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Interview: Phil Hester on THE DARKNESS #100 and His Departure from the Series

The milestone 100th issue is out this week. Find out what the writer has to say about it.

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These days it's difficult for characters to reach their 100th issue. Series often get canceled or renumbered or both. With THE DARKNESS, we had some re-numbering but the way to look at it is this Wednesday marks the 100th issue for Jackie Estacado.

Since the 2007 series began, Phil Hester has been in charge of Jackie's wild adventures. It will be weird as he leaves the series and paves the way for David Hine to take over. We took this opportunity to talk to Phil about his past, present and future with the Darkness.

Comic Vine: How does it feel having written issue 1 of THE DARKNESS up through issue 100 (with the little jump in numbering)?

Phil Hester: Exhausting! Seriously, it feels pretty satisfying. In some ways I can't believe the powers that be at Top Cow let me run wild with their franchise character for so long. Luckily, I got to cover all the ground I wanted to with Jackie.

CV: Why did you make the decision to leave now?

PH: I originally pitched Top Cow on a three year arc. The vagaries of publishing made it a bit more like a four year arc, but these are the stories I laid out for them at the beginning of my run. When Top Cow renumbered at #75, I saw that my last arc would land around issue #100, so that seemed like a nice round number to leave at, and hopefully any sales push we got out of that anniversary issue would transfer over to the new team of Hine & Haun.. that sounds like an old English pub, doesn't it? "The Hine & Haun."

== TEASER ==

CV: I like the way you think. I was thinking a law firm. What has been the best thing about writing Jackie for all these years?

PH: Letting the darker side of my imagination run wild. Anyone who knows me knows just how milquetoast I am in reality, so "playing" Jackie Estacado let me daydream about being a ruthless, powerful bastard for a few weeks every month. I got the poison out.

On a more grounded note, I got to work with a lot of great people, notably my editors Rob Levin and Filip Sablik; artists like Michael Broussard, Mike Oeming, Jorge Lucas, Sheldon Mitchell, Whilce Portacio, Romano Molenaar, and so many others who came on for brief chapters or one shots. It was a real murderer's row of talent, no pun intended.

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CV: What's the one thing (or two) from your run you're most proud of?

PH: I think we humanized Jackie. He always had a personality; he was never just a soulless killer, but sometimes even that sexy, glib personality was played for shallow laughs. I wanted to give his plight some heft without getting melodramatic. I wanted him to grow up a little. I hope readers saw not just someone with cool powers, but someone with immense dilemmas that could only be solved through extraordinary acts of courage and fortitude. I hope #100 delivered on that.

That said, I'm also really happy with some of the more technical storytelling experiments we did; stories told from multiple POVs, silent issues, issues with carefully contrived panel counts, etc.

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CV: Where did the idea to travel to the Darkness' dimension come from?

PH: Well, it was the only place left to go. The theme of my run has been Jackie's quest to become his own man, free of the influence of outside forces. In the end, The Darkness is the ultimate force weighing upon Jackie. To be be truly independent, he had to go to the source of his oppression and fight for his freedom. Naturally, The Darkness would throw up defenses, and with a whole universe at your disposal, those defenses can be entire worlds.

CV: How long have you been planning on using Danny Estacado and bringing back Kirchner?

PH: I planned on Kirchner from day one. I always knew Jackie would see his enemy in some form or another again. It wasn't until I really sat down to write the last arc that I realized I would need both Sonatine and Danny in the last arc for it to really make sense, to have a sense of completion. Danny's presence, the presence of a true family, was sort of The Darkness' last, best defense against Jackie. It had tried to intimidate, seduce, and destroy him without success, so offering up the sense of belonging Jackie had never experienced was its last stand.

CV: Were you given any limitations as to how to end issue 100 to make the transition easier for David Hine?

PH: Not really. I had to make it dovetail to the ending of ARTIFACTS, and I had to leave Jackie intact as Jackie, the wielder of The Darkness, but the changes I managed in the character were never at risk. He is the master of his power now, for better or worse. Hine doesn't need my help anyway!

CV: What do you have planned next? What will fill the Darkness void for you.

PH: Tons of stuff I just can't talk about. I'm still writing THE BIONIC MAN at Dynamite Entertainment, but expect some announcements this spring as to what I'm up to in 2012. Believe me, you'll be sick of me again soon.

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