“A Grand Odyssey Into The Dark” – Talking With Dan Watters About The Sandman Universe: Lucifer

by Oliver MacNamee

Lucifer #2 came out last week from writer Dan Watters and partners-in-crime, artists Max and Sebastian Fiumara, which gave me the perfect excuse to once again catch up with Watters and quiz him on this diabolical new edition to the Sandman oeuvre. We discussed the influences that initially shaped Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer, the introduction of Detective John Decker into the mix and, of course, Lucifer’s current incarceration.

Olly MacNamee: Dan, it’s clear to me and others that The Sandman Universe’s Lucifer was heavily influenced by Paradise Lost. But this is going to be your Lucifer now, and he seems to start this new series in a very difficult and different position indeed. Blind, down and out and a prisoner, suffering. So, what’s your take going to be on Lucifer?

Dan Watters: Lucifer in Sandman certainly drew from Paradise Lost– it would have been exceedingly difficult not to, in my opinion, since Milton’s poem is so seminal for how we view the Devil; before Milton, the fallen archangel Lucifer and the ruler of Hell were generally considered to be two separate beings. It was with Paradise Lost they cohered, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. I don’t think our Lucifer strays hugely from the character, particularly as this is a brand-new spin off from Sandman, but I think we’ve perhaps shifted emphasis somewhat. For this first story arc, at the very least I wanted to look at the mundane turned infernal and turn the celestial ragged. I’m a big fan of theatre and I think bringing a certain minimalism here is interesting. People can create personal hells for themselves within the confines of a single room, and I wanted to play this off against the grand hellscapes we’ve come to expect. Not that I’d expect those to stay absent altogether, of course.

OM: The readers were also introduced to LAPD Detective John Decker, who’s having a pretty bad time of it himself. But, a very different Decker that some may remember from the TV show, right? What’s his part in this supernatural horror?

DW: Detective Decker’s path is destined to cross with Lucifer’s, and is as likely to end well for him as it does for most who do so. I was interested in looking at the darkest sides of the Sandman Universe, and it occurred that for someone who’s lived an entirely normal life up until they begin rubbing against the supernatural, this is a world full of far more horror than wonder; if one hasn’t been exposed to the more whimsical, joyous side of this universe, the magics of it might seem purely nightmarish.

OM: It all makes for a great jumping-on point for new readers, I imagine. Whether you’re new to The Sandman Universe, or well versed, this Lucifer has yet to be defined. Is the Devil the ultimate chameleon character, do you think, given the many, many differing interpretations we’ve had of him through the ages? And in comics!

DW: Definitely. The Devil crops up all over the place. My take is that the first time a caveman saw a face in the shape of the flames or a shadow he didn’t recognise on a cave wall, we had the first Lucifer story. He stands in as whatever personified ‘Other’ has terrified us at any given time in history, which gives the Fiumaras and me the entirety of history to play with. Something we very much intend to do. Lucifer might be trickster satyr, noble fallen prince or folkloric savage whenever it suits him. To me, the joy of the character is that none of these need contradict the others.

OM: Sticking with Paradise Lost for a moment, I loved the conceit posed by Milton in his epic poem that the fallen angels became the pagan gods of ancient societies. Will we see you lean on any such mythologies and pagan pasts as this saga unfolds? After all, our own scepter’d isle is rich in such stories and The Sandman certainly dipped its toe in such waters many a time.

DW: I would certainly expect so. The clashing of pantheons and beliefs is such a rich part of what made Sandman so wonderful, and these pantheons brim with their own stories. There are also plenty of other underworlds which Lucifer has yet to visit, and there’s a good chance that they may take an interest in him now that he’s gone freelance, as it were.

OM: In Issue Two, we have a glimpse of the past and the Lucifer that many are more familiar with from such texts as Doctor Faustus/Faust, as we witness a medieval deal struck with a trickier, more arrogant Devil. What are you intentions with such flashbacks? Are you trying to create a more coherent, cohesive image of Lucifer across the ages?

DW: I would probably say he’s more multifaceted and enigmatic than cohesive. Then again, those aren’t necessarily antonymous. I definitely want to delve back into Lucifer’s past, and look at where some of his myths may have originated from- certainly from as far as he might think of them himself. Lucifer’s pride, and even his shame, are something that we’ve learned to understand from his previous incarnations in the Sandman Universe- I want to see if there’s anything that might motivate him beyond that.

OM: There’s also the mention of a character who will be familiar to long-time readers too, even if she’s unheard of by Decker?

DW: The Mazikeen? She wouldn’t have wanted to stay absent for very long. She’s a joy to write, but I do a lot of my writing in cafes, so I have gotten some looks as I sit alone, talking to myself out of half my mouth to trying and get her dialogue right.

OM: You must be very pleased with your artistic partners on Lucifer, Max and Sebastian Fiumara. What a find! They bring a style evocative of Gustave Dore mashed up with Michael Kaluta, in my opinion, elevating this comic and the horror to another level. 

DW: I agree with all of this. It’s an easy cliché to say that the brothers have been elevating each of my scripts, but it’s entirely a true one. I’ll be the first to admit that what I’ve been throwing at them, in terms of both scope and density, can’t have been the easiest, but they’ve been rising to absolutely every challenge with virtuoso skill. I’ve also just seen some inks for issue #4 that set my teeth on edge. We’re going dark. I’d also like to shout out to Dave McCaig, whose colors have been absolutely perfect throughout. The things he’s been doing with textures and brushstrokes are beautiful.

OM: What kind of power is strong enough to keep the Devil a prisoner?

DW: Entropy will dull all fires in the end.

OM: And finally then, Dan, what can we expect from this series going forward? Any hints you can give us?

DW: A grand odyssey into the dark, some grander jealousies, a black sabbath or two, and perhaps a touch of celestial intervention.

Lucifer #2 is available now from Vertigo/DC Comics.

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