David Hine: Becoming Braver & Bolder

A writer and artist active in comics since the late 1980s, David Hine made a name for himself with the cult indie hit "Strange Embrace." The book caught the eye of Marvel's own Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, and soon Hine created the critically acclaimed "District X" for the publisher. Since then, Hine has worked on several X-books including "X-Men: The 198," "Son of M" and its follow up, "The Silent War." Hine's work didn't stop at Marvel, as he was soon given the creative reigns to Todd McFarlane's "Spawn" at Image Comics and even created his own manga, "Poison Candy," at TOKYOPOP. More recently, Hine entered the DC Universe with "Joker's Asylum: Two Face" and extends his visit with an arc on "The Brave and the Bold." CBR News caught up with Hine to talk about the storyline and to find out what's next for the prolific comics writer.

Hine became involved with "The Brave and the Bold" when artist Doug Braithwaite, whose run on Alex Ross's "Justice" was coming to an end, suggested that he should work on a pitch for the re-launched team-up book. "We just kind of assumed that sooner or later there would be room for a few fill-in issues," Hine told CBR News. "At this stage, I hadn't been published by DC, but I had spoken with [Executive Editor] Dan DiDio and [former DC editor] Peter Tomasi, and also with [editor] Steve Wacker when he was at DC, so I knew there was some interest in my writing something for them.

"So I pitched to [editor] Joey Cavalieri with Dougie as artist. It took a while to get green-lit and has ended up coming out after the 'Joker's Asylum' one-shot, but this was actually my [first] commission for DC."

Originally, the duo of Hine and Braithwaite spoke of creating a Batman story for "The Brave and the Bold" before turning their inspiration to one of their favorite runs on the original series. "Our favorite run on the book was the Neal Adams period, when Batman teamed with a whole run of partners," Hine said. "But we decided against that because we both wanted to do a science-fiction story, so Green Lantern was the obvious choice."

With so many Green Lanterns to choose from -- there's Guy Gardener to Jon Stewart to Kyle Rainer and beyond -- Hine's reasoning behind choosing the iconic Hal Jordan was simple. "I grew up with Hal," Hine explained. "As far as I'm concerned, he is Green Lantern. The others are just guys in costumes."

However, the selection of Hal's partner in the title wasn't Hine & Braithwaite's first choice. "We originally went for Deadman," Hine revealed. "There were a lot of plot elements that would have been well served by having Deadman take possession of various characters. That was the one time we were nixed. Deadman was in the middle of his Vertigo run when we pitched [It], so not available for the regular DC line. Since then, he has been up for grabs again and made it into 'Brave and the Bold' before our arc, but meanwhile we decided to replace him with the Phantom Stranger.

"I have a real soft spot for the trenchcoat brigade," Hide said, referring to the group of magical DC characters made up of the Phantom Stranger, John Constantine, Mister E and Dr. Occult, popularized in Neil Gaiman's "Books of Magic." "I made a few minor changes to the plot and [the Stranger] fitted right in. There's a nice dynamic to the way the two characters play off one another."

Hine's arc finds itself between the end of Mark Waid's run on the title and before J. Michael Straczynski takes the helm on the book. With such high profile names attached to the title, some writers might be intimidated, but not Hine. "I try not to be intimidated," he said. "Also, when I wrote this, I had no idea JMS would be following us. Our approach is very different to the Waid/Perez run and from what I've read, very different from what JMS is planning."

Hine admitted he finds the thought of readers comparing his work on "The Brave And The Bold" to the classic series intimidating. "[Braithwaite and I] both share a love for 'The Brave and The Bold' from the time we were first getting into American comics and getting blown away by the young turks of the time like Adams, Steranko, Wrightson, Smith and the rest," Hine said. "I'm more intimidated by the idea that we'll be compared to the Neal Adam's 'Brave and the Bold', Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Deadman books that inspired us. 'Brave and the Bold' should be a book where a whole range of storytelling styles can be used -- an unpredictable series where the readers are never sure what's coming up next."

While both the Green Lantern and the Phantom Stranger appear in all four issues of Hine and Braithwaite's "The Brave and the Bold" run, the two won't be the only heroes readers will see in the arc. "We have cheated a little by bringing in Green Arrow for the third and fourth parts," Hine revealed. "So we get to recreate another of the classic partnerships from the Neal Adams era."

Hine's story begins with Hal Jordan being called to a secret medical facility that exists only to care for a select few seriously disabled children. "One of these kids, who has spent a lifetime totally unable to communicate with or understand the outside world, has suddenly started writing," Hine explained. "She writes on anything including the walls and furniture. She fills notebooks with what initially looks like gibberish but turns out to be a cry for help from an alien civilization that is being threatened by a mysterious, destructive and apparently unstoppable force."

The solicit teases the appearance of a fantastic new alien race, the Kahloan. "Dougie was really into creating a whole new alien environment and new alien races," Hine said. "So I created the planet Kahlo where the flora and fauna are not so clearly defined as on Earth. Even the boundaries between animal and mineral are a little fuzzy, so buildings are organic and constantly evolving, while one of the key life forms is a plant that is semi-sentient. The Belamort has developed a symbiotic relationship with the dominant Kahloan race, feeding off them, while in turn injecting them with a narcotic that stimulates their pleasure centers. The entire Kahloan way of life is centered on the cultivation of Belamort to the extent that their culture has stagnated. It's a bit like the relationship between humans and television.

"Dougie has really gone to town on the design of the Kahloan cities and the forests of Belamort. It's great to see an alien civilization that isn't all gleaming high-tech buildings and ray guns, although we do have a ray gun or two in there as well."

Such a huge cosmic storyline may seem like a departure for Hine, whose work on such projects as "District X" and "Daredevil: Redemption" focused mainly on the grim and gritty, street-level content. "I actually write all kinds of stuff," Hine said. "'Strange Embrace' was a gothic horror, [and] I've written ['Poison Candy,'] a teen science-fiction thriller with romance and rock n' roll for TOKYOPOP. If there's a common thread to everything I do, it's probably the element of horror and I hope a sense of realism, no matter how fantastic the setting. So although ['The Brave and the Bold' is] a cosmic story on all kinds of levels, the characters are empathetic and the situations and conflicts are credible enough for mere earthlings to identify with.

"The intention was to recapture the sense of adventure and wonder that drew me into comics when I was a kid. We also wanted this story to be totally accessible to any reader, not just fans of the DC pantheon of characters and I think we succeeded."

Hine is also bringing his run on "Spawn" to an end, preparing for the return of creator Todd McFarlane to the series, but that doesn't mean Hine has left the Spawn universe for good. "I'm finishing up the last script," Hine said. "That's issue #184, winding up my run with Brian Haberlin. It brings a lot of the plot threads we've been developing to a head and clears a lot of ground for the new team to take over on issue #185. I've also been putting the finishing touches to the first volume of 'Spawn: Book of the Dead.' This is a project that was started way back by Steve Niles. It's an illustrated history of the Hellspawn and covers the past Spawns as well as Al Simmons. Ashley Wood has done a fantastic set of paintings for this book. There will be a second volume next year, bringing the story up to the present day."

After that, fans of Hine's work can find him with a new series at Radical Comics. "I'm a big fan of vampires and zombies and in this one I get to write both," he said. "The series is based on the premise of an alternative history of the USA where the wave of immigrants from Europe in the 19th century brought the vampire and zombie viruses with them, and the twin plagues spread like wildfire throughout the North American continent. After the Civil War, a federal agency was set up to keep the undead under control and by the 1970s they were so successful that the agency was shut down. Now the vampires are back and they're using the zombie virus like terrorists would use anthrax. I'm currently writing the first arc and we're looking to launch early next year."

If that wasn't enough, Hine has several other projects in the pipeline as well. "I'm also working on a couple of things for Top Cow, a project with British comics maestro, Shaky Kane; and I'll also be writing and drawing an issue of 'Elephantmen.' There's also a four-part miniseries at Marvel that has been finished for a while, I'm hoping that will see the light of day some time soon."

For fans wanting to take a look back at the title that started it all and grabbed the attention of both Marvel and Image executives, the hardback edition of "Strange Embrace" is on sale now. "It's a beautiful oversize edition of the graphic novel that got me into mainstream comics," Hine said. "This is the version colored by Rob Steen. It has a whole bunch of extras too -- strips, sketches, interview and cover galleries. The design is just fabulous. JG Roshell has been designing some beautiful editions for Image, of books from Rich Starkings' Active Images studio. There's a new edition of Tim Sale's 'Black and White,' 'The Elephantmen Art of Ladronn,' and the hardback edition of Joe Kelly and Chris Bachalo's 'Captain Stoneheart and the Truth Fairy.' I'm digressing a little here, but I swear if JG doesn't win some kind of major award for these designs I'll eat my socks."

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