Whether you’ve followed him from his existential spy story Zero, his Marvel work on Winter Solider or Secret Avengers, or his complex and rawly intimate political thriller Days of Hate, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of, or read, something by Czech-born writer Aleš Kot. And while his stories have always been engaging, hard-hitting, and sometimes delightfully droll, I promise that you have not seen anything until you’ve read his take on 2000 AD’s one and only dandy Devlin Waugh.
Created, and initially written by, famed 2000 AD writer John Smith, Devlin has stolen the hearts of anyone who has longed for a queer alternative to the not-so-tongue-in-cheek macho-ness of Judge Dredd. A bodybuilder vampire with impeccable style, a filthily coy wit, unmatched candor, and — oh yeah — a rocky “sponsorship” from the Vatican to deal with the occult, there’s few things that can compare to this perfect cross between Freddie Mercury, John Constantine, and Oscar Wilde. (You think I’m joking, but wait until you find out about his dildo sidekick. Buckle up).
What started as a one-shot strip from Kot bringing back the flamboyant hunter in Rebellion’s Judge Dredd Megazine #400 Holiday Issue in 2019 ended up being just what the fans asked for: Aleš Kot taking on the strip in the Megazine full time. As one of those fans myself, I couldn’t help but reach out and ask to talk with Kot a little bit more about his take on Devlin, the creation of his possessed dildo sidekick Titivillus (or “Titty” for short), and what we can look forward to from the character in the future.
Chloe Maveal: As a queer reader and a shameless pervert, I was immediately drawn to Devlin Waugh when I ran across the titles. How did you feel as a Devlin Waugh reader in the beginning? How did it feel knowing you were picking up the reins of such an iconically queer –and even more iconically depraved — character?
Aleš Kot: Oh, it felt like coming home. Great time all around. I loved Devlin and his tales for a very long time, so it was a natural fit. And I missed writing something lighter — I am a very funny person, and people deserve to be graced and touched by that part of my essence.
Maveal: A lot of readers know you from your work with Marvel and Image. How would you pitch a story like Devlin Waugh’s to folks who know you from your previous work?
Kot: A flamboyant, unapologetically homosexual ex-Vatican exorcist vampire bodybuilder has magical and often terrifying adventures with his companion, a demon of grammar mistakes trapped in a dildo. Game, set, and match.
Maveal: Historically, the U.S. comic market and readership is more geared towards the straight male fantasy when it comes to comedically perverse characters. Do you think the European market is more accepting of stories like Devlin that are more filth and male focused, but also more pointedly queer?
Kot: Yeah, I think the U.S. comic market and the U.S. in general is very scared of sex and queerness, absolutely, we can see that on pretty much every level of its society at the moment. There’s positive changes in that regard too — because queer communities don’t quit — but it shouldn’t be this hard. But what you’re asking is also really tricky because the thing is, which part of Europe are we talking about? I got verbally abused and beat up for just looking queer repeatedly as a teenager in Czech Republic. I think separating two markets from one another can’t come at the expense of remembering their shared cis-normative patriarchal white supremacist roots, so even if one is more tolerant than the other in some aspects, their underpinnings are quite violently the same.
Maveal: This is going to be a pretty big gap from my last question but I can hardly contain myself on the matter: Titty. Will you please tell readers more about the character Titty and how you managed to birth such a wonderfully unholy sidekick into this story.
Kot: Titivillus is an actual demon! “Titivillus was a demon said to work on behalf of Belphegor, Lucifer or Satan to introduce errors into the work of scribes. Titivillus has also been described as collecting idle chat that occurs during church service, and mispronounced, mumbled or skipped words of the service, to take to Hell to be counted against the offenders. He has been called the “patron demon of scribes”, as Titivillus provides an easy excuse for the errors that are bound to creep into manuscripts as they are copied.” So, you know. He actually got his launch in the previous Devlin Waugh story, which was my first ever time writing Devlin, and I figured he could use an enemy — and then a friend. But whether that lasts, well… we’ll see.
Maveal: What has your process been like working on this series thus far? I mean…one doesn’t just wake up and go “and this story starts with leaving an orgy to stick a demon in a big fake dick!” Or maybe one does? You tell me.
Kot: Yeah, pretty much? I don’t really remember my process with this one, but it just kinda… sat there one morning. It doesn’t really require much thinking on that level. Write what you know, all that.
Maveal: How does working on some of your previous creator-owned series like Days of Hate or Zero tie in to how you wanted to approach Devlin? This is so much more flamboyant and camp and lighter in tone than what we’ve come to expect from you!
Kot: I contain multitudes.
Maveal: Hah! Well, Devlin is a character who is arguably more lovable than Dredd, yet we’ve seen so little of him and his story. He’s clearly a stupidly fun character, but there’s something deeper there that goes beyond the Balenciaga, wit, and well-groomed mustache. Are you planning on digging a little deeper into the internal aspects of Devlin we haven’t seen yet? And, really, what do you think those things are?
Not: Absolutely, but to tell you what they are would be to spoil the story at hand. Let’s just say that by the end of this one we’ll realize a few things about Devlin… and maybe Devlin will as well. He’s an odd chap, and his ways of solving crisis, well… as I said, I will not spoil.
Maveal: Fair enough. But free of spoilers, I’ve seen you mention that rereading Swimming in Blood very carefully is something pretty critical for what you’re planning with this series. In fact, there’s quite a few callbacks we’ve seen already just in the three stories you’ve put out! Is there something about that particular collection that made you want to bring attention back to it again?
Kot: Oh, it was the first story I ever read with Devlin in it, and I love it dearly to this day. So I felt like paying respects to it in my own way, and also moving more people towards it. By chapter four, some of the connections should be much clearer.
Maveal: How hard do you have to fight not to make every Vatican priest joke in the book considering what we know over the past few years? I’m sure Devlin enjoys a good confessional booth if the priest is right.
Kot: Ha! Honestly, I didn’t really consider that, but with Fleabag hitting the hot priest territory, maybe I feel a parody coming on. If it happens, please consider yourself the culprit of that invention.
Maveal: Are you hoping to write more for 2000 AD? Can we expect this kind of hilarious, mind-melting action in other titles in the future?
Kot: Conversations are being had. Ideas are flying.
Devlin Waugh strips by Aleš Kot are published monthly in the Judge Dredd Megazine and are set to be collected this summer. You can find the Megazine — and Devlin’s backstories including Devlin Waugh: Swimming in Blood and Devlin Waugh: Red Tide — on the 2000 AD subscription app, the 2000 AD web store, or at all good comic retailers.