The year 2003 sees a number of new horror based projects land at Dark Horse Comics. One of those books is "Devil's Footprints," a four-issue series coming in March from Scott Allie ("Star Wars Empire") with art by Brian Horton and Paul Lee ("Buffy").
"This is a miniseries about a young magician whose father did terrible things, including making pacts with demons," Allie told CBR News. "Brandon, the main character, wants to avoid going down the road his father did, but when he discovers a curse on his family, he's forced to conjure up the very demon that his father apparently had some dealings with.
"Brandon wants to protect his family, the people he loves. He wants to do good, and he wants people to believe that he is good. This leads him to covering up some details of his life, and that in turn leads to worse things. But he really, really means well, even if he's not able to make it happen. Both he and his brother are very torn up about who their father was and what he did, but they show it in very different ways."
Of course, there are other characters in "Devil's Footprints" set to help Brandon on his journey, as well as a few others looking to get in his way.
"His brother Dexter is the second most important character in the book, and actually he's the one we see change the most. He goes into this not believing in magic at all, not certain about what his father was up to, just that he was a bad father. Dexter probably suffers the most from the curse that the family is under, and he changes the most through the course of the story. Sarah, Brandon's girlfriend, is also really central. She's the one bright spot in Brandon's life, the only one who believes he's really good at heart. Beyond these two, we have the sister-in-law, who loses a baby in issue one. There are a few old men who help Brandon with his magical research and training. One of these is a shopkeeper in Salem, Massachusetts, who is sort of crazy, not of this earth. He provides one of the more interesting moments in the first issue, where he misunderstands Brandon's request for help and sics a demon on him.
"I can't say much about the antagonists, because it would give a lot away, but the two demons in the series are named The Erissa Jonna and Idpa. The Erissa Jonna came from a dream I had a long time ago, and Idpa is an old Sumerian or Etruscan demon.
"Beyond that, we have the usual small-town New England cast of characters. Drunkards and fishermen."
The title and inspiration for the series comes from a legend Allie heard while growing up in his hometown.
"A landmark in my hometown. The Devil reportedly showed up at the local church in the old town, and the priest chased him up the steeple. The Devil jumped, and left one footprint in the stone outside. Brandon calls upon the power of that priest to deal with his own demons in this series."
Additionally, the story grows out of an intense interest Allie has in stories that involve the occult, magic and fantasy.
"I've always been attracted to the sort of ugly side of our emotions. I think that's where our real truths are revealed," said Allie. "The fringes of our experiences. The most intense, and dangerous. That's where I think magic lies, and it's in the occult that we dig into these things. Horror fiction preys upon your weaknesses. Rosemary's Baby is all about a woman's worst fears around pregnancy, fears that are actuallly biologically driven. And in Rosemary's case, they all come true. That, to me, is really brilliant writing. Well, the idea could be slop, but take that idea and execute it well, and it's exactly what I want out of art. I've always appreciated the art that gets into the harshest side of people.
"I guess focusing on all that dark shit leaves me seeing lots of room for improvement in myself, and magic is a great way to deal with that. When I started preparing to write 'Devil's Footprints,' the first book I read was Eliphas Levi's 'Transcendental Magic,' It's Theory and Practice.' The theory section is a great self-help book. Any self help stuff I'd ever read, when handed to me by a girlfriend or whatever, I could never connect with it. Levi was much more on my wavelength. I started getting into a Qabala, getting back into the tarot, which I'd used a lot in high school.
"The reason I think all of this is really good for comics is because like comics, most magic and occult systems are a combination of words and pictures - you have the ideas that you can verbalize, and the ones which are images, or gestures. The Hebrew Tree of Life is a beautiful mandala that you can study as a picture, but get deeper and deeper into with words - the words and the pictures relate, become one thing, inseparable. The tarot - it's all words and pictures, just like Captain America.
Inspiration for the story in "Devil's Footprints" comes from a variety of sources, including some of fantasy's top writers, great horror comics and from Allie's own childhood experiences.
"[Authors] Umberto Eco, Carson McCullers, HP Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson. The inspiration is everything in my life for this one. I mean, it's all the stuff I've ever read, everything I've ever done. Setting it in my hometown means I'm exorcising my entire childhood here. I wanted to do a comic with real strong characters, realistic characters - one reviewer said that the characters were too real, lacked the exaggerations that make characters work in comics. Can't please everyone. Besides the realistic characters, and the emotional depth of their struggles, I wanted monsters, monsters, monsters. I wanted to emulate the smart stuff I love and the dumb things I love, all at once. So that's what we're going for. It's inspired by 'Hellboy' and 'From Hell,' 'Buffy' and 'Foucualt's Pendulum,' 'The Call of Cthulhu' and 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.'"
Currently magic and fantasy are hot in Hollywood with franchises like "The Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" eating up the box office pie. While the choice to write "Devil's Footprints" was not inspired as a result of this success, Allie knows the time is right for a story like the one he's written.
"I've always wanted to do horror comics, more than anything else. Ever since the 'X-Files' started on the tube, I've been saying that there's a big horror rush coming - I felt that the then approaching turn of the century would increase everyone's sense of fear, and make them gravitate to more speculative things, and that that was the reason for the 'X-Files' success. Turns out I was right, but I've never been able to cash in on it. I just want to get this story out there."
In addition to writing "Devil's Footprints," Allie is an editor at Dark Horse, which put him in touch with the artists for his books.
"Paul Lee and Brian Horton are drawing the book, and they've been doing Buffy covers for me for a while. They're probably Joss Whedon's favorite 'Buffy' artists, judging from his reaction when he met them last year. They've done some other work together, and lots of other work separately. Paul did a Hulk book a while ago, and he did a Vertigo book called 'Dhampire' with Nancy Collins years ago. He also has a small press book, which is really great, called 'Lurid,' about stripclubs. Brian works in video games. He's worked with Clive Barker on 'The Unseen,' and on the upcoming Buffy and Indiana Jones video games at the Collective.
"We've just known each other through the comics for a few years, worked on 'Buffy' a lot, so when I started talking about 'Devil's Footprints,' Brian expressed some interest, and we worked it out. We have real similar ideas about comics, so it's been easy to collaborate. The story was pretty much written when they came on board, but I did some rewrites based on their ideas. The first scene in issue one was totally Brian's idea, and the characters - mainly the supporting characters - have gone through a lot of change based on their thoughts. And the ending was much improved based on their thoughts about what I had before."
For "Devil's Footprints" completests out there, a prologue to the series is already available, published in Dark Horse's "Reveal" anthology in November of 2002. But as Allie tells us, the prologue is not required to understand what's going on in the main series and was happy to summarize the story to bring readers up to speed.
"The prologue is definitely not required reading for the series," explained Allie. "It definitely helps you have a better idea of who the father was, since he's dead by the time the series starts, but there's enough reflection upon him in the series that you get whatever you need to know about him from that. The prologue and the miniseries are separated by about ten years in Brandon's life, so there's no real tight connection.
"In the prologue Brandon's quite young, and his father takes him to a friend's house to learn how to use tarot cards for astral projection. The friend is Jim Fassbender, who plays a small but important role in the series. He shows Brandon how to astral project into a tarot card, where he winds up underwater, menaced by a giant C'thulhu monster who knows his father. The story shows Brandon's dad putting him in danger, and yet concerned about him nonetheless."
"Devil's Footprints" #1 comes out March 12 from Dark Horse Comics and is being solicited through Diamond's Previews this month. Each issue ranges from 24 to 30 pages, full color and carries a $2.99 cover price.