Don't expect the typical boy-meets-girl scenario when Randy and Sarah Queen's "The Darkness/Darkchylde/Witchblade: Kingdom of Pain" one-shot hits comic book stores next month courtesy of Top Cow Productions. Writer-artist Randy Queen, the creator of "Darkchylde," plans to reintroduce Ariel Chylde to comic readers by way of Jackie Estacado and - to a lesser extent - Sara Pezzini, two of the most popular characters in Top Cow's stable. The results of this meeting will be a literal nightmare for Jackie, Ariel and Sara - but if Queen has his way, it'll be a dream come true for fans of his franchise.
Queen spoke with CBR News about Ariel's return to the paneled page and his future plans for the character. He also discussed his upcoming comic book project titled "Starfall," which has a special preview in the pages of the "Darkness/Darkchylde/Witchblade" one-shot.
Fans unfamiliar with the "Darkchylde" franchise shouldn't feel guilty about not knowing Ariel Chylde, as Queen himself admitted that the character has been out of the public eye for some time. As a primer, the writer-artist described Ariel as "a good-hearted southern teen who can become any of the creatures from her many nightmares. Every time she sheds her skin, a new terror emerges - it's just sick! But she was ambushed by a legion of her enemies and has not been seen since."
Ariel's reemergence comes courtesy of Top Cow antihero Jackie Estacado, better known as the wielder of the Darkness. "We thought it would be fun, since the Darkness brings Ariel back to comic shops, that in the story, art should imitate life and he should be responsible for her return there as well," Queen told CBR. "The whole theme of the piece is 'waking up,' and Jackie very effectively wakes Ariel up with what he can do."
But Jackie's awakening of Ariel has unintended consequences in the form of the story's central antagonist. "Something that is at once a victim and an incredible threat also wishes to awaken," Queen teased. "She is brand new [and] can create from imagination. She is very pretty, and very broken. [Jackie and Ariel] can make monsters, [but] she can make anything. She sort of trumps them both, so it's a perfect foil."
Queen couldn't divulge how Sara Pezzini fits into the picture without spoiling "a big surprise," so the "Darkchylde" creator instead revealed how Jackie and Ariel interact with one another over the course of the one-shot. "I would be remiss as a writer if I didn't make this sort of a character study with their observations of one another, so it's all there - but it's also maybe not what you're expecting, in a good way. It's not the meet, misunderstand, and fight formula. I'm bored with that," he explained. "These characters are both monster-makers. Jackie has an elemental evil as old as time on tap, and Ariel can physically become evil in its many varied forms. So the responsibility is to define the differences and similarities, and most importantly - at least from my perspective - try to freshen things up."
Not only does the one-shot reintroduce Ariel to the world, it also unveils an entirely new element of the Darkness. "For the first time, we're debuting the new Darkness armor, and I'm thrilled that Top Cow allowed that," Queen said, referring to how Jackie's armor gets corrupted in Ariel's nightmare world. "Like Iron Man and Batman, I believe the Darkness's visual cues can withstand and benefit from new iterations, as can Ariel's. The suit is now a more mercurial shadow with fossilized Darkling bones [combined with] John Carpenter's 'The Thing.' It's very big on the badass barometer."
Queen said that there's also a third hook, in addition to Jackie's new armor and the return of Ariel - a special glimpse of "Starfall," his next project. The writer-artist's Top Cow one-shot will contain the first five pages of "Starfall" #1, as well as four pages of never-before-seen work. "Space pirates crash land on a savage, uncharted jungle planet and unwittingly unleash a technological virus that zombifies the indigenous dinosaurs," Queen said of the book's premise. "It's insanely, insanely cool. Sierra Starfall is the galaxy's greatest warrior, and this is the tale of her last mission."
Although the creator has been busy working on "Starfall," Queen felt that he needed to return to his roots with Ariel Chylde. "'Starfall' has been in development for a good while and is a huge project," he said. "To get that script right, to design that world, the tech and the characters is enormous - so the thought occurred [that] it might be nice to get something smaller out in the interim. Plus, when we announced 'Starfall,' we noticed that many fans were asking about Ariel. With this book, you get both - some of the old, some of the new. It's a pretty awesome package."
According to Queen, production on "Starfall" isn't the only reason that "Darkchylde" has been absent from comic book stores - he's also been working on a movie adaptation of Ariel's adventures. "I've been busy developing the film with Weta, so she's very much in my life," he said. "It's a dream scenario to have 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'King Kong' FX crew on board. I mean, are you kidding me? It's the dream scenario! As a horror fan, I prefer to see new, original ideas. If Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers could be seen as the new Universal Monsters, then where are the new Freddy, Jason and Michaels? There are some great new things out there just waiting for their time to bloom, and 'Darkchylde' is one of them. So is 'The Darkness' and so is 'Witchblade.' Someone is going to have a eureka moment once they realize every mainstream comic character is taken, but there are these others that weren't created in the 60's and still have impressive pedigrees."
As for "Darkchylde's" return to the comics, Queen said that the upcoming one-shot should be completely accessible to new readers. "No one knew about Jackie Estacado before 'The Darkness' #1 and no one knew Ariel Chylde before 'Darkchylde' #1," said Queen. "The thrill of the tale is the telling - I want to intrigue, not handhold. I don't enjoy stories where you're beaten over the head with origins every time the character appears. Let me research what metal Wolverine's claws are without being told every time they pop out. If you dig a character, you'll want to discover more - that's the fun of collecting.
"I have more stories, and feel this is a new point of reference and not necessarily a continuation - things happen when they happen," he added about the future of the "Darkchylde" franchise. "This is a two-fold opportunity to reintroduce [Ariel] to readers and [to] reintroduce myself. Neither of us are what we were, as I've had the time to refine both. So if you're not a fan, and you think you have an informed reference point for what either of us are based on what we were, just go ahead and throw that right out the window. Let's start fresh."
"The Darkness/Darkchylde/Witchblade: Kingdom of Pain" one-shot hits comic book stores on December 23, 2009 courtesy of Randy and Sarah Queen.