Writer Rick Remender and artist Wes Craig’s creator-owned series Deadly Class takes place at the clandestine King’s Dominion School of the Deadly Arts, where the adolescent children of criminals, spies and terrorists train to become the next generation of assassins. As such, it has all the machinations, personal drama and raging hormones of a normal high school, but conflicts between students can — and will — become lethal, especially if they’re school-sanctioned.
One of the most brutal bouts of violence came when the freshmen class of 1987 were forced to battle each other. Recent issues of the Image Comics series, which are set in 1988, have revealed new developments about the survivors of that conflict while bouncing those sophomores off the new freshmen class. Those reveals and interactions have lit the match of several powder kegs and in October’s Deadly Class #31 they’ll explode.
CBR spoke with Remender about some of his old and new cast members, the revelation that two long thought dead characters were still alive, and the slow boiling conflicts that are about to explode.
CBR: In recent issues of Deadly Class you gave us some glimpses into one of your most mysterious characters, Saya, that showed she’s a little bit better of a person than she initially appeared to be. We now know that she actually spared Marcus during the freshmen finals and even reunited him with his girlfriend Maria. We also know that Saya’s brother pretty much destroyed her family. Can you talk at all about what inspired Saya’s background and her role in the book?
Rick Remender: We’ve seen pieces of Saya’s story and we now understand a lot more about her motivations and why she needs to graduate. She needs those top honors from King’s Dominion to come back and pick up her family’s Yakuza clan and return it to the way her father had it, which was more steeped in the sort of neighborhood watch aspect of the samurai than some of the more traditional yakuza stuff.
Of course by the time we learn these things about her she’s off the board. Saya is going to stay off the board for a while. Her brother Kenji is up to no good. He’s a real rotten guy. Outward arrogance, coupled with greed and inward insecurity leads to some dangerous folk.
Then we have some very big stuff coming up with the other crews that we’ve been setting up, primarily the illuminati council of Shabnam and his crew, Helmut, Petra, and the freshmen, and then Marcus and Maria. Those are the three parts of the story that play the biggest role in what we have coming up.
The discovery that Saya spared Marcus, and Maria is still alive has given Deadly Class a bit more hope and light. Was that always your intention with the book? Did you always know you had this reveal coming up that would cause fans to cheer?
My moods change. The original outline had Marcus come back and it was obviously one of those deaths that was staged so that could happen. But then after it happened I decided not to bring him back, and I was working on the television adaptation of Deadly Class with my co-writer Miles Feldsott. So we were deep into the TV version of the universe with Marcus in his early years when I told him that I wasn’t going to bring Marcus back.
We went to the office and Miles was like, “Dude, no! It’s too much! I get it, but it’s too much! I can’t take it!” [Laughs] So we argued and argued. I then called my editor Sebastian Girner and we argued. Then I called Wes and we argued about it for two hours I think. That went on for like two months when I would call Wes, Sebastian, or Miles. I just couldn’t decide.
I had actually wrote two outlines. I still have the outline where Marcus doesn’t come back and instead Saya has his journal and Marcus is like a ghost that she still talks to. I wrote that. It’s done, and then when it was getting close to where I would have to choose which direction to go I had another talk with Miles, and he pushed me over the edge of going back to the original version where Marcus comes back.
I’m really glad I made that choice. Because that other story is exciting and definitely has some really cool ideas, but this story has so much more in terms of merging the first class with the new class. And, like you said, it gives people a bit of hope after so much bad news. People who have really stuck with the series deserved it. I haven’t had this much online response to anything I wrote since maybe the end of “The Dark Angel” saga in my Uncanny X-Force run. For about a week my Twitter feed was, “Thank you! Dear god! Thank you!” It was so flattering that people identify and connect with that character and cared so much.
Another big, fun moment in recent issues for me was when freshmen Helmut not only drew an axe and fought ninjas he did so while reciting the lyrics to one of my favorite Iron Maiden songs of all time, “The Trooper.” Was that scene something you were responsible for? Or was it more Wes?
I scripted it, but it was obviously only good because Wes drew it. I was talking to my buddy Harper Jaten who’s a big Iron Maiden fan. I was more of a punker kid, which is always sort of a bone of contention. I used to sit around and talk about how punk actually said something. He would be like, “Yeah, but metal was all inclusive and there was no elitism.” Then we’d go on and on. So I Skyped him and asked, “Helmut is a hessian in full stoner mode. He’s fighting ninjas and has a battle axe. I want him to be reciting lyrics to an Iron Maiden song.” He instantly goes, “’Trooper!” [Laughs]
Once I plugged that in there was one bit of dialogue that didn’t fit in Helmut’s scenes, but bled over into the ninja scenes. So I just had the ninjas finishing the song, and that tickled me pretty good. [Laughs] At that point I realized I had a fun scene. That’s comic books.
Helmut is a lot of fun to write. We’ve got some cool shit coming up with him.
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