David Hine & Shaky Kane: Opening the Bulletproof Coffin

A comics interview article by: Alex Rodrik
Straight out of the pages of a classic Golden Nugget comic, David Hine and Shaky Kane find themselves facing down a new foe: The Despicable Alex Rodrik. What will come of the masterful exchange of words between our heroes and this masked man? Will Alex prove a formidable foe, or is he a new ally?

Let’s find out as Comics Bulletin Presents. A Golden Nugget Production.

Hine, Kane, and Rodrik in Opening the Bulletproof Coffin!

Alex Rodrik: Let’s delve in to the proverbial “origins story.” How’d you and Shaky come to meet and become a team?

David Hine: I’ve known Shaky for donkey’s years. We first met up when I was at art college and I roped him in to contribute to a comic I self-published called Joe Public Comics. We followed a similar path for several years, both of us doing strips and illustrations for the music press in Britain and the homegrown comics of the eighties, like Deadline and 2000AD. We lost touch for a long time and then met up again at a convention. We found we still had very similar tastes in comics, art, literature and it made sense to collaborate on something. It didn’t happen immediately, but over a couple of years we met up a few times and started talking about doing a creator-owned book together. We hadn’t thought about working together in the past because we were both into writing and drawing our own material.

AR: Was this a project you and Shaky developed together or was it an idea one of you had which was brought to the other?

DH: Shaky had some ideas that he had been playing with for a group of offbeat heroes and I took those and built a narrative around them. Most of the names and basic concepts are Shaky’s. I still have the early notes and e-mails that we were sending one another and it’s interesting to see how the ideas developed. Right from the start there were the images of a drowned cop coming back to walk the dead beat, a bunch of imaginary heroes stepping into the real world and haunting our lead character’s attic, and a string of names including Red Wraith and Coffin Fly.

My biggest contribution is to develop the sustained narrative. Shaky’s work is often single illustration or short strips of two or three pages. He’s a concept factory, while I tend to think in terms of quite complex plots. I tried to keep the feel of a Shaky story with a storytelling style that is not too linear and has elements of William Burroughs’ hallucinatory cut-up techniques. When I’m writing I always have Shaky’s style in mind so I’m playing to his obsessions while throwing in a few of my own. As time passed and we went back and forth on the story, it got to the point where I honestly couldn’t say who came up with what any more. It really has become a very close collaboration. I tend to be a little less precise with my scripts than normal because I know Shaky is going to come up with amazing visuals. My dialogue and captions are also flexible. I re-write a lot when the pages come in because the visuals will suggest a new riff on the theme.

AR: What can readers look forward to in Bulletproof Coffin?

DH: For fans of Shaky, this will be a welcome return to the spotlight. There are a lot of people out there for whom Shaky was one of the key figures of British Comics and it’s high time he had a bigger market. For most comic readers in the USA this will be a revelation. Shaky takes the popular culture of America, chews it up and spits it back atcha! We’re having a lot of fun with this book and I think people will enjoy the mock comics we’re producing alongside the core story. There’s twisted horror and noir and really demented super heroes as well as our voluptuous cave girl, Ramona. We’ve got beatnik delinquents and space vampires and a pair of kids who make Pugsley and Wednesday Addams look like the Waltons. The core story is also a solid thriller with a lot of twists that will keep readers guessing up until the bitter end.

AR: Shaky, Dave describes you as a “revelation” to US comics fans. Let’s give the people what they want: a look at the man behind the revelation. Tell us a bit about yourself...how you got into comics...

Shaky Kane: I fell in love, as a child, with the imported comic books, which stood upright, wedged into the spinning magazine rack at my local tobacconist and news agent, way, way back, as far as my memory will allow me access.

This would have been maybe 63, 64 -- certainly before the Batman Television Show arrived on our British black and white horizontally striped TV sets.

In those days you were viewed with some suspicion if you dared approached the spinning rack. The bottom half held comic books, while the top, probably three-quarters of the rack, held an array of Men’s magazine, tales of True Grit and lurid Crooked Detective magazines. As the rail turned I couldn’t help but sneak a glance at the photo real covers, but generally speaking I’d avert my gaze from their corrupting allure, enthralled by the childhood eye-level treasures.

And what treasures! ...beautiful and ugly at turns.

Steve Ditko’s Hulk, Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four, Curt Swan’s swooningly (if such a word exist) evocative portrait of small town America. Metal men and mutant boys, Imaginary Tales and the presumably real ones, and the adverts!

The adverts alone were worth the price of admission!

Chalking out the perimeter of a world less everyday; a world of exotic intoxication, a world I could almost taste. I could smell it on the printer’s ink, and to this day I can smell it on the pages of Previews, and it smells American.

And as I sat in my bedroom, struck down with a childhood illness, feverish in the unaccustomed heat of a freak British summer, a 2B pencil flew in thru my open window, and I took it as an omen, for I knew what I should do.

AR: What was the inspiration for the series?

DH: There are a lot of B-movie and B-comic themes going in The Bulletproof Coffin. From those early notes, there’s a list that Shaky put together from what he calls his ‘cultural filing cabinet’. It includes zombies, giant robots, skulls, custom cars, dinosaurs, cowboys, flying saucers, Frankenstein and pyro-clowns. We didn’t manage to get everything in, but that gives you an idea of the inspiration. It comes as much from the ads that ran in the back pages of comic books as from the comics themselves. I think we all read those ads as kids and imagined something far superior to the actual products that were being sold. X-Ray Spex and Sea Monkeys and Spy Cameras that were probably quite pathetic in reality. I guess what we’re trying to do with this book is fulfill the dreams we had as kids of what all these characters and products should have been like.

AR: Tell us about what you wanted to do with The Bulletproof Coffin artistically.

SK: Artistically I want to evoke those very feelings [I mentioned a minute ago]. Remember those 3/4 sized guitar and amps you used to be able to send away for in the small ad section. If one of those turned up on my doorstep I wouldn’t play Muse numbers on it, I’d play the Surfin’ Bird and you know something, I don’t care how clever people might think they’re being -- post modern, and to level with you I don’t even know what post modern is, THE BIRD IS THE WORD!

AR: Tell us a bit about the fabled Golden Nugget Comics and the fan favorites featured in the upcoming Bulletproof Coffin.

DH: Golden Nugget Publishing is a mythical company that operated in the 1950’s and 60’s and their most popular comics were created by a team who coincidentally share out names. Kane and Hine produced a number of titles including The Unforgiving Eye, The Shield of Justice, Ramona Queen of the Stone Age, Red Wraith and Coffin Fly. We’ll be including extracts from those comics in each of the issues of The Bulletproof Coffin. These titles were so popular that Big 2 Publishing saw them as a commercial threat, so they eventually bought up Golden Nugget and then promptly cancelled the titles. Hine and Kane left the company in disgust, although Hine was eventually tempted back. Here’s a quote from one of the articles in our ashcan edition: Meanwhile Hine endured years of poverty and alcoholism before eventually returning to Big 2 Publishing. Kane in his Esquire interview described his former partner as “A sell out! He went crawling back to beg them for work and he’s been churning out crap for them ever since.”

The ashcan edition of The Bulletproof Coffin is exclusive to this year’s Comic Expo in Bristol in the UK, produced by the convention organizer, Mike Allwood and designed by David Morris. It’s going to be a bit different to most ashcans in that we’re presenting it in the form of a comic fanzine called The Comic Scene and the interior features articles on the original Kane and Hine and their work, including a set of bubblegum cards called The Hateful Dead based on the Vietnam Vet Zombies, who feature in the Image series. There are also pages from the first issue, sketches and pin-ups.

AR: Why the title “Bulletproof Coffin”? What are its origins and implications?

DH: It relates to Shaky’s traumatized childhood when he found that he could only cope with life by creating a psychic defense that he named The Bulletproof Coffin. It protected him from the outside world and inside its impregnable structure he could live out his warped fantasies. Or something along those lines...

In our story it becomes fully realized as a central part of the concept. In the early notes Shaky sent me he described A Graveyard Planet of tombstones and mausoleums, with a vehicle that traveled across the landscape like a lunar explorer, shaped like a coffin and dragging chains as it went. It’s driven by the Coffin Fly.

AR: How’s it been working with Dave?

SK: Dave is a dream to work with. Dave has stood right next to me at that spinning rack. Dave has definitely heard about THE BIRD!

AR: Tell us a bit about our hero Steve Newman.

DH: Steve’s day job is Voids Contractor. Those are the guys who clean house when someone passes away with no relatives to inherit their property. I read about these people in the press when a team was sent to clear out a council flat after the tenant died. They got the wrong address and destroyed the entire contents of the next-door-neighbor’s flat. Everything the poor guy owned went into the incinerator! But that’s another story. Our guy is a collector of ephemera and he steals things from the properties he clears. He just can’t bear to see all this cool stuff going into landfill. One day he stumbles on a stack of Golden Nugget comics that shouldn’t exist. He realizes that Kane and Hine never stopped producing their twisted stories. Things get progressively weirder after he gets a visit from a bunch of ancient weirdoes dressed in costumes based on the characters. He soon finds himself stepping across the threshold between fantasy and reality. Ultimately the future of humanity depends on his tracking down Kane and Hine before the mysterious Shadow Men get to them. In between times he gets to dress as Coffin Fly and has some close encounters with those aforementioned Zombie Vets and Ramona. I guess you could say he’s trapped between a rock and a soft place.

AR: Are the States going to get any other tastes of Shaky Kane in the coming year?

SK: If the Coffin makes any kind of return, and it’s impossible to tell at this stage, this could run and run, between the two of us, we’ve got a lot of cool ideas, and Dave, to do what he does takes a lot of smarts and that’s one thing Dave’s got A LOT OF SMARTS. It’s privilege to work with him.

And there you have it boys and girls, today’s thrilling episode. To follow more of the twisted adventures of Hine and Shaky, head out to your local comic shop and pick up a copy of
The Bulletproof Coffin!!

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