Credit: Image Comics

Darwyn Cooke has illustrated superheroes like Batman and the Justice League for both comic books and animation. Some of the best work he’s produced gravitates towards crime—just look at his classic run on Catwoman with Ed Brubaker, or his graphic novel adaptations of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels. But as acclaimed his work has been, the award-winning writer and artist has never done a fully creator-owned comic book, preferring either superheroes or adaptations.

Enter Revengeance, Cooke’s first-ever original story.

Announced Tuesday morning at the Image Expo in San Francisco, Revengeance is a three-part psychological thriller/black comedy about Joe Malarky, a man who’s thrust into the mad, seedy underbelly of Toronto in the 1980s on a quest for revenge after being faced with a criminal tragedy. Cooke was kind enough to talk to Entertainment Weekly about the origins of Revengeance, and what we can expect from his first creator-owned book.

EW: First off—how excited (or nervous) are you to be doing your first fully creator-owned project? Is there anything in particular you’ve been wanting to do in comics that you haven’t been able to before?

Darwyn Cooke: I’d say I’m fairly full of an equal measure of both nerves and excitement. Other than the odd short story, this will be the first longform work I’ve done that will all stem from me. Although I think the mainstream has offered me pretty broad areas to work in, Revengeance is a chance to look at many of the themes I enjoy through a more off kilter point of view. A few years back Jimmy Palmiotti loaned me a copy of David Lynch’s book, Catching the Big Fish. It is a short yet tremendous insight into his creative thinking, and I was completely taken with certain creative processes that he suggests are possible. I’m looking to find a more symbolic and non-linear way to tell what is, at its base, a simple murder mystery.

I’d love to hear more about Joe. What kind of guy is he? Will the book’s dark humor stem from him, or what happens to/around him?

Joe Malarkey is 24 years old and he’s a bit of a cad. He’s a graphic designer at a lifestyle magazine in Toronto during the Eighties. His life is an endless string of nights out, booze, drugs and women. He is alternately a self-righteous loudmouth, a loyal and fearless friend, and the kind of guy who could do so much more with his life if he could stop being cynical long enough to look around. Joe is funny at times, and the humor is dark, but it is simply the inevitable result of navigating a city full of musicians, models, agents, salesmen, hustlers and fakes.

Revengeance is set in your hometown. What makes Toronto in the ’80s the ideal setting for this story?

For those who didn’t pick up on it, Joe is kinda based on the worst of who I was back then. He’s not me by any means, but he is my voice here, and Toronto in the ’80s is a very familiar place to me. This is definitely a case of writing what I know as opposed to cutting from whole cloth.

Your work tends to gravitate towards crime and capers, but from the description you’re putting out there, this seems like you’re going for something a little more…madcap. A little less controlled, as far as the story is concerned—something far messier than a carefully planned heist. Is this going to be a departure of sorts for you?

Yes, and absolute departure in one sense, but very familiar terrain in another. The book I’ve reconsidered most as I’ve moved forward on Revengeance is Dan Clowes’ Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Another that I’ve thought of is Jim Thompson’s novel Savage Night. Between that and the Lynch reference, I think it’s clear I’m doing something less linear and more mosaic here. The real challenge is to find the balance and still be presenting a narrative that is moving forward at a pace that my reader wants.

And lastly, why Revengeance? I’m interested in knowing both the story behind the title and if you’re aware that it shares its name with a rather frenetic video game.

I did not know about the game. Dang. I thought I was being real clever there.

Revengeance kicks off the first of its three issues in June 2015.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC