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David Hine: He's Brave as well as Bold

A comics interview article by: Chris Murman
I will say this to you faithful readers out there: there are far more clichés referring to new tricks and hats than I care to mention. Regardless, many of them reference creator David Hine and is emerging work at DC. As announced in their November solicitations, Hine has a four-issue run coming up on The Brave and The Bold. The Marvel alum and creator of Strange Embrace will team up with artist Doug Braithwaite for a story that begins with Hal Jordan and the Phantom Stranger. Hine goes on to explain why he’s been wanting to work for DC for some time, why out of continuity stories are better, and what it is exactly he loves about Deadman.

Chris Murman: First things first, this is the second DC title you are working on this year. Have you wanted to play in their sandbox for a while or did conditions just create a perfect storm to write for them?

David Hine: I’ve never had an exclusive contract with Marvel and I’ve talked on and off with several editors about projects for DC in the past, that for various reasons never came off. Mike Marts approached me a year ago to write the Joker’s Asylum story for him. Before moving to DC, Mike was my main man at Marvel and he knew I’d jump at the chance to write that kind of story. So that ended up being my first DC book. But I’d been talking to Dougie Braithwaite for a long while about our doing something together.

Both of us are big fans of the Neal Adams books from the late sixties and early seventies. The Brave and The Bold, the Green Lantern and Green Arrow series, the Batman books, Deadman. Along with the work of Steranko, Bernie Wrightson and Barry Smith, those were the books that got me addicted to American comics. So when The Brave and The Bold was re-launched we started talking about how cool it would be to do the kind of story that we had loved as kids. We were throwing characters around and the kind of themes we would deal with. We wanted to do science fiction, so Green Lantern seemed the obvious choice to be the pivotal character.

CM: Your first issue teams Hal Jordan up with the Phantom Stranger. What can you tell us about their pairing? Can you say who else we can look for in your run?

DH: We initially looked at Deadman. Again, Adams had done amazing things with the character. Of all the scenes I read in comics when I was growing up, I think the one that struck home most was the psychedelic sequence in Strange Adventures #216, where you can look at one of the pages from an acute angle and see flames spell out “Hey a Jim Steranko effect” and all kinds of other weirdness. So we were fired up to team GL with Deadman. The bad news was that Deadman was currently running as a Vertigo book, so he was temporarily off-limits. So we went for The Phantom Stranger instead. There was an Adams link there too. Adams drew an issue of the Phantom Stranger book and did some of his finest covers for the series, that defined the character almost as much as Jim Aparo’s interior art.

Our The Brave and The Bold story runs for four issues and in the last two parts we bring in Green Arrow, so again it recalls Adams run on Green Lantern and Green Arrow.

CM: So far, B+B has been a self-contained story that really doesn't look across the shelf at other titles. Will your run continue to do so and if so do you prefer that to stories that tie in to events such as Final Crisis?

DH: I’m very partisan about stories you can come to cold. There should be more books out there, which you can pick up and read without having followed what’s happening in the rest of the DC or Marvel Universe. You don’t have to conflict with continuity but you should be able to tell a perfectly good stand-alone story. And that’s what this story is. It’s a great science-fiction romp with plenty of action as well as elements of mystery and magic. It also deals with social issues in a similar way to the Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories of the early seventies. In our case we’re dealing with an alien culture that has become corrupted and debased by mass drug addiction, to the extent that the planet’s entire economy depends on production of the drug. Meanwhile on Earth we see the consequences of drug tests, performed by legitimate drug companies on pregnant women. It’s not an anti-drug story but it does ask a few questions about the commercial exploitation of drugs and the degree to which we’re willing to give up responsibility and control of our lives for the dubious rewards of instant gratification. We also have a character called The Purge who makes Judge Dredd and The Punisher look like pussycats.

CM: Getting to precede JMS would probably be an honor for just about any creator. Have you discussed your story with him to make sure things sync up for when he begins on the series?

DH: No. From what I’ve read, JMS is going to take The Brave and The Bold in a very different direction. We first pitched this story back in 2006. At the time Mark Waid and George Perez were writing B+B as a kind of homage to the Silver Age and we consciously wanted to do something that reflected the later period of The Brave and The Bold. In my original pitch to editor Joey Cavalieri I put it like this:

“What we are after is to recapture the adventure and spectacle of an era that marked a watershed between the traditional superhero comics of the sixties and the innovations that came sweeping in during the seventies and eighties.”

I think the readers will be happy to see completely different approaches from different creators. That’s the way The Brave and The Bold should work.

CM: You mentioned that Doug Braithwaite is a friend of yours who helped pitch this series to DC. What was your process like with him developing the story?

DH: We spent a lot of time reminiscing about our favorite comics and we are totally on the same wavelength. We have different tastes in the comics we currently read but we both come from the same roots. We just wanted to tell the same kind of entertaining story that blew us away when we were younger. We didn’t want to do pastiche, but we did want to convey the energy and the sense of wonder of those books.

CM: As a fellow artist, you must be stoked to not only work on a historic series such as B+B but to have Doug drawing your script as well. Just how far do you go back with him and what have his pencils looked like so far?

DH: Dougie and me go way back. We first met at a convention in London when Dougie was studying at the London Cartoon Center. I think he was unpublished at the time, but when I looked at his portfolio I was totally gobsmacked. Here was this young kid who could outdraw most of the pros who had been working in the business for years. A while after, we collaborated briefly, when I inked a story he drew for the Marvel UK ‘Strips’ magazine. Since then, we’ve remained very good friends. It was inevitable that we would eventually work together but I never dreamed it would be on a classic title like The Brave and The Bold.

The book has been completed for some time now, so I’ve seen all the line art and it’s fantastic. When you see the alien environment Dougie has created for this book, the dynamism of the layouts and the depth of emotion in the faces, you see that this is a master at work. He has a total command of all the skills of draftsmanship and storytelling that you don’t see that often in modern American comics. I want to give some recognition to the inker on this book too. Dougie worked very closely with Bill Reinhold on the inks and Bill has done a beautiful job with a very delicate finish of ink and wash. I haven’t seen the completed pages yet so I can’t comment on the colors, but I’m sure they’ll do justice to the pencils. I get the feeling that everyone is putting his or her best work into this book.

CM: While I can't speak for every reader, it would appear that opinions have been all over the place regarding this series. What has your take been on the latest run to date?

DH: I haven’t read the whole series but I really enjoyed the first half-dozen issues. Both the art and story were very detailed and dense in the positive sense. You really felt like you were settling in for a good read and Waid and Perez successfully captured the feel of the Silver Age, with the humor, action and a lot of kooky plot twists.

CM: Finally, it would appear that you are developing a good working relationship with the folks at the Distinguished Competition. Are you going to stick around for more fun in the sandbox?

DH: That remains to be seen. I guess it depends on the reader reaction to what I’ve done so far. The Joker’s Asylum one-shot got a good response and I do have another Batman story in the can. I’m not sure where and when that will appear but I’ve talked to Mike Marts about doing more Batman material in the future. Right now I’m concentrating on my writing for an upcoming vampire book from Radical Comics. That’s a really exciting project. Radical have a rare enthusiasm and vision for the comic book medium. They look set to become one of the major players in the next couple of years.

I’m also developing some things for Top Cow and Image. One of those will be a one-shot for Elephantmen, which I’m drawing as well as writing. Richard Starkings, the creator of Elephantmen is the only man who can persuade me back to the drawing board these days and he’s foolishly letting me loose on his pride and joy. I also want to do something with the genius of British comics, Shaky Kane. We’re still in the early stages of throwing ideas at one another. I’m pretty sure it will involve dead superheroes, a bulletproof coffin and a cave girl in a bikini.

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