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Poison Control: Hine Talks “Poison Candy”

by  in Comic News Comment
Poison Control: Hine Talks “Poison Candy”
“Poison Candy” Volume One on sale now

In the 1949 film “Knock on Any Door,” the character of Pretty Boy Romano introduced the world to his infamous motto, “Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse.” In David Hine and Hans “Hanzo” Steinbach’s TOKYOPOP graphic novel series, “Poison Candy,” youthful characters are afflicted with a terminal disease, but their chance to live fast comes in the form of psychic powers granted to them by the same mysterious illness. CBR News spoke with writer David Hine about the series, Volume One of which is on sale now, with Volume Two coming in 2008.

“‘Poison Candy’ is about ordinary people in the real world who acquire paranormal powers and is the story I always wanted to write since I was a teenager,” David Hine told CBR News. “It’s a fact that all human beings carry genetic mutations and most of these have a negative effect on our health. Some of them are catastrophic. I was fascinated by the idea of a virus that triggers a mutation to push some people to the next step of human evolution, but also gives them a terminal disease. So here is a generation of kids with amazing powers, who are destined to die within a few months.”

Hine originally envisioned “Poison Candy” as a children’s novel. “I wasn’t writing for comics at the time and I really wanted to write a book my son would enjoy,” Hine explained. “The original title was ‘Sleeping Heroes.’ When I took the pitch to TOKYOPOP I was asked to change the title because it might suggest that this was a superhero book. Who would want to read a story about superheroes who didn’t wear costumes?”

Pages from “Poison Candy” Volume One

Hine’s protagonist is Sam Chance, a 16-year-old guitar player with big dreams, a girlfriend, and the power to blow people’s heads off with his mind. “I set out to create two characters I really cared about, Sam and his girlfriend Donna,” said Hine. “They are young, beautiful, talented and popular. They truly do have everything to live for. Then I totally screwed with their lives.

“Life has a way of knocking people on their faces. I remember my teen years as a series of betrayals as I realized that almost everything I had been told by preachers, teachers, parents and politicians was lies and rumor. This is what Sam and Donna go through. Sam’s parents have given up on everything they set out to do, his mother is having an affair and his father is poised to leave them. Someone in the government is sending the hired help to kill him. Even his body has rebelled against him. Donna loves Sam passionately and she has to stand by and watch helplessly as Sam heads towards an early grave. ‘Poison Candy’ is a metaphor for their lives. Yes, life is sweet, but it kills you in the end.”

Pages from “Poison Candy” Volume One

Also inhabiting the world of “Poison Candy” is the larger-than-life character of Henry Raven, who runs an enormous corporation that specializes in medical experimentation and computer games. In Volume One, on sale now, Raven offers Sam one last, dangerous shot at life. ” “Events take a turn for the worse when the government snatch squad turn into hit men as they are ordered to terminate Sam, Raven and all witnesses, including Sam’s girlfriend, Donna,” explained Hine. “If they are going to survive, he will have to use his powers. But using his powers could kill him. The story is about love, sex, rock and roll, extreme violence and sudden death.”

The shocking climax of “Poison Candy” Volume One dramatically changes Sam’s circumstances and hints that his mysterious benefactor, Henry Raven had sinister motives for helping Sam. “Raven is a megalomaniac and he wants to exploit the abilities of kids like Sam,” Hine stated. “That’s the only reason he wants to keep them alive and we’ll see how Sam deals with that in Volume Two,” said Hine. “I don’t want to give away too much about what happens at the end of this first book. What I can say is that Volume Two will be set in two time periods so we’ll be seeing how the world is changed by the new paranormally powered generation.”

Pages from “Poison Candy” Volume One

Readers can expect a stronger sense of tragedy in Volume Two of “Poison Candy,” which hits stores next year. “There are some moments of comedy but less than the first book,” Hine said. “As with any decent story of any length, the characters are on a journey and the middle act takes them through some very dark territory. I’m still trawling across several genres as I tend to do with most of my stories. There are elements of superhero story, thriller, science-fiction, road-movie and even romantic comedy.”

Hine does have an end-point in mind for his multi-genre tale. “Initially, ‘Poison Candy’ is a three-volume series and the story will reach a conclusion,” He explained. “But I wouldn’t rule out another series featuring some of the surviving characters and concepts.”

Page from “Poison Candy” Volume One

If another series does spin out of “Poison Candy,” Hine hopes to collaborate again with artist Hans Steinbach. “He’s incredibly versatile,” Hine remarked. “He does comedy, action and the intense emotional stuff equally well. He’s also fast and he lives and breathes manga so when you look at the drawing you would swear it was done by a Japanese manga-ka. He’s grown up on manga and absorbed so much of them that, like a lot of the younger artists coming up now, the influence is almost entirely from Japanese creators. That means he knows exactly how much rendering to put into a scene to make it flow at the right pace. That’s one of the greatest skills of Japanese comic artists. They can draw immaculately detailed establishing shots that you can linger over for ages, then blast you though a fight scene with stripped down line work that keeps you flipping through the pages. It’s all about the pacing and Hanzo has that down perfectly. He also connects with the scripts very quickly, so I don’t have to worry about how he is going to interpret a scene. We really are on the same wavelength. It’s a collaboration I’m very happy with.”

It was the 1978 French publication of Takemoto’s “Le Cri Qui Tue” in which Hine first discovered manga, and he’s been a fan ever since. “I find it a lot more like writing a screenplay,” Hine said. “The dialogue is more natural and you can really let a scene play out in a more cinematic way, allowing ‘camera movements’ that either drift in a leisurely way through a setting to establish mood, or drive through an action scene blow by blow. I see it as a cinematic way to tell stories that allows for a far more intense emotional experience than the denser American style. Creating for a 22-page monthly comic is often frustrating because I always feel that the reader deserves a good read and that means compressing a lot into a short space. Anyone who knows me will confirm that I’m forever moaning about having to cram 30 or 40 pages of story into a 22-page book.”

Pages from “Poison Candy” Volume One

“Poison Candy” Volume One has been available for a few months now and many manga fans have responded enthusiastically to the book, but Hine hopes fans of his more mainstream work like “Silent War” for Marvel Comics will give his TOKYOPOP project a chance. “I just don’t understand the antipathy towards manga from certain quarters,” Hine said. “Saying you don’t like manga is like saying you don’t like European comics or independent comics, or American comics. I can understand not liking the output of a particular publisher, particularly when it’s a publisher like Marvel or DC that only puts out a single genre, but to dismiss either Japanese comics or the World Manga that have followed the Japanese model, seems incredibly narrow-minded. Every comic should be judged on its own merits.

“‘Poison Candy should have the widest audience of anything I’ve done to date,” Hine continued. “The book has a 16+ rating because of language, violence and a couple of fairly coy sex scenes, but it really should appeal to a very broad readership, both younger and older and to male and female readers equally. We’ve put a few chapters on the TOKYOPOP website where the majority of users are girls and women and it has gone down very well, even though we do have a fair amount of graphic violence in there. I don’t go along with these categories of shonen-for-boys, shojo-for-girls. ‘Poison Candy’ is comics for everyone.”

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Indie Comics forum.

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