David Hine Interview

imageDavid Hine is the comics world Mr Versatile, having worked with all the big boys as well as creating countless wonderful characters and stories on the independent scene.

With Mr Hine attending the con for just a short time only, I thought I’d grab a few minutes of his time to find out what he was up to at the moment.

NICK: The trade of your X-Men Civil War run, was the book that brought me back to comics. Who or what inspired you to become a comic book writer?

DAVID: I was a very introverted kid and I found escape in all kinds of fantasy and fiction, but comics were the most instant and portable form of entertainment. Comic Day was the highlight of my week, when my grandmother came with copies of Eagle, Topper, Ranger, Swift and Jackie for my sister. By the time I discovered American comics through the Alan Class reprints of old mystery comics and then Marvel comics through Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic and Terrific, I was totally hooked. The only career choices I ever had were science-fiction writer or comics writer/artist. Honestly, since I was about ten years old nothing else ever entered my head.

NICK: Are you still a comic reader? If so, what are you reading at the moment?

DAVID: Right now I’m catching up on Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery and I’ve just read Hannah Berry’s Adamtine. I read a lot of graphic novels from Selfmadehero, Jonathan Cape, First Second and Knockabout. Nobrow are putting out a lot of great stuff too. I’m 19 volumes into Bakuman, the manga by the creators of Death Note. That was a real addiction for a few weeks. It’s the story of a pair of manga creators, following their progress from schoolkid wannabes to top rank manga stars. I have to wait until August for the release of the final volume and I’m tearing my hair out!

NICK: You’ve been in the business for a long time, and have written many fantastic titles, but is there one title/ character that you would love to write, but have not yet had the chance to?

DAVID: I’ve already gotten to write a lot of the characters I loved as a kid. Spider-Man was a big one and then writing Green Lantern for The Brave and the Bold with Doug Braithwaite was a great experience. We deliberately set out to recreate some of the feel of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories from the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams period. Those were some of my favourite books of the 1970s.

The gig that blew my mind was getting to write Will Eisner’s The Spirit for DC. I always put The Spirit at the top of the list of my all-time favourite characters but I never dreamed I would get to write him. Nothing can top that. My ambitions are more towards creating my own characters now. I have little interest in working for Marvel or DC again, though in a perfect world it would be good to have a go at Doctor Strange.

NICK: You are currently writing Storm Dogs with the immensely talented Doug Braithwaite, can you tell us a little bit about that?

DAVID: The story is apparently quite straightforward: a team of crack investigators arrives on a frontier planet to investigate a string of mysterious deaths. They are restricted in the technology they can use because the indigenous population is protected by treaty from being exposed to high-level tech so they can develop their own less advanced culture without interference.

As the investigation continues the team uncovers some very disturbing evidence of another culture that once existed on Amaranth and the story takes some very sinister turns.

NICK: How did you come up with the idea for this brilliant western noir thriller in space?

DAVID: Storm Dogs is a concept I’ve had brewing for a long time. I initially pitched the idea to 2000AD back in 1995, but I never got a response, so I put it away in my folder of rejected ideas. The original title was Cutter. The basic idea of a criminal investigation team working in space was the same, but it was much more focused on the pathologist as central character. Had 2000AD gone with Cutter it would have pre-dated CSI by five years, but I don’t think anyone even looked at it. The pitch may well still be sitting in a slush pile somewhere. In the event I pitched it to Image Comics as “CSI in space.”

It’s a lot different than it would have been back then. The TV series Deadwood and then Joss Whedon’s Firefly have undoubtedly influenced me so it has ended up as what the media like to call a ‘genre-bending’ series, with a mix of science-fiction, noir and western. It’s all about world building in the way of the best of old school science-fiction and of comics like The Trigan Empire and Dan Dare. The characters are very important too, and I’ve tried to give equal time to what is a very diverse cast of characters.

The pacing of the book is very important. I’ve become tired of the exposition in a lot of comics and TV where the characters are pinned down in a couple of pages and the plot is constantly reiterated to avoid any possible confusion. We’ve deliberately taken our time revealing the plot and the characters, leaving a lot of the elements quite opaque. It’s perfectly okay to be a bit baffled by what is going on. The point is that Doug and I know exactly what’s happening and all will be made clear in its own good time.

NICK: You have teamed up with Doug on a couple of occasions now, do you believe that he is the best man to bring you work to life?

DAVID: We worked together for first time way back in 1990 when I inked a short story drawn by Doug for Strip magazine, published by Marvel UK. We have been friends for decades now, but we never worked together again until Doug was at DC in 2008. We were talking about our love of Neal Adams and the work he did for DC on The Brave and the Bold and Green Lantern/Green Arrow and how we would handle similar books now, recapturing the feel of that period. We realised that we could actually do it. DC had relaunched The Brave and the Bold and I knew that Joey Cavalieri was open to pitches for short runs on the book. We both felt there was a lack of real science-fiction stories in American mainstream comics so we talked about a concept that would allow us to do some of the world building that we later developed more fully for Storm Dogs. That collaboration worked out really well.

Later I pitched the Storm Dogs idea to Eric Stephenson and he went for it, though I originally didn’t even think of asking Doug to draw it because he was under contract to DC. Then, when I was looking around for an artist, Doug told me that he was about to come out of his contract. The timing was perfect. I pitched the idea to him over a weekend when I was visiting him and that was it. Doug is absolutely the perfect artist for this book. He has the love for science-fiction and all the storytelling skills along with a great feel for character. It’s a rare artist who can combine the traditional drawing skills – figurework, perspective, sequential storytelling – with a fresh and unique style, and Storm Dogs has allowed him to really stretch his muscles and given him the freedom to develop his art in ways that he hasn’t fully been able to before.

NICK: You have created many wonderful characters, I especially loved your run on Arkham Re-born. Who has been your favourite creation so far?

DAVID: Strange Embrace, The Bulletproof Coffin and Storm Dogs have all been fantastic experiences. They are all very different and that makes them hard to compare… so I won’t. The Man Who Laughs has also been a fantastic project, working with the inimitable Mark Stafford. That wasn’t my creation, of course. Victor Hugo has to take credit for coming up with that one, but it was another book where the publisher, in this case Selfmadehero, gave us complete creative freedom on the book and that always gets the best results. 

NICK: What can we expect from you in the future?

DAVID: More Storm Dogs. There will be a second arc that winds up the first story. The trade paperback of the first arc will be out later this year too. Cowboys and Indians is the next project with Shaky Kane. That will be published on the Aces Weekly site as a digital comic. There’s more in the pipeline with Shaky and I hope to work with Mark Stafford again as soon as possible. Maybe an originated graphic novel next time.

I’m currently writing the death of Jackie Estacado for Top Cow, I’m in the middle of my second arc of Crossed for Avatar and there are a couple of live action projects that are very exciting. Not forgetting the ongoing Night of the Living Dead, also for Avatar.

NICK: Being that we are at the MCM Comic Con, how do you find meeting your fans?

DAVID: The biggest change from when I started working in comics in the 1980s is that back then you really had very little feedback from fans and there were very few conventions, so you really had almost no contact. Now I’m constantly talking to readers on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and the blog and there are conventions popping up all over the place. It has actually become incredibly time-consuming to interact with fans but it is absolutely essential and is always a great pleasure for me. Writing in itself is an isolated profession and could become a lonely one, so it’s great to emerge from the writing pit into the light and talk to the people who make it all worthwhile.

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