Shadowman’s Andy Diggle Plots an Epic Two-Year Journey into the Deadside

Valiant’s Latest Long-Term Writer Walks Us Through His Plans for the Supernatural Hero

Comics Features Andy Diggle
Share Tweet Submit Pin
<i>Shadowman</i>&#8217;s Andy Diggle Plots an Epic Two-Year Journey into the Deadside

While some publishers seem dead-set on quarterly relaunches and constant shakeups, Valiant Entertainment has run headlong in the other direction, allowing a select few of the industry’s finest writers to plan out multi-year commitments with their flagship characters. Matt Kindt is in the midst of a brutal multi-era X-O Manowar saga, and Jeff Lemire has turned regenerating super-soldier Bloodshot into an impressively nuanced family man. Beginning March 28th, Green Arrow: Year One and The Losers writer Andy Diggle joins that esteemed club as he takes over Shadowman, Valiant’s supernatural guardian. Joining Diggle on interior art is Stephen Segovia, a frequent Marvel and DC Comics contributor, and primary cover artist Tonci Zonjic, no stranger to the supernatural thanks to his experience with Mike Mignola’s Lobster Johnson.

When Shadowman #1 begins, titular (often reluctant) hero Jack Boniface has been lost in self-imposed exile to the voodoo realm of the Deadside for years, leaving his companion Alyssa Myles to take up the responsibility of protecting New Orleans from otherworldly threats. Diggle and Segovia’s introductory story arc “Fear of the Dark” will reestablish Boniface on Earth, before second arc “Dead and Gone” introduces readers to a legacy of Shadowmen throughout previous eras. Then, timed to Halloween, third arc “Rag and Bone” finds Shadowman embroiled in a New Orleans occult civil war over the magically potent remains of his archfiend Master Darque.

In advance of the first issue, Paste exchanged emails with Diggle to find out more about his affinity for the dark side, his long game on Shadowman and what to expect from the magic corner of the Valiant universe. We’ve also got a bounty of exclusive sneak peeks and details, including an exclusive preview of the first issue, a first look at black and white pages from the second issue and the debut of David Mack’s cover for issue #4 and Keron Grant’s cover for issue #8. We can also confirm that artist Shawn Martinbrough, Diggles’ collaborator on Thief of Thieves, will illustrate the noir-inspired issue #4; Doug Braithwaite will join the book for the Civil War-set issue #5; Renato Guedes will take over for a prehistoric two-parter in issues #6 and #7; and Segovia will return with issue #8.


Shadowman #4 Cover Art by David Mack

Paste: To start with the obvious, you’ve written Daredevil, Judge Dredd, Swamp Thing, John Constantine, the Thunderbolts and a widely read, quite brutal Green Arrow series—a bit of an affinity, it seems, for characters on the darker end of the hero spectrum. How did you find yourself orchestrating Shadowman?
Andy Diggle: It’s the story of a man bound against his will to a dangerous voodoo spirit—and let’s face it, you can’t tackle that without embracing the dark side. Not while doing it justice, anyway. I guess I’ve always enjoyed comics with a dark sensibility. It was Swamp Thing that got me reading American comics in the first place, and I was a big fan of Hellblazer from the start. Alan Moore and Jamie Delano were writing smart, accessible, genuinely scary stories that had something to say about society, and those books made a big impression on me. Shadowman isn’t exactly a horror book, though it has supernatural elements, but as soon as Valiant approached me I could see how I might apply that sensibility. I love writing horror as much as I love writing larger-than-life action, and with Shadowman I get to do both. It’s a great fit for me, though I suspect I may end up pushing against the boundaries of what I’m allowed get away with.

Paste: What do readers need to know going into Shadowman #1, both about the character and the wider state of the Valiant Universe?
Diggle: Not a thing! At least, that’s my intention. Everything you need to know (though perhaps not everything you want to know) is explained in our first issue. I’m not a fan of constantly rebooting continuity, erasing a character’s history. I think it’s disrespectful to fans, and to the process of storytelling itself. Rather than throw something away and start over, my instinct is always to try and fix what’s broken. And Jack Boniface has been through hell. He needs help. Of course, every issue is somebody’s first, so you always want to make it accessible to new readers. Our first issue explains how Jack Boniface was a regular guy who found himself bound to the shadow loa—an ancient, deadly voodoo spirit—that gave him supernatural powers, but is hard to control. Jack went bad and disappeared into the Deadside (the supernatural realm of the dead) five years ago. Now he’s back, and he’s got some explaining to do. Baron Samedi, the loa of death, is trying to drag him back to the Deadside. New readers can jump on board with issue one, and long-term fans will have a deeper understanding of what Jack has already been through.

Paste: Valiant is announcing in advance that, like Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt before you, you’ve signed on to tell an expansive, potentially multi-year story with Shadowman. Have you had the opportunity to plot long-form before? How does that change your approach, and how open are you to changing things as you go?
Diggle: My favorite thing about working with Valiant is that they don’t just allow, but insist on, forward planning. That’s a gift for a writer. Stories are structure, and being able to plan ahead means I can sow seeds in the early issues that might not pay off until months or even years ahead. Everything’s connected, and everything happens for a reason—even if it’s not immediately apparent. I think I do my best work when I’m given the freedom to plan ahead on long-form stories like The Losers, Hellblazer and Thief of Thieves. I’m planning Shadowman as a modular series of arcs so there’s a certain amount of wiggle room to accommodate potential changes down the line. We’re staring off with what I consider to be the core elements—Jack, Alyssa, voodoo, New Orleans, jazz—and then we gradually begin to widen the scope and bring in characters from the wider Valiant Universe. You want to start with a solid foundation that you can build on organically, not just throw it all together for the sake of a crossover.

Paste: Based on the first issue and your proposed outline, the mystical loa play a big role in your plans for Jack Boniface. What kind of research went into building the mythology around Shadowman? How closely are you sticking to real-world legends and traditions?
Diggle: Voodoo is integral to the premise of Shadowman, and I wanted to bring it more to the forefront. Research has been a great source of inspiration, but I never let it get in the way of spinning a good yarn. It has to be fun. Milo Rigaud’s Secrets of Voodoo and Robert Tallant’s Voodoo in New Orleans are dated but evocative, plus I’ve been reading a lot of academic articles on the history, practice and cultural context of voodoo (or vodou as it’s known in Haiti). I’d love to take a research trip to New Orleans—hopefully some day.

Loa like Baron Samedi, Papa Legba and Damballah have their own unique personalities, motives and agendas, and they’ll become major players in the story. As with all characters the question is: what do they want? What does Jack’s shadow loa want? Why was it exiled by the voodoo pantheon? Exploring those questions and uncovering their hidden agendas will be a big part of the story. It all builds towards something major in the Valiant Universe.

Shadowman #8 Cover Art by Keron Grant

Paste: Your take on Shadowman also seems a bit more socially conscious than previous iterations, especially with Alyssa Myles taking on the duties of Mambo Priestess and tackling community problems in Jack’s absence. What kind of balance are you hoping to strike between real-world concerns and threats from the dark Deadside realm?
Diggle: I consider myself an entertainer not an artist, and Shadowman is a supernatural action-horror comic not a political treatise. But I don’t enjoy entertainment that insults my intelligence. Given that Shadowman is a voodoo hero, and voodoo was a folk religion created by African slaves punished for worshipping their own gods, it’s inherently bound up with the dark side of American history. Glossing that over wouldn’t sit right with me. Of course, I’m also conscious of being a white Brit writing black Americans. No doubt I’ll get things wrong, and when I do, I’ll listen harder.

Lately there’s been a vocal minority of comics “fans” loudly demanding that their entertainment be devoid of any and all sociopolitical relevance (as if Captain America or the X-Men or Black Panther never carried any kind of subtextual significance), and I’m not really interested in pandering to that kind of infantilism. If you want baby food, look elsewhere.

Paste: What’s Stephen Segovia bringing to the book? Are the two of you in direct contact when it comes to designing loa and other foes?
Diggle: Shadowman’s a tall order for any artist, ranging from crazy action to moody horror to character-driven dialogue scenes, and Stephen is absolutely nailing it. He has incredible range. We’re on opposite sides of the planet, so we do everything by email, and the collaboration has been a real pleasure. We swap scripts, concept designs and thumbnail layouts back and forth for notes and feedback, so we’re always on the same page. I always like to do a final dialogue polish after I’ve seen his finished inks. I’m very happy with the way it’s working out.

Paste: Without getting into major spoiler territory, Valiant announced that you’ll be introducing previous bearers of the Shadowman mantle, going way, way further back than we’ve previously seen. Can you walk us through which historical Shadowmen we might meet, and what went into choosing these specific eras to explore?
Diggle: The Shadowman legacy began with Marius Boniface being bound to the loa in 1865, and each subsequent generation has carried that power. I thought it would be fun to see more of those characters and learn from them. Dave Johnson gave us a glimpse of a “film noir” Shadowman on one of his amazing covers for the 2012 series, and I knew I wanted to show that character in action in 1940s Manhattan. And as someone who grew up watching Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, I really wanted to catch up with Marius Boniface to see how he handled himself in the Old West long after the Civil War had ended. I got to write a supernatural Western!

Of course, the shadow loa is an ancient and immortal being, so the big question is: what was it doing before 1865? I don’t want to spoil it here, but the answer will have major ramifications for the Shadowman legacy. It gets pretty crazy.

Paste: You’ve got a lot of Shadowman on your brain right now—anything else you want to share with prospective readers before the book launches?
Diggle: I have a few projects cooking right now, but none of them are ready to announce just yet! A couple of work-for-hire books, plus a creator-owned series with an amazing artist. It’s a real passion project for me, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. I’m hoping we’ll be able to announce it soon! I hate keeping secrets…

Shadowman #1 Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #1 Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #1 Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #1 Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #1 Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #1 Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #2 Uncolored Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #2 Uncolored Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #2 Uncolored Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #2 Uncolored Interior Art by Stephen Segovia

Shadowman #2 Uncolored Interior Art by Stephen Segovia