Interview by Rob Caprilozzi
This week is “Midnight Sons” week at Horror News Network. Today we chat with writer, Christian Cooper on his spooky masterpiece, Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins!
Horror News Network: How did the concept for The Darkhold Redeemers come about?
Christian Cooper: The idea predated The Midnight Sons, actually, and got rolled into that launch because of the shared mystical element. As a young Marvel editor looking to make his writing mark, I thought the supernatural aspects of the universe were underexplored. In reading up on the history of the Darkhold-“the Book of Sins,” Marvel’s Necronomicon or Grand Grimoire, ultimate book of black magic–one bit jumped out at me: The pages of the book had once been scattered to break up its power, but most had later been re-collected into a single volume again.
That “most” was all I needed to see; the pages that remained lost became the premise of DARKHOLD: PAGES FROM THE BOOK OF SINS. So if the lost pages of the Darkhold were going to start turning up wreaking havoc, who was going to fight the rising tide of evil? That’s how the Darkhold Redeemers were born.
Horror News Network: The core team consisted of Victoria Montesi, Sam Buchanan, and Louise Hastings. Can you talk a bit about how these characters were selected/created to be a part of this team?
Christian Cooper: Richard Case (the original penciler for the series) and I were creating all three characters from scratch, so I was able to envision them with the balance I wanted in the team. Vicki Montesi was the heart, the latest in a long line of the Montesi family who according to Marvel lore were the incorruptible keepers of the Darkhold; with her reluctant acceptance of her role as the seer whose visions would lead the Redeemers to the pages, she became their reason for being. Interpol agent Sam Buchanan served as the muscle, and also the skeptic; and Louise Hastings had the brains-as an older woman she had the experience and wisdom, not to mention the knowledge of the occult. Her no-nonsense attitude was based more than a little on my grandmother, a force of nature who immigrated to the U.S. from Guyana.
Horror News Network: The interesting thing about The Redeemers was that none of them had any powers out of the ordinary, except Victoria’s visions of Darkhold pages being used. What was it like to write a team of “normal” characters battling demons and other nasties?
Christian Cooper: A challenge! They had to use their wits to defeat the menaces they faced, which means I had to use my wits to figure out how they got out of their predicaments. I’d like to think it kept things a bit more human; sometimes what it took to put the evil to rest was someone to listen to a WWII vet’s torment at a changing world…or blowing things up! Sometimes that works too.
Horror News Network: The Darkhold Dwarf caused a lot of chaos for our heroes. Can you talk a bit about the creation process of this character?
Christian Cooper: The elements of the series drew from existing Marvel lore: the Other who appears when a page is used, the Darkholders who worship the book, the Montesis who guard against it…all of it was previously established–all except the Darkhold dwarf, who mysteriously starts delivering pages in black envelopes where they seem most likely to whack a nerve, to scratch an itch, to provoke a fiendish response. He was new.
He needed to be creepy, to get under the reader’s skin. The mirthless used-car-salesman grin Richard Case gave him did a nice job of communicating his role peddling car wrecks of the soul. (Though I regret making him a dwarf; it was too easy, exploiting the discomfort people feel at the physically different, and it was a disservice to dwarfs, who are ordinary people like you and me and already have enough crap to deal with from society. But I needed a defining visual, and in this, I got lazy, I’m sorry to say.)
Who or what was he, where did he come from, what was his agenda, whom if anyone did he serve? Some things must remain forever a mystery. Safe to say he was up to no good!
Horror News Network: The addition of Modred to the book offered fans an insight to a truly neutral character. You were never really able to tell if what he was doing was good or evil. With that being the case, it always was to benefit himself. Can you talk about the addition of Modred into the pages of Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins?
Christian Cooper: If the other three, the Redeemers, were the heart, muscle, and brains, Modred the Mystic was the soul: dark and tormented and yet striving against all odds to return to the light. Modred was a long-neglected existing character whose tragic origin was entirely due to the Darkhold, and his strange position between the light and the dark fascinated me to no end. He never was officially a Redeemer, but he was intended from the outset to be an adjunct to the team.
So what was Modred’s deal? He wanted his soul back from the evil elder god Chthon (author of the Darkhold), and he’d do anything to anyone to get it. My favorite issue dealt with that head on. In issue #12, Modred finally attains his goal, regaining his soul after centuries in the thrall Chthon; and by the end of the story, he’s sacrificed that soul to Chthon a second time, again for the noblest of reasons, becoming a monster again of his own free will. I think that issue was penciler Rurik Tyler’s best work on the series, especially the final splash, which was a closeup of Modred’s face after a taste of his lost humanity and a return to soullessness: He’s smirking with possessed evil and simultaneously crying with heartbreak, and it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. That was Modred in a nutshell, and as a writer, you take a character like that and never stop running with him.
Horror News Network: Can you talk a bit about what it was like plotting the crossovers that took place throughout The Midnight Sons titles?
Christian Cooper: That was always fun, because it was such a great group of people having a ball. We writers would go hole up somewhere on a day-long retreat and hash out all kinds of crazy ideas. Again, the fact that my main characters didn’t have powers meant I had to get creative; for example, in the Midnight Massacre crossover, it meant that for the DARKHOLD issue of the crossover the focus shifted to Modred, and he really got to strut his stuff in the brutal battle with Switchblade.
One thing I tried to do in each crossover was make sure it factored in a major development in DARKHOLD’s own storyline. Again using the Midnight Massacre as an example, when Switchblade kills Vicki Montesi, it’s one of the first indications of DARKHOLD’s big plot twist-that everything about Vicki is not what it seems.
Horror News Network: Can you talk a bit about adding Jinx into the mix of the book?
Christian Cooper: Jinx, Louise Hastings’s magic-prodigy grandson-served as a breath of fresh air. His perspective was lighter, less fraught than the other principal characters, very irreverent. He was to develop under Modred’s tutelage as the mystic’s apprentice, and after the events in issue 12, Modred was going to secretly groom him as the instrument of his revenge against Chthon.
Jinx was balanced by another youngster, Diabolique. She, with her Playmate-a writhing mass of enslaved human flesh to act as a battery for her dark magics-was a twisted piece of work.
Horror News Network: Can you talk about a bit Morbius betraying The Midnight Sons and what he did to Louise Hastings?
Christian Cooper: Not much to say there. That crossover needed a defining moment, and unfortunately Louise provided it. I’m still not sure how I feel about that (she was modeled after my grandmother, after all!), except that part of me must have felt it moved things along, because I let it happen.
Horror News Network: What did it mean to you as a writer having The Midnight Sons emblem added to the front of the Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins books?
Christian Cooper: DARKHOLD reached a much wider audience thanks to that, for which the credit goes to the editor of the Midnight Sons line, Bobbie Chase. It wasn’t always a perfect fit, in that DARKHOLD was more of a horror comic than a superhero comic (the other books in the group featured superheroes who happened to be mystical in origin); but ultimately I don’t have any real complaints on that score.
Horror News Network: Do you think we would ever see a return of The Darkhold Redeemers?
Christian Cooper: In comics, who knows? Who could have predicted that Groot -first introduced in 1960’s TALES TO ASTONISH as a one-issue menace in a parade of similar Earth-menacing monsters each month-would be revived to become a vastly popular key player in a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Hollywood box-office smash? So we’ll just have to wait and see. I’d especially like to see Jinx find a prominent role in the Marvel Universe post-DARKHOLD.
Horror News Network: In my opinion, The Darkhold Redeemers would make a fantastic TV show. Has that ever crossed your mind?
Christian Cooper: Are you telepathic? Because I yearn for nothing more than to wake up one morning to discover that the latest Netflix adaptation of a Marvel property slated for TV is DARKHOLD. Netflix has done a fabulous job with DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES; a DARKHOLD series could be timed for release with the upcoming DR. STRANGE movie. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Horror News Network: What are you currently working on?
Christian Cooper: I recently published my first book, SONGS OF THE METAMYTHOS, a fantastical novel that proposes a brand new mythology for the world (www.SongsOfTheMetamythos.com). No small, carefully observed portraits of ordinary people here; nothing less than gods and goddesses creating the universe, shaping humanity, and fighting the end of all there is. (I went big.) Plus there’s a secret code woven through its pages.
Horror News Network: Where can fans find out more about you?
Christian Cooper: www.cfcooper.net
Horror News Network: In closing, what would you like to say to horror fans that may have never had a chance to pick up The Darkhold Redeemers?
Christian Cooper: I’d like to point them to a story easily overlooked, because it was a DARKHOLD tale outside the pages of the DARKHOLD series: “Skin,” a story in the anthology comic MIDNIGHT SONS UNLIMITED #2 that I’m very proud of. It’s concise and self-contained, therefore easily accessible even to those unfamiliar with DARKHOLD’s main characters, who act largely as a framing device to this TWILIGHT ZONE-like tale. I wrote it shortly after the Rodney King verdicts that made Los Angeles erupt in violence, and I ended up channeling my own outrage onto the page; the result was incendiary enough that the story almost wasn’t published. (If I recall, one letterer quit rather than work on it.) Now years later, in the wake of Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and too many others, it lamentably has even more relevance. Read it and judge for yourself.
Horror News Network: Thanks for your time, Christian!