Comics are getting a lot darker this December.
Randy Queen and his character, Darkchylde, are returning to comics – and they're sharing the stage with Top Cow's own Darkness. It's no coincidence that Queen got his start in comics at Top Cow way back in the early 90s, and he's coming back to where it all began to re-introduce himself – and Darkchylde – into the comics' world.
Randy Queen returns to comics and Top Cow in December with the 48-page one shot Darkness/Darkchylde: Kingdom Pain. In this standalone comic book, the young Ariel Chylde returns to comics and her nightmares find a home in the mind of Top Cow's Jackie Estacado – aka The Darkness. Trapped in Chylde's Nightmare world, Jackie's power is corrupted --- and his Darkness armor is transformed in the process. What happens next – and a surprise appearance by a third major comics' character – will only be revealed by buying the book
Although this is Randy's first real stint with the Darkness character, his connection to the character works its way back to Queen's first year in comics. Queen worked in the Top Cow studio and even did a preliminary drawing of what would become the Darkness, which appeared in the 1994 Cyberforce Universe Sourcebook #2.
This new comic marks Queen's return to comics, and he's reintroducing Darkchylde and bringing a new creation, Starfall, as an 8 page preview at the end of the book. For more, we talked with Queen by email from his West Coast home.
Newsarama: So Randy, what can you tell us about the upcoming Darkness/Darkchylde: Kingdom of Pain one-shot?
Randy Queen: The book has three big selling points. Jackie's suit gets corrupted, so you're getting the premier of brand new Darkness armor, you're getting the return of Ariel Chylde, and you're getting nine pages of Starfall. And you're getting gorgeous color art by Sarah Queen.
When I go to the comic shop, I look for something fun, with real craftsmanship and love on the page, and I look for production values. We have that for you.
Nrama: How does the Darkness and Ariel Chylde come together in this comic?
Queen: Ariel Chylde is a good hearted, southern teen who can become any of the creatures from her many nightmares, and makes them real. Every time she sheds her skin, a new terror emerges. It's just sick! But she was ambushed by a legion of her enemies and has not been seen since...
Since the Darkness brings Ariel back to comic shops, we thought that in the story, art should imitate life and he should be responsible for her return there as well. The whole theme of the piece is "waking up" and Jackie very effectively wakes Ariel up with what he can do. But something that is at once a victim and an incredible threat also wishes to awaken.
Also, these characters are both monster makers. Jackie has an elemental evil as old as time on tap, and Ariel can physically become evil in its many varied forms. So the responsibility is to define the differences and similarities, and most importantly, at least from my perspective, try to freshen things. You don't need to know anything about either going in to enjoy this. No one knew Jackie Estacado before The Darkness # 1, and no one knew Ariel Chylde before Darkchylde # 1. The thrill of the tale is the telling, and I want to intrigue, not hand hold. As for the central conflict, she is brand new, she can create from imagination, she is very pretty, and very broken. They can make monsters, she can make anything. She sort of trumps them both, so it's a perfect foil.
Nrama: The subtitle for this comic is “Kingdom Pain”; what’s that?
Queen: Literally, it's a psychological state in the Nations of Nightmare. For the characters, it's an emotional state.
Nrama: Tell us more about this new Darkness armor Jackie is getting into. What's that about?
Queen: The suit is this book is now more mercurial shadow with fossilized Darkling bones, meets John Carpenter's The Thing on crack. Very big on the Badass Barometer.
Nrama In an interview at SciFi Pulse earlier this year where you said if you drew Ariel Chylde again you would draw her different – is that promise coming to bear in this upcoming one shot?
Queen: That desire did inform my thinking. This is a two fold opportunity to reintroduce Ariel to readers, and reintroduce myself. Neither of us are what we were, as I've had the time to refine both. So if you're not a fan, and you think you have an informed reference point for what either of us is based on what we were, just go ahead and throw that right out the window. Some may say oh, Witchblade, Darkness, Darkchylde, those are 90's characters. That's like saying Spider-man is a 60's character. And so? These things are born when they are able to be born, and are only as vital as the energy of the talent that services them. So let's start fresh.
Nrama: This is also having a 9 page preview of your upcoming series Starfall. Can you tell us about that?
Queen: I'm as excited for fans to see Starfall pages as I am the story that precedes them. Sarah pulled them up recently, and it's been a while so I saw them with some objectivity, and was blown away happy. I said, we did those? And then I got nervous. Her color work is just gorgeous.
The pitch is: Space Pirates crash land on a savage, uncharted jungle planet and unwittingly unleash a technological virus that zombifies the indigenous dinosaurs. That sell you? It sold me enough to devote years to it! Sierra Starfall is the Galaxy's Greatest Warrior, and this is the tale of her last mission. This thing is a true blue, comic book fans fevered fantasy, because I am that fevered fan. It honors the pulpy roots of the medium, and provides the marketplace something that isn't gritted teeth and spandex, because we already have those things. A different Starfall preview and poster are available now at topcow.com.
Nrama: This is sort of a homecoming, as Top Cow was where you first broke into comics. What’s it like to return to your alma mater, so to speak?
Queen: To do a book that honors our respective brands, and the anticipation of launching a new venture in Starfall is tremendous.
Nrama: Reading up on this, I realized that you only did a little work before jumping into success with Darkchylde. One full comic (Cyberforce Origins: Impact), some work in other books, and pin-ups. What was it like to hit on something memorable so early on?
Queen: Very fortunate. Certainly luck and timing play a part in anything's success, but you have to be ready. To the readers out there who have their own characters they dream of seeing in print, I was you. I still am. I've been dreaming of seeing Starfall in print for a few years now. Believe, and go strong.
Nrama: And before we go Randy, let's get one more out of you. In the time between this and your last big Darkchylde issue, what have you been up to?
Queen: Primarily of interest to comic fans is we've developed a huge new IP in Starfall, and beyond that we've spent the last few years working on the Darkchylde feature film with WETA. It's a dream scenario to have the Lord of the Rings and King Kong FX crew on board. I mean, are you kidding me? As a horror fan, I prefer to see new, original ideas. If Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers could be seen as the new Universal Monsters, where then are the new Freddy, Jason's and Michaels? There are some great new things out there just waiting for their time to bloom -- Darkchylde is one of them. So is the Darkness, and so is Witchblade. Someone is going to have a Eureka moment once they realize every mainstream comic character is taken -- but there are these others that weren't created in the 60's, yet still have impressive pedigrees. Let's see what happens.
Chris Arrant is an entertainment journalist and writer, having contributed to Newsarama.com, Publishers Weekly, Marvel Comics, and TOKYOPOP. As a comics writer, he has written the 2009 biography Female Force: Princess Diana, the self-published Four Stories anthology, and had stories published in Tori Amos' Comic Book Tattoo, 24Seven Vol. 2, Negative Burn and No Formula: Stories from the Chemistry Set. He is also an editor and co-founder of Project: Rooftop.