When is murder justifiable? It's a tricky question to be sure. Killing for the sake of killing, for the most part, is frowned upon. Killing in defense of a loved one is a slightly more understandable act. But killing in order to protect your family and to quench a nefarious demon's thirst for souls? Well, that's a bloodbath of a different color.
Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri are exploring the hell out of that murderous topic in the pages of "Demonic," the second and latest offering in their takeover of Top Cow's "Pilot Season." In "Demonic," readers will meet Scott, a super-powered vigilante that operates under the alias Demonic. But Scott's vendetta against crime stems not from his own personal thirst for justice — instead, he kills villains in order to pacify a demon's twisted urges, or else he risks the sacrifice of the people he loves most. CBR News spoke with Kirkman and Silvestri about the latest "Pilot Season" installment.
"'Demonic' is about a guy who has superpowers that may or may not be derived from demonic origins," Kirkman told CBR of the book's premise. "The basic thought is if someone were to have superpowers and not know exactly how they got them, it's entirely possible that the stress of having those superpowers could fracture that guy's personality to the point where he invents some kind of false outside stimulus that gives him a reason for his powers to exist. Basically, he has a demon that comes to him every night that tries to talk him into killing his wife and daughter. In order to not have to kill his wife and daughter, he has to go out and fill her quota for souls so that she's fed and doesn't require him to kill his family."
To say that there's no love lost between Scott and the demon that tortures him is a massive understatement. "He hates the thing and is constantly lashing out at it," said Kirkman. "He's put through quite a bit of turmoil, because he's always seeing this demon. It appears to him during the day, always taunting him, so he's living under a lot of stress. But it's left open whether or not what he's seeing is actually real."
The demon and Scott's questionable sanity aren't the only obstacles standing in his way, of course. "To make matters worse, he also has an entire special police division that was formed just to stop him," the writer revealed. "So Demonic, who is running around killing bad people [to pacify the demon], is also being hunted by the police."
Given the pressure from law enforcement, Demonic attempts to achieve some semblance of secrecy by operating as a masked vigilante. Kirkman said that while he had some ideas for the character's costume design, he wasn't completely sure on what the character should ultimately look like. "I knew he had to have some sort of makeshift costume, and I had the idea of adding some kind of tribal mask to kind of look like a demon while still looking like a mask, so Marc took that and ran with it," said the writer. "The visual side of things, that is one hundred percent Marc."
"When Robert and I discuss designs, he usually provides me with a little visual cue to incorporate," Silvestri said of the development process for Scott's costume. "With Demonic, it was pretty easy [in that] he wanted him to resemble a demon. He sent me his sketch of a tribal mask — thank God he's a great writer — as a starting point. The sketch had the demon wearing Freddy Krueger gloves that I changed to the double claw look you see in the final form. From the written description of the character and the sketch ideas, I started playing around with how I could give this guy a unique look. I think the tribal mask and the two claws on each hand set him apart from other vigilante characters. I added the horns on the hood because I thought, thematically, it was appropriate."
For the demon's design, Silvestri had even more leeway than with Scott's appearance. "I really wanted to do something that was different than the typical big red devil with horns and goat feet," he said. "Immediately, I thought of making the demon a woman to mess with people's perceptions and to give [interior artist] Joe Benitez at least one lady to draw in the issue. Plus, one of our hero's main concerns is the safety of his wife, so it works on that level, too."
Although Silvestri designed the book's characters, Joe Benitez is in charge of depicting them inside the pages of "Demonic." According to the Top Cow founder, there was no better artist for the job than Benitez. "It was a no brainer — Joe draws beautiful women and great creatures," said Silvestri. "Joe fashioned the demon as a bearded lady who was attractive yet repulsive. He ran with it and brought in all these gross insect-like parts. She turned out great. Joe's a genius."
"I love the design and I really dug putting my spin on the demon," said Benitez of working on "Demonic." "I wanted to bring back a bit of that old school McFarlane feel. I've always been a big fan of his work, and Demonic visually reminded me a bit of how the Hobgoblin was rendered by McFarlane in 'Spider-Man.' I wanted to bring out the creep factor, so I went for a more [illustrator Yasushi] Nirasawa slant with its look."
Like Silvestri, Kirkman was impressed with Benitez's contributions to the visual world of "Demonic." "Joe is a Top Cow alum and a super talented artist," he said. "I've been wanting to work with him for a while, so I'm pretty thrilled. There's a big action sequence in the middle of the issue that he completely made his own. He retooled the entire thing to make it flow better than what I had written, so as far as the action goes, that's pretty much all Joe."
In the end, only one "Pilot Season" concept can win the competition. While Kirkman is doing his best to remain unbiased, the writer joked that Silvestri is probably most eager to continue on "Demonic." "I don't play favorites — I try to be a bit more diplomatic, but I think it's pretty blatant that 'Demonic' is Marc's favorite," he laughed. "He's most excited to do this book because he's such a big fan of Joe's work."
"I want to know what happens next," Silvestri admitted. "The issue ends in a great cliffhanger. The real question is, does Scott actually have a demon haunting him and telling him to do all this bad stuff, or is he just another nutjob?"
For now, Kirkman won't say either way. In fact, there are so many surprising elements the writer can't reveal just yet that even discussing the bare essentials of "Demonic" presents a challenge. "It's hard to talk about without giving away spoilers, because this is a one-issue story that leads to a larger story," he said. "I can't really discuss the particulars that I'd like to discuss without giving away the surprises. But there are a lot of different things that I'd like to follow up on with 'Demonic.'"
While Kirkman and Silvestri can't say too much without spoiling the book's ending, at least Benitez can offer a final endorsement for "Demonic." "The book has a lot of awesome potential," said the artist. "With Robert and Marc at the helm, I'm sure they already have a lot of surprises in store for the series if it does get picked up."
"Pilot Season: Demonic," co-created by Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri and illustrated by Joe Benitez, arrives in comic book stores on January 27, 2010.
Kirkman and Silvestri's first "Pilot Season" title, "Murderer," is currently available for purchase.