David Hine Talks Comics at MCM Comic Con

DavidHineByLuigiNovi1David Hine has done it all in his long and illustrious career as a comic book writer, artist and creator, having worked on projects for Marvel, DC, Image and a host of other companies along the way. His Arkham Reborn mini-series is the book that brought me back to comics, and since then I have become a huge fan, and so with the man himself here at MCM Comic Con, I just had to grab a few minutes of his time to talk about his career, his influences and his current work.

NICK: David, you broke your teeth on Future shocks way back in the early 1980’s. Why did you want to write comics and who were your inspirations?

DAVID: I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember – shortly after learning my alphabet I think. I loved the idea of telling stories and have never wanted to do anything else for a living. I started out writing science-fiction stories. My first ‘novel’ was written when I was eight, shortly before the first moon landing. It was called ‘The Adventurers Go to the Moon.’ Strangely enough, when they got there, they found a mad scientist making robots to invade Earth, prophetically similar to one of the stories Shaky Kane came up with for The Bulletproof Coffin. My second novel was a western in the style of Shane, featuring a pacifist gunslinger. By the time I was about twelve I had become obsessed with comics and set about learning to draw so I could do auteur comics like my heroes Will Eisner, Robert Crumb and Vaughn Bodé. My first efforts were self-published comics like Primal Scream and Joe Public Comics, then I was published by Knockabout and that led to inking work on Warrior and Marvel UK and drawing for 2000AD, Crisis and just about every British publication in the 1980s.

NICK: Since then you have worked on everything from comics for the big two (Marvel and DC) to much smaller, indie publications, so what for you has been your biggest achievement?

DAVID: I got a kick out of writing Spider-Man, X-Men, Daredevil, Green Lantern, Batman and so on, but it’s definitely the creator-owned work that is the most important to me. Strange Embrace is still the one I’m proudest of, as it’s the one I wrote and drew. It has its faults but I still feel it’s the work where I expressed myself most freely without any outside constraints. More recently The Bulletproof Coffin with Shaky Kane was a great success creatively. I think what we did with that book, particularly the cut-up issue 4 of the Disinterred series, was genuinely ground breaking. 

Currently I’m very excited about Storm Dogs. In many ways it’s almost retro in its style of storytelling. It’s a slow-building story that demands an effort from the readers but if you’re willing to read long-form storytelling, it will reward you. Doug Braithwaite and I have put a huge effort into developing the future world and characters who can’t be summed up in a line or two. By the end of the first season it’s clear that the plot is going in some very unexpected directions that take it far from the ‘Whodunnit in Space’ that it appears to be at first glance.

NICK: For those who have not yet discovered the series, can you tell us a little more about Storm Dogs?

DAVID: I sold it as ‘CSI in Space’ but that was just the commercial tag line to draw attention to it. It begins with a murder mystery on a frontier planet many thousands of years in our future. A team of investigators arrives on Amaranth to investigate and they soon uncover mysteries and conspiracies that will affect the future of the entire human race. Doug and I did a lot of world-building, spending six months on the details of the planet’s environment, the science and technology of the future and the social and political aspects of a union of states and nations that spans the known universe. Ultimately the story of Storm Dogs will spread very wide, but we wanted to start with a focus on a small group of diverse characters in a limited environment. Science has progressed to a point where, inevitably, all sentient creatures are in constant contact with the Weave, an advanced version of the internet. Having access to all knowledge all the time is actually very frustrating when it comes to constructing a story, so I came up with the idea of setting the first story on a planet where the civilization is primitive with only limited technology. In order to protect the unique development of the indigenous population there are strict limits on the technology that can be used on the planet. So our team of experts has to relearn old skills and rely on their own thought processes instead of instant ‘knowledge’. In the process, they also learn a lot about themselves as human beings. The relationships are very important to me and I wanted the characters to reveal themselves in the same measured and deliberate way as the plot. There are a lot of revelations and twists, which have reversed a lot of the expectations of our readers. And there are a lot more surprises to come.

NICK: I understand that we are close to the release of the Storm Dogs, Volume One Graphic Novel. When will this be available?

DAVID:  Publication date is 20th November, just days before the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds, so Doug Braithwaite and I are looking forward to releasing it to the public there.

NICK: As you mentioned before, you have drawn on a number of projects. Are there any comic series on which you’d like to appear as artist?

 DAVID: No, I hate drawing. It’s a painful experience for me. It doesn’t come naturally and requires a lengthy process of drawing and redrawing until I reach something approaching a professional standard. The last comic I drew was an issue of Elephantmen for Richard Starkings, and that took me something like two years to draw 20 pages! That’s one of the reasons I have more or less given up drawing to concentrate on writing, which is something that comes naturally. I can’t think of any series I would like to draw, except possibly Hellboy. If I ever go through the torture of drawing again, it will probably be on one of my own projects.

NICK: Earlier this year we saw the release of your much anticipated adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs. How did you find adapting this 19th century novel into comic form?

DAVID: The Man Who Laughs is my other choice for work I’m most proud of. It is known as the inspiration for the Joker and that was what first drew me to it. I had done an issue of Batman and Robin set in Paris where the French version of the Joker is very specifically based on the Victor Hugo novel, having been mutilated by his artist father as a tribute to the book (yes, he was totally bonkers). I was amazed at the strength of the original novel. Although it was heavily criticized on publication it is actually one of Hugo’s finest stories. It’s a political thriller, a historical romance, a horror story and social satire that reads very well in a contemporary context. Most of the hard work was in cutting a lot of extraneous material that weighed down the story. I also swapped the order of events around a bit. Victor Hugo’s original version is also a non-linear narrative, but I felt he was spilling the beans too early on some of the plot developments. So the biggest part of the job was essentially editorial. Once I had the plot sorted, it was a joy to interpret the story visually. Many of the scenes are begging to be made into visual narrative, which is why, in spite of its relative obscurity compared to other Hugo novels, it has been adapted several times into comics as well as a couple of movies and a television series.

NICK: Was it difficult to find an artist to help bring the story to life?

DAVID: No. I had already worked with Mark Stafford on a story for SelfMadeHero’s first HP Lovecraft anthology. I knew he was the perfect, perhaps the only artist who could do justice to both the horror and the pathos of the story. He rose to the challenge magnificently and has produced a work that I believe stands with that of the greatest caricaturists and satirists like Hogarth and Cruikshank

NICK: Whats next for David Hine?

DAVID: The Darkness series, drawn by Jeremy Haun, is about to come to a close and that’s followed by The Death of Jackie Estacado, where I get to kill off one of the most successful characters in American independent comics. That will be a 60-page one-shot drawn by Stjepan Sejic. I have a second arc of Crossed out next month. That one is the first of two arcs I’m writing that are set in Japan. I also have plans for an original science-fiction series for Avatar, which I’m about to pitch, and I’m working on an original graphic novel with Mark Stafford, as well as a monthly comic series. Then there is Season Two of Storm Dogs with Doug Braithwaite, coming next year and almost certainly more Bulletproof Coffin with Shaky Kane.

Right now I’m promoting Cowboys and Insects (also drawn by the amazing Mr Shaky Kane) on the digital comics site Aces Weekly. It’s set in 1950s USA, where the atomic bomb tests have caused insects to mutate to B-Movie Monster stature. It’s a satire on McCarthyite America – or maybe it’s just a story of giant insects and the men who wrangle them…

NICK: For anyone who would like to come and say hello, or get their hands on a copy of the wonderful The Man Who Laughs, where can they find you?

DAVID: This weekend I’m in the Comics Village at MCM London, then I’m appearing with Doug Braithwaite at Thought bubble in Leeds along with a big contingent of Image creators.

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