Last week, in part one of our feature on Devil’s Due Publishing’s new ongoing "Hack/Slash" series, CBR News spoke with series creator and writer Tim Seeley. Today we conclude our feature by chatting with the person tasked with depicting all the blood and belly laughs of the series, artist Emily Stone.
"Hack/Slash" came about for Stone as a result of other work she had done for Devil’s Due. "I’ve inked for Devil’s Due in the past, including Tim Seeley’s ?Demon Wars’ preview last year," Stone told CBR News. "He liked my inking, so he contacted me about doing more of it for some of the various projects he always seems to be coordinating. At that point I showed him some of my original work and he decided I had potential for penciling. Fortuitously for me, the opportunity for him to continue ?Hack/Slash’ as a monthly series came up around that same time. I took the job because Tim promised me hot girls and monsters; the chance to draw them, that is. Oh, and a paycheck! I had heard of ‘Hack/Slash,’ but not read it."
Stone was also only slightly acquainted with Hack/Slash’s inspiration, the slasher film genre, when she was offered the assignment. "The only one I had seen at that point was ?Scream’ (unless you count a handful of zombie movies)!" she said. "However, I recently watched ?A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (the first one) and enjoyed it. I’m gaining quite the appreciation for the genre."
Working on an ongoing series has been a big change for Stone. "This is the biggest job I’ve ever done," she stated. "While in school, I did a couple of short anthology stories as well as a 7-page chapter for ?The Ride: Savannah Heat,’ and subsequently I did pencils for a 6-page story for Tim’s Troma anthology. My style is still in a state of flux, but I’ve definitely had to solidify my work process, speed up, and pencil more tightly and cleanly than in the past."
The "Hack/Slash" ongoing series may be Stone’s biggest assignment yet and while she wasn’t too familiar with book’s stars, the artist got to know and love Cassie Hack and her partner Vlad very quickly. "Cassie is extremely tough, smart, and capable, but she has that lost and hurt little girl inside her, too, due to her various traumas growing up. Both parents failed her, her mother pretty spectacularly so. No matter how evil she had become, the Lunch Lady was still Cassie’s mom, so having to witness her suicide and then kill her again in her slasher form has done a major psychological number on Cass. She lives in the moment (and in the past, just not the future), and in some ways probably repeats her trauma over and over with every slasher she kills. So I want my depiction of her to say: tough, smart, capable, even caring–but also vulnerable, which makes her a cranky fish out of water in involved slasher killing. And naturally she’s sexy and a bit confused by most life situations that don’t that whole aspect of life.
"Vlad is a gentle giant and a pure heart, capable of frighteningly brutish power and ferocity when it’s needed," Stone continued. "His history of being extremely sheltered, outcast, and mistaken for a slasher has not made him bitter in any way, and in his travels with Cassie he is finding it’s possible to be accepted for who he is. His devotion to Cassie is absolute, as she was the first person to befriend him after his adoptive father’s death. I want my depiction of him to say here is this freakish guy who hasn’t been out in the world for very long, but whose kind, open heart actually allows him to relate to people better than Cassie does, and to enjoy the little things of life more. And also, when he needs to be scary, he can be really, really scary."
While she was familiarizing herself with Cassie and Vlad, Stone studied the work of the many other artists who had drawn "Hack/Slash" before her. "The book has been drawn by so many talented artists!" She said. "Since my style is pretty realistic (but, as I said, also in a state of flux), I’m humbly trying to follow in the footsteps of Stefano Caselli and Fredrica Manfredi, while indulging my newfound love of drawing highly detailed environments. Caselli’s work has this wonderfully lively, slightly exaggerated quality that I hope I can find my own way of incorporating into my personal style."
"Hack/Slash" is a book with a very unique tone that balances moments of horror, humor, and human drama. "I love the challenges of all of these elements of the book," Stone stated. "I just strive for very natural acting on the part of every character in every kind of situation (from hugging to dismemberment…), and so far I don’t think one type of scene is any easier or harder for me to convey than any other."
In addition to drawing many types of scenes, "Hack/Slash" has afforded Stone the opportunity to design many new characters, like the slashers Cassie Hack and Vlad are constantly running afoul of. "Character design was a bit intimidating at first, but I’m totally getting into it," Stone explained. "The first issue villain is a creepy undead psychologist who skinned himself–I had recently seen the Bodies exhibit in Las Vegas, so I looked to that for inspiration. Issues# 2 and #3 involve a hair metal singer/guitarist demon with the most fabulous 1980s hair."
"Hack/Slash" has been loads of fun for Stone and one of the big reasons for that is writer Tim Seeley. "He’s a damn good writer, and a good story is motivating to me (regardless of genre). I could not have asked for a better first gig," she said. "He offers guidance as needed and pretty much lets me do my thing. And he’s completely goofy. What’s awesome to me is that ?Hack/Slash’ is his own creation, so obviously he likes it and has fun with the writing of it, which in turn gives me lots of entertaining stuff to draw.
"The whole mix of horror, humor, and character is one of the strengths of his writing," Stone continued. "I think he is also really clever with tying everything back together over and over, and with his setups (and their payoffs). I try to think very carefully about how the characters would act in the situations he presents, and how best to show those setups, so that hopefully I’m bringing some subtlety into the visuals in line with the story."
For Stone, the only real difficult aspect of providing the monthly art for "Hack/Slash" has been the time factor involved. "I would work on a page for a week if allowed!" she explained. "But then it would probably be one big eraser smudge."
Deadlines are only pressuring because of Stone’s meticulous desire to accurately and dynamically bring to life the world of Cassie Hack and Vlad; a desire that’s motivated by how much fun’s she’s been having with her work on "Hack/Slash". "Drawing a monthly comic is a dream come true," she said. "I love exploring the nuances of the characters, designing the environments, and in general finding myself approaching pages with greater ease. It’s extremely rewarding to know that the writer and editor are happy with my work so far."