Back in 2004, Tim Seeley created one of the best horror comics in recent years with the stylish and sexy HACK/SLASH. Based around the character of Cassie Hack, who travels the land fighting various slasher-style maniacs, the series became a hit and soon a feature film was in the works. Retro Slashers talks exclusively with Tim about the evoloution of HACK/SLASH…
How did you first become involved with Devil’s Due Publishing and what were your earlier duties with them? How did Hack/Slash come about and where did you get the initial concept from?
“I met Josh Blaylock WAAAAAY back in 1996, and we kept in touch over our mutual plans to be huge in comics someday. When he got the G.I. Joe comic license, he invited me to help out as a sort of editor/artist. I worked there for almost 7 years, so it worked out alright. I came up with H/S in 2004 as a way for me to have something to write, to coincide with having plenty of shit to draw. The initial concept came from spending too much time watching every slasher movie franchise that existed, and making some kind of weird realization that all slasher films belonged in the same “universe.” Cassie and Vlad became a way to tell stories set within that larger world.”
What slasher films in particular were you a fan of when you were younger and are there any which had a major influence on the look and feel of Hack/Slash? Had your comic had created during the genre’s heyday of the early eighties how different do you think it would have been to the one of today?
“I was terrified by the Nightmare on Elm Street films as a kid, but it wasn’t until I saw Halloween as a teen that I realized that there was an art to it. I think each Hack/Slash story derives its look and feel from a separate film or series of films, and even sometimes multiple films or a subgenre. Had H/S come out in the 80s…well, for one, it would have sucked ass, as I was like 10 years old, and lemme tell ya, I was a terrible writer, and artist then. But, I think, H/S, owes so much to the 80s that very little would have been different had it come out then, save that Cassie would wear sweater dresses and Vlad’s name would have been “Ducky.””
Cassie Hack has a very distinctive image – a sexy, young girl in revealing clothing. Did you base her look on anyone in particular and did you feel from the very beginning that sexuality was a major part of the character?
“Physically, she is based on a real girl, with the features of a few other women thrown in…it’s obvious I’m a sucker for ladies, so it’s no secret I draw inspiration from the girls I’ve had crushes on. As for the sexuality in Cassie’s look. one thing I really wanted to do was play around with an attractive female character that didn’t look like the typical comic heroine, while making her attractiveness a side effect of her situation. The girls in slasher movies, the ones who survive, tend to be very “virginal. ” Hell, they’re often even frumpy. Cassie’s sexiness is an evolution of her character, but I try to make sure it doesn’t define her, I guess.”
At what point of you creating the story did Vlad come about and was he inspired by anything in particular, as he seemed somewhat reminiscent of Bane from the Batman comics?
“Not Bane really. Vlad actually was conceived as “a nice Jason Voorhees.” He was intended to be the sort of beastial, social pariah who turns out as a decent reasonable human being. His name comes from my grandpa, whose name is Vladislov, and the gas mask I think comes from a story he told about being in World War 2 and having to eat lunch sitting on the frozen bodies of German soldiers who’d been killed in a gas attack. Sorry…that’s a tad grim for Hack/Slash.”
What aspect of Hack/Slash came first – the characters or the premise? Did you create Cassie and Vlad first and then decide on the story or did you always know from the start you wanted to create a slasher comic?
“The premise came first, but Cass came right after that. I’d been wanting to do something with a sort of tough-as-nails girl who didn’t look like the standard big-boobed blonde, and Cass seemed to find her spot in the H/S world. Vlad came last, as I knew I wanted her to have a partner to allow me to do a “buddy” story.”
One major part of Cassie’s back-story is her mother, referred to as The Lunch Lady, who had been responsible for murdering children at her school. Did you decide from the beginning that Cassie would have some kind of personal connection to slasher villains and were there other monsters that you toyed with before you settled on The Lunch Lady?
“I knew she had to have survived a “slasher movie” that we never saw from the beginning. The Lunch Lady actually kind of came from the fact that it seemed like a high percentage of psychos and killers from my home state of Wisconsin were cannibals or something of the sort.”
Was this a difficult concept to sell to the publishers or did they immediately see the potential? Did you create the story and then approach them or did they request a new concept from you?
“Well, I was lucky in that I worked IN the DDp office, and could bother Josh Blaylock all the time if need be. Which is what I did. I wrote up a pitch, got bunch of art together from Stefano Casselli, and bothered Josh until he agreed to publish the book. Josh is not a huge horror fan, but I think he saw that I was passionate about the book and would do my best to make it good.”
Has copyright been a major obstacle for you, restricting which iconic characters from horror movies you can feature in your stories?
“It never did, as I’ve only ever used other people’s characters when I had permission. The Evil Ernie people, the Chucky owners…I had permission, and had no trouble. That, of course changed with the Re-Animator crossover. I had permission from the owner of the film series, but some jerks who decided they owned the comic rights to the name decided to make my life hell, and throw some legal shit at us. I was in the right, of course, but in law, as you probably know, being right is not as good as having money. So, the readers suffered, for no good reason. But that’s over for now, and I’ll probably avoid anything I didn’t create for a bit.”
How long did it take for audiences to discover Hack/Slash? Was this something which slowly grew through word-of-mouth or was its success immediate?
“Heh, I don’t know really. I think the first issue did better than I or Josh expected, but our expectations were pretty low. I think for H/S, we really sort of found out legs when we put out the trades, which sell even better than the monthly series. I think we’re a book which appeals to readers outside of typical comic book circles, and they like to read the book in a nice fat trade paperback format.”
Whilst Hack/Slash is most definitely a slasher at heart, what other types of genres – both cinematical and comic – were you inspired by? How did the likes of Herbert West become involved?
“I think H/S draws from a lot of things, largely because, to make an ongoing narrative, you can’t do the same formula all the time. We’ve homaged everything from slasher movies to torture porn to Archie comics. We’re going to do a superhero story coming up. SO, we’ll do whatever we can to keep it fresh, and most of all fun.”
At what point were you approached regarding the story being adapted into a feature film and were you ever signed on to write the screenplay yourself?
“It was pretty early on..2005 I guess. My agent had been shopping it around, and Rogue Pictures bit. I was never in consideration to write the screenplay. Heh, that’s rarely done in Hollywood. I did do some work on one of the early drafts with Todd Lincoln, the director, but I’m sure none of that stuff will survive to the filming draft.”
To keep the film loyal to the comic, the violence would have to be extremely bloody, which could cause issues with the MPAA. Had the studio always intended on aiming the film at adults?
“It seems like the studio has flip flopped on that. They seemed to think it should be R, but with the success of stuff like Twilight, PG-13 gets executives all hot in the pants these days. I guess I don’t know for sure. That shit can change on a dime.”
How did Todd Lincoln become involved as writer/director and how much did the two of you collaborate over the look of the film?
“Todd actually was looking to direct an adaptation of the film before he ever got the job. It was kismet I guess. He found the studio, the studio found him, and magic occurred. Todd was always very cool about asking me my opinion, and getting my input, even though that was never required of him.”
Is the screenplay planned on being an adaptation of a specific story or a compilation of ideas from various issues?
“At this point, I can’t say for sure. I’ve seen 4 or 5 versions of the script, and I’m sure it’s evolved and morphed even since then. That’s Hollywood for ya.”
During development, various names have been linked to the characters, such as Megan Fox and Michael Clarke Duncan. Did you designed any of them with specific actors in mind and who has been attached for the project over the years?
“No. I wouldn’t do that simply because I know how fact that can change. Everyone is H/S is designed to be a comic book character. I could care less about who’s hot in Hollywood at any given moment, and I’d never draw Vlad as Eminem or something just to sell the property. As long as the actor and actress who get the roles are good at their craft, I’m a-okay with it.”
The movie has been quiet for some time, with no websites or magazines having given updates since last year. Exactly whereabouts is pre-production right now and is the film likely to happen?
“The film WILL happen. Rogue has put a lot of work and money into it. When? I don’t know exactly. You’d probably have to ask Rogue.”
If the film is released and becomes a success, do you think this could be the start of a new franchise, as there are plenty of stories to choose from?
“I personally think so, but it’s hard to say what will turn the crank of the next Hollywood executive in charge.”
How involved were you with the Suicide Girls photo shoot that was an homage to Hack/Slash. How did this come about and were you already familiar with the site?
“I was a fan of the site for awhile. Like I said, I’m a sucker for a pretty lady, so I always wanted to do something for the site. I actually DREW Cassie’s set, so I spent a week drawing her naked. Rough life, I know.”