One of the seven launch titles of Image Comics back in 1992, Jim Valentino’s Shadowhawk became known for the titular anti-hero’s propensity for breaking the backs of his adversaries. Presaging the epic back-breaking of Batman by Bane by just over a year, Valentino’s creation was a different kind of revenge tale than his Dark Knight counterpart: the man behind the mask was a revered district attorney who was brutally assaulted and infected with HIV after digging too deep in a New York mob boss’ business. It was a unique story that was told over a series of mini-series, but it never failed to catch on the way its fellow Image launch titles did… but maybe we have an answer.
Jim Valentino’s original story of Paul Johnstone is an interesting one. Bringing in the real-life disease of HIV as the impetus for a man to become a costumed adventurer is something, and it speaks to Valentino wanting to push the limits of what superhero storytelling is. Instead of trying to revisit that storyline, I’d try to push it further. Shadowhawk‘s always been treated as something on the edge of the standard definition of what a superhero could be, verging on being a crime or thriller book…. but in this attempt to give it new life, perhaps they should push it even further, out of it’s comfort zone, and see what it can be. I’m not necessarily saying we get ultra-violent here, but something drastic — akin to Brandon Graham’s recent revamp of Prophet or looking older at the way Alan Moore turned Swamp Thing around.
To borrow an over-used way to describe movie concepts, it could be Batman meets Breaking Bad. Show how a normal upstanding D.A. could go down a dark path, for good reasons of course, but by poisoned by the very thing he’s trying to fight against. This would be a hard story to tell without veering into the simplistic “grim & gritty” route of comics, so I would make sure to make this hyper intelligent as to the world Paul Johnstone is coming from and the world he’s going into.
And about the costume; although it’s become his standard gear for going on twenty years now, I think an able-bodied designer needs to be enlisted to rethink Shadowhawk’s costume to get it away from the silver-themed Wolverine knock-off most people think it to be. It’d be a real design challenge, but something that if done correctly could very easily give people a real sense something different is going on.
The Writer – Nathan Edmondson: Nathan Edmondson has quickly become one of Image’s hottest writers, and although his first stint doing super-heroes with Grifter left DC non-plussed, I think given the more freedom something like Shadowhawk allows could really open him up to bring the kind of thoughtful, intricate storytelling as seen in Who Is Jake Ellis? and The Activity to this. This needs to be a hero with some heart, and Edmondson is just the person to give that to him.
The Artist – Chase Conley: Some people might say to get a “name” artist, but I’d really like to see a relative unknown come out and surprise us — besides, a ‘name’ artist may not be in the budget given the money DC and Marvel wave around. Chase Conley is one of those artists who should be on a big book, and something like Shadowhawk should be a big book … and could be, with Conley and Edmondson working on it. As shown in his iFanboy Upstarts profile earlier this year, Conley has a real understanding of shadows and lighting, and knows how to draw superhuman people and surroundings.