@’s by THE DARKNESS’ David Hine!!!
David Hine has written THE DARKNESS since issue 101. As co-creator of the cult favorite BULLET PROOF COFFIN and with a 30 year history writing everything from JUDGE DREDD, to X-MEN, BATMAN and SPAWN the British writer is ably prepared to show readers what’s in store for Jackie Estacado.
RUSS SHEATH (RS): David, thank you for taking the time out to talk to AICN. For folks who are aware of THE DARKNESS from its previous incarnations, can you bring us up to date with how we currently find Jackie Estacado in this current chapter of THE DARKNESS, to bring folks up to speed?
DAVID HINE (DH): Briefly, the world goes through cycles of destruction and rebirth whenever the 13 Artifacts are brought together. I’m not going to try to summarize all thirteen issues of the series, but Jackie was forced to destroy the universe in order to save it. His daughter, Hope, is the Codex to our Universe and he was able to use her to recreate what looks like an exact replica of our world. At the beginning of REBIRTH, Jackie is the only person who remembers what has happened, and the only one who knows that he cheated when he remade the world. He gave in to the temptation to give himself the family he always wanted. In the old world, Jenny Romano, the love of his life, was murdered many years ago, but he has changed history and now she is his wife, and the mother of Hope.
Over the last 6 months in the first arc of REBIRTH we have seen that Jackie’s world is not so perfect. Jenny has persuaded him to expel The Darkness from his body and mind, and in doing so, he has inadvertently created a double of himself – the Doppelganger – who is Darkness personified. There are a couple of twists that I won’t reveal for the sake of people who may want to pick up the first DARKNESS REBIRTH trade, but essentially the Doppelganger has insinuated himself into Jackie’s life, gaining the love of both Jenny and Hope.
Meanwhile, Hope and Jenny are going through changes of their own. Jenny seems to be undergoing a mental breakdown and fears she is losing her mind. She imagines, for instance, that Hope is suffering from a terrible wasting disease. Hope, formerly the daughter of both Jackie and Sara Pezzini, is now manifesting dark powers that may relate to her inheriting the Darkness gene from her father without the compensating genes of her mother, who wields the Witchblade, the balance of dark and light.
Because of the changes Jackie made, flaws are opening up all over the world – ruptures between our world and another more malevolent world that lies beneath. Ancient evil forces, formerly blocked from entering our universe, are appearing in various forms throughout the Top Cow Universe. In THE DARKNESS books, they have taken the form of an Ancient One, who has inhabited the body of Jackie’s biggest rival, the gangster Balakov.
RS: Further to the previous question, what's in store for Jackie and The Darkness as we push beyond issue 106?
DH: We’re continuing to explore the consequences of Jackie’s manipulation of reality, firstly on a global scale through the increasing fractures that are weakening the fabric of the Universe allowing more and greater evils to enter our world, and then on a personal and psychological level as Jackie continues his descent from a position of power as wielder of The Darkness and head of a criminal empire. I’m pushing that psychological disintegration to the limits. I want to see how much it takes to break Jackie. I feel like a complete bastard sometimes, because to get to that point, I have to inflict some cruel blows on Jenny, Hope and everyone else around him.
We’re currently working towards a storyline that crosses over briefly between THE DARKNESS, WITCHBLADE and ARTIFACTS to show readers how the flaws I talked about are affecting the entire Top Cow Universe. There’s a sense of things spinning out of control and a very dark future ahead for us all as the balance between Light and Darkness gets tipped towards the dark side.
RS: It's been established that The Darkness is one of 13 Artifacts that inhabit and tie together the wider Top Cow universe. Can you tell us how those other 12 Artifacts affect Jackie's world?
DH: It’s all about balance. The Artifacts are objects that bestow mystic powers on their bearers, and those powers tend to be either forces of good or evil – at least on the surface. The Spear of Destiny and The Rapture, for instance, have religious connotations which are usually seen as positive, while The Blood Sword and Pandora’s Box are demonic or forces for darkness. It’s actually far more complex than that, and all the artifacts can be used for both good and evil.
There are two of the thirteen forces that are not strictly Artifacts in the sense of objects containing the essence of mystic powers. These are The Darkness and The Angelus, which are primal and opposing forces rather than talismans. Again, this is more complex than pure good and evil, but the survival of the universe depends on a balance between the two and the other Artifacts are constantly battling to maintain that balance. Now that Jackie is losing control of The Darkness and more malevolent forces are entering our world, the Artifacts will be fighting harder to keep that evil from overwhelming the world.
RS: David, you joined the book at a point where there's a relaunch but you have to be mindful of what has gone before the events of ARTIFACTS; is that a difficult place to begin storytelling from?
DH: It’s perfect. REBIRTH was such a clean break with the past that it literally gave me a blank slate to work with. I’m not ignoring what has gone before. Jackie is constantly dealing with the consequences of REBIRTH and there’s a series of aftershocks from the destruction of the old world. Memories are leaking through, conflicts are arising and it will be an ongoing battle to maintain the structure of the new world.
RS: What attracted to you to THE DARKNESS?
DH: Of all the characters in the Top Cow universe, Jackie is clearly the one who epitomizes the dark forces, and that makes him a challenging character to write. He has to be sympathetic without ever losing the edge of being a cold-hearted professional killer. Looking for the spark of goodness in him is what makes Jackie fascinating. He has always had the Darkness as his excuse for all his evil ways, but now that he has expelled every last trace of the Darkness, what kind of person will he prove to be? He has said that it feels like he has lost his soul along with The Darkness. He’s on his way down right now, but for me he will really take off as a character when he hits bottom and has lost everything, because that’s when we’ll see what really makes him tick.
RS: There will be folk who are familiar with THE DARKNESS from the console game; is this the same Jackie Estacado that they will know from the game?
DH: The game is terrific, both for the action and gameplay and for the backstory, which is far more sophisticated than we’re used to in video games. The fact that it’s written by Paul Jenkins, who wrote for the comic series, means that it’s very true to the comic book character. The personality of our Jackie is very much the one that players will know from the cut scenes, where his relationship with the younger version of Jenny is well developed. For the game players the comic could be seen as an extended variation on the story developed in those scenes.
The game was based on the pre-REBIRTH Darkness, of course, but it has created its own parallel universe where the plot goes in a different direction to the one we’ve taken with REBIRTH.
I don’t think anyone these days has any problem with the ‘parallel worlds’ that come about when concepts are delivered through different media. Darkness game players will recognize the physical depiction of The Darkness, and they’ll certainly recognize the contract killer at work when Jackie gets down to gunplay in the comic. I have actually stolen our main Darkling from the game. He wears a dead cat on his head. In the game he’s called Knobby. I call him Cathead and we’ve created a backstory for that poor moggie.
RS: THE DARKNESS is a book which comfortably inhabits several genres; how would you describe the book for folk looking for a jumping on point?
DH: It’s a horror story, a crime story and it’s also a domestic drama, in the same way that THE SOPRANOS or BREAKING BAD are domestic dramas. There’s plenty of action and the book is pervaded with the sense of menace and evil that has its roots in the work of HP Lovecraft, but its core is the relationship between characters. That’s where the real horror lies, and also the only hope of redemption.
RS: A big thank you to David for taking the time out to talk to AICN. Courtesy of Top Cow, you can jump into THE DARKNESS with the critically acclaimed issue 101 and REBORN - the story behind the NEW Top Cow universe. THE DARKNESS: REBIRTH, containing issues 101-105, is available from retail stores and digital download. THE DARKNESS #107 is in stores this week.
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Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G