In the early Summer of 2009, one of my goddaughters, Sylvia, looked over my shoulder as I drew a picture of Kain fighting a monster. She asked me who the character was and I explained. She then asked have I drawn a comic book for it yet and I told her no, that I was never truly happy with the character and his world until recently. She then asked the ultimate question: “How long have you been working on the character?” It took me a few seconds to do the math, and I felt a bit of shame when I told her truthfully that it had been 16 years. That’s when she gave me the look. What look you ask? Oh we’ve all come across this look from children, you know the one, that look of pure, abject, disbelief that can only be given by one who perceives any age above their own to be ancient. And suffice to say that look and the giggle that followed did not go well with my creative ego. Sixteen years though. It’s really hard to believe that this character has been running through and dwelling in my mind for so long.
The character, originally called Kane, took shape after I saw Vampire Hunter D for the first time, at the age of 15, on the Sci-Fi channel in 1993. I was inspired and wanted to create a similar character. The original Kane was a six foot tall, 17 year old, black man; dressed pretty much as D, from the Vampire Hunter D anime did (minus the hat), and carried a similar sword. Kane was a Slayer (a title taken from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer) from the first draft but there was little substance to the character and the only story I had for him was adult-oriented, sadly I never got further than a short character bio.
But the character continued to dwell in my mind. I’m fuzzy on how much time passed but I estimate it to be a year; during that year I ordered Vampire Hunter D, Fist of the North Star, and Akira on VHS. All movies were brilliant and inspiring and dragged me deeper into the world of anime. Akira hit me really hard, the animation, the story, the violence and the fact that the main protagonists were my age (at the time) got me thinking about Kain again. A few years passed, during that time, I saw many movies and read many manga and comics that helped shaped various aspects of the character and his world. The movies: Boyz n the Hood and Menace II Society, made me place Kane in the modern day and drop his age a bit, it also influenced the respelling of the character’s name to Kain. With this bit of new material a new Kain was born.
This second incarnation was was a wimpy 16 year old who was the target of bullies and taunts, the only people in his life that mattered to him were his grandfather, his childhood friend Nadia Joseph; and Nadia’s gangster brother, who only dealt with Kain because his little sister liked him. This Kain was given a sentient artifact called a Displacement Sphere (which was named Z), that activated his dormant powers as it was time for him to become a Demon Hunter (no longer called a Slayer), as previous members of his family had been. I had a lot of plots made for this incarnation but never drew anything past a few thumbnails with text. The dialogue was a travesty, imagine a mixture of anime speak and screams, with the street/urban slang of Boyz n the Hood, Menace II Society and House Party 1 and 2; if you just cringed then you totally understand my feeling of shame.
The third incarnation of Kain was, I felt, a whole lot better. This Kain was already a Demon Hunter who was well trained and already performing his duties with his Displacement Sphere Z. Kain’s only concern, apart from his duties, is the well being of his friends (oh yes this version had friends), especially his best friends and girl next-door Nadia Joseph. Kain and Nadia have crushes on each other and it is apparent that the only thing keeping them apart is their own shyness and one of Nadia’s girlfriends, who thinks Kain and his friend are a bunch of losers and that they are beneath Nadia. Yes I liked this Kain very much and I wrote a few scripts but still it went no where. I should note at this point that the second and third incarnations were, let’s say, comic code approved titles. Violence and profanity weren’t extreme by any means.
When the fourth, and final, incarnation of Kain was created the title now became Demon Hunter Kain. Heavily inspired by Stephen King and other great writers such as Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, and with the help and input of my friends; I took the world of Kain and turned it on its axis. In previous incarnations of the series the characters could be perceived as being too happy and complacent, there was no tragedy, no real reason for them to be who or what they are. Why is Kain a Demon Hunter? Why would he choose to be a Demon Hunter? I never truly asked myself questions like that, and I believe that’s the reason I was never satisfied with the characters. Kain, his friends, his villains, his entire world was flat no depth whatsoever. I was more enthralled at the prospect of making great art that the story took second place. But now my mind is set and I am totally satisfied with my current collection of plots and story lines. I hope Demon Hunter Kain will be a great web comic and I thank you all, especially my friends and family, for pushing me and joining me on this journey.
Burrell Gill, Jr.