Last year, BOOM! Studios debuted a new series from Bryce Carlson and Vanesa R. Del Rey called “Hit” (which became “Hit: 1955” in trade), about a secret police hit squad in a noir-filled 4-issue romp — and we quite liked it. Debuting as our Pick of the Week in September and never losing steam, it was a stylistic and darkly masterful comic that picked up a lot of steam and new fans in trade.
Well, now “Hit” is back for more as we jump two years ahead for “Hit: 1957.” Carlson and Del Rey pick up the story of Harvey Slater and his secret police hit squad, though things are certainly tense now that infamous gangster Mickey Cohen is back in the streets. LA is now more dangerous as the underground gets meaner, Internal Affairs begins closing in and everything becomes incredibly dark. Well, more dark.
Here’s the official solicit from BOOM! Studios:
HIT: 1957 #1 (of 4)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
On sale: March 2015
Author: Bryce Carlson
Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey
Cover Artists: A. Vanesa R. Del Rey B. Trevor Hairsine (10 Years Cover) INCV C. Dustin Nguyen INCV
Format: 32 pages, full color
WHY WE LOVE IT: Hit: 1955 was one of our favorite original series of 2013, a dark, violent dive into the depths of 1950s corruption in Los Angeles featuring the writing of Bryce Carlson and the debut of Russ Manning Award for Most Promising Newcomer nominee Vanesa R. Del Rey. We couldn’t wait to take another Hit!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: The next entry in the Harvey Award-nominated series, Hit: 1957 takes us later in the seminal decade of change for the LAPD—familiar faces, new threats, and more sharp, smart noir. Even if you missed out on the first series, if you’re a fan of crime comics like Parker, Criminal, and Tumor, Hit is in your wheelhouse.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Crime is down in Los Angeles—at least, on the surface. Mickey Cohen has been quiet since his release from prison and the LAPD has seemingly regained control of the city. But the underground is a different story. Det. Harvey Slater and company have spent the last two years focused on Domino and his Syndicate’s unrelenting infiltration, but no matter how many people the hit squad kills, the real fight for Los Angeles rages on. Meanwhile, Slater’s being hounded by Internal Affairs, Bonnie Brae is missing, and everything is falling apart at the seams.
Read on as we chat with Bryce Carlson all about the second volume of their hit series, what’s new, what’s old, what’s noir and more.
So lets set the stage for “Hit: 1957.” What’s changed, both for the story and its characters and for you as creators, since the first installment?
Bryce Carlson: Let’s do it! A ton has changed in Los Angeles from 1955 to 1957. Mickey Cohen’s out of prison and back on the streets, crime is reportedly the lowest it’s been in years — oh, and the frisbee exists, though it’s called a Pluto Platter. In the last two years of “Hit,” Slater’s formed a new hit squad, Bonnie’s been enjoying herself by the beach in San Clemente, California, and the mystery mob man, Domino, has disappeared off the map. Yeah, I know, a lot of moving parts. It is noir after all.
I don’t want to speak for Vanesa but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how things have completely blown up for her. Between being nominated for the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award and the Harvey Award for Best Inker, and seeing the projects she’s gone on to do, I couldn’t be prouder of her. It’s a cool feeling being part of a project that introduces such a great talent to the world.
For me, it’s weird. People come up to me at conventions to chat and get their books signed, and know me purely as a creator. That’s bizarre. I’ve been in this industry nearly seven years and am used to people recognizing me as the Managing Editor at BOOM! Studios (typically trying to slip a pitch in my pocket), but this is the first time I’ve ever experienced what it feels like to be on the creator side of a book. I’m still convinced that no one has really read the book and this is actually all one big drug-induced hallucination I’m experiencing while hooked up to a machine in a dark basement somewhere.Continued below
With one series under the belt and a second on its way, what lessons do you think you’ve learned from doing the first volume of the book?
BC: How much time do you have? “Hit” is my first original series and my first time working so closely with an artist so the list is lengthy. A key lesson I’ve learned is not to be precious and to always be open to change — no matter how much I love something — but the most important lesson has probably been: Tell the story you want to tell, and tell all of it. I approached “Hit: 1955” like I would never get the chance to tell more stories in this world, and that’s exactly how I’m approaching “Hit: 1957.”
I noticed that the title of the series changed from “Hit” to “Hit: 1955,” which is also reflected in the new series being called “1957.” Have your overall plans changed for the series based on the success of the first, and if so, to what extent?
BC: Yeah, once the first series wrapped and we saw that it was successful, I told BOOM! that if there was an opportunity for more I had an idea I was excited about. It made sense to me to do another arc in the ’50s to continue the story and wrap up the decade in a nice 8-issue season. Once we got the greeenlight on that, I thought it would be really cool to use years as subtitles for each arc so that’s why we used “1955” as the subtitle on the first trade and threw “1957” on the new series. I dig the “series of miniseries” model and the 8-issue season encapsulating a specific decade is a unique approach that feels organic to “Hit.”
The second series, from the description alone, seems like you’ll be spinning quite a few dire plates. How has the process been like in terms of upping the ante?
BC: “1955” was pretty dark, and “1957” definitely doesn’t let up. In terms of the story, I’m not looking to one-up the previous series or raise the stakes necessarily but there is a natural progression since it continues the character and plot lines from “1955.” I feel like a lot of stories get lost and lose their magic when they try to outdo themselves and come in over the top. I’m coming at this with an eye for setting up different stakes that are organic to the story rather than focusing on making everything bigger, crazier, etc. Obviously I want this new arc to follow the trajectory of the previous arc and pay off, but I also want to make sure that this arc stands on its own.
The first series had a very potent and wonderful flair to it, both in terms of the content and narration as well as the gritty and moody artwork. In what ways are we going to see this evolve as you both push yourself for the second volume?
BC: That’s nice to hear because the voice of this series, both the writing and art, isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the hardest part of the book but I really believe it’s what makes “Hit” what it is. I’m definitely pushing myself on the writing end, exploring different characters, juggling more storylines, attacking “new” kinds of scenes and moments, trying to do progressive things visually — all while working to maintain the tone and feel of the series. Like I said, it’s no easy task.
Often times with crime comics we see a lot of influence in the first volume that dissipates as the second installment kicks off, with books finding their own voice a bit more. Have you both found that to be true here, in terms of finding the voice of the series?
BC: I think it’s like that any time you’re working with genre material. On one hand, you’re working within a well-established genre and want it to feel like it’s part of that fabric. You want to deliver on the “genre” aspect of it. On the other hand, you want to express yourself and tell a unique story that’s true to you and your voice. It feels like we’ve found our footing and are striking the right balance on this new series but you can tell me when the book comes out in March.Continued below
“Noir” is something that we find is pretty well defined at this point, so how are you both planning to continue to push the book and the boundaries of “noir” in the second volume?
BC: You’re not wrong. I love noir stories and it’s a genre with a wildly large library. And I’d argue that it’s one of if not the highest quality genre in terms of good material versus bad. We’re doing some things that feel very noir but we’re also trying to do some things that feel fresh within the genre. Vanesa is exceptional at bringing a unique feeling of dread and subtle horror in her artwork on “Hit” and that’s one of the aspects we’re looking to preserve and push further. There are moments in this new series unlike anything we did in”1955″ and different from any other noir story I’ve come across so we’ll see what other fans of the genre have to say. When everything’s said and done, it’s an honor to have a chance to contribute to this genre so hopefully we’re being additive and not defiling it.
The 1950s were certainly rife with certain stereotypes, some of which cropped up in different ways in the first volume. Do you find it to be a challenge in terms of balancing “period appropriate” stereotypes with modern sensibilities?
BC: It is a challenge, and to that I say, “Challenge accepted.” There are a lot of things from the era that don’t jive with modern sensibilities but it’s a period piece so we have to stay true to the time. It’s historical fiction but I’m not in the business of writing revisionist history. I’m not going to pretend that racism and misogyny weren’t prevalent in the 1950s. That doesn’t mean I’m going to celebrate everything that was wrong at the time, but I’m also not shying away. If it adds a level of authenticity while serving the story in an organic way, it’s going to be there. And if those things make some people uncomfortable, that means we’re doing something right.
In what ways do you hope to have “Hit” continue to stand out against the crowd of similar crime comics, both in terms of execution and stylization?
BC: All of them. We want the voice to continue to be recognizable and speak for itself. We want readers to be able to pick the visual storytelling out of crime lineup. We want things like the in-world ads and essays in the back of every single issue to continue giving monthly readers a little something extra. The last thing we want is for “Hit” to be just another crime comic.
Obviously we live in a rather tumultuous time in regards to citizen/police relations. Given that “Hit” is a period piece, though, are we going to see any influence from the real world leak into the comic — especially since, you know, the idea of a police hit squad is a bit morally/ethically dubious in the first place?
BC: It’s a very interesting time to be doing this story, especially considering everything that’s happened just in the last few weeks. It’s impossible to ignore and readers are going to have the chance to form their own conclusions as to how “Hit” informs what’s happening today. This is a unique opportunity for us to comment on a specific era of police culture and lay some groundwork explaining how we’ve gotten to where we are, for better or for worse. That’s always been part of my bigger picture idea for “Hit” and this particular point in the modern day is going to no doubt amplify that. I mean, we’re telling a story about police who kill people at will. We live in a time today where police kill people at will. People can take from that what they will.