Welcome back to Hoax Hunters Backstage Pass, where you get a behind the scenes look at the work done by writers Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley. They’ll take you inside the big moments & mysteries of every issue. This month, the Hoax Hunters rumble with some real freaks and monsters and evoke the great Indiana Jones as the first arc of the series comes to a close.
Remember that we’ll be spoiling these issues, so read the book before getting the inside look. I did lots of digging again this month. Let’s dive in:
Right on page 1, the term “Rougarou” (a Louisiana werewolf urban legend) had me running to wikipedia. I found it humorous that the legend seems to have been invented all those years ago with the purpose of scaring children into behaving and observe their religions more closely.
How often do you stumble upon something unexpected that makes its way into the book while doing your urban legend research? Do new story ideas pop up when you weren’t even looking for them?
Michael Moreci: I devote a good deal of time to Internet searching, reading books, and other various methods of research. But, when it comes to the rougarou, I have to give credit where it’s due. My knowledge of it is a product of a talk with Kody Chamberlin (an artist I very much admire). He’s a Louisiana guy, and we were talking about the first arc of Hoax Hunters taking place in the bayou, and he asked “Is the rougarou in it?” I fully admitted I had no idea what that was, and when he explained it, I knew we had to squeeze it in somehow. We were already wrapping issue #2, so it was a challenge, but I’m glad that weird beast is in there – adds to the local authenticity, I think.
So to answer your question: Absolutely, we get ideas popping up all the time. Because not only are Steve and I big fans of the cryptid/folklore culture (whatever you want to call it), so many other people are as well. More than I expected. At every con we’ve attended, every signing we’ve done, people have come to us and asked if we heard of a certain legend, or if we’ve read a particular book. I love it, can’t get enough. There’s so much out there and most times, Steve and I haven’t heard of the legend in question.
Hell, our next arc (starting in issue #6) is a product of a myth we had explained to us at a signing at Westfield Comics in Madison, Wisconsin. There’s this super weird story of the Haunchyville gnomes and their albino friend – it’s genuinely creepy. Their place in the town’s history, to boot, is so fascinating that Steve and I couldn’t resist. So we bumped back our original plans for the second arc and slid in Haunchyville, and I’m thrilled we did. The story is a lot of fun.
Who came up with the idea for the creature in the lucha libre mask? I had to chuckle watching Jack punching him right across the face. That whole fight scene was fun in its absurdity.
MM: That’s all Axel (artist Axel Medellin). We let him do his thing with the fight scene, and the result is this weird rumble that couldn’t have been better.
The triangle of conflict between Jack, Durand, and Clive comes to a head in the middle of this issue. When they part ways, it’s clear that it’s not over between any of them. How soon can we expect Durand to make good on his threats against the Hoax Hunters? Is this a seed for a later story, or something that will hang over the group for as long as the series is running?
Steve Seeley: Durand’s departure in this issue leads to big things in future issues and arcs. For so long, the Hoax Hunters organization has been able to protect and keep hidden the cryptids that have wanted to remain that way, but there are cryptids who want nothing to do with the Hoax Hunters organization and their “services”. Durand will sort of become the “hairy face” of this particular group of cryptids. Its definitely a seed for a bigger story. So stay tuned!Continued below
I think the idea that Durand’s clan has been subjugated in some way by the Hoax Hunters is a solid moral conflict and one of the most interesting things about the book. A big pitfall in storytelling is introducing major moral implications and then sidestepping them to avoid dealing with it. How much attention are you paying to making sure that this conflict pays off in the long run?
MM: This is a great question, and a fantastic observation. Storytelling is tricky in this way, because when dealing with moral conflicts there is a fine line to walk. And that line teeters between dealing with moral dilemmas in an appropriate way – one that leads readers to their own conclusion, with minimal influence – and where the moral implications become the story. For the latter, I’m thinking of the recent movie “The Master.” I love P.T. Anderson, but that movie was all about the message; it was solely focused on the point it was trying to hammer home. It lost sight of character, and story, and structure, all for the sake of appeasing this grand objective. I’m not a fan of that, but I understand that, when dealing with heavy themes, it’s easy to get submerged in the ideas. You’re passionate about them, you believe in their importance. But a balance is necessary because, at the same time, you don’t want your message to be too understated to the point it gets lost.
Regarding Hoax Hunters, this kind of thorny issue (and others that crop up) will certainly play a formative role in understanding our main characters. This isn’t X-Files, where they’re on a noble quest to find the truth and protect the world. Sure, the Hoax Hunters do, in a way, keep the world safe for man and monster, but their primary objective is to keep things in check. And that requires force, lies, and, as we saw with Jack and Durand in issue 4, betrayal. This wears on people, and it certainly effects Jack, Regan, and Ken in ways we’ll see as the story continues.
You may not want to give this away, but Clive claims that Jack’s father is destroying parallel universes. If this is true, is it because he’s trying to protect the multiverse from something else? Is he doing it inadvertently? Could it be possible that he’s doing it for selfish reasons or even acting as some sort of villain?
SS: Man, good question. And even though we hate doing this, we’re gonna plead the fifth. The connection between these dead universe and Alan is going to unravel in potentially big and devastating ways for the Hoax Hunters and the world at large.
When Donovan shows up on behalf of the Hoax Hunters “executives”, Regan remarks that she smells sulfur. Forgive me if I’m whiffing on something obvious, but what is that implying? Is Donovan some sort of demon? What does this imply about the Hoax Hunters?
MM: Ha, no, that’s just a smart-ass comment from Regan. He’s their boss so, of course, he’s the devil. I think I may have stolen the line from a Woody Allen movie, in fact.
But that doesn’t mean Donovan doesn’t have his own…hidden side. I mean, what was that red-eyed thing driving his car?!
Donovan and Clive walk through a room in the studio that is packed full with shelves of boxes and documents. My notes said “Raiders of the Lost Ark government warehouse” – lo and behold, you make an Indiana Jones reference not but a few panels later. I suppose we can expect that Jack and the Hoax Hunters might not be entirely thrilled with what the “top men” are going to be doing with Clive and the evidence from the swamp incident? While we’re on the subject: what’s the best Indiana Jones movie? There’s only one right answer.
MM: The one with Shia Labouf, clearly.
That’s a joke – don’t close the interview! I love the Indiana Jones movies, maybe even more so than Star Wars. Raiders is the best, with Crusade not far behind. I love Doom, but Kate Capshaw’s shrill utter mangles the first 40 minutes. Why can’t Lucas go back and CGI in a better actress? Spielberg and her are divorced, right? It’s fine!Continued below
Anyway, you’re right, as the stakes get raised in the Hoax Hunters universe you’ll find there’s going to be more antagonism between the two sides. The Hoax Hunters have always had their beefs with management for the exact reasons you describe. Duplicity, trust, etc. We’ll see these troubles come to light as the story unwinds, causing a bigger and bigger rift between the Hoax Hunters and the higher ups – after all, what are the higher ups hiding, and why hide it from their own side?
There’s a nice little character scene where Ken and Jack discuss the meeting with Donovan. Ken emphatically states that he hoped that Jack gave up the device and will move on from the incident with Clive. This marks another time wherein Ken wants to stay relatively uninvolved and unemotional about his Hoax Hunters duty.
Is Ken looking out for Jack’s wellbeing? Is being a detached person part of Ken’s personality? Has he seen things that the other Hoax Hunters haven’t that would make him feel this way?
SS: Ken’s personality is definitely reflected in these actions. He does care, but ultimately he’s sorta apathetic due to that whole, you know, being dead thing. And yeah, he has been a member longer than any of the other current members, so he has seen and been through considerably more than both Regan and Jack. Plus, since Ken has more time invested, he’s had more contact with the higher ups and has a little bit of a better understanding to exactly what is going on, thus has a better grasp on the “need-to-know” information.
On the final pages, it’s revealed that Jack has kept the real portal device and is about to head into the unknown. Assuming Jack finds his father, will this be something that he’ll involve the Hoax Hunters in? Does he consider them trustworthy friends? Is he afraid of what the higher ups may do with the multiverse and his father?
SS: Jack searching for his father is largely a personal issue. Inevitably, the rest of the team is going to get involved, especially since he’s using HH resources to pursue his father.
As for Donovan and the other higher ups, these sorta “extracurricular’ activities of Jack’s would be grounds for dismissal, so it’s in his best interest that they remain oblivious.
So there you have it! Lots of questions answered and a couple juicy secrets kept close to the vests of the creators. Michael also picked the correct answer for the Indiana Jones question (feel free to debate that in the comments). Be sure to join us next time and catch up on the prior columns, if you haven’t read them!