Last October, while in New York for the NYCC show, I arranged a meeting with two DC editors. The first was with Vertigo editor Will Dennis, to share my pitch for a long-form mini-series titled Dervish (more on that some other time). The other was with DC Coordinating Editor Elisabeth Gehrlein.
I had been sending Elisabeth samples of my published works for a couple of years by this point, so she was familiar with my name. In fact, on the day I met with her in her office, she was looking through a copy of my Dark Horse Presents story. This was right around the time when DC was launching their “New 52” books, and she was kind enough to give me the “lay of the land,” as it were. She was open to reviewing pitches from me, but obviously all the “big” characters and the ones already featured in their own books were off limits. As for the other characters, she said to send her a short list and she could tell me which ones DC already had plans for, thus saving me time on proposals that wouldn’t have a chance from the get-go.
So I did just that, sending an initial short list of a half dozen characters, a combination of ones I really liked and ones I thought would be available for reinterpretation. For a variety of reasons, of the ones she gave me the go-ahead on, I decided to go with Blue Devil as my initial pitch.
Now, for those of you who may not be familiar with this character, he was created by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Paris Cullins, and first appeared in 1984. Here’s a nice synopsis, from Wikipedia:
“Daniel Patrick Cassidy is a special effects wizard and stuntman hired to create and play the title character in the movie Blue Devil. To that end Cassidy creates a full-body costume with a hidden powered exoskeleton and built-in special-effects devices. When two of his co-stars accidentally free a demon named Nebiros, Cassidy uses his costume to drive the demon back, but not before being blasted with mystical energy. After the fight, Cassidy finds that the blast has permanently grafted the Blue Devil costume to his body.”
As you might have guessed, the original series was more of a fun romp than a serious superhero book. Of course, over the years, the character went through several revisions, as different writers went with different takes on Blue Devil. Most recently, he was a real demon and a member of the magic-based group Shadowpact.
But I’m not a fan of “grim and gritty” superhero stories, so for my pitch I decided to go back to the character’s roots and play up the “fun” aspect of his stories. And yes, I knew that going with that tone severely limited the marketability of my proposal, but I figured if I was going to go through the trouble of putting a pitch together, I was going to make it something I’d want to read myself, let alone write.
In terms of the main protagonist and supporting cast, I definitely wanted a diverse ensemble. I modernized one of the basic concepts as well, but overall, I stuck fairly close to the original beats. I’m not a big fan of wholesale “reinvention” of characters, where the only commonality with the previous versions is the name. What’s the point? If you’re going to do such a radical change, just create a new character. So yeah, the movie industry, the Hollywood setting, the special effects angle…I kept all of those. I mean, what better setting for bizarre adventures that Hollywood, right?
Anyway, as you might have guessed, the pitch went nowhere. In fact, I never heard back anything on it, good or bad. But enough time has gone by that I feel safe sharing this on the blog. Out of all the DC characters I’d like to write, I won’t pretend that Blue Devil would be my top choice. But I definitely think it would have been a very fun book to write. Oh well.
So, here’s the text of my pitch. Well, more of a treatment that a full series pitch. But I had enough there that if it interested one of the editors, I could have easily developed it into a full series proposal. Let me know what you think.
A “DC New 52” Treatment by Dara Naraghi
(Blue Devil © DC Comics)
An exuberant superhero action/adventure romp through the bizarre corners of the DC Universe, with a new, diverse Blue Devil.
Fun, Absurdist, Humorous, Weird, Culturally Diverse, Heroic
At a Glance
Reza Hamidi is a 25 year old Iranian-American software developer in Los Angeles. Much to the chagrin of his traditional father, who envisioned a life of high-profile engineering research for his brilliant son, Reza followed his passion for movies and now toils as one of hundreds of computer animators at Shay Toons, a special effects company specializing in CGI animation, run by the powerful and enigmatic Robert Shay.
However, the talented and entrepreneurial Reza has higher ambitions, including founding his own CGI production house. To this end, he has spent all his free time and money developing a graphics rendering engine he has dubbed D.E.V.I.L. (Deep Environment Visualization, Interaction, and Logic). His innovative software/hardware cluster is capable of creating cutting-edge visual effects, with a built in logic engine that bestows autonomous properties to the virtual creations.
But on the night of Reza’s first successful full-scale system test, wherein he animates a character of his own design (nicknamed Blue Devil) inside a richly detailed virtual world, disaster strikes. An immense power surge of mysterious origin rips through his system, frying the circuitry and nearly killing him in the ensuing explosion. But what Reza believes to be an accident is actually an act of sabotage, carried out by Reza’s employer, Robert Shay, a demonic entity disguised in human form. The mystical attack serves to satisfy Shay’s pleasure in ruining the dreams of others, as well as fending off potential competition from the talented Reza. However, the supernatural blast interacts in an unpredictable manner with the technology of Reza’s D.E.V.I.L. system, causing the young man’s transformation into a physical representation of the Blue Devil character.
Now Reza has to navigate his way through work, love, family dynamics, and the backstabbing world of Hollywood, all while stuck as a 6 foot tall blue devil with horns and magical powers.
As a product of magic and technology, Blue Devil is able to manifest the powers and abilities that Reza had designed for the character in the virtual world, at the time of the accident. These include super strength, limited invulnerability, and the manipulation of a “blue fire” energy for offensive and defensive purposes. He will eventually also learn to manipulate the blue fire for flight.
The tone of Blue Devil will be playful and fun, paired with a fast-paced story. It will combine wild ideas and outrageous situations (think Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, minus the somber tone) with a culturally diverse cast of characters and a hero with a lot of heart. The villains and obstacles encountered will be bizarre and colorful, yet no less dangerous. At the same time, Reza’s family and friends will help ground the wild action in a realistic setting, one that readers of all types can identify with and relate to on an emotional level.
The setting of Los Angeles, and specifically the entertainment industry, will provide plenty of material for not only outrageous new villains, but also social satire. One of the central themes of the book will be our celebrity-obsessed culture, and the nature of fame. Reza’s struggles with instant, unwanted fame will be a main throughline. He’s a man who values success through hard work and intellectual achievement, not random, unwarranted celebrity. But his new situation will see him pushed towards temptations, both material and existential, that he can only resist by summoning his true strength of character.
In summary, this is Blue Devil returned to his entertaining, madcap roots, albeit with a very modern slant and a more multicultural cast.
Reza Hamidi – Our protagonist. Reza is a brilliant computer scientist, with a passion for movies. He is level-headed, analytical, compassionate, and loyal to his friends and family. In short, the kind of all-around nice guy we’d all like to have as a friend. He is not very good at sports, nor particularly “physical,” which makes his transition into the life of a superhero rather awkward at first, resulting in some early humorous missteps.
Ali & Mina Hamidi – Reza’s parents. Iranian born and raised, but Western educated. They immigrated to the US shortly before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Of the two, Ali is slightly more traditional, holding on to some Iranian cultural beliefs and values that sometimes put him at odds with his more liberal son. Mina is the peacemaker of the family, and often the voice of reason.
Brandy Jarrett – An animation voice actor, and object of Reza’s affections. Artistic, curious, and lively, she is not particularly well-liked by Reza’s father, who wishes for his son to settle down with “a nice Iranian girl.”
Daniel Cohen – Reza’s roommate, an attorney practicing entertainment law. Unlike Reza, he’s adventurous, brash, and more of a risk taker. He also has a sharp wit, but also a good heart.
Robert Shay – The exiled demon Nebiros in his human disguise. Due to a mysterious transgression centuries ago, he was banished from hell with a mere fraction of his powers. He has firmly entrenched himself into the entertainment industry as a cure against boredom on Earth. He meddles in people’s lives and cruelly manipulates them for his own amusement, and to pass the time, but longs to return to hell to reclaim his full powers. To that end, he sees Blue Devil as his ticket out of Earth.
D.E.V.I.L. – The computer graphics system developed by Reza and infused with Shay’s mystic energy. It will play a central role in the overarching narrative, after it’s repaired by Reza. As Blue Devil, his link to the system will allow him to explore new powers, including manipulating it for dimensional travel, and creating a “phantom zone”-like prison for wayward demons. The system will also be coveted by Shay, setting up future clashes between the two.