What do you get when you mix exorcism and a futuristic setting with the minds of Warren Ellis and Steve Pugh? Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist.
Set in a future where ghostly "Blue Light" entities roam the streets, "Hotwire" tells the story of what happens when those apparitions turn violent and the only one who can stop them is a woman who doesn't want to believe in ghosts.
This April, Radical Publishing releases a special edition trade paperback of "Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead" collecting the full series plus a number of drool-worthy extras including concept art, the first "Hotwire" story from Atomeka and a few original pages by Ellis.
To prep for the collection's release, CBR News spoke to series co-creator, writer and artist Steve Pugh to get his take on some of the extras and what it's like looking back at the world of Alice Hotwire.
CBR News: How does it feel for "Hotwire" to be released as a collected edition with all this extra material?
Steve Pugh: It's a relief, mainly. A lot of the work I'm proudest of never had English language collections. The Jamie Delano "Animal Man" run is the most obvious example. It feels great that Radical are putting this collection together, and showing that kind of support of "Hotwire."
How did you end up creating the character with Warren Ellis? Did one of you come up with the idea first and bring it to the other?
The short version is that before Warren really had much material published I'd promised him that, if he got offered a writing gig, he should give me a call. It was pretty obvious Warren had talent, and there were a few Brits putting his work under editors' noses. If we'd known then what we were unleashing, would we have still done it? Yeah, of course!
I told him a list of stuff I was interested in drawing - girls, monsters, bikes - and he wrote "Hotwire" to lure me back from DC Comics to work with Dave Elliot in London. We got a fair amount of material done, but the company collapsed before we could finish up and print.
You've included a vast amount of concept art and character sketches in the book; is there anything in particular you're incredibly proud of? On the flip side, is there anything you wish you hadn't put down on paper?
Hotwire has had many incarnations over the years, from the hawk-faced, chain-smoking original, to the ratty danger-elf I ended up with. There have been a few dead ends and disasters, yes.
Just before I nailed her new look she got very curvy, very bad girl... it was a mistake but you've got to try things out. My favorite Alice used to be the one in the promo pieces I did for Radical. She had a moth eaten sweater over her red null-suit and a giant parka coat. It was very Brit-punk, and the coat would have had a swooshy matrix/bat-cape feel, but it was felt that it looked a little too anti-sexy for a lead character, so I compromised with the leather hoodie, which I think worked really well.
The trade includes a previously unpublished short from Atomeka. Are there any details you can give us on this extra adventure?
Oh, sure, this is a cool little rooftop chase with "Filthy," the informant from issue #1. We get to see a more typical "Blue-Light" (that's what we call the ghosts) retrieval mission, and it's a smaller scale story, more about the situation's impact on the characters themselves than the "big-bad" story the mini was.
Originally, before Radical picked Alice up, I was going to do a series of Hotwire shorts between other projects. The interesting thing about the "Filthy" story is that although it's the modern Alice, with the pale skin and the bleach job, she still has her original costume with the cat suit and leather roll bars. Also it has a variation of Mobey that's nearer her age and kind of based on a Brit comedian called Jimmy Carr.
Looking back on the project, are there any particular moments in the series that stand out as favorites, or any Easter Eggs that you threw in for fun?
My favorite stuff is probably going to be a lot different than what a reader's favorite might be. I like all the banter scenes she has with Coroner Love and Mobey. My favorite is when she lets her mouth loose and gets beaten up in the bar by a bigger, badder girl, throws up on the way home and Mobey has to carry her back and dump her on her bed.
She drunkenly calls him "Dad." The beginning of "Hotwire" sets her up as some kind of badass uber-babe, and this totally undermines that!
Easter eggs? Well the whole thing is a love letter to the stuff I grew up reading and watching on TV. There's references to "Space: 1999," "Thunderbirds," "Max Headroon" and "Akira," but I avoided overt in-jokes because I feel that, as a reader, once you spot them, it kind of pulls you out of the moment. Alice has a huge obsession with 8-bit video games. The wall near her bed is playing "Pitfall" with the score as a clock. And in the extra pages added for the collection there's a prototype white Atari Jaguar console (which is technically 64-bit, very technically).
Probably my biggest indulgence is Alice yelling "end of line!" as a kiss off. It's a reference to the movie "Tron," I figured it would be a film she'd definitely watch - editorial was constantly checking to make sure it wasn't a lettering error - "Do you mean end of the line?"
What has been your favorite part of the experience of bringing Hotwire to life?
The whole thing has been a blast. I've been drawing comics a long time and this has really made everything new again. I never really had any ambition to write, but actually creating my own material has given me a completely different understanding of the medium.
You mentioned your favorite moments in the book, but what do you think fans will be most excited about in the collection?
I think it's just going to be a really nice thing to own. There's a lot of care gone into it and it's really the culmination of years of work. We've got extra story pages, I've tightened up art throughout, and a big sack of extras are included too. There are also pages from Warren's original "Hotwire," if you'd like to have fun making unfair comparisons.
What was your greatest challenge while putting together Hotwire?
Other than not having written anything before?
Radical was extraordinarily accommodating about this. I actually submitted storyboards instead of scripts, pages and pages of lettered stickmen. They made it pretty easy for me. Actually, I must have been a puzzling nightmare to edit.
Looking back at the miniseries, is there anything you'd do differently?
I think it would have been nice to see Alice deal with a few mundane ghosts first, to establish that they were more of a low level, everyday problem. Most of the missions we see Alice on are big scale showdowns, which make it seem odd that she's the city's only exorcist.
I had a lot of stuff I needed to get through and at times I compressed things too much. The bug-hunt in the underground cemetery was going to be a lot more strange and elaborate for example. I'm really glad I got the opportunity to re-do the ending of the book for the collection, though.
The special edition trade paperback of "Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead" is available in comics shops now..