The concept of the “final girl,” the last girl left alive to confront and destroy a rampaging serial killer, has been a popular and enduring horror film trope for decades. In 2004, with the debut issue of their creator-owned horror/ humor series “Hack/Slash” from Devils Due Publishing, writer/creator Tim Seeley and artist Stefano Caselli proved that the most interesting thing about a final girl is not how she survives her battle with a slasher, but what she does afterwards. The series followed the exploits of Cassie Hack, a final girl who destroyed the vicious serial killer known as the Lunch Lady — a slasher that happened to be her own mother. Those events sent Cassie and her hulking friend Vlad on a cross country crusade to destroy all supernatural slashers.
Caselli moved onto other projects, but Seeley continued to chronicle Cassie and Vlad’s encounters with an eclectic cast of fiendish killers and bizarre friends. Nine years, 78 issues, and two comic companies later, Cassie and Vlad’s journey came to an end with the release of “Hack/Slash” #25 from Image Comics by Seeley and artist Elena Casagrande.
To mark the end of “Hack/Slash” CBR News recruited one of the book’s biggest fans, Brea Grant, and actor who has written comics ( “Suicide Girls,” “Let’s Play God”) and starred in a number of genre films and television shows (“Heroes,” “Halloween II,” “Best Friends Forever”) to discuss the series with Seeley. The duo spoke at length about “Hack/Slash” and a variety of topics, including the lasting appeal of the horror genre, the freedom of creator-owned comics and getting by with a little help from your friends.
Brea Grant: Tim, my first question for you is basically, how are you feeling? Because this is like the end of of an era for you. So are you feeling good? Are you feeling scared? Just happy to be done with everything?
Tim Seeley: I’m relieved to a degree, just because when you’re in the middle of writing an ongoing story, there is that fear that you won’t finish it. Like the book will stop selling before you get there, and your story will slowly peter out. I feel relieved that we got through this whole thing and survived. All the stuff that I wanted to do, I got to do.
I guess I’m a little bummed out too. Because to a degree I feel like it should be a bigger deal. I wrote it every month, but then the relief part comes back again when I think, “I don’t have to write that every month.” [Laughs]
Were there moments along the way when you thought the series was going to end, or should end?
Yeah, we had a thing towards the end of the Devils Due era where their finances meant that they weren’t paying people. I didn’t want to continue the book if we were just going to go deeper into debt with them, and I was really afraid of having to be a business guy myself.
I always relied on someone else to run the show. I had never really been a true, independent creator type, so that kind of freaked me out and I thought it might just be good to get out. Then I realized that people much younger than me and with less experience than me managed to put out a book and self publish as a career. I manned up and decided to do it, but there was definitely a period there where I though it was the end point.
Image Comics had always been really cool to me and they helped me get over to publish through them. That ended up being a really good choice. It was terrifying to think about paying people back and have to walk from the studio to the bank every day. Doing that for a stupid horror comic was such a weird idea, but in the end, it was definitely the right choice.
I think that’s how artists grow, in some ways. I know that I had a lot of things that were sort of handed to me or done for me, but doing my own film was a totally different process. And it was so scary along the way. I had to become an LLC and things like that! [Laughs] It was like, “I don’t know how to do this. I’m a kid. I’m immature!”
Yeah, with you writing, directing and starring in “Best Friends Forever,” and having to know how to get distribution and things like that, you know how this works in the film world, which I’m sure is even more terrifying because it involves permits and all these other kinds of things. Luckily, with comics you don’t really have to ask anyone to do anything.
It’s one of those steps in adulthood where you take on a responsibility that everyone else in the world can do, and you know they can, but it still scares the crap out of you. [Laughs] The people that made pet rocks formed a company, though, so it can’t be that hard.
[Laughs] It’s totally true. Do you have advice for people who are thinking about creating their own books? Are there things that you would never do again? Or things that you thought were great moves, but seemed pretty scary at the time?
The one thing I definitely learned is there’s a certain hesitancy to want everything on your own. It’s natural, and I think it’s good to have, but I think one of the worst things I did was probably hold on as long as I could to not having to do that.
When you get the opportunity, I think going your own way is a good way to go, especially with creative stuff. Making your own decisions and ultimately having to pay for your bad choices forces you to make better choices.
I love your positive outlook. That’s great.
It’s frustrating too, though. As I’m sure you’re well aware, there are parts of making something where you ask yourself, “Why did I do this?” because making stuff up is hard. But you’re also running the show and dealing with finances, taxes and freelancers. In the end, though, it’s worth it.
Right. I think the fear that you have when you’re going into this is the exact fear you should have as a human. It’s the most natural fear in the world and it’s probably a good thing because it shows that you’re not completely insane. You should be scared of putting up your own finances and making this big leap, but you have to fight against that fear. I think everyone has it.
Yeah, and looking at things now, if I hadn’t made that leap, I wouldn’t have been able to handle doing “Revival” by myself. I think it was a really great choice for me and Mike Norton to do that book through Image, but sometimes I think it might be nice to escape from all of that for a little while.
I have all these friends with day jobs that work nine to five. They can’t have their cool geek stuff hanging in their office and they have to wear suits. In a way, I’m super envious of people like that because, I get to make shit on my own, but they don’t have to think about it all the time. They can leave things at work. They don’t have to go home and obsess about how you pace the last six issues of a book so when you kill a character it’s important, and then how you pay for those books. So I guess it’s a double edged sword.
What can you tell us about your work process when it comes to both creating and the business end of things?
My process is both incredibly organized and very chaotic. I definitely make lists of what I have to get done, but I still forget a lot of things because it’s like, “Oh, think of a name for this character’s magical sword! And also, send out these W-9 forms so you can pay your freelancers.” Those shouldn’t be on the same list, but they often are.
With “Hack/Slash,” I had plans. I had what I called, “the ever evolving document.” It was this Word document that constantly got added to, and mapped out which storylines were going to go where.
It was sort of like headlights in a fog; you can see very clearly right in front of you, but it gets less clear the farther away you are until you can’t see it at all. Basically, that’s my plan for making stuff. Right in front of me, it’s very clear, and there’s something off in the distance. I can see it, but I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to get there. That’s how I’ve made everything.
When you’re doing serial fiction, TV or novels, you can have an idea of where you’re going, but you can’t be super tight as far as your plans go. You have to be flexible and I was very flexible in “Hack/Slash.” There were characters that I originally killed off and had to work them back in. I was lucky that they fit into my plans really well because some times characters can decide to take over, but because I was flexible, I was able to work them in there.
What were some of those surprises you got while writing the series? Who were some of the characters you brought back? One of my favorite characters was Pooch because I love dogs and think they’re just really adorable. Was he a character that was meant to last through the entire series?
No, Pooch originally died in his first appearance! We were going to blow him up and at the last second I told Emily Stone, the artist, “Don’t kill that character. Just knock him off to the side. I think I have an idea for him.” Then he came back and worked himself into the series. Originally, he was just a design that I did at our Drink N Draw. I was probably wasted when I drew it, because he was really weird. Then, for some reason, he just took over.
Cat Curio was the other character that died in her first appearance. I just couldn’t get ideas for stories with her out of my head, so I had to write her back in too.
I wouldn’t have guessed that. She seems like a very thought out character.
[Laughs] No. Not at all. A long time ago, DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint asked me to do a pitch for a series and I picked up this character called Batman Jones, who appeared in one issue of a Batman comic. He was this kid detective whose first name was Batman and he was featured in a one-off issue.
I pitched them this thing with an autistic kid who patterns his life after Batman. He’s like this amazing high school detective. The pitch never went through, and I was stuck with the desire to write a character that was sort of an Encyclopedia Brown or one of the Hardy Boys, but they were so good at what they did because they had this almost autistic focus on details. That character kind of became Cat. Then I paired her with Pooch, because they were both characters that were supposed to be dead and they worked so well together.
I also thought she was a good pairing with Cassie because they’re such opposites, in every way. It was interesting seeing this straight laced and obsessive character next to Cassie, who is someone that very much operates on instinct.
Cat’s dialogue is more fun to write than Cassie’s. Because Cassie’s dialogue has to be really well-considered, sharp, one liners, I’ll obsess over Cassie’s dialogue. It’s like it has to be perfect. Both Pooch and Cat though ramble, which is kind of how I talk, I think. So it’s easy to just have them ramble and ramble.
I’m a word vomit person, so that’s a character I would enjoy writing too. I’m not the type of person who would say one specific, really cool thing.
Did you just use the term “word vomit”? That’s perfect. We’re both word vomiters! [Laughs]
I’m curious: How long have you known what Cassie’s ending was going to be? Did you have her entire journey mapped out? Or was this ending sort of a happy accident?
I knew her ending had to be that she broke her own legacy. She’s got this kind of ridiculous back story that her mom was a killer known as the Lunch Lady, and a feeling that she was destined to become that hung over her the entire time.
The pattern of the book had to eventually be that she broke through that. We had her get infected with the Slasher virus from Samhain’s blood. When Vlad dies, she becomes a Jason Voorhees-style killer and kills all her enemies. Then we have her come out of it, and to break that cycle she becomes a mother. That had to be the path for Cassie.
Living the life she was living was her way of avoiding the responsibility of eventually having to take care of someone else. The idea was always that she was taken care of, and this was something she had to get to. It’s probably deeper and more emotional stuff than people expect from a comic called “Hack/Slash.” [Laughs]
I don’t think so. I think one of the reasons people were so drawn to the book was that you created this crazy world, but the book starred this very grounded character. It’s her that people relate to. They see this very level-headed and smart person in this insane world populated by these cultural icons and all these new characters that you created. I think that’s what people are really drawn to.
Thank you. We’ve always lived in sort of a weird place with the book because I think the really hardcore gore hounds that want a book where every other page is an exploding brain? We’re not scary or creepy enough for them. Then, for the sort of superhero and Joss Whedon fans, I think we’re a little bit too rough, or naughty, I guess. [Laughs] There’s too much skin and too much exploitation for them.
There is a gritty, exploitation quality to the book, which I love.
Right, and I think that’s why it’s always inhabited a weird spot. I think people have slowly gotten the book over time, and being around nine years has really helped us. We’ve built up a slow word of mouth. I hear people say all the time, “It’s not nearly as sleazy or shitty as I thought it was going to be.”
People actually say that to you? I think that’s very rude.
You’d be surprised. You especially saw it in reviews. They’d say things like, “This is not what I expected. It actually has depth to it.” That’s really frustrating, but it is what it is, you know?
Do you feel horror fans embraced you from the beginning? Or do you feel like it took awhile for them to turn around too?
I think the horror fans were the people that really supported the book right off the bat. Horror fans are the most organized section of fandom. You’ve noticed this, too, I’m sure, because you’ve spent time in this sort of horror movie world.
Sci-fi fans are pretty organized, but I think horror fans are more organized. It’s weird, because if you think about it, there’s no such thing as a romantic comedy convention.
I don’t know why, but people don’t rally around that genre and get together and talk about it. There’s something about horror. Maybe it’s because the appeal is not as wide. I think when people find movies that really speak to them, they want to share them with other people.
We noticed when we started out that we were reaching beyond the comic book store crowd because these horror fans are so good at organizing and telling each other about the book. To this day, we still sell more “Hack/Slash” trade paperbacks because the horror fans don’t need to go to a comic book store. They’re fine buying stuff from a book store, or off Amazon, or at a horror convention. Those people have always been there for us, and they’re awesome! Getting through to other people is the frustrating part.
I agree 100 percent. Horror fans are the people who have stuck with me the longest and they’re so supportive of anything that’s genre, even if it’s only slightly genre. I think a lot of times they get ghettoized because people think they love movies where people get beaten to death or girls get torn up. I think the reality is, though, that they like nuanced and interesting horror because they already know all of the tropes.
Then you get something like “Hack/Slash” where you do the really amazing thing of expanding the story of the “final girl.” They know the final girl’s story, and they’re ready to see what happens beyond that. They’re like the perfect audience because they’re educated in the horror world.
That’s extremely well said. It’s tough, though, because fans don’t always mix. It’s a weird thing that I’ve noticed. The sort of Wednesday comic book crowd that goes to a store and buys books like “Green Lantern” often doesn’t care about anything but that stuff. Getting those people to pick your book up when they perceive it as the book that a bunch of tattooed, gore porn-loving weirdos buy is difficult. They think, “I don’t want that book.”
You’ve done a number of projects outside of horror as well, so you know that horror fans care. They give a shit.
I know a lot of what could be considered your typical comic book people who read “Hack/Slash.” Ultimately, what do you think turned those people around? Do you think that word eventually got out that it wasn’t a gore porn book?
Maybe, but there’s been a slow change in the comic book industry, too. There’s still the hardcore superhero fan base, but there’s a growing interest in other genres. The reason Image Comics and other companies like Dark Horse and IDW have been so prominent lately is that they don’t do that stuff, but they’re really good with the genres they do tackle.
“The Walking Dead” is a gigantic comic book and TV show, and it’s outside of what’s traditionally been really successful in comic book stores. There’s been a slow change, and I think “The Walking Dead” helped us a lot. Going to Image and being under the same umbrella as that book meant that people were going, “I like this book — maybe I’ll check that book out.”
The success of that kind of stuff has started to create a more diverse readership, and that’s great for comics in general. We don’t want our medium to just be one genre. That’s ridiculous. It’s not! It’s totally changing and becoming more diversified.
Plus, word of mouth is huge for an industry as small as ours. The more people talk about books intensely, the more it convinces others to check them out, especially in mediums as small as comics and literature.
What I think has helped comic books and even literature is Twitter and social media in general. I find out about the vast majority of things I end up reading through Twitter and recommendations of friends. It’s not so much like we’re having dinner and they say, “You have to read this book.” It’s more somebody that l like and follow says that they’re reading something and I hear about it more than once. So it’s like, “Okay! I have to go buy this book. This is the next thing that I’m going to read.” You know what I mean?
Definitely, being accessible on social media is really important to what we do. Being a writer who makes a comic that I can plug on Twitter to followers that may be amused or entertained by the things I say definitely helps those of us who make stuff in our own voices sell more stuff. They’re getting the total entertainment package. They get to understand the kind of person you are because they can read your Twitter feed, or go to your blog. That really helps, and it’s another good reason to do things on your own. If you’re branding yourself why sell out to somebody else? It’s all about you getting through to the people who will give you a couple bucks every month.
Right. I read a lot of articles that talk about how Twitter and other social media is damaging our society, but I think there’s so much truth in being able to be yourself online and being able to say, “Yes, I like this kind of sandwich, and this kind of book. Also, you should go check out my new movie.” There’s something about that which feels very truthful to me.
[Laughs] I’m still on the thing where you’re saying, “I like this kind of sandwich — go see my movie.”
My Twitter followers love when I talk about food. I don’t know why, but for some reason if I say something like, “I’m baking a cake.” They’re like, “What the fuck kind of cake is it? I need to know!” It almost feels like the most important things I say have to do with food. [Laughs]
I think it’s because you’re an actress and you’re kind of small. I’m assuming most people believe that actresses don’t eat. So when you talk about a sandwich people are intrigued. It’s like, “What is this?”
[Laughs] “You mean you consume food and not air?”
I think there’s a lot of truth in social media. I also wonder, though, if there are parts of social media that you don’t like? Does it bother you to have information about you out there? Or does it bother you at all that people can approach you on social media and say things like, “Your book sucks.”
I think that comes with the territory. I think the funniest part of social media is where people will write a terrible review of something you made and then they’ll tweet it at you.
Oh my God! Who does that? That’s so mean!
Yeah. Also, I don’t think my politics are a surprise to anybody, but there’s no reason to focus on them. I make entertainment. I should be able to have opinions, but they’re not what I do. My politics may be hidden in the comics I make, but they’re really more about the characters and the boobs and the blood. That’s what’s important.
Me trying to include a bunch of politics isn’t necessary. It doesn’t do anybody any good. I don’t need people to agree with me, but I assume if you’re a Tea Party member, you don’t want to throw money at the liberal lunatic. I try not to do that. Occasionally I slip up, and when I do, I realize that’s not good.
[Laughs] Right. Twitter very quickly teaches you what is and isn’t appropriate.
On that note, I actually read an interview with you last night where they were talking to you about Cassie Hack and where she falls in the feminist zeitgeist. They were bringing up “Men, Women and Chainsaws” and all that kind of stuff. I found it interesting because I think you probably have a really large female readership for “Hack/Slash.” And I think a lot of women probably really like Cassie Hack. Is that what you’ve found?
Yeah. It’s hard to do the numbers on it, but I do know that probably 60 percent of the letters I received for the letters page in the back of the book are from women. Plus, when I do comic conventions, I sign a lot of books and do a lot of sketches for women. It’s not 50-50, but I think it’s skewed a little more in the ladies’ favor. I don’t know about the fans at the comics stores, though
If way more men are buying comics, your numbers are way skewed towards women. Plus, Cassie has a big following among female cosplayers, so I’m thinking you do have a large female readership.
I do think so, but one of my frustrations is that we get lumped in such a way that it almost doesn’t count. Like people say, “Yeah, but it’s totally sexist.” There’s a certain percentage of people who will say, “There are not enough books for women.” Then I say, “Women read my book.” The response is usually, “Yeah, but she’s wearing a short skirt.”
So, if she’s wearing a short skirt, it doesn’t count?
Right. They’re like, “Well, she should be wearing pants, then.” The girls don’t seem to mind, though. I think some people can confuse sexist and sexy, and for some reason there’s this feeling if you’re making strong female characters they must be asexual. It’s this weird thing, and I’ve tried to look at why we don’t have as many female readers in the comic book industry, and I think it’s because we don’t make stuff that they give a shit about.
How many girls give a shit that Cassie wears a short skirt? I used to think that if you made a female character where women could say, “At least she looks realistic,” they would be more apt to like that character. So I tried to give Cassie a pretty realistic build for a girl. She’s curvier in the butt and not as big in the boobs, and that’s intended, even though sometimes artists go crazy.
Then I thought, women seem to like Lady Death, and she’s got like six boobs that make up one boob on each side of her body. [Laughs] So, I don’t know. It’s so easy, I think, for men to say, “Women like this,” but women are individuals, too. While there are many women readers who like Lady Death, there are just as many that think she’s disgusting. There are many women readers who like “Hack/Slash,” but there are also many who think Cassie is offensive.
I think the “Twilight” books are offensive and sexist because all the boys are pretty, rich and live forever, and make the women stay home and cook. That’s my opinion on them, but it’s just my opinion. It’s such a frustrating and stupid thing, especially when people start saying how we have to change this stuff and put pants on everyone. I don’t know what they’re doing. They just lose me.
Yeah, I agree. I think women like men want a good story that speaks to them. You can’t really put a finger on what’s going to speak to specific people, but I’m drawn to a really good story with a character that I might be able to relate to. I read a lot of female centric comics and books because I relate to the main character.
I also think you populate your book with a lot of intelligent female characters, like Cat Curio, who is hot, but at the same time is super nerdy, borderline autistic and really interesting. I think that’s key to having a story that women like.
I understand your frustration, too. I wear a lot short skirts. I don’t understand why that would make me not intelligent or not a feminist.
[Laughs] Right, you understand this stuff too because of your work with the “Suicide Girls” comic. When we did that crossover with Suicide Girls for “Hack/Slash,” I got shit for that.
Yeah, writing the comic book I heard, “That’s so not feminist!” I don’t understand that. It’s like, “Come on. Let’s get over it.”
That’s the thing. The idea of pin-up girls taking back their own image is about as feminist as it gets, but because you throw sex in it, suddenly everybody freaks the fuck out.
There are moments where I think, “Okay, the next book that I do won’t have any female characters.” Because I just don’t want to deal with it. Because it’s so frustrating.
Don’t do that! Have a girl wearing a short skirt! I’ll still read the book and love it.
[Laughs] Thank you, Brea.
I think there’s an old school morality that still comes into play for comics and, really, anything. I think books with strong female characters get really scrutinized because you have to be 100 percent feminist and perfect. We’re still writing comic books, though. They still need to be fun. They’re still going to have silly elements to it even if they have strong female characters.
While we’re on the topic of the Suicide Girls, I want to talk crossovers. How did that work with “Hack/Slash?” Did they approach you? For the “Hack/Slash-Hatchet” story Did Adam Green call you and ask you to do a crossover? Did you call him? What happened?
My crossovers always started with an idea, and then they all come about in different ways. The Suicide Girls one came about after I had met Missy Suicide at a convention and said to her, “Hey — we should do a crossover. I’ll draw a set for Suicide Girls, and then we’ll do a comic.” Then we talked about it and it was really easy to do.
The “Hack/Slash – Chucky” one came about because Chucky was owned by the people who owned the “Hack/Slash” movie rights. That was pretty easy. The Re-Animator story happened because Re-Animator was owned by a guy who I knew through a friend.
Adam Green was a guy I met just through knowing horror people, and we got along right away. I loved “Hatchet” and thought we had to make that work someday. We talked about it for a long time and just tried to figure out where to fit it in as far as story. He was working on “Hatchet 3” and I wanted to make sure it dovetailed with his plans
â€¨That’s the other cool thing about the horror stuff. A lot of those characters are owned by the people who made the films. Re-Animator is not owned by Warner Brothers; the character is owned by Brian Yuzna who made the movie, and Hatchet is owned by Adam Green.
â€¨Adam was working out in L.A., and when I went out there, I told him I would meet him at this bar out by the studio. We had a drink and hashed out the story and that was it. That was the way we did business. I loved doing that stuff, too. I think it added to the validity of the “Hack/Slash” world by placing it in the world of these already existing movie characters and a website like Suicide Girls.
I also think it’s fun for the film makers. I know that Brian Yuzna had a really good time with the fact that we did this Re-Animator thing, and I know Adam is really big comic fan. For him, it was really cool to see his character show up in a comic book.
So as long as it was easy we were always into it. If it was too much work I would be like, “No thanks.”
Can you talk about the ones you wanted to do, but just didn’t work out?
We tried to do a story with Jason and Freddy. It was right around the time that New Line sort of got phased out and it was just too much paper work to figure things out. Plus it probably wouldn’t have been fun for anybody.
I also tried to do a story with Michael Meyers. I even drew a “Halloween” comic, but the decree on Michael Meyers at the time was. “No crossovers, ever.” They even shot down a Michael Meyers versus Pinhead comic called, “Helloween,” which would have been a “Hellraiser” and “Halloween” crossover.
You came up with a lot of your own slashers for “Hack/Slash.” What was your process in coming up with those characters? Do you get inspired by certain things around you? Do they come from bad dreams? What’s the process?
[Laughs] I was thinking about this the other day. We could have made movies with all the original slashers we came up with. In fact, one dude pitched me a “Hack/Slash” story with a slasher he made up. I thanked him for the cool idea, but told him I was just trying to make my own stuff. Then the guy sold his script to a Hollywood studio and made his own slasher movie!
[Laughs] So you could be making blockbuster Hollywood movies.
[Laughs] Yeah, I probably could have done “Father Wrath IV” by now, but at some point, I kind of figured out what the math on slashers was. You take the sort of back story of a wrestler or a super villain, then you add a mask, and the mask can’t be too obvious. For instance, it doesn’t necessarily make sense why Michael Meyers wears a William Shatner mask. You just have to make sure it’s not too direct. So a guy called the Nailer would have something that’s just a little bit different. Like maybe a clown mask because that would be a little surprising.
Then, you have to make a unique weapon. It’s pretty easy really. [Laughs] Giving them enough of a back story, though, so it felt like they were preexisting? That was the hard part. When you’re fitting them into Cassie and Vlad’s world, you almost need to have a rough idea of the previous two slasher movies in this character’s film series. It’s like Cassie and Vlad always come up in the third film where they’re just about running out of ideas. [Laughs]
Part of it, too, is wanting to touch on all the tropes. I had to watch a lot of slasher movies to familiarize myself with the tropes. There’s the “whodunit” slasher in movies like “My Bloody Valentine,” where you don’t know who the killer is, but they’re one of the cast of characters. Then there’s the undead slasher like Jason and to a degree Michael Meyers. I’ve made up classifications in my head, which is really creepy if you think about it. [Laughs]
You need to put your Slasher classification system up somewhere. I love the trope websites because they help with writing, but they’re also super interesting to horror fans.
Right. Basically, I wanted to touch on each of those things and pay homage to where stuff comes from. Slasher movies kind of come from a combination of “Psycho” and Italian Giallo films. There would be no John Carpenter without those old Giallo movies. That informed how we would choose the characters. That was also one of the problems with the story. Once I hit all the tropes we had to do something different. We had to incorporate different kinds of adversaries, but in the end I got to do all the stuff I wanted to do, which I was pretty happy about.
You obviously had to be a horror fan to watch that many slasher movies. Are you bored with horror now? Do you need a break?
I’m still a horror fan. I’ve seen most of the old slasher movies, but I’m still discovering old stuff that I missed. I’m going back and watching some of the Dario Argento movies I haven’t seen. I’m still really enjoying a lot of the older stuff.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been very in to most of the newer Slasher movies. I loved “Cabin in the Woods,” though. That totally refreshed my need for more horror movies. I was as excited after that movie as I was after the first time I saw “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
I think “Cabin in the Woods” had a lot in common with “Hack/Slash” in that it was nuanced. It’s not the same story over and over again. I get very bored with the same story. Spider-Man isn’t horror, but I got really annoyed that they retold the Spider-Man origin story in the last movie. Everyone knows that story. You don’t have to retell it.
I think the nice thing about “Cabin in the Woods” is that it assumed we knew a lot of cultural information about horror movies already. I think “Hack/Slash” does that as well. It assumes we have a standard knowledge of horror movies, which I think is super smart.
Right. There’s a tendency to suffer from origin-itis. Just drop us in the middle of something, and it’s cool. I don’t know why we always need to go back to the well.
And no offense because you were in a remake, and I know why they do remakes, but they just don’t provide me with enough new and interesting information. As much as I thought you were awesome in “Halloween II,” I did think those movies actually subtracted from the scariness of Michael Meyers. It was the same with the Jason and Freddy remakes. I kind of lost some of my enthusiasm for some of the newer stuff, but every once in a while, I’ll see a total gem that makes me think there’s still hope for the genre.
I agree. The remake world is very frustrating, and for the most part I don’t see them. I think I’m going to see the “Evil Dead” remake. It looks like it could be really good — that’s the one I’m sort of holding out for. For the most part, though, I feel like they should just make new movies instead of doing remakes. Especially with films like “Halloween,” where the bad guy has changed so much that it’s not the same series.
Instead of having him remake something, why not give Rob Zombie his own horror franchise?
Definitely. His film, “The Devil’s Rejects,” is one of the most inventive homages to ’70s craziness that I’ve ever seen. That’s the kind of stuff I want to see from Rob Zombie. I don’t need to see his vision of a movie I already like.
With “Evil Dead,” what I’m getting from the trailer is this wild, manic, goofy and messy vibe. I don’t know, maybe it will be awesome. I’m looking forward to that one, too. Plus, that Deadite is way scarier than the original one. So I’ll give them props for that.
While we’re talking about movies, what’s the deal with the “Hack/Slash” movie? Is it ever going to happen? What’s the latest on that?
I wish I knew. [Laughs] I feel like they never got right what they wanted to do. They never felt confident about it. They’re still working on it, but people keep selling companies and getting fired. So I don’t know if they’re going to get the movie they want out of “Hack/Slash.”
I think they see the success of “The Walking Dead” and are thinking, “Maybe this is the way to go?”
Is there a finished script?
When Todd Lincoln was attached to direct the film, I did work on the script. I still don’t think it was the perfect script for a “Hack/Slash” film, but I think it was pretty close.
Then, when Marcus Nispel was attached to the film, he talked to me about doing stuff, and he had a lot of cool ideas. I haven’t been asked to do anything for a long time, though. They don’t have to do that. It’s just out of nicety that they include you, and Marcus included me because he’s a cool guy.
Maybe it will work this time. I don’t know. I’m not the type of guy to push for some Hollywood thing. I don’t have a goal to be a film maker or a TV writer. So my interest drops off a lot. I feel bad, too, because the readers are still super enthusiastic about it. “They’re like we can’t wait to see it!” I just want to say, “Stop asking me! I don’t know!” [Laughs]
The way Hollywood is run means I’ll find out something about myself by reading it on the internet. It will be like, “Wait a minute! I’m in that?” It’s run in a very weird way.
Let’s wrap things up with a few more questions about comics. First, what’s it like collaborating with all the different artists that have worked with on “Hack/Slash?”
I’ve been lucky in that almost all the cases of working with artists have been pretty easy. I tend to only work with people that I already know or who have been recommended to me by a friend. That’s makes a huge difference.
I think my favorite collaboration of all time was with Emily Stone, because she came into the book being not a horror fan, and what she added to it really made the book real for me. I also worked with Stefano Caselli and a lot of other great artists.
The process of writing is a little weird, because I never write to an artist. I know writers who do. They think, “This guy’s strength is this, so I’ll do that.” I just don’t do that. I basically say, “Here’s the job. Draw it up.” I’ve rarely, if ever, have been disappointed. I think everybody did a great job.
I’ve liked the various styles that we’ve had. I liked how when we did the one-shots and miniseries, we’d pick artists that would fit the vibe; like having Dave Crosland do the cartoony kids toy one or Rebekah Isaacs do the hot tub one. That made sense to me because we picked people who were good at that kind of stuff. One of my favorite parts of this job is getting pages back. It’s a daily thrill.
Yeah, it’s exciting to see the thing that you’ve been working on for so long come to fruition. It’s amazing to have an idea, then all of a sudden, it’s on the page. That’s so exciting to me.
Right! It doesn’t really get old, either, which is cool. And switching up artists is like having a new girlfriend. It’s like, “Hey this is hot and new again!”
I think I’ve been really lucky. I’ve worked with some great artists and we’re all friends. I would work with any of them again, and that’s not some bullshit DVD commentary thing. It’s totally true. Plus, I mostly pick people that I could sit at a con with and bullshit. We’d have to go to conventions together and hang out. If I can eat tacos with you, you’re cool.
[Laughs] That’s a nice way to put it. ? In one of the last issues, you have a DJ talking about superheroes on the radio. He says, “We as a society share the burden of helping each other. Our greatness comes from the desire for justice that we all share. The notion of the lone, masked hero is from a time when rugged individualism was perhaps necessary. But as the world grows smaller, that need, if it ever truly existed, is passing. Our strength now doesn’t stem from what we can do alone. It comes from what we can do together.”
That’s a great quote, and I think it really illustrated what you did with these last few issues. In this final arc, we see all these people that we’ve met along the way come together to stop this evil from happening. Is that one of the things you wanted people to take away from the series? That notion of the superhero and community?
Wow! Yes, absolutely! You’re one of the few people who picked up on that. Thank you, Brea!
One of the things I planned from the beginning was debunking the notion that people who survive these horror movies are ruined by their experiences. In our story, I always hoped that by meeting Cassie, these peoples’ lives are changed for the better. They have to give back, and it’s kind of a sacrifice for them. They’re all basically saying, “You saved me, so when you need me, I’m there for you.”
It was inspired in part, and not to throw politics into it, by I think there’s an attitude in society where everyone is in it for themselves. An “I don’t want to pay taxes because I don’t want to help anybody” feeling. That’s bullshit! I kind of wanted to break that down to a very palatable superhero-style idea.
The idea is that we build each other up. To me, that’s a great and absolute truth. So I slipped a little politics in there under the guise of the theme for the story, which is about all the characters coming together.
Way to recognize that, Miss Grant! Your grad school is showing!
[Laughs] That was some cultural studies there for you. My teachers would be so proud.
I do think it’s true that we push competition over cooperation in so many ways, especially in American culture. I also think that it’s true that you can’t get shit done without other people, and as a creator you need to surround yourself with other brilliant and helpful people. Because you can’t do this stuff on your own. Even if you take credit for doing it on your own, we know you haven’t done it alone.
Absolutely. You’re building on the backs of others and– I’m definitely digging a little deep on my theme, but setting a comic book in a world populated by characters from films means I’m building on the backs of others. It’s all about recognizing the fact that I don’t exist in a vacuum and then sort of putting that on the page. Then hopefully have it be about the characters, too.
That’s awesome that you picked up on it. I throw that stuff in there for myself, but I hope, thematically, that it feeds into what people are reading. That seemingly throwaway line is very important to the larger story. If it left you with a good feeling, I think I at least accomplished something. [Laughs]
Good. When I read those lines, I thought, “That’s exactly what this is all about!” Especially with Cassie, who’s a person that’s been such a loner for so long. You had these moments along the way where you thought she was going to choose to not be a loner and hide behind her tough exterior, but here it all comes together in the end. I thought it was a beautiful ending.
We’ll say that the ultimate theme of the book was: Eat a dick, Ayn Rand.
[Laughs] I love it! More people need to tell Ayn Rand to eat a dick.
[Laughs] “Hack/Slash” is the anti-“Fountainhead.”
Finally, I just want to say congratulations on finishing the series! It’s an amazing accomplishment. I hope you are celebrating and taking a moment to be happy. I feel like as creators and artists we work so hard but don’t pat ourselves on the back enough for our achievements. It’s always, “On to the next thing!” I think you need to go and take yourself out to a nice dinner.
[Laughs] That’s it. I need to have a romantic night with myself. Thank you. And in the future, if I read online somewhere that you’re in the “Hack/Slash” TV show, I’ll let you know. We’ll both be surprised.
[Laughs] Thanks. Is there anything else you want to say to the fans of the book? Any final thoughts you want to leave them with?
I definitely want to say thanks. I’m blessed to be able to make shit for a living and blessed to make the kind of shit I want for a living, which is even rarer. Plus, thank you, Brea, for always being supportive and cool and doing this interview for me. That’s very nice of you.
I hope people check out your stuff, because I think the stuff that you’ve been doing, like “Let’s Play God” from IDW, was really cool. I think you’ve got a good eye for artists and the horror stuff. So make more shit! Plus, I’m looking forward to your film “Best Friends Forever.” Has it hit Netflix yet?
We’re hoping that it will hit in July for digital and Video On Demand. It’s a complicated process. I’ve learned so much about that world.
Well I’m really looking forward to it. You writing, directing, and starring — you’re looking to become the new Robert Redford!
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