David Hine: Two-Faced Creator Reveals More About Batman Series

A comics interview article by: Chris Murman
As busy as David Hine has been the past year, 2008 is shaping up to be even bigger for him as a creator. The Spawn and author is taking part in DC’s nine-week series focusing on Batman’s rogues gallery Joker’s Asylum. In particular, he will be focusing on the multi-faceted villain Two-Face (cheap joke, I know). On top of that, it was announced at the New York Comic Con that Hine would be stepping down from Spawn to make room for two Image founding members to take over the title. I took a few to ask David about both projects as well as what appeals to him so much about Harvey Dent.

Chris Murman: It would appear that we have a big series on our hands with Joker's Asylum, which you are writing the third issue of. What can you tell us about the series as a whole? Is there a central writer dictating the beats of this series?

David Hine: I saw Mike Marts at the San Diego ComiCon last year and he offered me an issue of Joker’s Asylum. He gave me the list of Batman villains and I jumped at Two-Face. No question, as far as I’m concerned, he’s the greatest villain in the DC Universe. There isn’t a central writer as such. Mike is the anchor for the series and he seems to have pulled in a very mixed bunch of creators. I think that’s appropriate because these characters are all unique, so there should be a wide variety of approaches.

I haven’t read all the other scripts but I see the series as a 21st century version of the hosted horror anthologies of the past, like Tales from the Crypt or Creepy and Eerie, with The Joker replacing The Crypt Keeper and Uncle Creepy. DC have very cannily avoided the pitfall of producing a monthly anthology, by making this a weekly series of one-shots. We all know that anthologies don’t sell but everyone loves a dose of weekly number ones. Clever marketing, guys!

CM: How did this story get started, and how do you fit in?

DH: The book is actually the fifth and last of the series. The way the story ends makes it the perfect book-end for the series. You’ll see why when you read the story.

CM: Your particular issue focuses on Two-Face. What is your take on the character and how does he fit into the Batman mythos?

DH: Two-Face is the perfect character for me. Most of my work deals with moral ambiguity in some way and Two-Face is the personification of that split between good and evil. He actually abdicates all responsibility for moral choice by leaving those decisions to fate and the toss of a coin. Batman has always been about psychosis. Batman himself is barely in touch with reality. He created the Batman persona to keep his tenuous grasp on his own sanity. All his adversaries have similarly created personas as an expression of their own mental condition, only in their cases they’ve abandoned any pretence of being compos mentis.

My story revolves around a guy who suffered a similar injury to Harvey Dent. Holman was a fireman and had half his face burned off. Now he’s a motivational mentor and personal counselor for people who have radical injuries. He has this crazy idea that he can rehabilitate Two-Face by restoring his self-esteem. He totally misses the fact that Two-Face has no problem with his self-esteem. Two-Face is so offended by the guy’s self-righteousness that he sets out to dismantle Holman’s belief that you should live your life according to a moral imperative. He puts Holman into a situation where moral choices become meaningless and watches him fall apart.

It’s also a really fun story with a lot of twists and a classically two-faced ending.

CM:You are paired with Andy Clarke on the book, how have his pages looked so far?

DH: I had a lot of fun playing with duality in the story and Andy really picked up on that visually. A lot of the pages can literally be split down the middle so one side is a distorted mirror-image of the other. I think this is Andy’s first work for DC. He comes from that traditional breeding ground for British talent, 2000AD and you can see his roots in the art – very high-contrast black-and-whites that again reflect the subject matter.

CM: It was announced at NYCC that your run on Spawn will be coming to an end later this year. What's going on with the title and how do you feel about leaving?

DH: The decision was made late last year to reboot Spawn with two of the founding fathers of Image. I’m not allowed to say who they are at the moment, but there are definitely people out there who have guessed right. I would have happily gone on indefinitely on the book but the comic market seems to demand change, to keep books in the public eye. We haven’t had the advantage of cross-over events or superstar creators on the books but we have raised the profile of Spawn over the past couple of years under Brian Haberlin’s editorship.

It has been a great place for Phil Tan to develop as an artist and he’s gone on to get an exclusive contract with DC. Then we’ve had Brian himself on art for the past year and introduced Bing Cansino and Geirrod Van Dyke. All three are going on to big things in the future. Mike Mayhew is drawing a one-shot that comes out in a couple of months, which will blow the socks off fans, who are only familiar with his painted covers. It has been an interesting couple of years and the next seven months are going to see some big twists and surprises in the Spawn Universe. Todd has been a real gent about the way the changeover is taking place. He literally gave Brian and I a year to bring our story to its climax. That’s longer than a lot of teams get on a book, so I’m very happy with the way this has gone. I’m also writing Spawn: Book of the Dead, which will be out later this year. This is a narrative history of Spawn, covering the story of the Hellspawn from the Middle Ages up to the end of our run. It will read like a novel and is wonderfully and profusely illustrated by Ashley Wood and Geirrod Van Dyke. Steve Niles originally started this project back in the last century, so I’m building on the work he did and he’ll be getting a credit on it. It has been a long time coming but it will be worth the wait.

I’m going to be bugging Todd and the guys at TMP with more Spawn-related pitches too, so if they bite, you won’t have seen the last of me on Spawn.

CM: You recently rebooted the series after the Armageddon story arc ended to a more horror-style comic. Are we looking at another reset for Al?

DH: Big changes are coming. If you look at the solicits for upcoming books you’ll see things like, “Either Wanda dies or it’s the end of Spawn” and teaser covers that hint at the revelations we have coming. We’re going to be leaving the book and the character in a very different place.

CM: Where do you feel Simmons is at as a person compared to when you took over writing duties? How has he grown outside of his powers?

DH: One of the things that has been controversial with the fans is the downgrading of his powers in recent issues. There are a lot of die-hard Spawn fans, who really want to see him kick serious ass in every issue. Instead we’ve seen Al become less self-assured and a comparable reduction in power-level. That was inevitable after he outwitted God and Satan and destroyed the world during the Armageddon arc. At the end of that story we discovered the truth about his abuse of Wanda. Although it has been alluded to since the earliest issues of Spawn, the readers tended to overlook the fact that Al used to beat Wanda and had actually caused her to miscarry their child. Al had buried the memory and the readers seemed to share a collective amnesia, so it came as a shock when we showed the scene in graphic detail. It was very important to the story to be explicit about the abuse. We needed to show why and how Al Simmons became the one person who could be this generation’s Hellspawn.

Once he recovered that memory though, he was overcome with guilt and grief and he has been even more dysfunctional than before. The next seven months will show him pushing himself to confront the issue of what he really is and why Mammon has spent literally hundreds of years manipulating events to create the ultimate warrior.

CM: The series has seen quite a significant boost in sales with you at the helm. Building toward the final issues of your run, what will you think of when looking back?

DH: Spawn has been a tremendously important book for me. At 34 issues, it’s the longest run I’ve had on a continuing series. Before that I only had District X/ Mutopia X, which together ran for 18 issues. The highlights would be bringing all the plot threads together in the Armageddon arc and actually getting to bring about Apocalypse. That was a real blast. Issue #176 was a very successful true horror comic. I think we actually made a few people throw up with that one. (Editor's Note: I was one of those few, bravo Dave!) Gunslinger was another highlight. I loved doing a horror western crossover. I really get into the research and I learned a lot about the history of the Old West on that one. Similarly the upcoming First World War issue was a great opportunity to research the period and express a few of my own feelings about the concept of full-scale war.

Above all, it’s been a pleasure building a relationship with the guys at McFarlane Publications – particularly Brian and Phil Tan and the guys behind the scenes like Francis Takenaga, Tyler Jeffers and Jon Goff who do all the production work, keep the office running and have become friends as well as colleagues. And the guys on the message board at Spawn.com have been terrific. Greg Anderson and BrikHed21 have gone out of their way to promote Spawn on message boards across the internet. It’s great to have an interaction with the fans. Even when they’re putting the boot in, it has always been with perfect courtesy. There has been a lot of snarking about Spawn over the years but there’s still a big hardcore fanbase out there that has a lot of Spawn love.

CM:You've got quite a busy year planned, what else can we look forward seeing your name on in 2008?

DH: As mentioned, the hardcover Spawn: Book of the Dead will be out later this year. As well as Joker’s Asylum, I have a couple of other DC projects in the can. One of those is a one-shot, the other a four-issue arc on a major book with one of my favourite artists, who also happens to be a very good friend. I’m itching to talk about that one, but it’s still a couple of months from being announced.

The second volume of Poison Candy will be out from Tokyopop in October. The hardcover version of Strange Embrace is out from Image in July. That’s a beautiful oversize edition. We're calling it Strange Embrace and other Nightmares, as we have the four back-up stories and loads of extra sketches and bits and pieces. I’ve just signed the movie mption for Strange Embrace. This is the second time it has been optioned but this time it looks like being a go-er with screenwriter and tentative director lined up.

There’s a four-issue limited series from Marvel that is nearing completion but the release of that one has been put back to early 2009 to avoid being lost in the wake of the Secret Invasion. It’s a major character, out-of-continuity, co-plotted with Fabrice Sapolsky who puts out the best magazine on American mainstream comics in the known universe. If you aren’t reading Comic Box, it’s probably because you’re not French…

Besides all that I’ve been approached by a couple of other publishers since the Spawn announcement. I want to pursue more creator-owned material and I have half-a-dozen pitches in circulation. It sounds like a lot but these are ideas I’ve been tinkering with over the past couple of years and I’ve decided it’s time to get serious about promoting them. My long-term ambition is to write and draw something similar to Strange Embrace. The story is progressing but I have no idea when I’ll have time to go back to the drawing board.

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