Tim Seeley Sheathes "Hack/Slash"

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. For fans of the horror genre, that will be the case in March when writer Tim Seeley's long-running independent slasher comic "Hack/Slash" closes up shop with #25 from Image Comics. Seeley launched the back in 2004 with a series of one-shots drawn by Stefano Caselli ("Amazing Spider-Man," "Avengers Assemble") that eventually turned into an ongoing series at Devil's Due. "Hack/Slash" follows the adventures of slasher survivor Cassie Hack, her slasher-esque partner Vlad and the small army of co-stars they've acquired over the past nine years.

In 2010 the title moved from Devil's Due to current publisher Image Comics following some troubles with the original company. Since then, Seeley and artists Daniel Leister, Emilio Laiso and Elena Casagrande have chronicled Cassie and Vlad's continued adventures. The last arc, simply titled "Final," began in November with "Hack/Slash" #20 and will lead right into the explosive finale in #25.

With such a long-running independent comic coming to an end, CBR News spoke with Seeley about why he's ending the book in March, what he's learned in the nine years since he launched "Hack/Slash" and the other projects that will keep him busy in its absence.

CBR News: Tim, right off the bat, why did you decide to end "Hack/Slash" with #25?

Tim Seeley: The main reason is that the story I was working on kind of came to a perfect end there and I had set up that ending when I set up the first ongoing series back at Devil's Due, so I had that intended. Looking back on what I had said before and what I was planning when I started, I had an 80-issue run planned. Not counting all the crossover stuff, this goes up to 78, so it's sort of perfect and worked out that the story I had in mind ended there.

So back when you were first working on the story you were aiming for 80 issues -- why that specific number?

It seemed like a good way to do an independent book and not overstay your welcome. Books like "Y The Last Man" and "Sandman" made that a good way to put out a quality book, tell the story and not tire your readers or yourself out by trying to come up with stuff you weren't as passionate about story-wise. It seemed like the perfect time to get this story done and then focus on other stuff I'm working on, which is quite a bit of stuff and then leave myself a spot to go back to.

You mention leaving a spot to return to, do you have plans for Cassie and Vlad or possibly some of the other characters you've created for the world in the future?

Definitely. Part of it is just recognizing that these characters have a story that they've started with. Having a resolution to their story doesn't mean the whole rules that we've created for slashers in "Hack/Slash," that that's all over with. The world is definitely still ripe for stuff to do if I can come up with something that won't disappoint people who are big fans of Cassie and Vlad. There's potential that I could also continue their story. Plus, it's horror movies, so remakes and reboots are sort of par for the course. If I wanted to do that, it's also a possibility, but it's not my first choice.

Was it difficult coming up with resolutions for all the stories and all the characters Cassie and Vlad have picked up, both friends and enemies, along the way?

Some characters were definitely planned to have endings and then some stuck around when I wasn't expecting them to stick around. It still feels like everyone lined up. I was actually surprised, but I think most of them got what I thought were satisfying endings and hope everyone else thinks so too. Characters that kind of stole the show like Cat Curio and Pooch, I didn't originally envision them being a part of the story, but they kind forced themselves into it. In a weird way, they had the easiest ending and it made the most sense, I think.

The issues of "Final" that have been released thus far have a "getting the gang back together for one last big score" feel to it that lends itself well to a final arc.

One of the original ideas that I always wanted to do was, as Cassie goes along she creates more of the slasher movie final girls because they're living through the story, so by the end of the story there's a small army of miniature Cassies. Then my wife explained to me that "Buffy" already did that, so I had to modify it a little bit so it wasn't exactly like that. The whole time there was a background to what caused the slasher stuff. Even if we didn't touch on it every time most of the stories are tributes on various tropes. There was something overarching that kept it all together. In this case, all that stuff has come together and I've been weaving it together into one big one. Not all the characters that we've seen in the past work into the story, but a lot of them do. People who've read it for the whole time will be like, "There's that character, I'm excited to see them again," and if you haven't, it'll give you a nice introduction that you can still enjoy characters like Linda Marsh or Gertrude the groupie.

You're going to have your entire run all in one box or all collected on one shelf. It must be satisfying knowing you kept the book going all these years, but also because did it your own way the whole time.

That's the most surprising part probably. When I started, I just wanted to make something that I controlled. It was sort of a reaction to how I dealt with drawing "G.I. Joe" and having to deal with people changing stuff. I needed this to satisfy my need to be able to do whatever I want. Historically, as far as the history of independent comics goes, a run of nine years is as long as some really great, historic characters that had runs like Grendel and Mage and Grimjack, all that stuff I grew up being really into. To me, "Hack/Slash" can sit comfortably in there. We were dedicated to getting the book out and had dedicated readers. That part will take some time to sink in more than other things. I'm definitely proud of it. I could have abandoned it so many times and just done something else so many times, but people stuck with me and I stuck with those damn characters, so it'll be a nice five-omnibus set that you could drop on someone's foot and break their foot. It's a lot of paper.

The measure of a good run is that you could really hurt someone with it.

Right, or stand on it and hang a painting. That's a good measure of a book.

From a creating perspective, how would you say you've changed or developed from the early days of "Hack/Slash?"

When I started I had this idea about being passionate about something and doing a really good job and I like that young optimism, but I sort of have less of that particular thing which has bothered me. I also think I'm just a better writer and more experienced and know how to work with people. I'm way less egotistical, I don't think I was ever a super dick, but I think I'm a lot more open to creative criticism and working with people now than I used to be. So, trade a little bit of optimism and get a little bit of reality and that works out better.

You've got a lot of other projects in the works, one of which is your "rural noir" series "Revival" at Image. how different was launching that book last year as opposed to "Hack/Slash" nine years ago?

Oh man, it wasn't even the same game. When we first started "Hack/Slash" I was such a totally unknown person. I had no existing credit as a writer. It was like, "Oh, that guy who's drawing 'G.I. Joe' is writing a horror comic?" It didn't make sense to anyone. Pretty much the reaction when it first came out was, "Oh, this was actually pretty good." Nobody had any faith in it, it was mostly people just being surprised that it wasn't shitty. With "Revival," well, I think there's still a lot of people who are surprised it's not shitty. I think everybody expects that I can do a particular kind of thing, but doing a somber, realistic-ish crime comic that wasn't purposefully exploitive or anything definitely surprised people. I wasn't an unknown quantity at that point, especially not among horror fans. Even if regular superhero comic book fans wouldn't give a crap about the stuff I do, horror fans were there and came out, which I definitely appreciate. It's a totally different experience and it was a lot less chaotic because I actually know what I'm doing now. Having an artist [Mike Norton] who's actually been through it a few times helped a lot too. It was a pretty mellow process, actually.

Do you think comic fans are more open to genre hopping than fans of other mediums?

No, God no, not at all. I think comic fans are the most genre-focused people in all of media. Most comic book readers are, in fact, superhero fans, not comic book fans. Horror has always been a pretty viable genre in comics going back to the 40s and 50s with "Tales from the Crypt" and the other EC books. When I started the book, it was right around when [Robert] Kirkman started "Walking Dead" and [Steve] Niles had done "30 Days of Night" and I was basically following in those guys' footsteps.

Horror was never going to have the size of readership of the DC Comics Universe at the time, but there's enough people now where you're seeing success for stuff like "Saga" and "Revival" and I think that's because comics readership has grown since I launched "Hack/Slash" because there's so many ways to get comics. You don't have people who are just going into comic shops to get their fix of superhero continuity, there's people actively looking for different stuff. I think it's a better time, but I don't think comic fans are particularly good at trying things other than superheroes. I mean, comedy is huge in film and there's not a single comedy book on the shelves. "Adventure Time" is the closest thing.

The people actually buying comics, as opposed to the potential audience who could enjoy a story, seems so focused on certain things. The entertainment value is there and it's getting easier for more people to check them out with digital books.

That and trades all help and none of that stuff existed when we started "Hack/Slash" as much.

Have you seen regular increases in digital sales with your books?

Oh yeah. It's actually kind of crazy. When we first put "Hack/Slash" up on -- it was before comiXology and I can't remember what service we used -- there was like $300 a year [coming in] for the entire library which was better than nothing. It was enough to take your mom or your family out to dinner and that was about it. It's doubled, tripled every couple years. It's the biggest growth in the industry. comiXology was like the #3 most downloaded Apple app. Comics stores are still doing alright so something's working.

The worry about cannibalizing sales doesn't seem to be happening.

It's not the same people. Most people buy digitally, I buy digitally. There's still books I buy at the store physically and then there's a bunch of stuff that I didn't want to buy but wanted to read anyway, so now I'm just reading more comic and spending more money and it's not because I switched to one thing.

Moving back to the books you're working on, you took over "Witchblade" with the rebirth of the Top Cow Universe. What has that experience been like and how has it been different than your purely creator-owned titles?

It's a great gig. I love working with Top Cow and love working with the characters. At first I was unsure if I was the guy for the gig, but decided to do it anyway. Now I feel like I've got my feet and know what I'm doing. Everybody's great to work with. It's crazy that I have a monthly artist [Diego Bernard] who gets things done on that detail level. The weird thing about it is that no one talks to me about it really. "Witchblade" is so associated with a certain company that [fans] don't really care about me as long as they get their "Witchblade" whereas with "Hack/Slash" I'm the only name associated with it, so if anyone had a complaint or a compliment it was aimed at me. I don't hear it much about "Witchblade," I just turn my scripts in and get excited when I get my comps in. I hope people are liking it and I have a bunch of cool ideas I'd like to put Sara in. It's definitely a weird thing. Every gig depends on the vocal readers, so far it's cool because it doesn't cannibalize any ideas I had for "Hack/Slash" because it's just different enough that I don't have to worry about that.

"Witchblade" is one of those books that seems to have a stigma around it that's not really accurate or fair.

The stigma that people put on it was that [it's cheesecake]. The girls weren't bothered that it had a partially clad female, but dudes were like, "This is much less serious than how much I enjoy Batman." Whatever, it's not, you're full of shit. That's kind of the idea that people have towards it even though it was never a shitty book. It was always a quality written book. I think people thought it was just about the art, but even the art was in service to the story. I could go on for a rant about how I don't understand that, but I don't think people would care.

While we're on the subject of "Witchblade," what do you have in store for the book in 2013?

The cool thing is that we're doing a sort of mini-crossover thing with all the Top Cow books. It starts in "Artifacts," goes into "Darkness," then "Witchblade" and then back to "Artifacts." It's called Progeny and deals with what we first started when we did this rebirth of the Top Cow Universe. I'm really happy with how those turned out. We all got to write each others' characters. We got to jam on the stories; Jackie is in "Witchblade" and Sara is in "Artifacts," so it's a cool little story. Then there's two one-offs. One is Sara going back to New York City -- she's been in Chicago since the beginning of my run -- and we structured that as a hardboiled detective story that I've been wanting to do for a while.

You also worked on "Ex Sanguine" over at Dark Horse which you co-wrote and pencilled, how was that experience?

I'm actually done with that, it's a five-issue mini, but that was a cool thing where Dark Horse asked if we wanted to pitch for their horror line which we're doing a couple books for and asked if I wanted to write something. I said, "I've got an idea that I'm working on with my student Josh Emmons." We pitched it together and jammed on it, but Josh did most of the writing and I did the drawing. It was a chance for me to get back to drawing which I've done less and less of over the past few years. It was a fun little vampire mystery/romance that I had a lot of fun with.

Was it difficult getting back into the regular routine of drawing a book while also writing a bunch of books?

Only because I was writing three other books. When I was doing "Hack/Slash" for years I would draw one book -- something for Marvel, DC or anyone who would have me -- and I would write at night. Then I found out that if you wrote three or four and drew a book, it's not fun. I got it done and survived and now have a greater respect for free time. I like doing a horror book because it lets me use a little bit looser style. I got to draw normal people which I really enjoyed.

Can you talk about any other projects you have in the works for 2013?

Let's see, I'm looking at my list. "Witchblade," "Revival" and "Hack/Slash." I've got another book coming at Dark Horse but they haven't announced it, so I'll let them do that. I'm writing that one. I really want to do another creator-owned book but I've got to figure out the time and the energy to do that. The list of ideas is sitting there staring at me, I just have to decide if I want to do another horror book or a sci-fi book or maybe I'll do that comedy book and be the only guy that doesn't mind losing a ton of money.

You mentioned your list of ideas, do you have a notebook or several documents on your computer?

It's both. I have little Moleskine books, I have four of them, there's one for each book I'm working on and then there's one for ideas and characters until I figure out what to do with them. Once I start getting more refined I type stuff. I have all these folders called Upcoming Possible Project and I have to figure out which idea goes where. "Revival" was a folder on my desktop for a long time filled with weird Wisconsin stories that I kept finding. After a while all the ideas get depleting and I have to think of more shit. The key is keeping things organized and that's the toughest part. A lot of time your ideas come in the middle of the night and you have to run to a piece of paper and write them down and then in the morning you have to try and translate whatever you wrote down. That's usually what causes confusion.

"Hack/Slash" #25, the series finale, by Tim Seeley and Elena Casagrande hits stands on March 26 from Image Comics.

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