Rachel Bellwoar chats with Steve Orlando and Sebastián Píriz about their upcoming comic book series Exorcists Never Die…
There’s nothing like a series that has its own vocabulary. What was it like getting to invent new words for Exorcists Never Die?
Steve Orlando: Exciting! To be fair, I think part of working fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, is always going to be building out new jargon and new vernacular. To me, as long as it doesn’t become a barrier to entry, that’s what makes a book’s world feel lived-in. Like any other seasoning, there can certainly be too much, but with the right amount, it accentuates, deepens, and supports the overall dish, or book. Cooking or writing – they’re both art forms. And not so different.
Instead of working up to the Seven Deadly Sins, issue one sees Syd and Ellen have to face off against Sloth. What made you want to have them contend with a Big Bad right out of the gate, instead of starting with a less formidable foe?
SO: Well, we’ve got a lot of sins to get through! But joking aside, to me, with any new project…SLOTH is the first sin to overcome. There’s nothing more horrifying as a writer than a blank page, and so the first win in any undertaking is always just the win of overcoming inertia and getting started. Personifying that as the first fight for our heroes just made sense.
Two against seven doesn’t seem like the best odds (and seven doesn’t include all of the Sins’ acolytes). Do you think Syd and Ellen may have overestimated their chances?
SO: I think they know they’re the two best combat exorcists out there. But they’re also very aware the stakes are higher than ever – otherwise they never would’ve been brought in from the field and paired together, despite their rocky history. Syd and Ellen are well and truly intimidated, and it terrifies them that even though they’re the best, they still very could be nowhere near good enough…to survive.
Sebastián Píriz: I can’t really reply to this without giving spoilers. I will say though that the exorcists are pretty confident in their abilities. For good and for bad.
That being said, compared to other sins, Sloth might not seem like the most menacing. The solutions you come up with are extremely creative (and reminded me of the Doldrums from The Phantom Tollbooth), but was he a harder villain to pin down, in terms of Sloth’s powers?
SO: That’s part of the fun of this book—the victories don’t always come from force. They come from strategy, logic, and of thinking about combat in a philosophical sense. In the case of Sloth, and all the sins, the gig is for Syd and Ellen to figure out what they truly mean, and how to counter that meaning. In that way, each fight also becomes a unique lens to show how Syd and Ellen view the world and human nature, often in increasingly contradictory ways.
SP: I love that from this story. When you think about the 7 deadly sins you have a mental image of how they would look and behave. Steve subverts that with every one, and with that he also found original and smart ways to defeat them.
There’s a bit of a clash in fighting style, versus the uniform the exorcists’ wear (which brings to mind knights and swordplay). How did you come up with the look for the exorcists’ armor?
SO: A lot of this comes from trust in Sebastian, who you can be assured is a master of his craft, and knows better than I ever will how to take these concepts and put them on the page in intriguing, innovative, and exciting ways. So for me, I’m here to arm Sebastian with inspiration – in this case, the idea that our heroes are both martial artists and descended, at least in culture, from Templar Knights and Crusaders.
SP: And pouch belts. I remember Steve asking specifically for a bit of a military look. And the mix of it all just works perfectly.
It’s a small scene but one of my favorite moments in issue one is when Syd and Ellen start talking over each other and show how out of sync they are. Props to letterer, Carlos M. Manguel, but did you ever discuss how much, and when, you wanted to allude to Syd and Ellen’s shared history?
SO: I think the key is to sprinkle enough in so that folks continue to gain more and more context about their personal struggles, and how they’re having to work on themselves on the fly in order to survive, just as their mission becomes more and more deadly. Just as you think they’ve made progress, there’s a new threat, and a new facet of their past for them to overcome. Or, of course, die in the process.
Is there a demon design you’re especially proud of or a Sin that’s proven especially fun to write for?
SO: They’re all certainly fun in their own way – BUT I think it’s safe to say on my end that Lust has been a favorite to write for. AND our base ideas for his design were incredibly challenging. But as you might expect from my tone above, Sebastian not only did perfect work on the design and the issue, but work that exceeded my already high expectations. Lust is gross as hell! And a challenge for us all! But Sebastian was and is more than up to the task.
SP: Thanks a lot! I loved working on all the sins, looking for the storytelling in the details, like Sloth’s overgrown stuff on his head, super fragile but it’s there after years of staying quiet.
Lust was… you have to see it.
And with that my anticipation for issue two just got even stronger. Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Steve and Sebastián!
Exorcists Never Die#1 goes on sale April 12th from Mad Cave Studios.