A Fanboy Interview With Joshua Dysart
Demon: Driven Out #2.
DC Comics wanted to revive Jack Kirby's Demon (Etrigan to
his friends), the powers that be knew only one thing: they
wanted the book to have an edgy feel along the lines of The
Fast And The Furious.
the same time, Josh Dysart was making a name for himself writing
for Hurricane Entertainment
with a little book called Violent Messiahs. Perhaps you've
heard of it. He and artist Tone Rodriguez pitched a Ragman
revival to DC, which the company did not bite.
this Dysart guy looked to have the right tone for their Demon
project. Teaming Dysart with artist Pop Mhan, the company
got its project. Two weeks ago saw the first issue of The
Demon: Driven Out, a hyperkinetic and (at this point) mysterious
take on Etrigan that involves him switching hosts from Jason
Blood to a young Japanese-American woman. Oh, yes, and she's
high up in a drug cartel and into street racing on the side.
Frankly, like Dysart himself, I consider it far more fun than
at least 2Fast2Furious.
ComicCon this past summer, while talking with Jan Utstein-O'Neill
at Hurricane, I met Dysart and extracted the promise of an
interview. We chose the written e-mail method, though both
of us lamented the loss of spontaneity.
yet, even with time to reconsider his answers, Dysart still
shoots from the hip.
McCaw: Did you have an affection for The Demon before
this, or did it become a character you discovered as you went
Dysart: I didn't really know much about Etrigan until
I started researching for this gig, but it wasn't long before
I was a full-fledged devotee. There's been some amazing work
done with the character by absolute giants, and each artist
has really managed to make him their own. Kirby's original
bouncy joyous arcane hero, Wagner's self-satisfied thespian,
Moore's dense crouching thick furnace, Grant's Robin Williams
from hell, Ennis' super sadomasochistic Dr. Seuss
support such range. Many have that kind of range in they're
histories, but few actually support it.
If you had to put The Demon in Dungeons & Dragons terms,
how would you align him?
WOW! Your assumption that I'm a gamer promotes a certain stereotype
of comic book writers, don't you think?
Demon was Chaotic Good, but over the years the character has
been drifting towards Chaotic Evil, which is how I play him
for the purposes of Driven Out. I do dig on the idea
that he could be manipulated into doing good
host is smart enough.
cool to get two separate players to act him out, one as the
host and one as the demon (with the host having a Neutral
Good alignment). Each player could take over for the other
at the moment the character trans-mutated
what a fascinating
game dynamic! Each side of the character would be oblivious
to the other's intentions. There could even be some kind of
saving throw to allow the "inactive" player to exert
his will on the other. RPG's are for geeks!
And yet you answered that question with such thoroughness.
Does that embarass you in any way?
No, I'm not embarrassed by it at all. I don't game anymore,
it's too much of a time-suck, and I get paid to sink my creative
energy into other things, but I was an avid gamer (almost
always as the game master) until I was 21 years old.
with that first basic D&D set, but the fantasy setting
got old quick, so I moved onto that first TRAVELER SET which
is still my favorite system - it's so simple and underdeveloped,
with lots of room for the players and master to create anything
they want. Then later I got into CALL OF CTHULHU (which I
loved), PARANOIA, MAGE (never the live action version, just
the RPG), JAMES BOND
even the JUDGE DREDD game.
that my imagination is as developed as it is because I poured
my heart and soul into those games when I was growing up.
I never bought supplements. I created everything from scratch.
My first genuinely premeditated creative act was banging out
a playable world. I don't think video games or even the strategy
card games give the player that kind of opportunity to create.
They fuel imagination, sure, but they don't encourage you
to actually feel imaginatively empowered.
You've said elsewhere that of course by the end of this
mini-series everything will go back to status quo for Jason
Blood and Etrigan. How much impact can you have on the character
under those conditions?
offers his new host a thank you gift.
From Driven Out #2.
Honestly, not a lot. You have this time frame in which you're
given permission to explore these corporate characters, but
you can't make any profound changes, and even if you do, who's
to say the next guy isn't gonna just change it back?
though, that's all part of the fun with this kind of gig.
It has to be or you'll be miserable. Still, since I gave the
interview you're citing above, there've been further talks
about the series. What I can and can't do with the character
has changed slightly.
now report, with some vagueness, that we'll end on a very
interesting note that'll take the readers by surprise and
leave them (and myself) wondering about what's next for Etrigan
and his host Jason Blood. So I've been thrown a bone of sorts.
What of your take on The Demon would you hope would become
part of the mythos?
Well, I already know how it ends and which part of my story
will play into the overall narrative of the character. I'd
rather not spoil that for the readers. I'll talk more about
this when everyone knows how the series ends. If anyone still
wants to hear it, that is.
Allrighty. We're due for a follow-up. When writing the
mini-series, whose shadow did you most feel you were laboring
Ahh, that's an interesting question. Some heavy cats have
worked on this character, but I'd have to say Alan Moore.
Not in the sense that I want my Demon/Blood to act and talk
like Moore's, or even that I want to mimic his tone (that
would be stupid, I'd just fail), but just in the sense that
his Demon stories are so damn engaging. You read them and
it's just, I don't know how else to say it,
every narrative beat is cool.
what Pop and I are doing is totally different than what's
come before, not just with the story elements we've chosen,
but in theme and pacing too. So it's pretty liberating for
me. If people don't like it, it's not because I was rehashing
what came before.
Is there any difference in the way you approach writing for
Pop Mhan and Tone Rodriguez?
doing what he does best. Sort of.
From Driven Out #2
the surface of the story but not the actual voice. Tone likes
to draw big guys, so I stick big guys in there. I challenge
Tone by making those big guys cry, or naked, or something,
but they're in there.
drawing cars and girls, so I gave him a challenge in Ame,
the drag racing yakuza chick. Ame's sexy in a way that's not
so familiar to mainstream comics. She's not all attitude,
ass kickin' and T&A, it's her complexity that's sexy,
and I think Pop is really nailing that.
next artist digs the hell out of drawing window washers, then
I promise there will be window washers in the story. They'll
be shoving heroin up their ass, but they'll be there. Artists
work too hard in this medium not to have fun.
descriptions are always done in my style. Part of the joy
of this gig is watching different artists interpret the text
description of the images in my head. There is one artist
I occasionally work with that I use an entirely different
descriptive voice with. His name is Allan Gladfelter; he does
a series called Lost Tribe. I often just give him a
very poetic panel description with few concrete details and
let him go nuts. It works out great.
You originally pitched to DC for you and Tone to work together.
Are you still going to try and make that happen, and either
way, which character or characters would you want to tackle
I made Tone a promise once. Violent Messiahs was very
much a collaboration, but it's also true that Tone labored
under my and Jan Utstein's (editor) vision. So I promised
Tone, probably while he was drawing something he really didn't
want to, like an amputee fetish scene or something, that one
day he and I would do a project together where he was the
creative director and I was his lackey. I aim to keep that
promise. I can't wait, it's going to be an awesome creative
whether that happens at DC or not, who knows?
really love to do RAGMAN with Tone. DC is hesitant about it
though. I don't know if it's the character or my take, but
they're not going for it
Did your work on Violent Messiahs seem a natural segue into
The Demon? Why or why not?
so, to an outsider looking in, maybe. One thing that's a little
frustrating is that I executed VM in a certain voice
and suddenly everybody wants me to repeat that hat trick over
and over again with their characters.
know if that's what DC had in mind or not, but this Demon
piece isn't like VM. It's faster, there's less introspection.
The desire to be meaningful is there, but it doesn't have
the same weight.
the dark aspects of VM may have made me seem like a
natural fit, I've still managed to take this project in an
entirely separate direction. I hope to go in other, more unexpected
ways with future projects. We'll see if I get that opportunity.
Could Citizen Pain hold his own against Etrigan, or would
it just be an immediate incineration?
Yes, he could hold his own. Etrigan is a rampaging beast,
but Job (Citizen Pain) is something else entirely. He's meditative,
precise and unrelenting. I think it'd be a pretty intense
smack down. The difference is Citizen Pain, while being very
tough, can and has died, Etrigan cannot. What a wacky fan
Every now and then we have to throw a bone to the name of
in part two of the interview,
Dysart dishes more on The Demon, Violent Messiahs, his work
on the upcoming Captain Gravity from Penny-Farthing Press,
and tolerates a few more fanboy questions.