Dynamite Entertainment has announced the creative team behind its upcoming October re-launch of "Evil Ernie," the leather-jacketed anti-hero with the smiley-face button and a taste for vengeance. The new series will be written by Jesse Blaze Snider ("Dead Romeo," "Deadpool"), and will feature art from Jason Craig ("Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash," "Wolverine") and covers by Tim Seeley, Nick Bradshaw, Dan Brereton and Ardian Syaf.
The new series makes some major revisions with the character and story of "Evil Ernie," a property Dynamite acquired from Chaos! Comics in 2010. "Evil Ernie" is, at its core, the story of a good kid turned hard by rough circumstances. Through some slip of fate, and some devilish machinations, Ernie gains the power to exact revenge on his abusers, and sets out to make the world a better place by ridding it of evil. As in most stories, things are rarely as simple as they sound. CBR News spoke with Snider about re-launching the series and the writer's own history with the character.
In its original telling, Ernie was a child who suffered abuse at the hands of his father, driving him to take extreme measures as he developed some extraordinary abilities.
"Evil Ernie was always a violent romantic," Snider said. "In the original series he killed for his love of Lady Death, this time around he's killing because he wants to make the world a better place for you and me, so the horrible things that happened to him when he was growing up never happen to anyone else... It's the story of a good kid with a bad life, who sells his soul to the devil so he can destroy the evil that surrounds him and make the world a better place. Problem is, the more bad people he kills, the closer we come to Armageddon.
"For me though, ultimately it is the answer to the question of 'nature versus nurture,'" Snider continued. "I say, it doesn't matter what your nature, anyone can be driven too far. Anyone can snap."
While Snider is retaining the core of the character and story, some changes were necessitated due to legal issues -- Lady Death, a character who figures prominently in the origin story of Brian Pulido and Steven Hughes' original "Evil Ernie," is one of the few Chaos! characters retained by Pulido.
"It would be nearly impossible to keep the old premise since we can't use Lady Death. That's the one character co-creator Brian Pulido held on to after Chaos! went bankrupt, making all of the Chaos! properties directly affected by 'Lady Death' (most of them) in need of some new direction," Snider explained. "But fear not, the important things, like Ernie's patented leather jacket, zombie good looks, and his shiny smiley-faced button are all present! As is the mayhem, horror, comedy and gratuitous violence!"
Snider, for his part, has been a longtime fan of "Evil Ernie," and has some personal history with Brian Pulido and Chaos! Comics. The writer became friends with Pulido when he was young, and Chaos! published "Dee Snider's Strangeland," by Jesse Snider's father.
"I was young and used to take the bus every year to Chicago (16 hours) to attend 'Wizard World Chicago,'" Snider said. "I'd only stay two days, so I'd only have to buy a room for one night at the cheapest hotel in the area. It sucked because I'd be lugging my bags all around the con for the two days I was there, but my friends at Chaos! used to let me drop my bags at their booth! Plus, they were always nice, would give me free stuff and invite me to all the Chaos! events."
It was the combination of dark humor and chaotic violence that drew Snider to "Evil Ernie," and made him a long-time fan. "I've always had a soft spot for Ernie and Smiley," he said. "It's the same soft spot I have for Deadpool and Lobo. It's that anarchic twinkle in everyone's eye come to life. It's gleeful, horrific, hysterical insanity and sometimes, I just can't get enough of that... When I heard the job was up for grabs, I felt it was my duty to help bring it back to life the right way."
Jason Craig is tackling the interior art, and Snider has nothing but praise for his "Evil Ernie" collaborator. "Jason Craig is amazing! That man is a workaholic! I'd all but given up hope on working with someone who would spend any time on character designs and then Jason shows up giving me distinctive people in plain clothes. That isn't easy to do! Every character in this book is his own person, with interesting posture and mannerisms. I never believed I would get an artist as good as Jason on the book, so it's kind of unreal every time I get a new piece from him."
Craig and Snider have been working closely together to fine tune Ernie's updated look and feel. "Jason has found this amazing modernization of Ernie and he and I have got some cool plans visually for Smiley," the writer said. "We may update Ernie's look a bit with the next arc too -- we've been very much on the same page and he's been unbelievable with making adjustments. Really, I can't gush enough. His hard work will speak for itself when you see the book."
Snider also spoke in glowing terms for his cover artists, each bringing their own signature to the world of Evil Ernie. "I have seen the covers and they are amazing! Especially Nick Bradshaw," said Snider. "He is my favorite artist of the moment, that guy has some serious energy to his work. Love it.
"[Cover artist Tim Seeley] and I are friends and I knew he was a big Ernie fan," Snider continued. "I asked if he'd read the first issue script as a fan and tell me what he thought. Apparently, he liked it, because he did that amazing cover for us and included some of our main characters, and even drew Ernie a bit closer to how he looks in the book."
While fans of the original series can expect to see some characters from Ernie's past incarnations creeping into the story eventually, new readers can expect a new, fresh story through which to enter Ernie's world. "Outside of Smiley and mentions of Lucifer (referred to as "the devil") it's an all Ernie show in the first arc," said Snider. "But Smiley has plenty of face time! We're doing something pretty dark and creepy with Smiley, he's going to be a much more substantial player in this series.
"I think that everyone will be surprised by how much this book has to offer," Snider continued. "Scares, laughs, philosophy, action, Heaven & Hell, violence, the Devil, murder, possession, revenge, Angels, sinners, executions, gratuitousness, everything else!"
"Evil Ernie" rides again in October.