Comic book movies are currently hip in Hollywood. But comic books, long-regarded as geared towards children, have taken a darker turn in recent years, dealing with adult issues and featuring brooding heroes. Issue #11 of Deathstroke is as dark as it gets. The comic tackles violence in Chicago. A group of mothers hires Deathstroke, a super villain in the DC universe, to avenge the murders of their children. But the comic also shows that more violence and guns don’t necessarily solve the problem.
Christopher Priest, writer of the comic book, said that although comics are full of fantasy violence, he wanted to take a more realistic approach to the subject. (The pencilwork is by Denys Cowan, a well-known African American artist who created the TV show “Static Shock” and also served as a producer for “The Boondocks.”)
“I thought it important, both to DC and to myself personally, to make an anti-violence statement,” said Priest, who has also written for “Black Panther.” “Virtually all we see in entertainment—in feature films, television, online video and, of course, comics—is conflict resolution by means of violence. It is formulaic and staid and boring. It is much harder to find an interesting climax or resolution that does not involve violence.”
Deathstroke takes on the mission to take out the criminals, but barely makes dent in the problem of Chicago’s violence. In fact, the book has an anti-gun message.
“The solution to gun violence is not, cannot be, more guns,” said Priest. “Violence is never the answer. I will defend what needs defending, but violence as a means to social or political change pollutes any positive gain those changes portend. I am sick of seeing promotional art of ‘heroes” brandishing weapons. Guns are only sexy to people who’ve never had one aimed at them in anger (and I have, twice). Once you’ve experienced that, you never look at weapons with that stupid and naïve fanboy glint again.”
Priest also expressed anger at the country’s indifference to the violence in Chicago.
“The gun violence is a symptom of an underlying social problem going unaddressed. If the same level of gun violence was going on among White kids in Orange County, the nation would be in crisis mode. Why aren’t we in crisis mode?” he said.
Although the “Deathstroke” comic has a dark tone, Priest said he enjoyed writing about the character. He said the originator of the character, Marv Wolfman, designed him to be different than the usual run-of-the mill villain.
“I’ve found him (Deathstroke) an interesting challenge because of how complex Marv Wolfman’s premise was,” said Priest. “Rather than this being just another villain twirling his mustache, Wolfman drew a layered and complex premise of a family man—something few super-heroes were at the time: a thoughtful, brilliant, yet ultimately corrupt character.”
“Each story is laced with clues and nuances and, ultimately, inquiries into the mind of an assassin, and I prefer to leave it to the reader to make his or her own conclusions about the man and his methods, rather than flat-footedly tell them what to think or, for that matter, what Deathstroke thinks,” said Priest.