Seeley's Horror Trinity: "Occultist," "Revival" & "Army of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash"

Tim Seeley has always been a huge fan of horror, as fans of the writer/part time artist know well. But lately, the writer/artist has been stretching into deeper and more different strains of scary comics with long term plans launching off and coming to fruition.

Next month, the writer presents a coda to his signature creator-owned series with "Army of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash" from Dynamite, which he promises will put a satisfying capper on his recently wrapped homage to '80s slasher flicks. Meanwhile, Seeley and Four Star Studios partner Mike Norton are climbing the sales charts at Image Comics with the "rural noir" horror tale "Revival" whose eleventh issue hit this week, wrapping together the first year of storylines as it went. Meanwhile again, Seeley and Norton are looking forward to getting into the superhero side of horror with "The Occultist" -- a new ongoing version of the Dark Horse Comics character the writer has been developing in various miniseries for years now.

CBR News spoke with Seeley about all these projects and how he views each one as having its own unique flavor and goals. From the Steve Ditko-esque madness of "Occultists" return to a resurgeance Dark Horse superhero line to "Revival's" welcoming of kids cartoonist Art Baltazar and cover artist Skottie Young for a special issue revealing the backstory of young Cooper and his ghostly friend next month to the gory epilogue that "Army of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash" will deliver for his longtime fans, the creator opens up on all the ways in which his love of scary comics gets deeper and deeper as 2013 rolls on.

CBR News: Tim, right now you've got a lot of different balls in the air, most of which are things you've been working on for a while. There's "Revival" at Image, a new "Occultist" ongoing which, like "Revival," is drawn by your studiomate Mike Norton, and a new "Hack/Slash" crossover with "Army of Darkness" at Dynamite. How are you keeping up with all this?

Tim Seeley: [Laughs] That's the weird thing. I started out as a penciler, and you only have to get one gig a month to make a living doing that. I was doing "Hack/Slash" on the side then, which is like a gig and a half. But now I found out that if you're going to be just writing, you have to do four or five things a month. I keep getting offered cool stuff, and I'm only taking stuff I feel really good about. It's weird. Pretty much all the time, I have to have ideas, which is kind of what I always wanted to do, but it's slightly more difficult than I expected. But I love what I do. It's the kind of thing where I'm not required to spend days and days at the library because I have a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of all things "Army of Darkness" and I've read plenty of Batman comics in my life. "Occultist" is just straight out of my head crazy magic stuff. It's still playing in waters that are not too deep in my brain.

Looking at "Occultist," this is a book that you developed with Mike Richardson and have been developing miniseries by miniseries. In the last mini, you had his personal life pretty overwhelmed by the forces he had to deal with -- does your approach change at all now that it's going to be ongoing?

Yeah. We had the opportunity to do our own "Year One" in the actual first year the book was coming out. It was a superhero origin for the Occultist as a character within the first trade. Now, this new series is him with some experience, though he's still mostly a novice occult superhero. The first series was a naive guy stumbling into crazy stuff, and the reader was just dragged along with him. This new series is that second stage. It's the temptation that the power he has would cause anyone. It's more mature, and by "mature," I don't mean that there are boobs and rape in the book. It's a more considered way of dealing with the idea of seemingly unlimited power that comes at a cost. What would that do to someone trying to make his way in a post college world?

Last time out, the character had to deal with his culpability in getting his girlfriend sucked into this crazy world of the occult. Are you looking to redefine the supporting cast for the series after that?

For sure. There's a cop character in the first series, Officer Anna Melendez, who would get caught up in his stuff, and then there was his mentor. In this series, those worlds get changed around where the officer becomes more of an emotional attachment for him, and his mentor becomes the bad guy. It's fun playing around with the idea of all these people being around this tremendous power that let's them do whatever they want. They may not act like their normal selves the closer they get to the Occultist.

The book shows a lot of influences outside the magic stuff, including an Indiana Jones/Lara Croft-esque adventurer who shows up from time-to-time. Do you have any rules for what you will or won't fold into the world as you go?

For me, the character being created with Mike Richardson means I kind of dig into his interests. It's really about going into the past and seeing what else Mike has created and seeing what interesting ideas I can use that define a Dark Horse book. I think "Occultist" is very much a Dark Horse superhero book in the tradition of "The Mask" and "Ghost" and any of their earlier iterations of superhero stuff. The pulp elements come from what Dark Horse does best in building this very specific kind of superhero universe. They pulled in old horror ideas and old crime stories and infused them into something new. This book is a chance for me to reference all that stuff and combine it into a new kind of story.

Dark Horse has been building up more and more superhero books from revivals of characters like Ghost and X to new retro heroes like Captain Midnight and Brain Boy. Have you been talking with them about how "Occultist" fits into that world?

Definitely. We actually have a bible as to where everything fits together, and when I see those guys, we all talk about where we see our characters going and how they can interact. It's fun in the same way guys working on Marvel or DC books can work on combining independent titles and their characters with other people's stuff. So while this book is definitely about the Occultist, there are nods to the fact that he doesn't live in a universe by himself.

Let's talk about Mike Norton's role in all of this. This makes two books you guys are doing monthly together, so as busy as you are, I imagine he's going twice as hard at it.

His pencil is just a' smokin! [Laughter]

One thing about the art on the early "Occultist" series by Victor Drujiniu was that it had a softer line quality and kind of spookier feel. Is Mike changing up his approach here to differentiate from the way his pencils look on "Revival"?

I think "Revival" looked a little different from what Mike is known for doing. Though he wears many different hats and has a lot of different styles, typically what he was known for is superhero stuff influenced by Steve Ditko or John Byrne's kind of art. "Revival" stands different from that, but "Occultist" is more "classic Mike Norton" -- if such a thing exists. He can play up the influences of John Romita and Byrne and Ditko, and it becomes this modern take on these classic superhero designs. I think he's having a lot of fun of this, and I think it's good for him to vent when he spends time drawing all sorts of detailed and realistic scenes of people talking in "Revival." "The Occultist" has these crazy, over-the-top backgrounds inspired by whatever Steve Ditko was smoking when he did his classic magic stuff. So this is a very different kind of book, but still within Mike's wheelhouse.

Let's talk about "Revival." What's been interesting to see is how you're juggling these various plotlines where B-plots will graduate up to the main mystery in each new arc like Paul Levitz used to do on "Legion of Super-Heroes." Meanwhile, you've got the core story of your main characters and their familial relationships, so it seems like a lot of story to juggle in any given issue.

Yeah, it's definitely tough, and for some people, the level of my success in juggling that varies. [Laughs] We know why we're doing all this. Nothing is accidental, but it's difficult to convince people, "No, this stuff does have a purpose, and it will make sense. Just trust us. It's not all random." Originally, the intent was to focus on two or three characters and their relationships, and the other characters would provide the feel of what's going on in the town since this story is really about the town.

The idea of people coming back from the dead and then being quarantined had to affect people on every level of this now-contained society. Some people deal with that on a religious level, and some deal with it on a business level. Then there are characters who deal with it on a management and governmental level. But the idea was that all of those ideas would come together, and we'd eventually catch up on all the storylines. I know it can be mildly frustrating when you only get two pages of a storyline in an issue, but it's definitely intended and planned. It just seems very haphazard. But what people will see in issue #11 is that all those plots come to a head together, and after that, it's a little bit more focused on the main cast. The first eleven issues focuses on the town and all the people in it, but after that, most of them become supporting characters in the main cast's story.

Issue #12 seems to be a very different issue of "Revival." Aside from coming after the big collision of storylines you promised in #11, it's going to have pages by Art Baltazar. How and why did you tap him to work on a horror series?

You know, knowing Art over the years and the kind of guy he is as a happy go lucky guy made us want to say, "What if someone like Art was telling a story about truly horrible, dark stuff?" [Laughs] That's why we chose him to kind of fill-in as Cooper in this issue, giving us the back story of what happened on Revival Day. There are some pages that have Mike and Art drawing on them, so it should be quite a visual feast of weirdness. We're just excited to work with Art, really. We've both known him for years, and it's cool to see him branching out with projects like "Lil Hellboy," so we wanted to get in on the action.

You mentioned the book getting more focused on the core characters coming up, and that seems to be a major focus for the issue that tells the story of the worst Valentine's Day karaoke night ever. Is this your subtle dig at the comic communities obsession with karaoke at conventions?

[Laughs] Nah. It's basically -- I figured at a certain point, something's got to give. If you're surrounded by this horrible situation and all this death, eventually you'll go, "Ah, fuck it. Karaoke!" I know that's how I've seen people deal with things. Karaoke is all about people who don't want to deal with the more difficult things in life. They just want to cut loose and sing in front of people. That was the impetus for that story, and it's probably my favorite issue of the series I've written so far.

The difficult thing about it is that I've found you can't really write Karaoke scenes because you can't reproduce songs you don't own. So I wrote lyrics for fake songs, which was like "Whew!" I got some good ones in there. I expect soon someone will cover my new hit "Ladies Night" which is in the issue. You'll see my pop skills on display.

One of the biggest threads in the series right now is the idea that the outside world is exerting its own pressure on the town as they've been dealing with their own drama. We've got people trying to smuggle Reviver body parts out of town while others are using the Revival Day to score political points. Is that the defining conflict for the series as it moves into its second year?

Definitely. I think if there's any sort of politics to this story, it's that viewpoint that the outside world tends to use people and places to advance their own argument. You see this anytime there's any kind of shooting or tragedy. People on the right and left immediately use that as evidence in whatever argument they were pushing that week. The book will be dealing with that pressure that comes from being in the spotlight or having something people can't define very clearly. And coming back from the dead is definitely one of those things.

Let's wrap with "Army of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash" book, which comes at an odd time for your creator-owned series because you just came to this big end point for the "Hack/Slash" monthly. Is this just a matter of "Army of Darkness" being an opportunity where you had to go, "They're pulling me back in"?

It actually is kind of like that. When I was working on the series around issue #18 or 19, Dynamite asked if I wanted to do the "Army of Darkness crossover, and I said, "Yes, but that doesn't fit here at all." I had this momentum I wanted to blow through over the next several issues to get to a very concrete point, and I felt like folding Ash and the Army of Darkness stuff in there didn't work. It was a story about Cassie and Vlad at it's heart. But I had this idea for after my big story was done about Cassie without Vlad. She's in the market for a partner, but unfortunately the partner she chooses is Ash Williams. It's sort of a story about her being done and getting pulled back in moreso than me. [Laughs] It shows how she deals with a male counterpart to her, who is just this overconfident, brash jerk. It's really fun and really crazy and a little more gory. It's a very Sam Raimi take on "Hack/Slash."

So what does that mean for the overall life of these characters? Is it a coda to the regular series? A new launching point?

It's a little bit of both, I guess. Reading the "Army of Darkness" series will pull together some threads we had dangling at "Hack/Slash's" conclusion. This cleans all that stuff up and makes a definite endpoint for the series. But fortunately, I still occasionally have "Hack/Slash" ideas. And if I should have some free time in the future, I could probably crank out another good "Hack/Slash" story. But I only want to do that if I have a story I have to tell instead of trying to keep putting something out when I knew the ending was there in front of me.

Well, if nothing else I'm betting you couldn't fit another regular book into your schedule.

Not right now! But who knows? Someday I may be broke and desperate, and I'll go, "Okay, I'm going to have to trot out the old stuff to make people care again." [Laughter] It's like rerecording the hits by Def Leopard. Honestly, if I had good ideas for a story that I can get excited about, I'll do it. But I don't want it to be about me eeking out a paycheck from my loyal readers.

"Revival" #11 is in stores now from Image Comics. "The Occultist" debuts this October from Dark Horse. And "Hack/Slash Vs. Army of Darkness" arrives in July.

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