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One-Shots Wed Nov 17 2010

One-Shots: Tim Seeley

Raised on a diet of comic books and slasher movies, Tim Seeley cut his sequential art industry teeth drawing G.I. Joe. One fateful Halloween evening in 2004, these influences would give birth to the ideas behind Hack/Slash, the ongoing tale of a young lady named Cassie Hack, her giant companion Vlad, and the slashers they hunt. From that night, and through its move from Seeley's gray matter to Devil's Due Publishing to Image Comics, the story has grown in popularity and scope, spawning a stage play and a potential feature film. Since writing Hack/Slash, he has gone on to create other original titles (Loaded Bible, the webcomic Colt Noble), but Hack/Slash remains his main focus. We talked about what goes into his love-child of comics and horror movies -- the history, psychology, and motivations that guide Cassie, Vlad, and their world of boobs, blood, and stories.

Name: Tim Seeley
Job: Comic Book artist/writer
Age: 33
Education: BFA, Illustration, UW Eau Claire, 1999
Location: Lincoln Square
Hometown: Ringle, Wisconsin
Favorite place in Chicago: Lincoln Square!

Portrait by Kyle Bice

I'm sure everyone jumps to this, but I'm going to jump to it too: did you grow up watching horror movies?

Yeah, I mean my dad's always been a big movie fan, he was always more into horror movies, like low-budget stuff. Like indie -- not indie in the sense that they had any artistic integrity, just that they were shitty, shlocky stuff. He collected that stuff.

So when I was a kid, I was terrified of it. You go say good night to dad, you see something screwed up and terrifying, and then it would stick in my mind. It was actually scarier that I'd only seen a little clip of it. Then when I got a little ballsier and less likely to not be able to sleep, I'd just watch all that stuff, it kind of just...I always liked horror movies more for the ones that were more fun, like really, really serious horror stuff didn't work for me.

Hack/Slash Trailers Part 2 ("Wallow in Death", Sean Dove)

How did you start coming up with the idea for Hack/Slash?

I always wanted to do something on my own, I knew I wanted to write something, because I was spending a lot of time drawing other people's stuff, which was fun because it was paying my bills, but I think it's easy to get marginalized, like oh that's that guy who draws the G.I. Joe. I'd been kind of thinking of doing like a teen sex comedy comic book. I think it was just after American Pie. The one thing I had plotted into that story was that we should combine the teen sex comedy and a little part where they go into a slasher movie.

I was really sick for four days around Halloween 2004, and all my roommates were out at bars that night. They ran marathons for like 4 days of every Halloween movie, every Friday the 13th. And so I just laid in bed and watched them all. There's a world that they all exist in -- I mean it's not because they did it on purpose, it's because hey this movie sold well, let's rip it off a bunch of times. Vampires have a mythology, because there's one story, and people added a bunch of other stories. And all of a sudden they started to get their own rules, like vampires can't cross running water, or are afraid of sunlight, or werewolves, and all these things...just people continuing that story.

Early Vlad Sketches

Did you have rules for Hack/Slash?

I started noticing hey, in these movies, they always do this and they always do that. Just adding little things, like a slasher is a monster all of its own. It's like a vampire, it's like a zombie, they have their own thing. I wanted to set characters in the world of these sort of B-movies. Those movies sort of have a place in history, all those sort of rules, and there's no reason that a sort of Nightmare on Elm Street-type scenario couldn't happen, the same way that a rock n' roll nightmare, or humanoids from the deep was really sort of like those worlds, all existing in the same place. Cassie was the natural evolution of a character that would live in that world.

Why a girl hero?

Scream picked up on this too, it's this sort of final girl. You've seen a lot of feminist literature and stuff like that talking about how in these horror movies, there's this final female character that survives, and what's the significance of that. She's either rewarded for being pure, or she's sort of the stand-in character for the audience, judging the characters as they get killed.

I wanted to combine it and make a female character who follows some of the rules of the final girl thing, but who also like follows rules of B-movie, which is somebody's got to get in their underwear in the story, so we can all enjoy it.The combination of sex and death -- if you're going to have death you might as well throw in the sex, because you're already halfway there. You're already crossing the line of what is considered good taste. You might as well just have a good time. Then she got other personality traits along the way, which were things that I kind of figured, if you came from this sort of background, what kind of person would you be.

Advertisement for Hack/Slash's move to Image

You were saying, in horror movies, there were certain codes you really picked up on and parsed out. What are some of these you really wanted to bring out?

The killer in these movies is usually kind of wronged, actually. But they react with action that's too far. They take their revenge. You see that in a lot of those movies, like Prom Night had these kids torment a kid and he fell out a window, or Happy Birthday to Me or April Fools' Day, it's always this character who is somewhat justified. It's sort of exemplified in Halloween, where you see from Michael's perspective, you are the victim and the killer. The character's sort of, not justified, but you understand where they're coming from. That's one thing we want to play with, most of these (most but not all) of the slashers are justifiably angry.

One of the things I wanted was that Cassie would be sort of sympathetic to a lot of them. You know, because she comes from a sort of similar background...and you're kind of making her you, the audience, where you're like oh, I get it, they're getting justice even though it's a little bit extreme.

Hack/Slash Trailers Part 2, "Campfire Stories" (Scott Allie and Todd Herman)

Why do you think the horror movie tropes you explore adapt so well to comics?

People have said that horror doesn't work in comics, which I disagree with. But there are things that don't work in horror in comics, which is, we can't control the timing of how you read it. I can't surprise you, I can't jump-cut, make a noise. I can't control any of that sort of thing. I have no ability to fake-scare you. Or even just like startle you.

But I think what comics can do better than film, simply because we can't control the timing, is that we have to sort of scare you thematically. If you watch really old horror films or read horror literature, they don't rely on cheap scares. And I don't have a problem with cheap scares, but I think there's a reliance on it in a lot of modern horror, whereas original horror literature made you think about it, made you question certain things. The things you were really afraid of were your own mortality, your reactions to things, the way you treat things.

Hack/Slash is ultimately your creation. What advice would you give to people looking to produce their original, possibly non-traditional ideas, be it in comics or film or any other form?

I have a lot of people come up to me and say 'I have an idea'. Here's the simple reality, ideas aren't worth shit. Everybody has an idea. That's the hard fact. Ideas are all about the execution. A lot of people have the same idea, but nobody executes it the same. If you want to do something, just do it. As technology advances, it's easier to do it. You have an idea, you want to make comics, make a comic. You want to make a film, make a film. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but completed things that are good are super unique.

My First Maniac #3 cover (Tim Seeley)

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