Don’t turn your back on that action figure next to your computer! You never know when it’s going to come to life and try and kill you! The thought of that stressing you out? Perhaps a good night sleep will do you wonders . . . that is if you wake up at all! Killer toys and dangerous dreams are just part of the job description for slasher slayers Cassie Hack and her partner Vlad, the stars of writer Tim Seeley’s series “Hack/Slash” from Devil’s Due Publishing. Beginning this month, the two must battle a new undead serial killer who can turn playthings into implements of murder and make dreams into deathtraps in the three issue mini-series “Hack/Slash: Land of Lost Toys.” CBR News spoke with “Land of Lost Toys” artist Dave Crosland about his work on the series.
As a fan of both good and “so bad they’re good” horror films, Crosland was a natural choice to bring the world of Cassie Hack to life. “I’m just a sucker for horror movies,” Crosland told CBR News. “‘The Exorcist,’ the original ‘Amityville Horror,’ John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing,’ ‘Alien(s)’… those were the movies that had me hiding under the covers when I was little. Honestly, I think David Fincher (barring ‘Panic Room’) is responsible for some nice modern horror. ‘Seven,’ ‘The Game’ and ‘Fight Club’ all touch on very real, tangible fears for me. Oh, and ‘Tenebre’ by Dario Argento is brilliant. ‘Silence of the Lambs’ still gives me chills.
“As far as bad horror movies, I’m a big fan of those low-budget sloppy murder flicks, like ‘Mosquito,’ ‘Satan’s Cheerleaders’ and ‘Jack Frost’ (not the lame Christmas movie with Michael Keaton… the one where the killer snowman melts himself down, sneaks into this girl’s bathtub and humps her to death with his carrot nose),” Crosland continued. “And anything involving the new, coked-out Lindsay Lohan makes me want to hide under a very thick blanket.”
Crosland either got his “Hack/Slash” assignment directly from Tim Seeley or as part of some dark unexplained mystery. ” I could tell you that, right as I was wrapping up ‘Slop: Analecta’ for Image, Tim came to me with a project that he thought was ‘right up my alley,'” Crosland said. “But, truth be told, back in March, I woke up with a strange, Arabic symbol tattooed on my left thigh. Four months, one private detective, seven corpse exhumations, and a boatload of Twinkies later, I found myself drawing Cassie Hack.”
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Working with Seeley has been a fun and rewarding experience for Crosland. “Tim’s cool, man. I have to admit when I got the gig, I was afraid that it wouldn’t be fun for me because I was going to have to draw ‘more realistically’ or whatever. On the contrary, the fact that most of this book takes place in dreamland totally opens it up for me to just play. From the main villain’s undead, elongated form to Cassie getting mauled by zombie Raggety Anne and Andy dolls, I’m actually getting to push some things further than in previous comics I’ve done.”
The fearsome and horrific nature of Ashley, the villain of “Land of Lost Toys,” was one of the elements Crosland wanted to play up in his art. “Without giving away too much, he’s this little boy who kills you in your dreams with your favorite toy… kind of like a Babes in Toyland meets Freddy Krueger combo. The character is discussed and hinted at in issue 1, but he never makes a real appearance until the end of the book. Likewise, throughout the series, he’s kind of a background terror. With that in mind, I really wanted to make this kid scary as fuck when he makes his appearances. It’s like the Hannibal Lector approach. All through ‘Silence of the Lambs’ people are just talking about how badass Hannibal is. And, finally (at the end of the movie), you get just a taste of what this monster is capable of. As brief as it is, it’s powerful enough to concrete his position in your mental fear factory, ya dig? That’s how I want Ashley to come across. People are afraid of him and, when he shows up for one or two pages, you get to see why.”
Crosland employed a dark artistic style for “Land of Lost Toys.” “My style on LOLT (not to be confused with LOTR) is very much like the artwork on my grittier sketchbook work and character designs for my more serious, self-written stories,” he explained. “And once it gets to the slasher parts of the story, it’s kind of like when you run over a squirrel on a secluded country road, and then take the time to back over it, and mow it down one more time.”
Crosland is the fourth artist to illustrate the adventures of Cassie Hack. He compared his style to previous “Hack/Slash” artists by using another horror-comedy series as a metaphor. “Comparing myself to the previous Hack/Slash artists is kind of like comparing the Ghostbusters lineup. I see Stefano, Federica, and Aadi as Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. I’m Bill Murray,” Crosland explained. “I’m not the keenest of ghost hunters, but I shine through with my bitter humor and winning charm. I get the girl. I don’t get as much Marshmallow Man guts on me. Plus, I go on to be in movies with Wu-Tang Clan and Scarlet Johansen (rawr!).”
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The chance to depict Cassie Hack’s faithful friend Vlad was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the assignment for Crosland. “I simply love drawing massive, blocky characters. Like O.Z. (a thug in ‘Puffed’) and El Campeon in my upcoming guest spot on ‘The Amazing Joy Buzzards,'” Crosland said. “I’m a fan of characters that are almost completely shapes, yet still have oodles of personality. And Vlad is just that kind of character. I don’t know if I’m giving a spoiler right now, but in book two, I got to draw Vlad’s origin story. It was really an honor, and I think readers will get a kick out of it. Think: large cuts of meat and a more youthful Sloth from ‘Goonies.'”
Crosland had little difficulty balancing and conveying “Hack/Slash’s” mixture of horror and humor. “I definitely planned and plotted where stuff goes from tongue-in-cheek to creepy, but it was also a natural progression that went along with the subject matter,” Crosland said. “Plus, I listen to Celine Dion when I draw. That brings out the most humorous and frightening aspects of my work, simultaneously. The resulting art is more balanced than an entire school district on Ritalin.”
A number of artists have influenced Crosland’s work, they’re just not the types of artists most people would expect. “I could name a billion visual artists, but that’s so 2004,” he explained. “Some of the musicians that have been influencing my artwork lately are Madlib, Edan, Themselves, Why?, Mike Patton, and Bumblebeez 81, because they have this amazing ‘collaged’ way of putting together sound projects. I’m a fan of deeply layered music. Kool Keith rocks my socks for the simple fact that he’s insane. I also dig on Gillian Welch and PJ Harvey, for their sort of broken, sad storytelling. The same goes for Sixtoo and Busdriver. A lot of that stuff plays itself out in my visual pacing.”
“Hack/Slash: Land of Lost Toys” is the latest in a series of recent projects for Crosland and he is thankful for the fans that have followed his work. “At the risk of sounding corny, I just want to thank all the people who’ve followed and supported my work these past few years,” Crosland said. ‘Land of Lost Toys’ is gonna fit in nicely with the rest of the pen and ink children I’ve been churning out. And worry not… there’s plenty more to come. To quote the fictional Mickey Knox, ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.'”