Two issues in on DEATHLOK (1990), Guice had to opt out of artistic duties, opening the door for Cowan and providing him with his first opportunity to work alongside future frequent creative partner McDuffie as well as Wright. Crediting the “brilliant” scripts of his collaborators, Denys would make the character his own, earning him a spot on the creative team of the DEATHLOK (1991) ongoing book following the project’s success.
“We needed a replacement artist who could handle the schedule and who understood what we were doing with the character,” reflects Wright on Cowan’s appointment. “Initially we were looking for someone with a style closer to Guice’s. When that did not work out, we selected Denys, who had the most enthusiasm and also understood the character we had created better than anyone else.
“We had been working with Denys on a couple of other projects and absolutely loved his work, so despite having a different style, we were all overjoyed with his art on the series. He also saved the schedule by completing forty-eight pages of issue #3 in about two weeks.”
DEATHLOK (1991) provided the writers with a chance to write “specifically for Denys” per Wright’s recollection, noting, “that makes a big difference, although you’d never know that Denys’ work on a story written for Guice wasn’t meant for him—that’s how good he is.”
After DEATHLOK (1991) #1 provided something of a pilot for those who may have missed the limited series, a four-part arc entitled “The Souls of Cyber-Folk” followed, teaming the title character with established Marvel cyborgs such as Misty Knight and Forge against a rogue robotic agent of Doctor Doom. The name of the story reflected its authors’ intentions to explore deeper themes of race with their work.
“It was an homage to W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk,” says Cowan. “The whole series was about a pacifist trapped in a war machine body, but it was really a metaphor on the peculiar situation of Black people/POC in America.”
“That was the reason we chose to make the character of Michael Collins a Black man,” Wright confirms. “The essays [written by Du Bois] were part of our original thinking about the character of Deathlok. Dwayne had given me the book [containing The Souls of Black Folk] to read because he felt there were a lot of parallels we could explore with Deathlok. One essay deals with the idea of a ‘twoness’ that a Black person must exhibit. There is the person inside and the person they must show to the world. It was very similar to Deathlok. Inside he was a pacifist, yet his exterior suggested a machine made for war.
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“Dwayne also suggested the idea that cyborgs within the Marvel Universe might have their own culture, and their own network in which they might discuss matters that only cyborgs could understand. While we discussed most of this together as we created the book itself, Dwayne was specifically responsible for those ideas, so he most naturally was the one to write that specific and meaningful storyline.”