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Christopher Priest on Deathstroke: Rebirth

The cover to Deathstroke: Rebirth.
The cover to Deathstroke: Rebirth.

Writer Christopher Priest plans a back-to-basics approach with Deathstroke, the world's deadliest assassin, in "Deathstroke: Rebirth," hitting stores Aug. 10.  He'll be working with artists Carlo Pagulayan and Joe Bennett on the series, which will continue as one of DC's twice-monthly releases. 

"Deathstroke" was introduced as an antagonist for the Teen Titans in "New Teen Titans" #2 in 1980, created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez.  His first ongoing solo series, which began in 1991, ran for 65 issues (counting 4 annuals and a #0 issue).   Deathstroke has had two ongoing series since the "New 52" era began in 2011; the new series will be his third.  He's also had a high profile in other media, appearing on the show "Arrow" and in episodes of "Teen Titans."

Editor Marie Javins reached out to Priest about writing "Deathstroke."  Priest, the writer of "Spider-Man vs. Wolverine" and long, successful runs on "Black Panther" and "Quantum and Woody" had been away from comics for the better part of a decade, with a few exceptions.

"I was writing novels and non-comics related things, and I was involved with ministry here and just not really paying attention to what was going on," Priest said in an interview with The Oklahoman. "My frame of reference was narrow. ... My frame of reference was Marv Wolfman and George Perez.  I didn’t know (Deathstroke) was as popular as he apparently is."

After doing research, Priest thought the best way to prepare Deathstroke for the "Rebirth" event was to look at the original concept.

"My thought was, with all due respect to the writers who had come after Marv, was to take the Marv Wolfman concept and move it into 2016."

Priest was adamant about one thing in particular about Deathstroke:

"Deathstroke is a villain!" he said. "Don't come to the book with any expectations that he will in any way or sense or form act heroically. He's a bad guy, and that's the fun of it. Hopefully that's the main interesting factor about the book.  Rather than pit him against even more evil villains or inventing more dangerous or deadly foes for him to combat, so he can be seen in a heroic light, I'm letting Deathstroke be Deathstroke."

The following is an excerpt from a conversation with Priest about the new Deathstroke series.

Nerdage: Will you be following political trends and current events and bringing them into "Deathstroke"?

Priest: Even with Black Panther … it wasn’t really a conscious decision to mirror whatever was going on in the world, the politics of the world.  Some people were comparing it to West Wing and I hadn’t seen West Wing, so I didn’t know what they were talking about. ...

If Slade Wilson did exist, assassin for hire, who is also the head of this incredibly dysfunctional family, then what are the consequences of that? If he is an assassin, then what tools are in the tool box?  And they’re not just knives  and guns.  I think Slade Wilson’s most powerful weapon is his cell phone.  ...

I’m not consciously following any current events or anything like that, I’m just trying to be as true to the character as I possibly can be, to try to broaden the approach to Deathstroke.

I had this line in Captain America and the Falcon where Captain America was on the verge of having an affair with the Scarlet Witch, and he was not sure if he should proceed, and Falcon turns to him and says, I just realized something, you stink at problems you can’t solve with your fists.

And I wanted to demonstrate that Deathstroke does not need to solve every problem with his fists. That he is an incredibly intelligent guy, and his intellect hasn’t always been the highlight of his adventures. In my book, his intellect is his deadliest weapon and his greatest superpower.  A lot of times, he doesn’t have to whack you out, he just has to give you enough rope to hang yourself.  

Nerdage: I saw somewhere that you compared Deathstroke to Batman, that he may be the anti-Batman?

Priest: The anti-Batman thing, I’m pretty sure that’s where Marv was coming from in the first place.   Is that he’s the, here’s what Batman could become. And frankly, if I had more time with Batman – which I’m not going to get, but if I had more time with Batman, I would explore that. Deathstroke is the dark mirror version of Batman, basically. He is every bit as resourceful, every bit as ruthless, every bit as powerful as Batman. So when the two of them face off in issue 4 and 5,  it’s more intellectual than it is even physical, because the two of them almost cancel each other out.  They both try to out-think each other, and they both try to be three steps ahead of each other, so it’s kind of interesting, and a difficult thing to write. 

Look for more from the interview with Priest and artist Carlo Pagulayan in an upcoming column at NewsOK and The Oklahoman.  "Deathstroke: Rebirth" goes on sale Aug. 10, and "Deathstroke" #1 goes on sale Aug. 24.

Related Photos
The cover to Deathstroke: Rebirth.

The cover to Deathstroke: Rebirth.

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - The cover to Deathstroke: Rebirth." title="The cover to Deathstroke: Rebirth."><figcaption>The cover to Deathstroke: Rebirth.</figcaption></figure>
Matthew Price

Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s... Read more ›