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The Devil You Know

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Odds are that if you’ve read a comic from Devil’s Due Publishing, you’ve probably heard of Tim Seeley. As staff artist for the publisher, Seeley has had the opportunity to work on a number of very diverse projects. This past week, Tim stopped by the Broken Frontier to talk about children’s books, slasher movies, Forgotten Realms, G.I. Joe, Hack/Slash…and running naked from the bathtub!?

Broken Frontier - Looking over your career as an artist, I found it interesting that you started out illustrating children's books. What books did you work on and how did that lead you to comic book illustration?

Tim Seeley - Well, I'd always wanted to do comics, but I think when I first got out of college, I was too scared to try and jump right into it. I might have been a tad....insecure, I guess. But, working at Lerner taught me a lot of stuff about working with editors and doing different styles. Most of the stuff I illustrated was "school library" stuff… not like Jumanji or something. But, they let me do some pretty "out there" stuff. Heh, if you pop me into Amazon, you can see a few of 'em. I pretty much cheated on getting into comics. I had known Josh Blaylock for quite a few years from Cons and such, so when he got the G.I. Joe license and started DDP, I got hired as Staff Artist, or as I like to call it, Art Monkey.

BF - You mentioned on your website that you're working on a children's graphic novel - can you tell us a little about that project?

TS - It's actually for my former employer, Lerner books. They're making headway into getting comics into libraries, so I'm doing a graphic novel adaptation of Jason and the Golden Fleece. I get to draw elves with swords all day, and then, when I get home, I get to draw Greeks with swords all night.

BF - Your art defined a fairly large run of the first G.I. Joe series from Devil's Due. Were you into G.I. Joe when you were younger?

TS - I wasn't a G.I. Joe kid, I'll admit it. I had a few figures, but mostly they were just fodder for my He-Man guys to beat up. My lil' bro, Brad was the G.I. Joe fan of our house. So, I was familiar with the characters, but when I started at DDP I'd still get Firefly and Beachhead confused. After working on the sidelines of the book for six months though, I could tell ya what college Lady Jaye attended, so I felt ready to draw it. I really did enjoy doing G.I. Joe... It had such an intense fan base, that every issue was like instant feedback. And, I still love a lot of the characters, so I think it's safe to say, there's no way I'll stay away from G.I. Joe for too long.

BF - Forgotten Realms is another property with a huge, intense fan base. Is it at all intimidating to be providing the art for the comic book adaptation of Drizzt Do'urden's adventures?

TS - Actually, it's been pretty easy, which is a big surprise to me. While I was working on G.I. Joe, I'd get frustrated some days, and say to myself that whatever I did next had to have a more forgiving fan base. Then, I stepped right into Forgotten Realms, haha. But, really, they seem pretty flexible about the interpretations of Drizzt. Occasionally, someone will bemoan the fact that they wish it had been drawn "manga style" (whatever the hell that means)... but, generally, I tried like crazy to keep the visuals in line what the fans were used to seeing. I dunno, maybe that worked. Heh, or maybe, there's a website out there that I'm not seeing where they burn me in effigy everyday.

BF – Which then brings us to your creator owned book - what inspired the creation of Hack/Slash?

TS - SO MANY THINGS. Initially, I think the seeds for Hack/Slash were planted when Mike Norton and I were talking about doing a comic together. We didn't know what the hell we wanted to do, just that we wanted it to be in a genre that comics generally doesn't have. We started talking about doing a teen-sex comedy… an American Pie type thing. At some point, probably due to a lot of beer, I said we should do a teen-sex comedy with a SLASHER! Mike and I never got our idea any farther, cuz, Mike, being Mike ended up drawing like 14 books for Oni. But, the slasher aspect of the story really stuck with me. I got kinda sick around Halloween, and spent a few days, lying in bed, watching whatever was on the tube. That year, every lil' shit cable network was running a horror marathon, so in the space of three days, I watched probably 9 or 10 slasher flicks. You watch that many movies of the same genre and you start to see the patterns as your brain rots away. So, as I'm sure too many people have heard, and hate me for the terrible image it burns in their mind, I was sitting in the tub, and it suddenly occurred to me, "What if Laurie Strode (from Halloween) decided to hunt down Freddy?" And, there ya go… my wet, nekkid ass darted out of the tub, and I started scrawling ideas in a notebook.

BF – Yikes! Moving right along from that image… who are Cassie Hack and Vlad?

TS - Damn... now that's a question! On the surface, Cassie is the hot chick with black hair on the covers, and Vlad is the gas masked weirdo with the big knives. They 're the stars of Hack/Slash, the slasher hunting deadly duo. Cassie is a bitter, lonely girl who covers up her feelings of neglect with a tough attitude and snappy banter. She's afraid she'll become what she hates, and this motivates her to run around the world, offing killers of the Jason/Freddy/Michael Myers variety.

Vlad is her partner, a fearsome, machete wielding warrior, with a heart of gold, and an intense curiosity about the world. I like to think of him as the "anti-Jason." He's the guy who looks like a freak, has been treated as an outcast, but turned out relatively well-adjusted. But, he does have an almost Wolverine-like dark side, and you see it anytime Cassie is threatened.

It sounds like a lot of dramatic hoo-ha when I see it all typed out,  but I think the biggest problem I've had with Hack/Slash is that people expect it to be stupid, and then they're shocked when they find out the characters aren't all that two-dimensional.

BF - Hack/Slash: The Final Revenge of Evil Ernie was a major event for your book. How did this crossover come about and what were the biggest challenges about re-introducing Evil Ernie?

TS - Whenever I did interviews about Hack/Slash, people would ask what characters I wanted Cass and Vlad to tussle with. I'd always say Evil Ernie, since I think Ernie is the ORIGINAL and best comic book slasher. Joe Hvorka at Tales of Wonder was alerted to this fact, so we started talking about crossing them over, and BOOM! we went from a crossover to DDP doing the whole Chaos! relaunch. Writing Ernie was much easier than I expected. The script ended up being the easiest to write Hack/Slash yet. But, that book did end up being a HELL of a challenge in that I really struggled with how to have it drawn. I loved Aadi Salman's stuff, so I chose him to draw it, knowing how excited I was to see Ernie portrayed in a modern horror style. But, in the end, that backfired a little. Chaos! fans wanted Ernie to look just like they were used to… Steven Hughes style and all. So, lesson learned. I still love that book, and think Aadi did an incredible job.

BF – This past Halloween, New Millennium Theater Company of Chicago did a stage adaptation of your comic. What was it like seeing your creations come to life in Hack/Sash: Stage Fright?

TS - Surreal. Nothing changes the way you see the words you wrote like having a living, breathing person speak them out loud. At first, I wanted to hide in the corner; I was so embarrassed at what I'd written. But, I got used to it, and started really noticing what a great job the actors were doing in "life-sizing" the characters. I think the play helped really cement the characters, because seeing them 3-d, in your face, helps nail down nuances that you don't get sitting in front of computer screen in your underwear. All in all, the play was just a great experience... one I'd think I'd like my comic creator buddies to get to experience. Someone do a Godland play..or Walking Dead... quick!

BF – Moving back to comics, the latest installment of Hack/Slash arrives on the 23rd. What is Hack/Slash: Land of Lost Toys about?

TS - It's the "dream killer" riff... it pits Cassie against a killer who kills kids in their dreams, using evil version of their favorite toys. It's great cuz this story allows me to show readers a lot about Cass and Vlad's childhoods, which I think will help define them even better as characters. Yep, readers will get to see THE ORIGIN OF VLAD!!!

BF - What does artist Dave Crosland bring to the series?

TS - He brings 100% pure Dave Crosland. I chose Dave for the story because I want each H/S to have its own identity, and I thought Dave's manic, cartoony stuff would be perfect for a story about killer toys. Dude... I was SO right. There's a stuffed rabbit fight scene in issue 2... well… you just have to see it.

BF - After Land of Lost Toys, are there plans for further Hack/Slash stories?

TS - There is! Trailers is next, which I discuss below, and after that is Hack/Slash: Slice Hard, which will basically be Die Hard with Slashers. I wanted to set Cas against as many frickin' slashers as I could come up with… this one'll be a blast.

BF - Any chance of seeing you draw an issue of Hack/Slash?

TS - I did do 4 pages of the upcoming Hack/Slash: Trailers which is a one-shot featuring a bunch of movie trailer style short stories. Mine is called Tub Club and features lots of girl-on-girl lovin.' I also got Skottie Young, Mike Norton, Stefano Caselli, JAL, and Josh Medors to draw stories.

BF - Do you have a favorite slasher movie or series?

TS - That's a toughy... all around, it's hard to beat the original Halloween. It is THE template for slasher movies. But, I also love the original Sleepway Camp, most of the Nightmare on Elm Street series (2 and 6 suck ass), Jason X (which everyone should see), Terror Firmer (from Troma, of course), and the first 2 Screamfilms.

BF - Jason X? Seriously? Maybe I should check that out... I sort of gave up on the series after Jason Takes Manhattan...

TS - Yes, you must see Jason X. 4 words: Liquid Nitrogen FaceWash.

BF - Any other upcoming projects you'd like to mention?

TSForgotten Realms: Exile start in late November, so pick that up. I did a short story with Eric Stephenson and Sunder Raj for the Image Christmas Special. I also have a G.I. Joe project lined up for March, and an Image comic coming sometime around Easter featuring a character well-known for turning water into wine and hanging around. Keep an eye out. :)

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