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'Underworld' creator Kevin Grevioux on the 'raw fun' of telling Black superhero stories
The creator behind Rise of the Djinn and Darkstorm reveals why his Black superheroes are more than just action figures.
Kevin Grevioux, the popular comics writer, screenwriter, and actor, is very, very busy these days.
Between producing and writing a new movie based on his graphic novel, King of Killers, which starts shooting soon, and working on new comics projects, there is no shortage of content for Grevioux's fans to enjoy.
Grevioux has created a legacy through building fantastical worlds and telling riveting, action-packed stories for audiences to enjoy. His characters are always riddled with nuance and relatability. However, in this current chapter of his career, he continues this trend by bringing us into his world with authenticity, grit, fun, and comics nostalgia. In the comics Rise of the Dijin (the third issue of which will be released on March 16th) and Darkstorm, Grevioux gets back to the core of why people love comics so much while also remaining culturally relevant and unapologetically Black.
In Rise of the Djinn, Grevioux introduces readers to Tamara Brazile – a self-assured, risk-taking detective based out of Washington, D.C., who discovers that she is a key player in an ancient war between factions of mythical deities called djinn. As her life gets upended with the newfound abilities she has discovered while dealing with the twists and turns of this war, audiences get to go on a beautifully illustrated and action-packed journey with an unlikely hero. Grevioux tells SYFY WIRE that creating these stories was something he has strived for throughout his career.
"It was just nothing but raw fun," Grevioux explains. "This is something I've been wanting to do or have done since I was a kid. Like every other comic book fan or creator, you wanna create characters as rich as the ones you grew up with."
This sentiment remains constant in Darkstorm, where readers learn more about the Cosmic Defender Supreme himself. Regarded by Grevioux as the "ultimate superhero" that reflects him and is his favorite creation, Kevin Gage is a veteran special-ops Marine who gained superpowers after getting caught in an explosion that killed his entire squad. Now, under the codename Darkstorm, which was the name of Gage's squad, he uses his abilities for altruistic good.
However, these selfless acts of heroism earned the malevolent attention of forces unbeknownst to him. In both of these stories, Grevioux brings readers back to the basics of why comics have become so loved across American culture by exploring the morality of complex, flawed, and relatable characters.
"Basically, what I am saying about my worldview is in terms of what a hero needs to be; in terms of really getting into the right and the wrong of things," Grevioux says. "Are you always going to do the right thing, even though it might not be popular? Or do you have a good sense of right and wrong? I think there has been a falling away from the classic motif of what a hero should be, and I think nowadays the heroes are these dark characters who are eternally broken, but they're okay with their brokenness and they don't care."
Grevioux's intent was to return to the core of true heroism and allow his characters to have their imperfections while also still fighting selflessly for the greater good. As made apparent in the writing of these characters, he pointed out how he wanted to inspire people while exploring the ideas of morality, spirituality, and authenticity. "We live in a world in which we focus on Judeo-Christian values," Grevioux notes. "You look at Christ as the ultimate good, and we will never be Christ, but I do think we can reflect his morality as best we can. Now, when we tell our stories and when we try to be heroic, I look at Christ as the ultimate hero."
In that sense, both stories juggle with the ideas of morality as being intertwined with spirituality, and how that influences the character and stories of many of our favorite heroes. "If you look at the story of Superman, the first superhero, that was the story of Moses. [And] there are some who feel that when you look at the Galactus trilogy, and the Fantastic Four, that was a kind of Christ tale in terms of an analogy. A lot of people look at that that way, so it's not like I'm the first to do it. There has been a precedent set."
The incorporation of spirituality as it relates specifically to the morality of Black characters is something that reads as both important and authentic to both the Black writers who create them and Black comics fans who read them. This idea is explored in many other Black comics characters such as Brother Voodoo, whose spiritual and religious beliefs influence his actions. Through the stories centered on Darkstorm and Tamara, respectively, Grevioux remains true to incorporating his identity as a fellow Howard University-educated Black man.
"You could talk about that in subtle ways, in their vernacular, the way we relate to each other, things like that. And that doesn't really happen if we're not writing the stories," says Grevioux. "There is another layer, a cultural layer that we can bring to that to enhance the characters, and so that's what I try to do with my characters. Bring that extra layer from the beginning and not just later on when you finally let Blacks write the characters"
Grevioux pulls no punches in these issues by using his grand and cinematic cadence to find the action on every page. He brings us into the minds and lives of Tamara and Darkstorm's adventures, while also showing readers that these heroes are not much different from everyday folks (aside from shooting mystical, ancient fire out of their hands or being sucker-punched through entire buildings).
Djinn allows Grevioux to explore the delicate balance between managing grief and mental health. It also creates a riveting, action-packed murder mystery, one that is grounded in the details of ancient mythological lore. And Darkstorm is more than just the story of a Black hero with an awesome display of power and iron-clad resilience. As Black History month ends, such stories from creatives like Grevioux should be recognized and celebrated for their considerable impact with both fans and the genre.