A staple in comics, fans have watched the adventures of Cassie Hack in the pages of “Hack/Slash” for a decade now. And as of March’s issue #25, the adventures of Cassie are over under the pen of Tim Seeley.
That is, until July 2nd, when Cassie returns in the new series “Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain.” What’s different now, though, is that Tim Seeley is no longer the steward of her destiny. Replacing Seeley on the title is writers Steve Seeley and Michael Moreci of “Hoax Hunters” with artist Emilio Lasio, picking up again with Cassie a some time after the events of the finale. Living a different life but still kicking ass and fighting monsters, it’s the first in a new series that will chronicle the continued adventures of Hack.
And today, we sit down with writers Seeley and Moreci about the relaunch, what’s new, what’s new reader friendly and more.
So, you guys are taking over “Hack/Slash,” which is a pretty big deal. How are you guys feeling as the new stewards of Cassie Hack?
Steve Seeley: It’s an honor for sure. I always feel I have to say this, but all biases aside, “Hack/Slash” is incredible. I’m a huge fan. It was a fantastic book with a fantastic cast of characters. So taking the helm has been a (nerve-racking) blast.
Michael Moreci: Good, I think? Like Steve said, we’re both incredible fans of the series. We actually pitched Tim on relaunching the series before he decided to do so because we really wanted to make it happen. Steve and I wrote an issue before, #19, and it’s one of the best collaborative things we’ve done — I’m proud of that issue.
It’s a little stressful as well, because Tim has cultivated such a loyal, intimate fan base that are very invested in this universe. And they should be, that’s great. So taking what Tim did and veering it in our direction, that’s scary. But the decisions we’ve made, one, have all been overseen by Tim and, two, are in the best interest of organically maturing Cassie as a character. We all want the same thing, to have more kick-ass “Hack/Slash” stories. Steve and I are committed to providing exactly that.
Speaking honestly, I’m actually not really familiar with the series. I’ve read issues from the original run and the more recent relaunch, but I’m no Haxpert, you know? So for you guys, to you, what is it that makes this a book with an endearing legacy, that makes Cassie such a staple comics character?
SS: Tim wrote the hell out of Cassie. Over the run he made her such an interesting/complex character. Yeah she’s a sexy badass, but she’s so so much more than that, and to me, without a doubt, that is what makes her most appealing. She’s this deeply flawed yet super grounded character. It’s really a multifaceted person to write. And also, to reiterate, she’s a sexy badass.
MM: Steve is absolutely correct. This past weekend at C2E2, we all did a “Hack/Slash” 10th anniversary panel. During the Q and A portion, a man came to the mic and told a story about a friend of his was going through a terrible rut in her life. To help lift her spirits, he gave her his collection of “Hack/Slash” comics. A week later, she came back to him, tears in her eyes, saying that Cassie essentially saved her life, that she finally found a character, a hero, who spoke to her. That’s amazingly powerful stuff, and it speaks to what Tim accomplished with Cassie. She’s such a great female character — mentally, physically, and emotionally strong. Put that in the context of fun, smart, bloody horror, and you have me every day of the week.
I understand that with the new series comes some changes to the traditional “Hack/Slash” formula. Can you tell me about how the new series is going to be different from that which came before?
SS: Well. No Vlad. He’s dead. And like really dead. Not Marvel/ DC dead. And the slashers are all gone. So it’s really a story of Cassie attempting to reinvent herself, but ultimately realizing that life has a funny way of proving the ole’ adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”Continued below
MM: Yeah, exactly as Steve says. Our approach to this story is a continuation of Tim’s work, not a mimicry of it. We really had to look hard at Cassie and think about who she is, was, and will be. Like Steve points out, this is someone who has had her entire life torn asunder. Her best friend is dead and her reason for living (hunting bad guys) is no more. When we find Cassie, she’s kinda adrift, which I know goes against every impulse to make her the evergreen character of constant strength. But, this happens to people in the real world—you lose enough of the things that define who you are, and it becomes difficult to maintain your grip on your identity and why you’re getting out of bed in the morning.
One thing that is apparent from looking over some of the preview material is that this is going to be a remarkably different book than what came before. Given that you’re both fans of the book, what was it that you wanted to change when you started your takeover, and how much freedom did you guys have to basically reinvent the wheel here, so to say?
SS: Both Mike and I were very interested in the angle of Cassie’s downfall. What happens to someone after they lose, well, pretty much everything: her best friend, her job, her reasons to remind her that’s she’s human. It’s a deep angle. But at the same time we didn’t want to get to heavy, ya know. “Hack/Slash” was always fun, even at its darkest, so that’s something that we both knew we had to keep front and center as well.
MM: In a nutshell, we wanted monsters. Lots of gnarly monsters.
You know, we could have thought of ways to keep the slasher tradition going. Like, Cat’s serum worked, but only temporarily. Now they’re all back with a vengeance. But, again, we’re not interested in a simulacra of what did Tim, nor is that what Tim wants. This is a new chapter in the story and in Cassie’s life, so she looks different, the threat is new, and there are new characters. We are still tied to the previous storyline (the first mini-series is called “Son of Samhain” after all), but it’s now converging with a new narrative stream.
What’s cool is that Tim, Stefano (Casselli, “Hack/Slash” co-creator), and Jim Lowder (longtime “Hack/Slash” editor) have been with us the whole time as we’ve developed this new mythology. We had tons of freedom, but we were guided as well, which was awesome. It was a great room to be in, banging out this new story.
On that same thread, it looks like this book is pretty much designed to be for New Readers of “Hack/Slash” just as much as old fans. Given the storied history the book has had in comics, were you guys nervous about the relaunch angle?
SS: Oh god yes. Still am. It’s tough. “Hack/Slash” has/had a very loyal fan base, and Mike and I definitely still want them onboard. But at the same time, yeah, we are opening it up to new readers, since it’s sort of a “fresh new start” kind of story.
MM: Ha, yeah, just a tad. Like I said, Tim has a great fan base, and they love Tim. The operative word here being “Tim.” There’s a certain way Tim did things that, even if we tried, we couldn’t accomplish. The only thing we can do is make the story as true to what we think “Hack/Slash” is, who Cassie is, and make it the book that, as fans, we’d love to read.
So lets see if we can’t get into some specifics. This story flashes forward in Cassie’s life; can you sort of set the stage here a bit for what readers should expect? And how much catch-up do you think there’ll be for newer readers like me?
SS: It’s a few years after Tim’s series and for the better part of that Cassie’s been sort of traveling around alone, using her hacking and slashing skills as a bounty hunter. As for catch up, not a ton is needed. We really do start it off at a easy jump on point. Of course if you want to (and you should want to), there’s 5 Omnibuses of the last run to bring you up to speed. I’m telling ya, good stuff.Continued below
MM: Yeah, it’s kinda a “good jumping on point” (as much as I loathe that term), but by no means tabula rasa for Cassie. While the story is all new, you do need to know who Cassie is to get the full impact of where we’re taking her, as a character.
In terms of story, basically, you need to know that Cassie once hunted slashes, the baddest being Samhain. They’re all gone now, cured, but now there’s this threat of long-dormant monsters she has to deal with. And, somehow, Samhain has a son running around in the world. Mystery!
The series also kicks off with Cassie having a new sidekick. What can you tell me about her?
SS: All we can tell you is it’s not a her.
It’s not a her? Man. My lack of “Hack/Slash” knowledge is really showing; I figured the younger figure on the cover was the sidekick, and also female. I’m an idiot who should’ve read the subtitle.
MM: Funny enough, the original pitch we sent to Tim had a young, sexy female sidekick. Tim rejected it!
Technically, it’s two new sidekicks. The mysterious Son of Samhain and Delroy, this old monster-hunting bad ass Texan who is the one who recruits Cassie into this world of monsters.
World-building is always one of the most fun aspects of comics, or so I’m told, so can you clue me into some of the new things about the series that regular readers might be surprised to see?
SS: It really is a whole new world. Cassie is there. As are a few other old players down the road, but for the most part it’s a brand new setting with brand new characters. Plus there’s monsters. Lots of em.
MM: It was awesome creating a new mythology. I loved, loved that part. We’re not rewriting what Tim did, or negating it in any way. Instead, we’re building this whole new world that’s kind of “Lord of the Rings”-esque. Inserting Cassie into this world has been a blast.
I think readers will be surprised by what they see — Tim really had fun with pulpy, ‘80s horror flick killers. That’s his bread and butter. It’ll be different to see this whole new world of monster gods and dark order cults and things like that.
“Hack/Slash” is primarily a horror series, but you also mention wanting to move away from previous elements of the series, so what does the new series have from that tradition? Are you looking to push Cassie into other genres?
SS: It’s still an action horror comic. It really does work best as that, since that is the heart and soul of the whole thing. I’d love to say we’ll add other genre elements, but I don’t think fans would be onboard for a cyborg Cassie or a rom com starring Cassie and Delory. However Mike and I have written said rom com already. It is tantalizing.
MM: It’s a fine line to walk, to say the least. Tim was working in a very specific genre of horror, while we’re working in another. Slashers versus monsters, ultimately (though Tim did incorporate plenty of monsters and weird stuff in his run, this is still different). Despite that, I think we can achieve the same goal of a character-driven, sexy, tongue-in-cheek horror romp. We’re maintaining the tradition, just executing it in a different way.
Obviously you guys are pretty used to each other, but how is the working relationship like with Emilio Lasio so far?
SS: Emilio is fantastic. We’ve worked with him before on Hoax Hunters and on our stand-in issue of the regular Hack/slash series. He’s a huge talent and it’s been exciting as hell watching the pages roll in. This series is gonna look incredible.
MM: Yeah, Emilio is out of this world. He’s Stefano Casseli’s protégé, so he’s getting some stellar advice. I love his work and the pages — my God, the first issue is incredible. K. Michael Russell’s colors, in addition are incredible. The words might not be much, but at least it’ll look pretty!
I can’t believe I didn’t bring this up before, but I’ll get it in now: Son of Samhain. Obviously there is the Samhain festival that was changed to Halloween over time, but there’s also the Son of Sam killer. Clever pun aside, what can you guys reveal about how these two elements fit into the series (if you can say)?Continued below
MM: Steve may correct me, but I’m pretty sure Tim was riffing on the Son of Sam thing in the creation of Samhain. Now, we have a golden opportunity to go a step further with Son of Samhain. Who doesn’t love serial killer puns?
I wouldn’t say there’s a tie to the series, other than it folds into the tapestry of this world. Everyone draws from something. For Tim and “Hack/Slash,” it’s ‘80s slasher flicks and serial killers. Knowing the Son of Sam story and the reference is a cool Easter egg, you know? That hypertext that we’re all creating in our work.
SS: I’m taking Mike’s side with this. I’ve never actually talked to Tim about this, but it seems a little too perfect.
I think an important question to ask of you guys is, we as a culture are certainly taking a more stern eye to the representation of women in comics. With a character like Cassie Hack, how are you approaching her character? Are there things you’re actively conscious of when writing the book?
MM: That’s an interesting question, and a difficult one. I don’t want to dive too deeply into this conversation of gender in comics, because I don’t think I can do the topic justice given the time and space here. In relations to “Hack/Slash,” specifically, I think one thing that’s important to keep in mind is that there is a difference, an important difference, between sexy and sexist. As our community tries to dispel the latter, I hope we’re not also smothering the former in the process — although, being honest, I see this happening to some degree. There is a lot of productive, healthy talk happening, but I certainly see a danger in tossing a blanket over anything related to sex and saying “bad.” It’s a form of censorship, and I know no one wants that.
But look at me: getting off topic immediately after said I wouldn’t. With “Hack/Slash,” Tim is the first one to point out the interesting dialogue that surrounds it. Because, yeah, he’s gotten a lot of flak for the perception that his book is sexist. The odd thing, though (and I’ve seen this myself), is that this criticism mainly comes from men — there are so many of the mindset that they can decide how a woman’s body is treated and depicted, which adds a whole lever of irony to this entire discussion. Yet “Hack/Slash” has an army of female readers and fans who feel empowered by Cassie, who see in her a hero they can relate to and speaks to their experiences. The proof is there, it’s in Tim’s readership, it’s in the Cassie cosplay you see at every con. Who can argue with that?
That all said, what’s most vital to me is the story. Steve and I will go wherever the story takes us and, at no point, will we — or should we — temper things for fear of sex’s status in current conversations. Will we have a Cassie shower scene for the sake of having Cassie in the shower? No, of course not. But, Cassie is a sexy character — sex is part of the book and part of the tradition that “Hack/Slash” draws from.
SS: Definitely. Tim always portrayed Cassie as a strong independent woman. Sure, she was sexy and stuff, but she was tough as hell, and even though she was at times vulnerable, she was never weak. Not only could she take care of herself, but she took care of others. But like Mike said, Tim’s always gotten this “sexist” stigma with the book. Hilariously though, it’s usually guys that say that too him; women readers, however, have seen past Cassie’s physical look and have seen her for the leading character she is.
So Mike and I are approaching it the same way. Obviously Cassie’s older, so she potentially has grown out of the goth phase, although we still want her to be the same strong female character, even if there’s a hint of sex appeal.
So wrapping up: you guys have done quite a few collaborations now in comics, from your series “Hoax Hunters” and even that “My Little Phony” book. What’s changed for you guys? Are things smoother? Do you hate each other more, or less?Continued below
MM: Funny enough, Steve and I have always had a smooth process, from the start. We’re besties, so that always comes first. We might disagree every now and then, but we have very similar aesthetics in a lot of ways, and we’re very good at pulling in the same direction to achieve our storytelling goals.
SS: Yeah, we hate each other.
Um, I mean, things are great. Seriously though, it’s been a smooth process. “Phony” was an odd (albeit incredibly fun) departure from “Hoax Hunters” for both of us, but “Hack/Slash” is in the same wheelhouse as “Hoax Hunters,” sort of. With “Hack/Slash” we really worked the hell out of our pitch to Tim. We had a lot of angles to cover, so we really had the mesh our ideas. Amazingly I think we both saw the new series pretty closely from the get go.
Ultimately, and I’ll bow to this, Mikes the final voice, and his scripting has been amazing with “Hack/Slash”.
And obviously I think it would be odd not to ask, while I have you guys here, how the next season of Hoax Hunters is coming along (which, fans of Hack/Slash will remember, originally debuted as a back-up to this book!).
MM: Yay, “Hoax Hunters!” It’s going good. I just finished writing the second issue, and Steve has it on his docket to read. Once he does, we’ll do some back and forth and pretty much have that locked in. The next two issues, which make up the first arc, are all plotted out, so we’re well ahead of things.
Christian (DiBari) is continuing art duties, picking up from issue #13, season one’s finale, with Mike Spicer on colors. They’re finishing a book now and will be jumping on as soon as that wraps, potentially this week.
Expect new stuff in the fall!
SS: I’m doing the read through of issue 2 as I type. Multi-tasking. But “Hoax Hunters” Season 2 has been a blast so far. We went dark at the end of Season 1, which it called for, but Season 2 is considerably lighter. I’m really stoked for it. And Dibari and Spicer are a darn treat to work with it. I love seeing the stuff they turn in.