Holly Black And Lee Garbett On The Holy Resurrection Of ‘Lucifer’ [Interview]
After many years away, the charismatic, unflinching Lucifer returns to Vertigo Comics, where he first appeared as part of the supporting cast of Sandman. A lot has changed since that time, but it looks as though he remains the same magnificent bastard that inspired some of the best creative work Vertigo has ever seen. This new series, from Holly Black and Lee Garbett, brings the character to Hollywood, and kicks off with the grandest murder mystery imaginable: the death of God. With the Almighty murdered, all suspicions turn towards Lucifer as the culprit --- forcing him to come out of the shadows to clear his name.
Taking the character brought so vividly to life in his outstanding prior series by writer Mike Carey and artists including Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly, and returning him to an ongoing series is a tough job. To find out more about what Black and Garbett plan for the character, ComicsAlliance spoke to them both about his imminent resurrection.
ComicsAlliance: Holly, you’ve said that your approach here is to follow Lucifer as he consciously opens old wounds and repeats himself. Was it daunting to come in on a series like this and offer a 'follow up' to the Mike Carey series?
Holly Black: Very daunting, mostly because I admire what Mike Carey did so much. But also because when Carey's Lucifer series came to an end, most of the threads got tied up pretty tightly. Untying them in ways that feel true and fun is no easy task.
CA: Likewise, Lee, are you looking to draw influence from the style of Ryan Kelly, Peter Gross, etc., here, or is it important to you that this feels like a new start, a stylistic break?
Lee Garbett: I think I always had a pretty clear view of how I wanted him to look, but Scott Hampton’s first issues were the template I used, along with the covers, which were always really evocative. I’ve tried to use all that’s gone before to inform my take, and I think you’ll see a mix of that in there, while, hopefully, adding something fresh too.
CA: Where is Lucifer as the series begins? Ten years on, how has he changed (or not changed) since we last saw him?
HB: Lucifer's changed a lot, in ways that he’s only discovering now that he’s returned to the world. I am lifting some aspects of his character from the Lucifer we saw in Sandman, a certain trickster quality. And, of course, I have my own idea of his nature. But I think the biggest way that he changed is that he really did leave home. He got away from the world that his father created. What he couldn’t get away from was himself.
As Milton wrote, "no more than from Himself, can fly/By change of place.” Wheresoever Lucifer goes, something his father created is there too — him. That’s not something he’s ever going to be able to escape from.
LG: He got what he wanted and he’s enjoying life, so he’s pretty irritated when the old life comes crashing in again. That said, he’s intrigued too and he’s probably enjoying himself more than he cares to let on.
CA: He’s typically been one to keep his interests on the surface, but his desires deeply hidden. Is he a particularly difficult character to have as lead?
LG: That is an issue. I enjoy the acting side of storytelling, and Lucifer doesn’t emote much --- but you can get across a lot in the odd smirk or frown, here and there. But I love that he’s so subtle. He has an aloof charm that is just a lot of fun to draw, especially amidst all the chaos and horror surrounding him. It also means that when he does lose it or show emotion, we know it’s major and it has impact.
HB: Well, he’s difficult to write for, too, in the sense that he’s had everything. He’s ruled Hell, rejected the Throne of Heaven, created his own world (and then rejected that), and left the universe. What is there left to want?
CA: I’m interested in your sense of design. What’s your thought process for the sorts of clothing Lucifer wears through the series, and how the various characters look in this world?
LG: Lucifer’s mostly suited and booted. I’d like to move around with that a bit, but I find it a little disconcerting when he’s not in his suit or at least a dress shirt. To me, Lucifer needs to be sharply styled. That said, he spends the first arc in a number of different outfits and guises, so there’s definitely room for change.
Design-wise, I look at what impact the character needs to have, and I’ll cater their design accordingly. If they have historical/biblical weight or may crop up regularly, I’ll aim to get them as appealing (and revolting, if need be) as possible. And with the lesser characters I still try and have a logic to their existence, and although line that gives them a sense of unity. I want the demons to be distinct from the lilim, for instance.
CA: You’re no stranger to pencilling a Pantheon, although Lucifer is a much more vicious sort of series than Loki: Agent of Asgard. Was it refreshing to get a chance to really strike out artistically with this new book, go full-on with the horror?
LG: Yes, there does seem to be a sense that Loki was great preparation for taking on Lucifer, and that was one of the reasons the book felt so perfect to me as my next project, as well as just being a huge fan of the original series and the Vertigo classics --- but I definitely feel very comfortable with the whole Pantheon thing now.
Artistically, it's probably a little more involved and mature than previous work, due to the subject matter and I guess it’s a slight departure from work I’ve done before but I’m a big horror and occult fiction fan, so to me it feels very comfortable.
CA: What’s it been like working together on the series?
HB: I think Lee is fantastic. He’s done really wonderful work, drawing images I wasn’t sure were even possible. And his Lucifer is changeable, dynamic and fascinating.
LG: It’s been absolutely great. I’ve not had chance to meet Holly face to face, we’ve only communicated via mail so far --- and the first arc of Lucifer was already nailed down when I came onboard --- but we’re going to get together to discuss the next arc and see where we’ll go from there. The scripts are so good, really smart and dark. I’m just dying for the book to come out so people can finally get to read the fantastic stuff I’ve been reading for months.
CA: Lucifer tends to have an incredibly long-term plan in mind --- have you had to approach this story similarly? How long-term are your plans for the series, and how much did you have to have in place before you could even begin with scripting issue #1?
HB: What I liked about this storyline is that Lucifer is off-kilter. He didn’t expect any of this. He’s making plans and solving mysteries, but someone seems to be a step ahead of him, for maybe the first time. Certainly for the first time in a long time.
CA: Now, issue #1 reveals that God has been murdered, and Lucifer is the main culprit. Would you consider this to be a noir story?
HB: Absolutely. That was my jumping off point — sunlit noir. With his nightclub already in LA, it’s a perfect fit.
LG: That’s the setup, and it’s got those touchstones throughout, but given the world(s) in which Lucifer operates, it soon becomes much more than that. Yet, at its heart there’s a sense of noir about it from the get go.
CA: How do you feel that noir works within the huge scope of this religious dynasty? It seems like the two would fit together in fascinating ways.
HB: I think noir works really well, because it’s already a genre about moral ambiguity. Noir detectives come to their jobs disillusioned, often having been in a war — and what war is bigger than the war in Heaven? — and yet, they discover that despite that disillusionment, they can still be surprised by new and unexpected awfulness.
CA: The nightclub setting is particularly interesting here --- it feels as though this provided you with a starting point from which you could explore the character and build out the series. Do you feel the nightclub represents his need to have a home, perhaps --- one he has a complete sense of control over?
HB: I feel like Lux represented Lucifer himself throughout Mike Carey’s run. As Lucifer became more isolated and removed from the world, so Lux became less of a piano bar and more of a fortress, full of empty rooms. For me, I see Lux (now Ex Lux) as a place that allows him to have a small piece of real estate to rule over — maybe a little bit like Rick’s Café Americain in Casablanca.
LG: Holly had a pretty distinct idea for the bar and I’ve used that as a template for Ex Lux. It’s quite glitzy and golden. In issue #1 we see some of the patrons of the bar and yeah, that was fun. I love drawing monsters and demons, and with Ex Lux being like an upscale Mos Eisley, there’s plenty of scope for the weird and wonderful. Hell’s inhabitants are a blast too. I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing more of those guys as the series progresses.
CA: With God dead, Gabriel will play an important role in the series here. How do you view his relationship with Lucifer?
LG: Gabriel is in a bad place when we find him, and of course there’s no love lost between him and Lucifer anyway. I do think there’s a grudging respect growing, especially from Gabriel’s side. He's definitely not the one in control here, though, and he needs Lucifer. He also has some pretty rough times ahead.
HB: I loved Gabriel in Hellblazer, so I was excited to have him for Lucifer. Stories about angels and devils are always family stories as well as dynastic stories. For Lucifer to have to work with an estranged brother to investigate the death of their estranged father allows for a lot of exploration of their family dynamic.
CA: You’ve said Carey’s take looked at the paradox of free will, while your series will look at the paradox of evil. Could you tell us a little more about how this plays out, thematically? Even the initial premise --- killing God --- could be seen as an act of either necessary good or evil?
HB: Well, the paradox of evil is: why do we need it? Why does a good God allow it to exist? And, to return to the question of free will, is evil a natural result of it? As Lucifer goes looking for who has a motive to kill God, he has to wrestle with the question of whether we’re living in a moral universe, and, if so, whose morals are they?