Are your co-workers really evil, or is it just your imagination?
Chris Yost and Scott Wegener will explore the question on everyone's mind in "Killer of Demons," a three-issue miniseries launching from Image Comics in March. CBR News spoke with Yost and Wegener about the series, the Eisner Award, and the hilarity of decapitation.
Wegener, the Eisner-nominated artist of "Atomic Robo," describes his latest project as "The Office" meets "Shaun of the Dead," a "melding of the mundane world with horror that's chock full of great comedy beats."
Yost, the "X-Force" writer who describes himself as having been "nominated for no Eisners," elaborated on what some of those beats might entail. "'Killer of Demons' is the heartwarming story of junior account executive Dave Sloan, who wakes up to see that there are actual literal demons from hell among us," he told CBR, "and a heavenly cherub angel is telling him to kill them all. Which he does, with swords, axes, guns and even a pen. But Dave starts to realize that things aren't necessarily as they seem.
"As Satan points out to him, pretty much all the good serial killers think they're doing God's work. And given that everyone Dave sees as a demon is someone he works with--he works in advertising, about 10 to 1 hellspawn--or people that annoy him--gardeners with leaf blowers, the drive-thru window guy--it doesn't look good for Dave's sanity.
"So the question is 'Dave... insane? Or hand of God on Earth?' The answer may or may not surprise you."
Observing that there has been a trend in recent years toward breeding horror with humor, CBR asked Yost what makes killing demons fun. "Their screams," he replied. "It's some heavy material--the war between heaven and hell, Satanists, and mass murder, but there's a silver lining to everything. There's always a light side, except sometimes when there's not. But here there is."
Wegener acknowledged that there is some darkness to "Killer of Demons," but "for the most part the absurdity of the various situations that Dave finds himself in far overshadow that."
"No matter how big and scary a demon might be (not that mine are terribly frightening), they sort of lose that intimidation factor when they are dressed in a shirt and tie," Wegener said. "They sort of just beg you to lop their head off with an ax."
On that note, Yost added, "There's this one bit with decapitated head that's just laugh out loud funny. For me. But that might say something about me, I suppose."
Wegener, however, said, "I wish I could say he's the only one who laughs at decapitation, but the more blood, gore, and body parts I got to draw the more fun I had."
Yost has developed a reputation, along with frequent collaborator Craig Kyle, of killing huge swaths of characters in one sitting from his time writing "New X-Men" and his current run on the more outwardly violent "X-Force." So how does "Killer of Demons" compare? "'New X-Men' was just practice," he joked. "Practice for 'X-Force.' But 'X-Force' is just practice for 'Killer of Demons.' Body count: higher. Funniness of deaths: funnier."
"Killer of Demons" is set in Detroit, where Yost once worked for an advertising agency. "Was it run by demons? Hard to say," the writer offered. "Dave Sloan is our everyman, our window into this world of sex, drugs, hookers, murder, strippers, sacrifices, torture, mayonnaise and celestial combat. We can relate. Well, I can. Have you ever worked with someone who made your life hell? You were sure they were from hell, sent to torment you? Maybe they were just an @$$HOLE, but you get what I'm saying. Well, if you've ever felt like that, or know someone who has, you'll like 'Killer of Demons.''"
"Sadly, living in New Hampshire, and even growing up in NYC, my exposure to sex, drugs, hookers, murder, stripper, sacrifice, torture, mayonnaise, and celestial combat was limited," Wegener said. "Well, maybe not mayonnaise. But seriously, if I could have chosen one thing of that list to be exposed to, it wouldn't have been a condiment made from whipped egg whites."
As to whether everyman Dave is insane or, in fact, an agent of God, Yost would only say, "That's the journey! We learn with Dave. And it's open to interpretation. Was Jenkins from accounting really a dark Satanist wizard who deserved what he got? Readers will decide. They may be wrong, but they will decide."
Wegener was more succinct on the subject: "I still have no idea."
"Killer of Demons" emerged from a desire to "do something super-awesome." Explained Yost, "I remembered how when I worked in advertising, we really did talk about how we pretty much were signing away our souls by working for some of the clients we worked for. We felt dirty. As time passed, the idea stayed and grew.
"So I saw some of Scott's work and really wanted to work with him. Using the power of the internet, I stalked him down and got him to agree to free labor. Pre-'Atomic Robo,' natch. Now it looks expensive for a sequel. So with this idea of killing my co-workers in mind, and Scott's surprisingly graphic penchant for death, we laid it down."
"When I was first looking for work in comic books I knew that whatever book I worked on I wanted it to have a certain level of charm, and social relevance," Wegener said of his early career. "It should be something that would leave both me, and the reader, somehow better than we were before we made/read that comic.
"And then I got hungry. Really, really hungry, and I took the first gig that came along. This was it.
"Seriously though, Chris and I did two short stories for an indie anthology called 'Memories & Echos,' and they happened to appear back-to-back, which I think is where Chris first saw my work (such as it was back then). I refused to believe that he really wanted to work with a hack like me. But eventually he convinced me it wasn't some cruel joke. For a guy just starting out, who had no idea what he was doing, Chris was a godsend. Unlike my current writing partner on 'Atomic Robo' who is abusive and treats me like an unloved step-child, Chris was supportive and encouraging. I would say that ['Atomic Robo' writer Brian] Clevinger should take some notes from Mr. Yost, but I am just as horrible to him--it's sort of the glue that binds our relationship together."
In the time since Yost and Wegener first began work on "Killer of Demons," "Atomic Robo" has debuted to acclaim and an Eisner nomination, while Yost has insinuated himself into the heart of the X-Men universe. "There was a very long gap between issue #1 of 'KOD' and the final two issues," Wegener explained, "because Chris was shopping it around, looking for a publisher, and I was off doing the first 'Robo' miniseries. For the first few days back on 'KOD' it was difficult to work without a constant stream of hatful Instant Messages. But I got used to the quiet eventually."
"If you like my work on 'New X-Men,' 'X-Force,' 'X-Men Origins: Colossus,' 'X-Men: Emperor Vulcan,' 'X-Men: Worlds Apart,' the upcoming 'X-Men: Kingbreaker,' 'X-Men: Manifest Destiny,' 'X-Men: Divided We Stand,' 'X-Men: Messiah Complex,' 'X-Men: Endangered Species,' 'X-Men: Unlimited,' a fill in plot on 'New Excalibur,' or even shows like 'X-Men: Evolution' or 'Wolverine and the X-Men,' you'll like this," Yost said of his first creator-owned series. "If you hate those things, you'll still like this because there's no mutants. And more jokes!
"Will it change how people look at comic books and quite possibly themselves? Maybe."
"Killer of Demons" #1 goes on sale in March from Image Comics.