NYCC: Hine Takes on "The Darkness," Resurrects "Bulletproof Coffin"

Top Cow fans, get ready for even more changes. Having already announced that Tim Seeley will be taking over for Ron Marz as writer of "Witchblade" and that Marz's epic "Artifacts" will continue on as an ongoing, the Cow just revealed during its New York Comic Con panel that David Hine will be picking up the reins of "The Darkness" from Phil Hester.

Starting with March's "Darkness" #101, Hine will be joined by his "Batman: Arkham Reborn" partner, artist Jeremy Haun, to further the adventures of gangster, Darkness-wielder and all around dastardly fellow, Jackie Estacado.

But that's not all. Hine also has plans to return to the world of creator-owned comics with pal and artist Shaky Kane for a brand new volume of "The Bulletproof Coffin." While the first volume dealt with the history of comics, Hine promises the new series will focus on the future.

CBR News spoke with Hine about taking over "The Darkness," resurrecting "Bulletproof Coffin" and what it is about Jackie Estacado that attracts him to the world of the Darkness.

CBR News: What is it about Jackie Estacado and the concept of the Darkness that draws you to the character?

David Hine: Jackie is one step removed from superhero comics. His power -- the Darkness -- has its roots in horror, which is the genre I'm most drawn to. I like the idea of writing an amoral anti-hero, too, though over the years he has developed more of a moral compass than in the early years when he was totally self-obsessed. It's interesting to find the positive in a character who is all about negativity and absence. This is a man who only really functions in the absence of light. He's an orphan who has always lost the people he cared for. His surrogate family was the Mafia. That didn't give him the best ethical grounding, but Jackie has immense loyalty, courage and individualism. He also has some of the coolest powers in comic books. It's like the power of Green Lantern and Spawn combined, with perverted goblins thrown in. I'm looking forward to finding new ways to use the Darkness and testing Jeremy Haun's abilities to come up with some stunning visuals.

What does Jeremy Haun bring to the table for the Darkness and what has your working relationship been like with him so far on this project?

Jeremy is one of the best horror artists in the business. We worked together on the "Batman: Arkham Reborn" story arc that ran across a number of the Batman titles. He's a real craftsman, and his art has a realistic edge to it that makes the horror all the more believable. He breathed life into the new characters we created for the series. Alyce Sinner and the Raggedy Man were just as I imagined them and so real they totally creeped me out. I meet up with Jeremy whenever I get over to the USA to talk about the stuff we want to do, and we are very much on the same wavelength. I'm looking forward to a long-term working relationship on "The Darkness." We're both in this for the long haul. I tend to jump around from project to project, so I'm looking forward to having a good, long stretch on a book where I can really get to grips with the character and concepts.

Between the search for the origins of his powers in "The Darkness" and trying to find his daughter in "Artifacts," a lot has been going on in Jackie's life. Are there elements of those stories you'll be dealing with when you take over?

Both "The Darkness" and "Artifacts" are leading up to some startling events, and those will be a springboard for what I'm planning with issue #101. There are some fiendish twists coming, but I don't want to give any of them away, which leaves me with very little I can say specifically, except to say that I'll be taking Jackie in a very different direction to what has gone before. I think readers will be pleasantly surprised -- no scratch that -- there's nothing pleasant about what we have planned. In fact, I've been giving myself nightmares. I had one last week that had me waking up in a cold sweat and gave me the opening scene to the third issue of my first arc. It involves cats, and I apologize in advance to all the cat lovers out there. Honestly, I love cats. I have two of my own. But when a scene comes to you in a dream, you just have to go with it.

What else can you tell us about your first arc? Where will Jackie find himself and what kind of trouble will he be getting into?

Trouble? Apart from with the ASPCA and PETA?

Okay, there's a hardcore Eastern European mob moving in on Jackie's New York operation, and those guys are some mean mothers. I'm taking Jackie back to his roots in some ways, and the gangster element is reinstated, with Jackie running the Franchetti mob. I'm trying to think of some other plot elements I can give you, and it's not easy because most of it grows out of the upcoming plot twists in "Artifacts" and the next seven issues of "The Darkness" before I come on board. Issue #101 is going to be a great jumping on point for new readers, and I'm going to spend the first year establishing the new status quo, introducing new characters and putting Jackie through some shit that will make his past life seem like a walk in the park.

Will Jackie's relationship to Sara Pezzini, the wielder of the Witchblade, play into your stories?

I talked to Tim Seeley about this when we met up this summer in San Diego, and we've agreed to keep the characters mostly separate for a while. There may be some minor guest appearances, but we're keeping the strands of the "Witchblade" and "Darkness" books apart until we're both well and truly settled in. But their relationship is always in the background, and we do have a plan for about a year down the line when the consequences of what Jackie is doing finally catch up with him in a big way and the two characters explode into one another's lives again.

Shifting gears a bit, what can you tell us about "Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred?" Will this second volume focus on the history of comics like the first?

It's everything that was cool about the first series -- but completely different. Our fictional counterparts will not be featuring in this new series. Kane and Hine are definitely a spent force, creatively, so we've decided to put them out to pasture. This new series is a set of one-shots that explore various threads from the first series. Issue #1 is the origin of The Shield of Justice, and also a bloody murder mystery. We've given over another issue to the Hateful Dead. We'll probably do that as a series of blown up images from the legendary Hateful Dead trading card set that was originally published by Golden Nugget in the sixties. The last issue is an adaptation of a 600-page novel I wrote a few years back, condensed into 28 pages of comics. I pitched it to Vertigo once, but they didn't go for it. It's the story of an overweight female housebreaker and a clown called Kiss. Shaky has already drawn that one because I lied and told him it was the first issue.

They're all standalone stories, but they do form a cohesive whole, as elements from each story bleed into the others. They can be read in any order, too. I get really pissed with having to read stories in the order the books are published, don't you? What I tend to do is read story arcs in random order. In fact, I often read comics backwards or just stop halfway and throw them in the bin. "The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred" is made to be read like that. Comics for the era of the short attention span, non-linear, info-surfing, post-modernist kids.

The first "Bulletproof Coffin" contained some commentary on your personal experience in comics. Have the years between that book and this one informed the new story?

No. I think we said what we have to say about the industry. Now we're just concentrating on bringing out the comics we want to read. Because no one else will.

How has your relationship with Shaky grown or changed over the years?

Shaky is one of my oldest friends. (He really is quite ancient.) What has changed is that we realized we should actually be working together instead of just talking about how comics should be. It was kind of obvious, I suppose, but it really never did occur to us for a very long time. I'm sure we'll carry on working together from now on. More "Bulletproof Coffin" and maybe some other projects too.

"The Darkness" #101 hits stores in March, "The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred" drops in January

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