This December, one of Top Cow’s flagship characters, The Darkness celebrates its 10th anniversary. With a hotly anticipated video game release coming in the spring from 2K Games for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, a series of tie-in “Level” one shots beginning in December, and an upcoming crossover with Dale Keown’s Pitt, the character appears to be embarking on a new wave of content and popularity. With that in mind, we sat down with Darkness co-creators Marc Silvestri and David Wohl to discuss the enduring popularity of their creation.
Top Cow: The Darkness debuted during a time when “anti-heroes” were at the height of popularity. Many of the anti-heroes of the 90s have long since faded into obscurity, but The Darkness has remained popular. What would you credit Jackie’s longevity to?
Marc Silvestri: I think, if not handled correctly, anti-heroes can be a bit off-putting to some. The whole idea of anti-anything can be viewed as a negative, so it’s real important to make your anti-hero likable. That’s always been a priority for us and the amazing writers we’ve had have always given that likable voice to Jackie. I think that’s why he’s outlasted so many others. Plus, like any good anti-hero, he can dish it out to “the man” when he needs to.
David Wohl: I think the main facet that the Darkness has going for it is a rich environment to draw from. And since we’ve had so many talented and creative people working on it over the years, that environment continues to grow. I mean, with guys like Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Ron Marz and Frank Tieri on the writing side, and Marc Silvestri, Joe Benitez and Dale Keown on the art, I think that the top-notch quality of the book never diminished, and that kept the fans reading, and wanting more.
TC: How did the idea of The Darkness start? What was the initial spark for the character?
Wohl: When we first began thinking about it, Marc and I had the idea to do some kind of gothic, Tim Burton-esque character. A seemingly young guy who was actually hundreds of years old, nearly immortal, who was forced to live in the basement of an old gothic house and only able to come out at night. And he had this incredible power that enabled him to create anything he wanted, but his creations dissipated in the light. It was a pathos-ridden gothic story. We then sent it to Garth Ennis who said “F— that. I’m not doing this gothic s—!!!” He then proceeded to tell us this tale of mafia hitman Jackie Estacado and the flashy world he lived in, whose life totally changed on his 21st birthday. It was strange because it had basically the same underlying concept, but it seemed SO DIFFERENT-and we LOVED IT! Still do!
Silvestri: I’ve always been fascinated with the “monkey’s paw” dilemma that power brings. In the case of comic characters that power is usually a physical thing and with the best characters that power demands some kind of trade off.
I always thought having the ability to create virtually anything you wanted could create some unusual and compelling problems for a hero. Especially if sometimes those creations were sentient. I wanted to give this guy thehero’s burden but make it fun to be him at the same time. Garth came in and really added great humanity to Jackie and gave him that likable anti-hero feel.
TC: What is your favorite Darkness story?
Wohl: I gotta go with the first story arc. Well written and beautifully drawn. It’s a great roller coaster ride where you’re introduced to this world of Jackie, and eventually you meet the Darkness, the Darklings, Jenny, Sonatine and the Angelus. And you see all this stuff through the eyes of Jackie. You share his confusion and his anguish as he’s introduced to this crazy and dangerous world he never knew about before. And when it’s over you just put it down and say “wow.”
Silvestri: I’d have to agree with David on this. I really love Jackie’s origin.
TC: Jackie tends to walk the line between hero and villain, being a mafia hitman after all, but you’ve both contended that Jackie is at his core a heroic character. What do you think it is that makes Jackie a hero?
Wohl: I think the bottom line is that even though his morals are so skewed (being in the mafia tends to do that to people), Jackie knows in his heart what’s right and wrong. Some of his victims may not agree, of course.
Silvestri: Yeah, it’s a classic nature vs. nurture thing. I always thought it would be cool that Jackie’s worst nightmare was to find out he was actually a good guy because he wasn’t raised to know what that even is. The rub of course is that deep down he is a good guy.
TC: How are excited are you about the upcoming Darkness video game from 2K and the related “Level” one shots? What do you like best about these projects?
Wohl: From the second I heard about the videogame, I’ve been excited about it. And once I found out Starbreeze was involved, I knew the game would be phenomenal! I’ve been a huge fan of them since I played the “Chronicles of Riddick” game and knew that our baby would do quite well in their hands.
Silvestri: Thrilled beyond words. We’ve done enough things outside of publishing to get a good taste of other media so to see how well this game is coming out totally blows me away. Starbreeze is going to shock everybody with this game. The Darkness is so special to me that to see it handled so well as a game gives me goose bumps every time I see a new clip.
Wohl: The coolest thing to me about the comic, to me, is that we’re doing something that hasn’t been done before. We’re not doing an adaptation. We’re actually setting our comic in the world of the videogame. And from that standpoint we’ll show a perspective on Jackie Estacado and the Darkness that that’s never been seen before. A perspective that’s spearheaded by one of Jackie’s most influential creators, Paul Jenkins, who not only is the writer of the videogame but also the co-writer of the comic!
Silvestri: I think the comic is a great way to give comic fans some new perspectives on Jackie and gives gamers more history to draw from when they play the game.