Dara Naraghi of Lifelike and Persia Blues (NBM), has also woeked on Terminator and Ghostbusters comics from IDW and The Absurd Adventures of Archibald Aardvark from Image.
But back in 2011, he was invited by Coordinating Editor Elisabeth Gehrlein to pitch a couple of ideas to DC Comics while they were going through the New 52 relaunch. He never got a response, but we thought it might be nice to take a peek at his versions of Blue Devil, and The Spectre.
Logline: An exuberant superhero action/adventure romp through the bizarre corners of the DC Universe, with a new, diverse Blue Devil.
Tags: 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.
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.
Tone/Themes: 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.
Logline: A supernatural police thriller on the gritty streets of Gotham City, featuring homicide detective Crispus Allen, who after a near death experience finds himself bonded to a delusional spirit of vengeance.
Tags: Crime, Horror, Mystery, Occult, Religion, Psychological, Mystical
At a Glance: GCPD homicide detective Crispus Allen is many things – a loving family man, a stoic citizen, an atheist – but above all he is an honest cop in a dirty city. One night, while investigating police corruption and its ties to a street gang dealing in venom, he is gunned down from behind by dirty cop Antoine Frey.
Critically wounded but still alive, Allen undergoes a surreal out of body experience wherein he is confronted by mystical entities beyond comprehension, and an angry spirit known as The Spectre. The spirit offers the detective a bargain: his life will be spared if he agrees to bond with it and carry on its mission as "The Wrath of God." Desperate to be reunited with his wife and sons, Allen agrees.
Waking up in an intensive care unit, Allen finds his wife praying by his bedside. Elated at his recovery, she relates how his wounded body was found by a homeless man, Jim Corrigan, who called for help. Allen undergoes many months of physical therapy, determined to return to the force and continue his investigation of Frey.
But what Allen believed to be hallucinations during his near death experience become all too real when The Spectre materializes during one of his investigations. Now, torn between his oath to serve and protect, and The Spectre's gruesome form of justice, Allen struggles to make sense of his new situation while trying to protect his family, career, and above all, his sanity. Meanwhile, Antoine Frey bids his time, with order to take out Allen for good.
And to what lengths will Jim Corrigan, Allen's savior and new street informant, go to protect his own secret? The former human host of The Spectre, his mind succumbed to insanity after decades of witnessing the spirit's extreme brand of justice. Upon discovering Allen's wounded body, he saw his chance to rid himself of his personal demon by offering a more suitable host, a deal The Spectre could not refuse. When Allen eventually discovers the truth, will he still see Corrigan as the man who saved his life, or instead condemned it to a new kind of hell?
Tone/Themes: At its heart, the series will be about the study of opposites: Allen's methodical, logical mind and science-based forensics vs. The Spectre's unpredictable nature and inexplicable magic. The "lone wolf" Jim Corrigan's inability to retain his sanity as former host for The Spectre vs. Allen's success due to his grounded personality and family support structure. And finally, free will vs. predetermination.
Crispus Allen is a heroic, complex, strong African American character, and I feel it would be a disservice to relegate him to the role of a disembodied spirit, unable to interact with others around him. There is a wealth of story possibilities to explore with him front-and-center: as a police detective in a morally grey environment, a husband grappling with issues of faith and spirituality, and a father trying to raise his sons well. I want to portray a strong family unit as a positive light in Allen's life. Other topics explored will be religion, duty, obligation, sanity, and the vagaries of the criminal justice system.
Finally, a dark conspiracy of money and greed will provide the backbone of the street level crimes investigated by Allen, one which will lead him to Gotham's elite politicians and captains of industry.
Powers: The Spectre is incorporeal and unseen by everyone (including Allen) until he wishes otherwise. Able to instantaneously travel to any spot in the world, he will often take Allen with him to mete out "god's wrath." And much to Allen's frustration, he is able to render Allen intangible at will, taking his human host "out of the equation" when it comes to delivering justice.
The Spectre is able to prey upon the fear and guilt of criminals in such a manner that they believe he is physically punishing them in gruesome ways, such as an arsonist finding himself lit on fire. But in fact everything is happening only in their minds. The subconscious acknowledgement of their own guilt fuels The Spectre's powers, and the depth of their guilt determines how real the physical effects of their punishment become. Of course the delusional Spectre is unaware of the true nature of his power, believing himself to be an emissary of god. Seeds of doubt will be sown when he notices that the truly delusional criminals or those lacking a conscience are essentially immune to his wrath.
Crispus Allen – A man of upstanding moral character, and a deep sense of duty to his family and friends. Unfortunately, the world he lives in is one of moral ambiguity, deception, violence, and fear. Allen's daily struggles against his environment, as well as his own personal demon The Spectre, will provide the moments of adversity, drama, and triumph of will that define a good heroic story.
The Spectre – The self-proclaimed "spirit of god's wrath," it is actually a delusional soul unaware of its role as a pawn in the grand cosmic game of control waged by the Lords of Order and Chaos. Coveted by both, yet controlled by neither, The Spectre is at once a source of law and order, and calamity and madness. If a deeper tie to the New DC universe is desired, it can eventually be revealed that The Spectre was originally a religious zealot who lived during DC's "dark ages," as depicted in the Demon Knights series. Perhaps a gruesome death at the hands of The Demon led to its current state.
Antoine Frey – A dirty cop deeply entrenched in a vast conspiracy of vice, money, and the depraved fantasies of the rich and famous. He does the dirty work necessary, and in turn is handsomely rewarded and protected by his benefactors. The lynchpin of Allen's investigation, he will be a recurring foil.
Dore, Jake, and Mal Allen – Crispus' wife and two sons, and a source of moral and emotional support for the detective during his darkest hours. His moral compass remains true due to the love of his family.
Jim Corrigan – A homeless man who saves Allen's life, and later becomes his informant and friend. Unbeknownst to everyone, Jim was the former human host for The Spectre, but as a loner "tough cop" he did not have the support structure to help him deal with the horrors he witnessed. His eventual nervous breakdown led to the loss of his job and home. He feels a deep sense of guilt for having burdened Allen with The Spectre.