By Christian Holub
August 08, 2018 at 02:30 PM EDT

Warning: The following contains spoilers about The Sandman Universe #1. Read at your own risk!

It’s time, once more, to give the devil his due.

This week, DC’s one-shot comic The Sandman Universe #1 relaunched the fictional world first created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg in the iconic comic The Sandman. The main character, the personification of storytelling known as Dream, is mostly absent for now, and in his absence, the pages are filled with both new faces and the most colorful side characters from The Sandman. Foremost among them is the devil Lucifer, who has probably become the most famous Sandman character thanks to his recent Fox-turned-Netflix show.

Lucifer will headline one of the four new ongoing comics spinning out of The Sandman Universe, alongside The Dreaming, House of Whispers, and Books of Magic. As first reported by EW back in March, the new Lucifer comic will be written by Dan Watters and illustrated by Max Fiumara and Sebastian Fiumara, and that team took its first crack at the character with a seven-page sequence in The Sandman Universe #1. As Matthew the Raven scours the Earth looking for his master Dream, he stumbles upon Lucifer’s L.A. piano bar Lux, now completely trashed and abandoned. There, Matthew meets another raven named Hope, who recounts a bloody flashback story of Lucifer tearing apart scores of ravens in order to complete a strange ritual.

Clearly, the devil has been going through some tough times. But even though Lucifer followed his appearances in The Sandman with a 75-issue solo series written by Mike Carey and a more recent 19-issue series written by Holly Black, Watters is clear that none of that is necessary to follow the character’s newest adventure.

“Because this is The Sandman Universe, we wanted to go back to The Sandman and the roots of the character,” Watters tells EW. “Lucifer has had these amazing long runs by Mike Carey and Holly Black, and it’s got this hugely successful TV show, so it’s trying to balance a version of him that will appeal to everyone who loves this character, but also doesn’t require you to have read a bunch of books or three seasons of a TV show. We were very much looking back to Sandman and using that as our primary source material.”

Vertigo Comics
Vertigo Comics

In the flashback scenes recounted by Hope, Lucifer looks startlingly like the demonically handsome “Thin White Duke” version of David Bowie. But in the final panel of the sequence, readers see Lucifer trapped in some strange prison, looking bearded, bedraggled, and blind. Gaiman has said before that he heavily based Lucifer’s aesthetic on Bowie, so Watters and the Fiumara’s continued that. Now, the Morningstar has gone full Blackstar.

“When we started looking at the Bowie side of things, we thought about how there’s been a lot of Bowie that’s happened since Sandman,” Watters says. “We definitely bandied around [Bowie’s final album] Blackstar as a thing we were definitely touching on, since it’s about entropy and the end of things and your body starting to fall apart, with things not working the way they used to. I thought that was a really interesting thing to apply to Lucifer. We’re taking this figure who’s always been so furious about the world despite being this Apollonian beauty, and seeing how does he react when he actually does start to fall apart?”

Although it’s unclear for now how Lucifer ended up in this prison dimension, it all started with him explaining to Hope how he was planning a new rebellion against God. This time, it’s personal. Lucifer feels like God’s abandoned son, but now he’s learned his own son is loose in the world. The devil is determined not to repeat his heavenly father’s mistakes, though he has a pattern of rebelling against God in a way that ultimately ends up being just another part of the almighty plan.

“The way I really sort of think about him is, he’s furious about being indebted to God for his own existence,” Watters says. “He was brought into what was essentially paradise, but his response to that was to turn around and say, ‘How dare you presume that I wanted to be brought into this kind of existence?’ I would say that’s still very much at the heart of how he got to where he ends up at the beginning of our story. It definitely adds insult to injury that he is being trapped there by some other force he doesn’t understand yet. For someone who is nearly omnipotent and omniscient — he’s basically the second-most-powerful being in existence — to be blinded and trapped here by people he has no idea about is really gonna get his gourd.”  

With so much story still to tell, Watters is cagey about giving away too many details. For instance, don’t even think about asking him why the ending of The Sandman Universe #1 — in which the Dreaming’s loyal librarian Lucien surmises that Dream has quit his duties and abandoned his realm — feels so similar to Lucifer’s own abandonment of Hell in the classic Sandman story Season of Mists.

“When we were first discussing what to do with these characters, Neil actually said to me that Lucifer’s gonna care as much about what’s happening with Dream as he does about who’s in the White House. For him, it’s pretty much the same thing, these seats of power that move around him, and he’s consistent throughout all of it,” Watters says. “His other main comment, which is kind of why I’m so cagey about everything, is that everything is a mystery with Lucifer, and it should remain so.”

Lucifer #1 is set to hit stores on Oct. 17. Below, check out the Fiumaras’ notes on the key page, as well as Watters’ annotations of his script for the sequence.

Vertigo Comics
Vertigo Comics
Vertigo Comics