As the writer of critical and commercial hits like "The Spiderwick Chronicles," "Doll Bones" and the "Modern Tale of Faerie" trilogy, Holly Black is undeniably familiar with writing fantasy. But her passion for the genre goes far beyond her own works, as one of her prized possessions is a signed copy of Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman: Season of Mists," which she's owned since she was a college student in the '90s.
Now, in collaboration with artist Lee Garbett, Black arrives at Vertigo with this week's launch of "Lucifer." The series is not a sequel or a reimagining, but a continuation of the original "Lucifer" series by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, itself a spinoff of Gaiman's "The Sandman."
Introduced in "The Sandman" #4, Lucifer initially abandoned his post as the ruler of Hell and later rejected the throne of Heaven. Portrayed both as a villain and an anti-hero, the new series picks up with the death of God as Lucifer and his brother Gabriel team up to find His murderer.
What could possibly go wrong, right?
Black told CBR News that she spoke with Gaiman after landing the assignment and received "a lot of great advice" about the character and about writing a monthly comic. Garbett also teased that he is pushing Black to introduce Dream and the rest of the Endless into the series (he's desperate to draw Death) though she tells us there are no plans to do so -- yet.â€¨
CBR News: "Lucifer," which spun out of the pages of Neil Gaiman's epic "The Sandman," was a wildly successful ongoing series for Vertigo in its own right. Is this new series a sequel to the first volume, a re-imagining or a complete reboot?
Holly Black: It follows on from Mike Carey's "Lucifer" in the same way that Carey's "Lucifer" followed on Lucifer from "The Sandman."
Lee Garbett: Yes -- I think the amount of time that's passed since that series ended is about where we pick up from, give or take a few years.
Were you familiar with the original "Lucifer" series by Mike Carey and Peter Gross?
Black: I actually have a copy of "Season of Mists" that Neil signed for me when I was in college, so yes -- I am a fan, from way back. Before I sat down to figure out the storyline, I re-read all of "Lucifer" and the relevant parts of "Sandman." I also talked a little bit with Neil, which was incredibly helpful. He had a lot of great advice about writing a monthly comic generally, as well as about finding my own way in this one.
Garbett: I'm a big fan of the series and the worlds around it, so I knew what it was all about, coming in. It's been a while though, so I'm in the process of re-reading the collections. It's not easy to get the time to sit and read them with my monthly deadlines, but I'm doing my best.
At Neil Gaiman's request, artist Sam Kieth originally developed Lucifer to look like David Bowie. Does Bowie continue to be an influence on Lucifer's look and feel?
Black: Lucifer looks like Bowie when we see him in "Preludes and Nocturnes," but by the time we get to "Season of Mists," he no longer looks like him. I think there's a little "Thin White Duke" in Lucifer at all times, however.
Garbett: Exactly,. He's always thought of as very Bowie; it was there initially, and it still informs him to a degree, I think. But really, a lot of the artists didn't push the likeness side too much. I find it a little distracting, too. I like to have a flavor of that in there, but I also want Lucifer to be his own man.
Often portrayed as an anti-hero, or even a villain, Lucifer is obviously the main character of this series. What does writing and drawing a character with questionable tendencies and actions allow for as a storyteller? And why do you think Lucifer works as a character?
Black: Well, the challenge of writing Lucifer is that he's had pretty much everything -- he's been the ruler of Hell, and he's rejected the throne of Heaven. The fun of writing him is that he's fascinating. He's the pure exercise of free will. He does what he wants, when he wants, with no constraints.
Except, of course, as you delve deeper, Lucifer is constrained because he has feelings. Sometimes he feels bound by promises, or because he loves someone. It's interesting to write in a world where evil and love are bound up together as opposed to being considered anti-ethical to each other. Above all things, Lucifer loves God, and misses God, but God is also his enemy. That's the greatest contradiction of love there is -- and yet, although writ on a grand, mythological scale, it's also very human.
Garbett: Right. And it's that conflict that I love to imply when drawing him. There's such a lot going on, beyond the cool, aloof exterior. He's so full of contradictions that you never really know which way he's going to go. I think a character with such unpredictability is a rare thing, and modern readers really respond to that level of depth. It's a far more complex world we live in. It's a world of grey areas and self-expression and characters that really resonate today reflect that -- and none more so than Lucifer.
I've read the solicitations for the first few issues, so I know that as the series begins God is dead and Lucifer's brother, Gabriel, has accused Lucifer of His murder. This next bit is where I get really excited, though: "Agreeing to team up to find out who killed their Father, Lucifer and Gabriel begin the hunt for clues and suspects. Their investigation will span Heaven, Hell, Earth and beyond in this antagonistic buddy-cop noir with an angelic flair." What could possibly go wrong?
Black: Exactly! I mean, stories of Heaven and Hell are always dynastic stories of kings and princes, they're always mythological stories, and they're also always family stories. On one hand, this is a story about angels and devils, and free will and evil; on the other, this is a story about two brothers who are estranged from one another and from their father, who decide to investigate his murder anyway.
Garbett: From an artistic perspective, the investigation spanning all those realms is just amazing fun, especially when it starts getting nasty, or when we're visiting old, familiar faces.
Ah yes -- old, familiar faces. Looking ahead in the solicitations, again, we learn Lucifer and Gabriel are heading to The Dreaming. Does that mean we're going to see Dream and the rest of the Endless?
Black: Nope! At least, not up close. It's intimidating enough to write Lucifer; I am leaving a very wide berth around Daniel and the rest of the Endless. We're going to see some other characters in The Dreaming, however.
Garbett: Leave it with me. [Laughs] I'll keep hassling Holly until we get at least Death in there, somewhere down the line. It's my ambition to draw her.
We are going to meet Azazel, though, another character from "The Sandman." What can you share about his role in the series -- and who is Medjine?
Black: Azazel is still trapped in the jar he was sealed into by Dream, and somehow that jar was reintroduced into the human world. By the time it makes its way to Medjine, a young girl in perilous circumstances, Azazel has already caused plenty of strife. The question is whether or not she'll give into temptation and let him loose on the world.
Garbett: We get to see some of Azazel's origin in flashback, and that's a wonderful story. I'm looking forward to people seeing that. As for Medjine, she's a great new character and one of my favorites to draw.
What can you share about Gabriel's depiction in the series? If Lucifer is an anti-hero, or even a villain, is Gabriel the hero?
Black: Gabriel, when last we saw him, was betrayed in love, thrown out of Heaven, his heart was ripped out, and he lost his immortality. It was one very bad day. Now, he's given a chance to get it all back -- all he has to do is find his father's murderer. He's one iteration of the noir detective, disillusioned and down on his luck, but determined to see the investigation through. Whether he'll manage to be a hero remains to be seen.
And what can you tell us about his look and feel, Lee?
Garbett: Gabriel is a little more battered and bruised by life than when we last saw him. We find him in a bad place, and it's clear he's been down for a while and mixing with a dodgy crowd. And his look reflects that. [Laughs] He's unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed, to use a Bowie title. I liked the idea that, when the characters are brought together, Gabriel is completely at odds with Lucifer's sharp-suited world.
Finally, there is a "Lucifer" TV series launching in the new year on Fox, starring Tom Ellis. Does your comic tie into the TV series at all and regardless, how do you see the two iterations of the character, launching at the same time, elevating the potential success of each?
Black: The television show has no connection to the comics I am writing. I haven't seen any episodes, and although I am looking forward to it, I don't have any inside information. As for how the show and the comic coming out around the same time will impact one another, I can't even imagine. I think a lot depends on reader and viewer reactions. Hopefully, everyone will have a wicked good time and the devil will get his due.
Garbett: It's hard to say how each will have impact on the other. They feel quite separate, with our book being born out of Mike's run and, as Holly says, we've not seen any episodes or had insider knowledge. I think it'd be fun to get a few nods to each other, here and there. We'll have to see.
"Lucifer" #1 by Holly Black and Lee Garbett goes on sale December 16.