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 become the “hunted”, meet some gnomes, and hang out in some backwoods Wisconsin town.
Remember that we’ll be spoiling these issues, so read the book before getting the inside look. This is the beginning of a fun new arc and a great place to jump on, but it’s not to late to go back and get caught up either! Let’s dive in:
You’ve been teasing the Hauncheyville Gnomes story for a while in our monthly feature. Aside from the hoax/urban legend itself, what do you hope to accomplish in your second arc on the book? What can we look forward to, are there any major changes coming, and what have you learned through the creative process on the first 5 issues?
Michael Moreci: We learned a TON, creatively and professionally, over the course of our six first issues. I’ll be completely candid and say that I have regrets over the first issue. Don’t get me wrong, I still stand by much of it; I defend what we were attempting to do and what we achieved. But, it had problems. Mainly, I wish we would have focused more on what made the book unique, rather than what made the book good. What I mean is that we dedicated a good amount of focus into putting pieces into place for the rest of the story and digging into some character dynamics; we should have allocated at least some of that issue to the reality TV aspect and the culture the Hoax Hunters inhabit. But, alas, live and learn.
Owing to that, we’ve really made it a priority to incorporate a balance between all these various aspects of the book: the characters, the reality TV culture, the mystery, and so on. Issue six, I think, is our most complete effort yet, and that carries through the entire Hauncyville arc. We really get into the reality side of Hoax Hunters, what it means to present truth that isn’t truth, to live a life of lies piled on lies, and the general satire of this culture.
Also, in terms of balance, we open up the backstories of our characters/cast. These next three issues are full of character reveals, especially for Ken and Regan. Readers will see both characters challenged in fundamental ways and be forced to confront who they are and how they are willing to utilize their abilities. And, yeah, there are some big shakeups coming for the Hoax Hunters. By the time this arc is over, the team may not be the happy family we thought them to be.
The Hoax Hunters encounter all manner of journalists and fans at a convention at the start of the issue. How much of this is based on your own experience at comic cons? There’s some fairly normal depictions of con-goers and a couple – shall we say – not so flattering ones.
Steve Seeley: Ha! Honestly, we have yet to have the broad gamut of con experiences with Hoax Hunters. All our fans have been great so far. But I’ve been going to comic conventions (and toy conventions, which are even more nerdy) since I was a little kid, so yeah, I’ve seen it all. So those depictions are definitely built off real characters, although admittedly, slightly stereotypical.
At the con, Hoax Hunters producer Donovan gets into it with some Hoax Hunters skeptics. Is this something competitive and overconfident in Donovan’s personality that’s taking over, or is he simply just eager to screw these skeptics over in some way? As readers, we’ve been led to view Donovan as somewhat sinister. Does he know that he’s potentially endangering the show and the show’s cast?
MM: Donovan has become the most fun character to write over the past three issues. He’s sleazy, manipulative, highly intelligent, and you never know if he’s telling the truth. Who doesn’t want to write that character? Yeah, he’s been presented as sinister, but I think readers will reach a point when they begin to doubt whether he is or isn’t. Maybe at his core he’s good–after all, we haven’t revealed what the battle lines are in Hoax Hunters. Where does Donovan fall? And Borges? And The Faceless Man? We assume they’re all “bad guys,” potentially, but Donovan will raise some interesting questions to that validity to the notions of “good” and “bad” in this universe. He’s chaos in the system, and it’s a blast writing him as he makes a mess of things.
As for his reaction to the Hoax Hunters Hunters, let’s say that Donovan doesn’t do anything without fully understanding how it benefits his own cause…
We also see Donovan trick Regan into having a dinner with him that reveals both his perversely aggressive nature and his somewhat underhanded intentions with the cast of the show. He seems to be targeting Jack specifically, trying to influence Regan’s trust in him. Is Donovan threatened by Jack? What, ultimately, is Donovan hoping to accomplish with these behind-the-scenes manipulations?
MM: I think, ultimately, Donovan is threatened by Jack. We learned in the first arc that Jack is starting to play by his own rules and pursue his own agenda (tracking down his father and unraveling the mystery of his disappearance, which clearly has ties to the Hoax Hunters organization). Similarly, as we’ll see in this current arc, Donovan is also pursuing his own particular ends; it might just so happen that Donovan and Jack’s missions are in conflict with one another, or maybe they’re too similar. But the problem, for Donovan, is he can’t have a loose cannon shaking things up. You can only have one clandestine operation going on in a clandestine organization, you know? So Donovan needs to, discreetly, find out what Jack knows and, ultimately, use it or put an end to it. Jack being Jack, that won’t be easy.
As for influencing Regan, that’s a big, big part of the next few issues and will continue in a surprising way in the third arc. Keep in mind Regan, as we’ve seen, is very powerful, and Donovan may know more about her that Regan knows about herself. Powerful people make for powerful allies. And that’s all I can say about that.
As the Hoax Hunters are leaving the con, Jack sees a glimpse of a man in a bow tie (I apologize – I didn’t know if we had his name yet or not), who disappears in the next panel. Can you tease what this thread might mean? Any coincidence that the man is dressed similarly to the way Ken is dressed?
MM: That’s our man Borges, he of the mysterious bow tie. We saw him, briefly, in the flashback scene in issue #3 and again in issue #5. He’s a really important character to the series, working as a bridge between the era of Jack’s dad and Jack’s present. Whatever happened in that era of the Hoax Hunters history, it has a lot of importance, and Borges was there. Ergo, he’s important. Right now, like the Faceless Man, he’s looming on the periphery; he’s what Steve and I call “mythology characters.” Their threads are imbedded deep in the overall story’s mythos.
And, for those who like Easter eggs, if you can pinpoint who Borges is, you’ll piece together something pretty cool about his character…
The actual urban legend of the Hauncheyville Gnomes is fascinatingly weird and I would urge readers to check out its wikipedia page for more. By the end of the issue, we’ve seen some of the brutal sorts of murders that they’re known for. The legend also speaks of an “albino man” who has in a way befriended the gnomes. Are we going to see the Albino Man play a major role? Is there anything that you’ll be adding to legend that isn’t already present?
SS: The Albino Man makes his grand entrance at the end of issue 6 with a rather grotesque maneuver. He will become a huge part in the arc.
The real legend, even despite the Albino man, is sorta silly, or at least non threatening. As far as adding stuff, we sorta take the legend and run it through a few horror filters and then back again. We also wanted to be able to connect Hauncheyville with the rest of the Hoax Hunters mythos, and I think we accomplish that nicely by the end of the arc.
A question for Steve: you grew up in Central Wisconsin, as did I (go Evergreens!). But I had not heard of the Hauncheyville Gnomes legend before talking with you and Michael. Was this something that you knew growing up? Had you heard this before? Most intriguingly, have you ever made your way over to Mystic Drive in Muskego to check out the legend for yourself?
SS: What?? Did you go to Everest?? Small world.
Yes, I did. Must be something comic booky in the water back home.
SS: Honestly, the first time I heard of the legend was from Josh Crowley and Mark Taylor over at Westfield Comics in Madison, Wisconsin. Mike and I were doing a signing there and Josh brought up the legend. We became enamored with it and decided to make it a story-line. Note, because of their help, both Josh and Mark become characters in the story as members of the Hoax Hunters Hunters. Sadly one of them doesn’t last long. Sorry Mark. Whoops. I should have said spoiler alert.
As for going there. Not yet. I think a Hoax Hunter company trip is needed.
Finally, you guys continue to add to the “world” of the Hoax Hunters by showing a group of skeptics that are specifically targeting our team. Would the cryptids of the world that have been hidden away by the Hoax Hunters support what these skeptics are doing? Will we see future skeptics cross paths and perhaps even ally with the cryptids? There’s so much potential for conflict between the Hoax Hunters, those that have maybe figure out what the Hoax Hunters are doing, the producers of the show, the cryptids themselves, and the hoaxes themselves. How do you balance all of these conflicts and make sure that nothing is lost or forgotten along the way?
SS: That’s why we have two writers. Literally.
We knew when starting Hoax Hunters that it could and would be potential overwhelming. Its a big world to play with, but we also knew we couldn’t leave certain elements or ideas out. We came into this wanting to create an expansive story. We joke a lot about not knowing what we are doing, but amazingly we do. Future arcs contain elements of all of these, and we are relatively sure we don’t leave out anything.
Thanks again, fellas! Lots of great stuff to digest, as always.