Azrael is a comic book published monthly by DC comics, it is classified as an action adventure but with a subtext of psychology. It follows the exploits of a man named Jean-Paul Valley as he seeks to find his place in the world.
Azrael was born out of the plan to change Batman completely. In an attempt to see whether their concept of Batman was hopelessly outdated the editorial staff felt the need to replace Batman with someone who had a darker edge. This was at the height of the so called "Dark Age" where Marvel heros such as Wolverine and Punisher were so popular and Spawn was making a splash as a hot new title.
The editorial staff, Denny, Archie, and Scott along with their various assistants knew that they needed some one new to take on his role but had no idea who this character was. Denny proposed a miniseries to bring this character into the DCU with a full blown origin (although later on we found that we only got half the story). That miniseries was Batman : Sword of Azrael and it introduced us to postgraduate computer student Jean-Paul Valley, who had been subjected to psychological programming to make him an assaisin for the Order of St. Dumas that he had unknowingly been born into. Jean-Paul valley saved the life of Batman and rejected the Orders control over him.
The miniseries wasn't just slapped together, a lot of thought went into creating something that was more than just a super hero. Denny wanted to give the reader subtle hints that this new hero would have an impact on Batmans world. Denny wanted a name that would reflect a bat's natural predator but couldn't find one that was suitable. instead he looked as Batman as a demon that allied himself with the angels, in this manner Denny found his hook for Azrael.
Denny looked for names of angels in his trusty tomes of mythology. One entry caught his eye, Azrael the angel of vengence/death. Here was an angel who killed as opposed to Batman, a demon who never killed. Having found his symbolic comparison he moved onto the physical aspect. Commisioning Joe Quesada to do the artwork on Sword of Azrael, Archie and Denny told him that they were looking for "a..uh..kind of high tech knight." integral to this was Azrael's sword, which would burst into flames. Switzerland was chosen as the venue for Azrael and Batman's first meeting on purpose. Physically Jean Paul Valley was the same size a Bruce Wayne but with fairer looks. He was supposed to kill this demon of life as an angel of death and was fighting him in snow and ice with a flaming sword. Azrael was a character who radiated light, seen as a force for good while Batman lurked in the shadows, usually seen as something evil. This role reversal was integral to the story for which Azrael had been created.
The story for which Azrael had been created was Knightfall which followed the breaking of Bruce Wayne's back by the criminal known as Bane, as a result of this Azrael became Batman in a story called Knightquest : the Crusade. In this story Azrael's creation as a knight was played up as he bagan a crusade against evil. When Knightquest ended Bruce Wayne had found and rescued Tim Drake's father and the woman he wanted to be his wife, Dr. Shondra Kinsolving, Shondra Kinsolving had healed his back and so he went back to Gotham and reclaimed the mantle of the Bat. Azrael then became a hero in his own right. To catch up on what has happened see the Story So Far.
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