Lucifer comic writer Holly Black on Vol. 1 and raising Hell with Neil Gaiman's devil

Contributed by
Aug 24, 2016

It is a hell of a task tackling a character made famous by Neil Gaiman in Sandman, but writer Holly Black has been giving the devil his due since beginning the Vertigo Comics title Lucifer last December.

And with Lucifer, Vol. 1: Cold Heaven -- collecting the first six issues – available now, and Issue 9 dropping today, Black is stoking a lot of fires with a witty, supernatural buddy-cop noir.  Best known for her young adult novels and The Spiderwick Chronicles series, the author pairs the Fallen One with the now-mortal archangel Gabriel and sends them off on an investigation across the afterlife and dreamscape to determine who killed God.

In Lucifer, connected to the Fox TV show, Black continues the story of the fallen angel from Gaiman’s The Sandman #4 and The Sandman: Season of Mist -- and elaborated on in Mike Carey’s standalone The Sandman: Lucifer miniseries and 2000-2006 solo comic. Carey’s comic placed Lucifer Morningstar in Los Angeles, as the owner of the Lux nightclub before he eventually breaks away from Creation. Black’s story picks up with the former Lord of Hell returning to L.A. to start the Ex Lux club, before his older brother Gabriel comes walking in.

I had a chance to speak with Holly Black about Vol. 1 of Lucifer, as well as the creative opportunities of writing a character not only intertwined with religion and history, but also steeped in comic lore. The author additionally discusses her transition from YA books to comics, teases the future of Lucifer, and shares the trick to finding Lucifer’s voice (which involves a very special devilish cocktail recipe). And following the interview, check out our gallery of images from Lucifer, Vol. 1 as well as from Lucifer #9

Talk about the surely intimidating task of taking on Lucifer after Gaiman and Carey's runs. When you set out, what were elements you knew were necessary to keep, and what new elements did you know you wanted to bring to the table?

Because I loved the character of Lucifer so much in both Gaiman’s Sandman and in Carey’s Lucifer run, it was hugely intimidating to write him — especially to bring him back from the great beyond in an interesting way that didn’t contradict the original material. 

I knew I wanted to bring back Lux, because I love the idea of Lucifer giving up Hell to own a piano bar in Los Angeles. And I wanted to see Mazikeen again. But I also wanted to bring in a noir feel along with Gabriel, imported over from Hellblazer to help solve a mystery.

Did you personally receive advice (and/or feedback) from Gaiman or Mike Carey? Can you share what it was?

Neil Gaiman gave me some really excellent advice about writing individual issues of comics and listened to my plans for the series. But all that aside, it was just great to get a vote of confidence from Lucifer’s creator.

What's the trick for writing Lucifer? He is obviously snarky, but what else is the key to finding his voice? And how do you keep him from becoming too "good”?

How you keep him from being too “good” is a great question and one that haunts me through the series. Mike Carey does this wonderful trick of luring the reader into empathizing with his Lucifer, and then having him do something horrific enough to shock the reader back into remembering that we’re dealing with the devil. Gaiman’s Lucifer, by contrast, is a little bit more of a trickster figure, someone with big feelings and big reactions.

I think my Lucifer sits somewhere between the two. He doesn't care about collateral damage and he’s not going to stop you from ruining your own life, and he’s amused by things that are strange. But he has some feelings about his family and about this, his first, world — even if he doesn’t like to examine them.

Is there a good drink to pour one's self to channel a particularly witty line of Lucifer dialogue dripping with sarcasm?

My favorite Satanic drink is:

- wash martini glass with absinthe

- 4 parts either gin or vodka

- 1 part Laphroiag 

- garnish with lemon twist

It’s commonly known as a Laphroaig martini or a Smoky Martini, but I like to call it Blasphemy in a Glass, because to single-malt lovers, it really is like burning a bible right in front of them.

Is Gabriel envious of Lucifer, and his ability to break rules, or appear to have a devil-may-care attitude?

That’s a great question. I think Gabriel is envious of how things seem to always work out for Lucifer. Lucifer does all these awful things — rebelling against their father, abandoning his realm — and yet suffers no terrible consequences. Meanwhile Gabriel, who’s tried to be obedient and good, screwed up once and lost everything he cared about. It’s annoying for him, definitely.

What does Lucifer see in Gabriel that makes him want to keep him around? 

I think that Lucifer has complicated feelings about his angelic brothers, but I think that even from the beginning he believes that Gabriel has some part in the mystery that’s unfolding.

Their investigation into who killed God has a buddy cop/road trip vibe to it. So, where else would you like to take these two?

Oh, I would love to write them solving murders all over town, but alas, the plot had to turn in another direction. Maybe they will get back together to solve something in the future.

Can you discuss the misconceptions people may have about transitioning from YA writing to this more mature material? 

My YA is pretty dark, so I think what’s weirder is that I’m probably best known for a very young chapterbook series, The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi). On the other hand, I think people are used to seeing writers write for very different ages — Neil Gaiman, for instance. 

What it did mean, though, is that I tried to set a tone with the first issue that promised I wouldn’t pull any punches. 

Were there elements/scenes/dialogue in Lucifer you've held on to for a while that just never quite seemed appropriate for your other work?

The mythology of angels and devils and also sunlit noir were two elements I hadn’t had much of a chance to play with before — and are things I love.

You're now working on the second arc of Lucifer. How many Lucifer stories do you still have in you, and would you want to continue comics following your run?

I got to unpick a lot of tied up plot threads and get the players back on the table, so I am satisfied with that. And I will definitely write more comics in the future, although I don’t have any specific plans right now.

What can you tease about the upcoming issues/story within the pages of Lucifer?

Well, we get to find out who’s been narrating the story so far...

What are your favorite depictions of the devil in pop culture, and why? What makes for a good devil?

Aside from Vertigo’s Lucifer, who is obviously my favorite, Al Pacino’s devil in The Devil’s Advocate is wonderful in that he is both able to draw you in and then make you uncomfortable. And I will always and forever love Tim Curry’s Darkness in Legend.

I think the best Satanic figures are so charming that you want to believe they’re better than they are, so they don’t have to lie to you — you’re already lying to yourself. I also think that a certain awareness that they’re part of a family drama (and a dynastic drama) is interesting, too. There’s a certain heroic quality to rebellion and from Paradise Lost on, we can’t help identifying with it, even against our better judgment.


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