to go pick up more."
The impetus for "Behold the Devil" came from Wagner's longtime editor/sister-in-law Diana Schutz. "When Diana and I first sat down to talk about what we wanted to see happen project-wise for the 25th anniversary, she said, 'Look, it's the 25th anniversary. You've got to draw a Grendel story and not just write one.' I said, 'Yeah, you're right,'" Wagner recalled. "Then she said, 'And if you're drawing it, it's got to be a Hunter Rose story.' I said, 'Yeah, you're right.' And she said, 'And if it's a Hunter Rose story, it's got to be something important, and not just a Hunter Rose caper.'
Meeting Schutz's challenge wasn't easy. "I was like, 'Ah, shit! I already told all his important stuff!'" Wagner laughed. "I thought about it for a while, and then eventually something came to me and I thought, 'There's a hole in the story, there's something I can do.'"
That something involved looking back at the original Hunter Rose story, "Devil by the Deed." "The nugget of the story, for readers that are familiar with Grendel, is that Grendel is a multigenerational character, a character that moves from personality to personality, has many different characters that are Grendel over the course of this narrative," Wagner explained. "The second Grendel is Christine Spar, a journalist in the near-distant future, who is Hunter Rose's step-granddaughter, and she has access to Hunter Rose's private logs and journals that he had sequestered away over the course of his life, and it's these that she later uses to write a famous book about Grendel called 'Devil by the Deed.'
"We find out in this series that there's a section missing – there's a section that was obviously deliberately excised from [Hunter's] journals, where she can see the ripped-out pages, but [Christine] has no idea why and no idea what happened during that time period. And this is that story."
Wagner offered one other hint about what to expect from "Behold the Devil." "Without spoiling too much, Hunter Rose is a very arrogant character," Wagner said. "So what could make him want to disregard part of his history, a history that he's obviously very excessively proud of, indeed, something of an egotist?"
Wagner said that he hopes "Behold the Devil," which he is about "half-done" penciling, will come out sometime around September or October. He said the series will be proceeded by a "zero issue" available at Comic-Con International in San Diego, which will feature a six-page introduction to the series, along with a few other "Grendel Goodies." There will also be an "Art of Grendel" hardcover available from Dark Horse later this year, featuring work on the character from both Wagner and other artists who've contributed to the character over the years.
And Wagner already has plans to write another Grendel series for another artist in 2008. "We're not going to let the Grendel line die after the anniversary," Wagner promised.
It looks like it's a good time to be a friend of the Devil.