Interview with Mike Moreci and Steve Seeley on new Hack/Slash Series

Anyone who follows me across to Newsarama's Best Shots team knows that I became a big fan of Tim Seeley's Hack/Slash series, about serial killer-killer Cassie. Haunted by having one of the worst mothers possible but possessing a force of will that wouldn't quit, Carrie made sacrifice after sacrifice to stop others from being harmed.

It's a thankless task, and at the end of the Seeley series, Carrie put away her spiked baseball bat to try to have a normal life.

As if that was possible.

Now the writing team of Mike Moreci and Steve Seeley (Hoax Hunters) are bringing Cassie back in a new series that takes the heroine down a different path. Called Hack/Slash Son of Samhain, the first issue is set to drop tomorrow, July 2nd. She's still on the offensive, but the style of foes has changed, giving Cassie perhaps her greatest challenge yet!

I had the pleasure of sitting down over e-mail with both Moreci and Seeley to discuss Hack/Slash Son of Samhain, their approach to writing another indie writer's signature character, and what fans can expect of this new series.

Rob McMonigal: Not all of Panel Patter's readers will be familiar with Hack/Slash. For those who are new, can you give them a rundown on the premise and the main character?

Steve Seeley: Cassie Hack was a slasher hunter. She was born into the slasher genre. But Cassie was the survivor. The girl who made it out alive. She teamed up with an oft mistaken individual named Vlad. They traveled around the country ridding towns of their all their slasher-related problems.

Sadly, (spoiler!!) Vlad dies. As does the existence of the slasher. Our series picks up with Cassie struggling to make sense of a slasher-less, Vlad-less world.

McMonigal: What makes Cassie such a compelling character that she's lasted through several comics incarnations now?

Mike Moreci: There’s two types of stories that have endured for countless years in American literature: The second act story, and the story of the self-made person. Cassie is both, and I think that’s one of the fundamental things that resonates with so many people—it strikes right to the heart of the American myth of invention and reinvention. That’s powerful stuff.

Plus, in addition to being an incredibly smart, fun, and sexy romp, I think it has been the right book at the right time for a while now. As comics continue to diversify, readers are seeking new voices. Not necessarily entirely new characters—in a certain light, Cassie is pretty much Peter Parker, after all—but characters who speak through the readers’ point of view. Cassie is a smart, strong, female character who overcomes adversity and struggles with relationships, her sense of self, and other problems that are common to so many people. It’s not an totally uncommon story, done through a different lens, and done well, and you have something really special. 

McMonigal: That's a really good point about her character archetype, and I love the idea of taking that concept and applying it to new characters. Speaking of new, in your own words, tell us a little bit about the new series. How would you describe it to an existing fan of Cassie's as well as to those who may be new to the series?

Seeley: We've sorta stuck with the motto "same beat, new tune." It's still a story about Cassie. She's grown up but she still loves a good ole throw down.  And although she's been forced to retire from the life of a slasher hunter, she soon finds out that there's a whole new world emerging from the underground that proves the more things change, the more they stay the same.

McMonigal: Hack/Slash is of course the brainchild of Tim Seeley. How did the idea of writing new adventures for Cassie come about, and how involved (if at all) is Tim in the creation of the new series?

Moreci: A lot of haggling—and I’m only sort of kidding. I actually pitched Tim, blind, on a series continuing Cassie’s adventures. That never came to pass, but I think it did show Tim how serious both Steve and I are about fashioning a continuation of his work. When Tim did decide he wanted to bring Cassie back, that it made sense to, he gave us the opportunity to take the wheel.

Luckily, he’s still around for the entire process. He’s given us a lot of insight along the way. Likewise, Stefano Caselli, who co-created Hack/Slash, has provided Emilio with a fair amount of guidance. So, we’re definitely in good hands.

McMonigal: You probably can't tell me, but I'll ask anyway--will we be seeing characters from Cassie's past in future issues? Or are you looking primarily to forge your own path and cast?

Moreci: We’re definitely looking to form our own universe, for sure. Cassie is going to have new enemies and allies. But, we don’t want to totally disregard her past, especially when characters can blend organically into the fabric of the story. We will see a couple of fan favorites in issue #3, and it was blast bringing these characters back, if only briefly.

McMonigal: It's early yet, but the story so far looks like it borrows heavily from Dark Fantasy instead of just going back to the serial killer roots. Are you shooting for a genre mash-up here, or this is a subtle re-positioning for Cassie as she looks to find her place after trying to leave it all behind her?

Moreci: It’s definitely a re-positioning. Steve and I both wanted to build a new mythos for Cassie and develop a new threat. We’re digging into monster/fantasy territory, which is really cool and fun, but it also forces Cassie to relearn a lot of things about who she is and how she does her job. We’re really developing Cassie into a new role—Vlad’s gone, the slashers are pretty much no more, and she’s not the same person she was, having gone through the particular hell we saw in Tim’s Image run.

I think this approach, in the long run, will be for more gratifying for readers and fans of the series. Sure, Steve and I could’ve found a way to reignite the war of Cassie vs. the slashers. We could have put her right back where she was, in a sense. But, for better or worse, we’re carving out our own thing, evolving Cassie in a direction that, to us—as fans and writers—feels natural to her as a character.

McMonigal: That makes sense, especially since it does allow you--or another future creative team--to take that path after all, if the story is right. Moving back to the original series for a moment: You co-wrote a very strong issue of the most recent ongoing series, looking at the ultimate futility of Cassie's quest via the lens of an evil that could not die. I really liked the idea that no matter what, Cassie can't stop all those who would kill others. Will that theme return here in the new story somehow?

Seeley: It's always there. I mean, that's sort of her MO. She's always fighting and stopping things that inevitably return.  She lives in a state of perpetual exhaustion. But that's one of the things that makes Cassie who she is.

McMonigal: In both Hoax Hunters and now again in this first issue of Hack/Slash, the horrors your protagonist(s) must face comes out of stories and legends personified and made into creatures that stalk humanity. The idea of hidden dangers about to be unlocked comes through as an overarching idea in your past work. Is that a conscious choice? Or just the nature of horror's classic link to fear of the unknown or unexplained?

Moreci: I think it’s conscious, in a weirdly latent way. My personal philosophy is that we’re all sitting on a powder keg of evils and dangers and horrors all around us. I recently did a Hellraiser story that touched on this exactly. Basically, the story says, thematically, that the best way to stay safe in this world, at times, is to look away. This isn’t a case for cowardice or ignorance, but if you look too deep into things, you see how tenuous our grasp on a sane, ordered world is. Our minds can’t even handle the alternative.

I think stories are a way of keeping a sidelong glance at these horrors—we’re not looking at them, but we’re not looking away either. They remind us of the unspeakable things that can and do happen, the evil that stalks us all. While it seems like an evil is being unlocked, it’s really been there the entire time.

McMonigal: Now that's a thought guaranteed to give me nightmares! Let's look away from that idea and discuss the art. Tell me about artist Emilio Lasio. 

Seeley: Oh man, I love me some Emilio! Emilio is an incredible artist. I think both Mike and I first got introduced to him thru Hack/Slash. He did a few fill in issues. We had him do an issue of Hoax Hunters (#5) as a stand in and he killed it. It's an amazing issue. After that we worked with him again on our H/S issue from the first run that you mentioned above.

When we first talked about rebooting the series, he was the top of a very short list of artists.
It's been an honor so far to work with him, Stefano and K. Michael Russell. It's a great artistic team.

McMonigal: Without giving too much away to readers, can you talk about what went into creating the Title Card splash page? I think it's one of the most effective and visually interesting backstory devices I've seen in
a long time.

Seeley: That was a lot of fun to write albeit tough as hell. We wanted to have a clever way to show what Cassie's life has been like since the first series had ended since quite a few years have past. We were hesitant to do a straight up montage or flash back scene. The title page was born out of that hesitation.

Also it should be noted that the art team owned those pages. Fitting a scene into the letter "S" or "A" can't be an easy task.

McMonigal: Beyond just that set of pages, the artwork on the first issue is outstanding. There is a strong sense of flow and movement, and just the right blend of realism and the fantastical. The layouts do an amazing job of picking just the right visual and viewpoint to drive home the action. How much of that detail work comes from the script and how much is Lasio's contribution based on your suggestions?

Moreci: I’d like to say it’s a balance—we do write really full scripts—but the beauty of Hack/Slash 2.0 is a result of Emilio and Stefano’s tremendous efforts. Those guys are working so, so hard on this book, and they have so much passion for it; it can’t help but come out in their work. Emilio has leveled up big time here and has created something that he should be remarkably proud of.

McMonigal: Last chance to hook people in for the first issue: What's one thing you'd say to potentially lure them in, especially if they might not normally pick up a book based on a heroine who murders killers with a spiked baseball bat?'

Seeley: Monsters. People love monsters. Plus said spiked baseball bat explodes lots of monster heads, so that can only be a good thing, right?

Seriously, it's a fun book. It's a little bit humor, a little bit horror, and a lot of bit awesome adventure. Sold? Don't forget baseball bats and smooshed heads.

McMonigal: Thanks again to both of you for taking the time to speak with me. I wish you the best of luck with this series and your other work, both together and separately. You both are really a part of the strong revival in horror comics right now.

Hack/Slash Son of Samhain #1 is out from Image Comics tomorrow, July 2nd, and will be available at find comic book shops everywhere as well as your preferred digital device.