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SI SPURRIER talks THE SHADOW #1, on sale in AUGUST!

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  • SI SPURRIER talks THE SHADOW #1, on sale in AUGUST!

    SI SPURRIER talks THE SHADOW #1, on sale in AUGUST from Dynamite!

    BYRON BREWER: So, Si, how does it feel to work on an iconic pulp character such as the Shadow? Were you a fan of the noir hero?

    SI SPURRIER: Yeah, absolutely - it’s a dream come true. I mean, I have complicated views on superhero stories as a whole (the short version is: when they’re great they’re great; when they’re average they’re awful) but working on a primogenitor character like the Shadow cuts right through all the awkward logic and moral gymnastics required of the more recent heroes those early pulp stories spawned - distorted copies all.

    The Shadow’s such an icon - this figure of terror and cruel laughter - and yet he isn’t interested in being loved or being a role model. That’s one of the things we’ll be looking at quite carefully in this story. From his perspective, if society despises him he’s doing something right. As Brecht observed, “unhappy is the land that needs a hero.” There’s a perverse purity in that, which makes the Shadow somehow more honest - and, yes, more terrifying - than any of the boyscout cowled vigilante characters he inspired.

    I guess for me the big takeaway here is that the Shadow - as a character and an idea - presents an opportunity unlike any other recognizable hero-figure to tell a story which cuts to the very heart of society, justice and the moral state of the modern world.

    The analysis and message are different, but as a tonal touchpoint: if you’re into V For Vendetta you’ll dig this strip.

    BB: Tell us about your take on this iteration of the Shadow, and how a woman by the name of Mary Jerez is involved.

    SS: Regarding Mary, she’s our eyes and ears - our entry-point into the Shadow’s world and machinations. As I said above: he’s not interested in being a role model. It follows that if my audience is relating to him, sympathizing with him, even liking what he does, then I’m doing something wrong.

    Instead we’re playing the Shadow as he should be: a dark, confusing, frightening, but sometimes necessary monster. A thing of impossible mental power and unstoppable violence. Swooping out of the dark with twin pistols blazing, overthrowing all reason with a laugh that twists the very soul, and vanishing in a coil of red. We’re delving deep into his past, and even deeper into his present.

    For instance… to give you a slightly deeper sense… one metaphor we play with is that the Shadow sees himself as a scalpel. A cutting implement, designed to slice out the tumors of the world. As he himself puts it: no healthy patient ever welcomes the knife, no matter how useful it may be.

    The problem he faces in the modern era is that we live in a world where people idolize the scalpel. They yearn for it. Cheer for it. Well… in those same surgical terms, if a patient is hungering to be cut -- they’re probably beyond all help. In other words, if people are adoring vigilantes, encouraging mob justice, venerating zero tolerance, brutality and street justice, then there’s a good chance the world’s already f*cked. Beyond saving. So riddled with cancer that a scalpel hasn’t a hope of curing it. That’s the unlovely backdrop to our story takes place - as a new hard-right government takes power and everyone - everyone - takes a side. Extreme views have become the norm.

    As we shall see, the reality is rather more layered, and more sinister. The people at the top of the ladder aren’t just in control of the country, but in control of the narrative. They get to choose how the world views the scalpel.

    Mary’s our viewpoint into this whole violent paradigm: unraveling the moral maze and sharing the readers’ wavering love/hate/fear towards the Shadow. Given the surgical analogy I just mentioned, it’s probably no surprise that Mary’s a trainee doctor. Metaphors of healing and cutting infuse our tale.

    Her story, and ours, begins with an unexpected arrival in her hospital ward: an old man, burnt to a crisp, miraculously clinging to life, whose sinister laugh Mary recognizes...

    BB: Even for those who have written a Shadow tale before, bringing the gunslinger into the modern day world means dealing with new technology and a different kind of society. Tell us how the Shadow – and you – will be coping with the changes in the series.

    SS: I think I probably covered most of this above, but - short version - we’re totally leaning into it. The world has changed (not necessarily for the better), while the Shadow has stayed the same. As a symbol, he’s been re appropriated for all the wrong reasons. He’s become, for want of a better word, a meme. He’s no longer in control of the idea he represents. And that’s something he cannot tolerate.

    There will, as the saying goes, be blood.

    BB: What can you tell us about the storyline for this volume of the Shadow’s adventures from Dynamite?

    SS: At the heart of the mystery is this unidentified old man, brought into hospital. So horribly burned that there’s no hope of identifying him. The only person who has a good idea who he might be is the trainee doctor assigned to attend him, who happened to be present at the last known appearance of the Shadow, during a school shooting ten years ago. This disfigured patient, ranting and raving, has a horribly familiar laugh. She’s convinced that he’s the Shadow… the one problem: he can’t remember anything.

    So our narrative takes two parallel tracks. On the one hand a series of flashbacks, spanning all the decades of the Shadow’s long fight against evil, triggered by Mary’s ongoing attempts to identify her scarred patient.

    On the other hand, a series of calamities in the present day, as the very idea of the Shadow goes viral. Suddenly anyone, anywhere, can don the black coat and cowl, take up a weapon, and go out into the night to fight evil.

    The difficulty being that everyone has their own, unique idea of what constitutes “goodness” or “justice”. The Shadow has lost control of his own identity, and suddenly every angry person in the world - left, right, liberal, conservative - has the means to go out and punish their enemies in the name of justice.

    Only Mary, and her crispy-skinned amnesiac patient, have the means to unravel the secrets of what’s truly happening, and heal the wounds of the world.

    BB: As a writer, Si, you usually seem to have a subtext in your work. What is underlying this Shadow tale? A study of the nature of evil perhaps?

    SS: Haha, maybe. At least, if it’s a study of evil it’s only in the sense that evil - like beauty - is in the eye of the beholder. The most powerful position in any story is not that of the hero, but of the storyteller. In other words, the one who decides what constitutes good and evil.

    Down at the heart of our story lies a very particular motif: Leviathan. A delightfully trippy vision of society first envisioned by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century, which - believe it or not - has seethed and festered under the surface of civilization for 350 years since, re-emerging more recently in a very altered form as the doctrine which underscores what we euphemistically call “the alt-right”.

    Not to labor the point: this is a book about stuff - big, important, horrible stuff - as well as a glorious excuse to have the Shadow swooping around blowing bad guys away. Comics are awesome.

    BB: How is it working with artist Daniel HDR? Why is he suited for this series?

    SS: Glorious so far! I don’t want to shackle myself too tightly to the V For Vendetta ref I mentioned earlier - one stands in the shadow of masterpieces at one’s peril - but perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn Leviathan, like V, is a very carefully structured and multifaceted bit of storytelling. In simple presentation terms we’re using an 8-panel-grid as the standard template for each page. So we’re super lucky to have found an artist whose style isn’t only clear and kinetic, but who understands storytelling at the precise, cinematic level we’re using. To make something dense feel expansive and breathable is quite the artistic feat, and Daniel’s been doing it in spades. A true talent.

    BB: Si, any projects current or near-future you can tell us about?

    SS: Oh heavens, an awful lot of exciting stuff on my desk at the moment. A lot of it I can’t talk about yet, but a special mention here for Angelic, the new all-ages-friendly book I’m launching through Image Comics, with Caspar Wijngaard (Limbo) on art. It drops in September, but is available to order now. It’s a delightful adventure story about teenage winged monkeys in the ruins of a far-future Earth. FUN.

    The other thing I’m particularly psyched about at the moment is Godshaper, the creator owned book I’ve been running with Jonas Goonface on art. It’s the tale of a man without a god and a god without a man, traveling across a weird-fi version of the American mid-west where everybody has a personal deity of their own: part bodyguard, part fashion accessory, part bank account. We’re up to issue #3 of 6 at time of writing, and I think it might be some of my best work. Jonas is a world-class talent. Definitely worth checking out.