Tim Seeley: A Wisconsin RevivalA comics interview article by: Steve Morris
Tim Seeley is a writer and artist whose creator-owned series Hack/Slash has been running since 2004 without showing any signs of stopping. Seeley is also one of the founders of DoubleFeature comics, a digital comic-book service where readers can buy a sixteen-page, two-story issue by a number of established and up-and-coming creators -- for a dollar. He's also the man currently in charge of Witchblade and can be found at http://timseeleyart.blogspot.com. Most recently, Image Comics announced that they will be publishing Seeley's new series, a "rural noir" ongoing called Revival, which Seeley will write and frequent collaborator Mike Norton will draw.
We spoke to Seeley about Revival, horror, sci-fi and… thigh-high boots.
Steve Morris for Comics Bulletin: You've recently been leaping around between genres somewhat, with the creation of the digital DoubleFeature comics project (with each issue being centred around a different genre like romance or horror), the past few manic arcs of Hack/Slash (currently in the middle of a psychic dinosaur warfare storyline) and now Revival. Is it fun to have such vastly different stories running all at once?
Tim Seeley: It is fun... and therapeutic. It's tough to live in horror all the time, even if I do really love it. Spreading around a bit lets me flex some different brain muscles. I like to write and draw in most genres, and even if I'm not a big fan, I'll at least give it a go.
CB: Do you have to keep each project separate in your head to keep them distinct? Do you, for example, allocate days for focusing on telepathic dinosaurs and then days for focusing on rural noir?
Seeley: I wish it worked that way, but, usually, I'm working on all my books at the same time. A few notes on Revival here, a batch of pages for Witchblade there. I tell myself it's all keeping my mind good and nimble, but if I'm in a mental institute in ten years unsure if I'm on a spaceship or if I'm a 19-year-old Goth girl in thigh-highs… well, you'll know why.
CB: Your new title for Image, Revival, is being described as a shift in tone for you, with a quiet, horror element creeping over the characters. Is it fair to describe it as a horror story?
Seeley: Absolutely. I think, really, it's more of a traditional horror story than Hack/Slash. Hack/Slash has a lot of elements from horror, but at its heart, it's almost a superhero story. Revival is a lot more rooted in psychological horror -- the fear of what happens to us when we die, the fear of not being sure if we can trust those closest to us. It's genuinely creepy!
CB: You grew up in Wisconsin, which you've decided to also use as the setting for Revival. Would it be fair to describe living in Wisconsin as being like living in a horror story?
Seeley: Ha, well, at 13, I probably would have said that. But, teenagers hate wherever they are, because, well, teenagers are angry, confused hormone monkeys. I actually really love my hometown now. It's beautiful, friendly and very homey. And, sure, the winters suck a lot, but they're a great excuse for drinking. There're a lot of things though, growing up, that I encountered there that inspired some of the scares in Revival.
CB: How will the book come together? Is there a point of view character, or do you view the title more as an ensemble?
Seeley: It's mostly an ensemble cast, but there's a pair of girls, sisters named Em and Dana, whose relationship is the backbone of the story.
CB: There are several sci-fi elements hiding around Revival, or so it appears. There's a monster called the Creep, and, uh... the dead seem to have risen. Why take these high-concept, off-kilter sci-fi ideas and move them into a low-fi setting?
Seeley: Heh... is it sci-fi? That's part of the mystery!
But, yeah, I feel like taking fantastical things and grounding them in the nuances of the mundane makes for a great and really entertaining contrast.
CB: The book appears to be a collection of smaller stories all pacing alongside each other, cast in the shadow of some big overarching mysteries. Do you most enjoy writing the small stories or the mystery which underpins them all?
Seeley: The small stuff, for sure. I think the larger mystery of Revival is really important, and I think it's what'll interest readers initially, but to me it's always about the little moments.
CB: The book sees you once more with frequent collaborator Mike Norton. What do you think he brings to the book in terms of energy, ideas and art?
Seeley: Mike has proven himself a great writer on his own with Battlepug, so I know I can expect him to tell me when there's a better story to be told. And, artistically, he's bringing his A-Game. He's excited to be telling this kind of story, and his ability to draw real people is really going to be put on display here.
CB: Launching a new book at Image must be a little daunting these days, with Grant Morrison, Brian K. Vaughan and these other industry giants all joining you in a new wave of creator-owned talent. What do you think about this new rise in high profile creator-owned titles? What do you think a new book has to do to keep readers excited and interested month-in, month-out nowadays?
Seeley: Heh, well, as far as I'm concerned those big guys are second comers! I've been doing Image books since 2002!
But, I mean, mostly I think we're seeing the Big Two becoming even more corporate, more editorially driven, and less fun to work for. There's some great talent at those companies. But from the perspectives of the corporations, they really need to change the focus of their business to selling the characters and not the people making them. Which makes sense, but it means a lot of big imaginations aren't going to get to do what they're best at. I think creator-owned is capturing more reader interest now because a percentage of the readership is getting sick of the same ol' same ol'. Really, how often can you get excited for another "big, universe changing crossover" before you want to read comics that have their own identity? I love superheroes, but I don't want to read only superheroes. And these days, only creator owned books are doing genres besides superheroes.
CB: Your other big project at the moment is DoubleFeature comics, an online venture from which readers can buy a 16-page digital comic for a dollar and get two stories in each issue. So far you've had some high profile writers and artists like James Asmus and Colleen Coover getting involved and writing some short, fun stories alongside many other creators. How has reaction been to DoubleFeature?
Seeley: Really good! Everyone who reads it or works on it has great things to say. And, we're seeing a lot of companies taking a cue from DF, which we're really happy about. Better digital comics is good for everyone!
Revival debuts from Image in July, but you can get a sneak peek of the series on Free Comic Book Day on May 5!