Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted before Tim Seeley was announced as the new writer of Top Cow’s “Witchblade.“
Tim Seeley first came to prominence as the artist on “G.I. Joe” for Devil’s Due and a few years later for the series that he created, “Hack/Slash.” Seven years later, “Hack/Slash” continues at Image Comics and has become one of the longest running creator-owned books in recent years. In that time, Seeley has produced a number of other creator-owned books like “Loaded Bible” and “Lovebunny and Mr. Hell” in addition to being one of the people behind “Double Feature,” a digital comics anthology he launched with his studiomates earlier this year.
Seeley has also had drawn a number of books for other publishers, including “Wildcats,” “Heroes for Hire” and “Spider-Girl.” He wrote the Dark Horse one-shot “The Occultist” that was released in 2010, and earlier this year he wrote and illustrated a miniseries for Marvel, ,”Ant-Man and Wasp.” We spoke with Seeley to talk about the shape of his career and looking forward at what comes next.
CBR News: You mentioned to me earlier that you’re finishing up some “Generation Hope” pages. How is the book going?
Tim Seeley: Good. I’m doing two issues of the “Schism” crossover. It parallels the main “X-Men: Schism” storyline because “Generation Hope” has a big part in what goes down between Cyclops and Wolverine. I’m halfway through my last issue. It’s just a two issue thing. I’m kind of the fill-in guy. That what my job at Marvel appears to be, and that’s okay by me.
It seems like a lot of the work for hire artwork you do is mostly short projects.
Yeah. You have work. You’re just not the new artist on this ongoing series, because they’ll put someone else on there and then that guy will “F” up and then I’ll be on the series. I guess it’s the current model of comic book freelancing, and it works for me. It would be nice to be the artist on the book. Like when I did “Wildcats,” I was on it for twelve issues. It’s a little more stable than, here’s two issues, here’s one, here’s something else.
Now, your career began at Devil’s Due, but you had been creating comics before then.
I’ve done a weird backwards way of doing comics as a living. I started at Devil’s Due because I met Josh Blalock at a convention and I showed him some of my stuff. He said, if I ever do a comic, I’ll hire you to draw it. He stumbled into doing “G.I. Joe” and he called me and said, “I need some help. This book is much bigger than I thought it would be and it’s a lot more work than I’d thought it would be.” I moved down to Chicago to be an editor or art director or whatever the gig was on “G.I. Joe.” The artist that was working on it screwed up, so I had to draw it. I managed to get it done monthly and Hasbro was like, it’s not bad, so I ended up doing that for like three years. Within that time, I managed to get bored with drawing and was like, I’ve got to write something. So I made “Hack/Slash.”
At the time “Hack/Slash” debuted, Devil’s Due hadn’t really done much in the way of creator-owned books.
I think when Josh originally conceived of doing Devil’s Due, he wanted it to be a mix of licensed and creator-owned stuff. I had done a book that I’d been working on when I got hired at Devil’s Due called “Lovebunny and Mr. Hell.” It was a comedic, buddy, superhero, sex, comedy thing. It was just a little bit too weird, I think, for most people. The only thing people knew me for was “G.I. Joe,” and it’s not like there’s a huge crossover between guys who like military fantasy comics and also wacky parody comics. People weren’t sure what to think of it. But I still wanted to do something, so I kinda stole the formula that I liked so much in “Lovebunny and Mr. Hell” which was “a hot girl and a monster.” I took stuff that I was super-familiar with. I had a dad who collected B-movies and I’d seen every shitty horror movie.
“Hack/Slash” came out consistently for so long. To do an indie book on a regular schedule for that length of time is a big deal.
Yeah, and a lot of the early Devil’s Due stuff was a lot of launched books that didn’t go anywhere. I don’t even remember at what point I decided, but I was going to do the book no matter what. I mean, the cool thing was that it sold fairly well right out of the gate. I was like, I’m not going to let go to waste. It always bugged me when Joe Madureira would come out with “Battle Chasers” and it would be huge, or Campbell would come out with “Danger Girl,” and they couldn’t keep it up. I’m making nothing on these books, and I can do it. I’m not going to waste that great momentum. These guys just pissed it away. So as long as I can keep the artist paid, I’m going to do this book. That was my very early philosophy on that, and it worked out nicely, I think. Devil’s Due had a lot of books that didn’t go beyond three or four issues, and this is one that, years later, we’re still doing. We did the ongoing series to issue #33 at Devil’s Due, which by any stretch for a creator-owned book at a small company is a pretty big deal.
Did the move to Image help raise the book’s profile and sales?
It actually pretty much doubled our sales, which may not sound like that much, but for us it was a big deal. The first issue that we did at Image was the most I’d ever sold of “Hack/Slash,” and we’ve stayed very consistent. Being in the front of the catalog meant that a whole lot of retailers that had only ordered “Hack/Slash” in trade before, because they were afraid to stock an indie floppy, were now picking up the monthly. Trades have always been what keeps us going. They’ve sold very consistently. But going to Image just you’re in the front of the catalog. It seems so simple and stupid that moving ahead two hundred pages in a book of newsprint is a big deal, but it’s huge. Being at Image is great for a lot of reasons, but that’s a huge one.
What keeps you doing comics? What do you love about it?
That’s a good question. For me, I’m thirty-four and I don’t think I like anything as much as I like comics. Besides naked ladies and food, there’s nothing I’ve ever liked as much as I’ve liked the medium of comics. It’s something that I genuinely love. I love comics. I love the storytelling. I love sequential art. I love a lot of the genres that are in comics. There’s never been anything that I wanted to do more. I’ve never wanted to parlay doing comics into a career directing movies or any of that sort of stuff. I’ve always wanted my job to be, I draw and I write scripts.
It’s been ten years now and it’s not always been easy, but I will do it. I think a big motivator, too, was doing my own thing. When I was twelve and thirteen and Image Comics came out, you’d see these guys doing their book and doing whatever they want. I think I never got over the dream of that notion. I think “Savage Dragon” fucked me up for life. Just the idea that there’s this book and this guy fucking loves doing it and he keeps doing it and he puts all this crazy stuff in there, just pure id. That, combined with a love of pictures lined up together making a story, will keep me doing it until I can’t do it anymore.
You’ve been doing “Hack/Slash” for a while now.
What keeps you excited about the book?
It’s a couple different things. Now that we’ve established a world for it, part of it is that I’m so interested in the world that we created that encompasses so many things that I have a passionate interest in. Having this B-movie based world and outlining this conspiracy that goes on within it. Having this punk rock/teenage Suicide Girl-type character and her partner.
At some point, and I don’t know how I did it, I created the ultimate Tim Seeley nerdgasm in this series, so it’s going to keep me excited and I hope that my being super-excited keeps my readers excited for it. I’ve lost myself in the rules of this little world I created, fell in love with these characters and I’m curious to see what happens to them. I hope that comes across to all these potential readers who are like, what the fuck is this?
Do you have an end planned for the series?
I do. I actually have the ending written. I just don’t know when I’m going to get there. I’ve started us on the path of ending it, but I don’t need to get there anytime soon. I’ve got plenty of stuff between now and the end, but I think you have to have an ending. When you create ongoing fiction, at some point, and especially ’cause I’m the only guy that writes it, I have to know how it ends.
Last year was a big year for you. Besides “Hack/Slash,” you wrote and drew the “Ant-Man and the Wasp” miniseries for Marvel and you wrote “The Occultist” one shot for Dark Horse. Do you go seeking work out or at this point, do people approach you?
It’s a little bit of both. The system I’ve set thing up is that I draw whatever to get paid. This is my job. I draw. I get checks. This is how I live in Chicago. This is how I manage to go out to eat with my wife every once in a while. Drawing is my freelance thing. When I run out of work, I call up editors. Writing has always been that thing where I was going to do it anyway, and if someone wants to pay me to do it, awesome. Most of the stuff I’ve drawn for Marvel or DC has been because I’m sending around samples or hitting up editors. Standard freelancer story. The writing happens because someone will ask me and I’ll say, really? Are you sure?
I’ve got a couple gigs coming up where I’m the writer. I didn’t solicit to write this, but it’s awesome that someone asked me. Which translates to, I couldn’t live off writing because I don’t seek it out. I’m afraid to. I think it’s hard to seek out writing. It’s almost something that people have to call you for. It’s hard for them to look at something in front of them and say you’re the right guy for this gig. I’ve been lucky that, when people ask me, I have an idea for what they ask for.
Are you interested in doing more writing? More writing and drawing a single project?
That’s the ideal, I think. Probably the most fun I’ve ever had working on something was “Ant-Man and Wasp,” because I was doing both things, playing around in the Marvel Universe, and it was something I was super affectionate of. It was a blast. I think that’s ultimately what I’d like to do. It’s harder than I expected, to ask people to have faith in you as a writer and an artist. There’s a reason that they segregate the jobs out in comics because if you fuck up the schedule, they can replace you. If you fuck up the schedule and you’re the writer and artist and inker, it’s going to be really hard. But if I could write and draw something every month, that’s what I would do.
But I don’t mind drawing other people’s scripts. I’m working with Kieron Gillen right now, and I think the script is fantastic. I’m learning from his script. When I’ve worked with people in the past as a writer, and I see how they translate what I said in the script, it refines how I write. When I see how they do things, I’ll think, that’s a better storytelling choice than I would have made. I’m good doing both because it’s like a college course, every time I do it.
You did some more of that recently, writing and drawing Jack Kraken for “Double Feature,” which was a chance for you to play with different genres.
That was one of the reasons why we did “Double Feature.” The first thing was us saying, everyone’s doing digital comics right now and you’re doing it wrong. You’re pricing it too high. People can pay 99 cents for Angry Birds; why would they buy your comic for 3.99? That’s stupid. This was us saying, this is how it should be. It was also a chance for us all to experiment. I’m not restricted by what is mainstream comic book supportable stuff. It would be almost suicide to say, I’m going to do a romance comic. But in the digital space, there aren’t any rules, yet. We don’t know what the readership is going to be, yet. Is it going to be the same people who buy the printed comic? Is it going to be a whole bunch of people that we lost? Is it going to be just people on the train on their way to work in the morning who want to read something? That was part of our approach to it. That’s why doing Jack Kraken, who was basically my childhood superhero character, is perfect. I can channel all the crazy shit I thought of when I was eleven years old into a fun superhero action story and not worry about it.
Looking ahead, you straddle doing creator-owned work and a lot of work for hire and what would you like to do going forward?
I think you always want that option to play with other people’s toys. It’s awesome to do your own stuff, but if you really have a great idea for Superman, you don’t want to feel bad about that. Those are great characters — they’ve been around for fifty, sixty years! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but the main focus of my future has to be making new stuff. It has to be more creator-owned stuff. More digital. More thinking outside the box. Definitely more chances, which is terrifying, but I think that’s what it has to be.
You’ve done some other books with Image besides “Hack/Slash.”
Definitely. A lot of the stuff that I did through Image was just stuff that I knew. “Loaded Bible,” which is Jesus fighting vampires, I knew wasn’t going to be a huge mainstream hit. Which was okay with me, but I wanted to tell the story. “Colt Noble and the Megalords” was my “He-Man” homage/teen sex comedy idea. I knew it wasn’t going to be a huge thing, but I wanted to take a stab at something a little bit outside the norm of the comics industry. Maybe they’re fucking crazy, I don’t know, but they’ve supported me doing that stuff and it’s always been beneficial to both of us. Nobody’s lost money. I definitely want to do more of that. Image is awesome because they’re cool with me doing that. At least for now. [Laughs]
Is there any genre or anything you’d like to do but haven’t yet?
I definitely want to work on a space opera. A “Star Wars” science fantasy sort of thing. I’ve got a couple ideas of ways to do that. I’m not sure which one to go with because all of them will potentially scare people in one way or another. [Laughs] I always think that with space operas, no one’s done “The Dark Knight” of the space opera. No one’s done the “Watchmen.” Something post-modern and aware of itself that takes all the tropes and tries to raise the level of what they mean. I definitely think there’s room for something other than fucking “Star Wars.” [Laughs] I’ve got some ideas. I just have to sit down and work it out. It’ll definitely be surprising, I think. The main hook for my space opera story is kinda fucked up.
I think we’d all be disappointed if it were anything less.
Yeah. I would love to do a romance story and some of the original genres in comics that have faded. I wish I could do a funny animal story. There’s no genre I wouldn’t want to touch, except I’m not really into crime stuff. I’d probably be bored with that. But if it’s a good idea and you’re passionate about it, fuck it, I don’t care what genre it is!