Force And Fists: Interviewing `Exorcists Never Die’ Writer Steve Orlando And Artist Sebastian Piriz
by Tom Smithyman
Out April 12, 2023, Exorcists Never Die follows two “combat exorcists” as they fight manifestations of the seven deadly sins during the largest soul auction in history. Comicon.com caught up with writer Steve Orlando and artist Sebastian Piriz for an exclusive interview in which the pair discusses the influences from popular culture, the secrets of pacing and which of the seven deadly sins is their favorite.
Tom Smithyman: How did you come up with the idea of “combat exorcists” – a pair of heroes who literally beat the hell out of the baddies?
Steve Orlando: It just felt right for the influences! When Mad Cave came to us asking about building a high-action, animation-influenced book about exorcism and Christian lore, my mind went right back to my initial run on Midnighter and the questions that came with it. “How can we get as much action as possible into this?” and “How can we make it unique?” From there, I realized if there are combat medics in the real world, and within the world of this book, exorcism is real…then it just plain stands to reason we’d have combat exorcists.
Smithyman: Steve, you’ve had the opportunity to write some of the most iconic characters, from Batman, Spider-Man and the Shadow. Why did you want to write about the exorcists Syd and Ellen as well?
Orlando: Because they’re brand new! And because they’re a brand-new challenge along with that. Syd and Ellen offer clean slates to build relationships, build tension and create characters you just can’t help but root for. When writing the icons, the challenge is a little different. There, the expectation for who they are and how they act is very high, but you also have plenty of previous work to build on. Here, we’re laying brick one of Syd and Ellen’s story, and that’s a whole different kind of challenge. But challenging myself, and ourselves, is how we grow as creators.
Smithyman: Sebastian, similar question. You have worked on Transformers, Dejah Thoris and Flash Gordon. What was exciting about Exorcists?
Sebastian Piriz: Lots of action! Weird monsters!! It’s the kind of stuff I wanted to draw when I first considered working in comics. And I love the sins here. All of them are twisted and unique versions.
Smithyman: With all the action in the first issue, I’m gathering you didn’t get a lot of inspiration for this series by watching Max von Sydow in The Exorcist, right?
Orlando: More than you might think! Max was pretty spry underneath the age makeup in that thing. But the true thing I took for his performance is the way he commands the room against demons, the way his voice and demeanor changes when on the job. “BE SILENT.” There’s force behind those words. In this book, when our exorcists are on the job, there’s force and FISTS behind similar words.
Smithyman: The heroes are battling through the seven deadly sins. Did you get inspiration from Seven?
Orlando: Broadly, perhaps – but more so, I think that Christian mythology is just so deeply interwoven with right and wrong, sacred and profane. Embodying the seven deadly sins as seven boss fights in a tournament to fight down to Hell just felt like an elegant structure for the book – and Sebastian’s work visualizing them has been a master class.
Smithyman: The pacing in the first issue is top notch. How do you strike the balance between action and exposition – particularly in a premiere issue?
Orlando: I think it’s easy to get lost in the action – but at the same time, action without characters we care about is just a no calorie filler. We have to hang the story, no matter how fantastic, on relatable characters who are doing something unreal for very real reasons. Syd and Ellen might fight battles we never will, but their broken relationship is one that’s hopefully something we can all relate to in one way or another. Together or not, irritated by each other or not, they probably still know each other better than anyone else on the planet.
Smithyman: It feels like the two of you are really on the same page, so to speak. In other words, Sebastian’s actions complement Steve’s script very well. How do you two plan out the issues?
Piriz: Steve’s scripts have the perfect balance. Some panels even come with a YouTube link of some cool martial arts movement, but in other parts its basically: `Sebastian, do what you think will work best.’
Orlando: The secret isn’t really a secret at all – my trust in Sebastian is complete, and he’s my first audience, along with the book’s editorial. As he said, I try to give enough for folks to chew on, but I also try to trust my collaborators to do what they do best as often as possible. Sebastian’s here because he’s a master, and this humble writer’s just not worthy.
Smithyman: You mentioned that the manifestation of each of the seven deadly sins will be the primary villain in each issue. Be honest now, which of those seven wrongs is your favorite in real life?
Piriz: I’ll go with lust…but not the version in the comic. Not at all.
Orlando: Sebastian took the fun answer! No question that’s my favorite, but if we’re talking about which one I actually struggle with the most, it’s almost got to be Miss Wrath. I still remember the teacher that kicked me in the shins in fifth grade!
Smithyman: Well that begs a LOT more questions, but we’re out of time! Thanks for taking the time to discuss Exorcists Never Die!