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Secrets of “The Devil’s Handshake”

by  in Comic News Comment
Secrets of “The Devil’s Handshake”
The Devil's Handshake
“The Devil’s Handshake” one-shot on sale in October

Get ready for exotic locales, rare artifacts and a whole lot of adventure! This October, Archaia will introduce two scoundrels in a whopping heap of trouble in “The Devil’s Handshake.”

Written by comics legend Larry Hama (“G.I. Joe”) and series creator Ryan Schifrin (“Spooks”) with art by Adam Archer (“Spooks”) and Lizzy John (“Rest,” “Halloween”), “The Devil’s Handshake” is a creator-described blend of Indiana Jones, James Bond, H.P. Lovecraft, Film Noir and the Hardy Boys. The book introduces professional rascals Alaric Moebius and Basil Fox, who are on a quest for an ancient artifact for a mysterious benefactor.

According to creator Ryan Schifrin, the inspiration for these two scoundrels came from the sword and sorcery stories of Fritz Leiber published as far back as 1939. “After doing ‘Abominable,’ I was thinking about what I could do next as a director, and I had this notion of these two buddies who are scoundrels who get into all sorts of mishaps and adventures,” Schifrin told CBR News. “I was working on it and really mulling it over for a few years and slowly putting it together. R.A. Salvatore told me to check out the Fafhrd and Mouser books by Fritz Leiber. So, I thought of this as a contemporary version of that. I had written a movie with all these characters in it. All the Fafhrd and Mouser stories – all of them are short stories. I thought it would be cool to do a lot of short story adventures with these characters that wouldn’t necessarily be movies and comics seemed like the perfect medium to do that. I showed Larry my treatment for this and my ideas. We just kind of kicked it back and forth and came up with the story.”

“I was always familiar with the Fafhrd and Mouser stories. I remember reading them as a kid,” Larry Hama told CBR. “I had collections of them in my local library in Queens. At the same time, I discovered Conan when I was in junior high school. Ryan had a whole movie treatment and script written. Basically what I did was to try to condense it down for the world of comics.”

For Schifrin, the main focus of the story is not only the adventure aspect, but also the characters of Basil and Moebius who serve as the driving force for the tale. “I wanted to create iconic heroes that would not be goody-two-shoes types of characters,” Schifrin said. “The basic way of saying it is if Jack Sparrow and Han Solo teamed up and worked for Cthulu, I think that’s kind of the gist of it. My hope is to do a long running series of adventures with these guys. It was their different personalities and their camaraderie and the way they sit together that was my whole reason for doing this. We introduced a female character in this – her name is Sophie. It was supposed to be like a Bond Girl where each story would have a different love interest, but I liked this character so much that I’m retconning her into a bunch of other stories. I definitely want to bring her back.”

Pages from “The Devil’s Handshake”

“I’m intrigued by the setup of the characters – what it points to and what it leads to,” said Hama. “What I found fascinating is that Mobius and Basil are in the thrall of this guy, The Collector, who is sort of a Cthulu meets Sidney Greenstreet in ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ It combines some pretty fascinating aspects and a lot of mystery. When you put these characters on their feet and project where they’re going to go, it leads to all sorts of great possibilities, especially when you drop the girl Sophie into the middle of it. I think the characters are likable. They’re not anti-heroes. They’re likeable rascals and rogues. You’d like to have them be your pals, but you’d want to count the silverware afterwards.”

The artwork provided by Adam Archer represents and blends a number of artistic styles for an incredibly pleasing overall effect. “It all flowed quite nicely. The thing I was shooting for was to work with a style that allowed things to be serious enough and realistic enough to be creepy and tense, but also a style that fits well with the humor and the characters’ acting and the lightheartedness that the piece has,” Archer said. “That was something I definitely put some effort in trying to get across. The concept and the nature of the project itself was a blast to work on – fun dialogue, guns, girls, beautiful locations – it has everything. It’s visually stunning and it’s a fun read. There’s not much more you can ask for on a project.”

Although “The Devil’s Handshake” is a stand-alone adventure, Schifrin has high hopes for the book and continuing the adventures in a series of stand-alones in the style of old time pulp fiction. “I’ve already written a bunch of adventures with these characters,” Schifrin said. “We have them exploring a haunted castle in Scotland, I’m writing one now where they start in Monaco and then go to Germany, then the South Pole. The idea is really to have them be international, world travelers that have enemies and allies all over the place. I do have a long-term plan for it and I have to figure out where it’s going so that I can foreshadow stuff along the way. I still don’t know everything, but that’s the fun of it. You hope when you’re writing stuff that the characters become real and come to life in your own mind so that they surprise you along the way and write themselves.”

“I think anyone who likes action-adventure or ‘Spooks’ and ‘Spooks Team Omega’ books will enjoy it,” said Archer. “It’s a bit of a different genre, it’s not the military or cutting edge technology of the previous books we’ve done. Like Ryan says, it has a little bit of Indiana Jones and a James Bond mixture. I think anybody who likes those genres and that material will really enjoy it. It’s got a pulp feel. Some of the pulp fiction in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s – it has that kind of vibe. It has a little bit for everybody.”

But what does the title “The Devil’s Handshake” mean? The creators aren’t talking, but Hama did give us one hint: “If you really want to know what the title means, you buy three issues – three copies. Balance one on your head, put the second one on your stereo turntable and play it backwards while you read the third one backwards. You have to buy three issues to do that.”

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