David Hine on his Brave and the Bold Arc

Hine Talks Brave and the Bold

For DC's Brave and the Bold series, it's a different direction. And for writer David Hine, it's a chance to bring his unique writing style to another superhero universe.

In November, Brave and the Bold #19 will start a four-issue story written by Hine that attempts to recapture the work of creators like Neal Adams and Denny O'Neill. While their classic stories of the '60s and '70s ushered in realism at the end of the Silver Age, Hine and artist Doug Braithwaite hope to do the same for the current Brave and the Bold series with a story that focuses on the team-up of Hal Jordan and Phantom Stranger.

Not only is that type of style different from the more upbeat, heroic flavor seen in the series since it launched in 2007, but the length of the story also introduces a change in format for the series. While issues #17 and #18 will feature a two-part story by Marv Wolfman, November's launch of a four-issue story about two characters is an even further departure for Brave and the Bold, which had established a pattern of pairing two different characters each issue.

Since DC readers may not be familiar with Hine's extensive work at Marvel and on Image's revamp of Spawn, this story also gives the writer a chance to introduce his off-beat style to a new audience of superhero fans. Known for the strange and dark story twists seen in Marvel miniseries like Daredevil: Redemption and Silent War, Hine is hoping this Brave and the Bold story – along with his recent Joker's Asylum issue – helps him break into the DCU.

Newsarama talked to Hine about the new Brave and the Bold story, why he wants to go in a different direction with the series, and what readers can expect from a pairing of Green Lantern and Phantom Stranger.

Newsarama: David, you made it clear before this interview started that you're really enthusiastic about this story. Why is your work on this series so exciting for you as a writer?

David Hine: The Brave and the Bold is one of those titles that still gives me a warm feeling. I loved the book so much when I was growing up. I can’t quite explain why, but writing Green Lantern has given me a bigger buzz than any other character. Even more than Spider-Man, X-Men or even Batman. I think it has something to do with the Green Lantern oath. “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight…” The greatest lines ever written in a comic. I had to take a deep breath before I typed them. Magic!

NRAMA: What can you tell us about the story?

DH: Green Lantern is summoned by The Phantom Stranger to a medical facility, where a severely disabled child is manifesting some very weird abilities. This child has never been able to understand human speech or communicate in any way, yet she has now begun to write incessantly, filling notebooks with apparent gibberish, that is actually a cry for help from an alien civilization.

On the planet Kahlo an entire city has been destroyed by an unknown force and Hal Jordan, with the help of the Phantom Stranger, sets out to solve the mystery.

NRAMA: Where did you get the idea? What inspired you to write this story?

DH: Dougie Braithwaite and myself are both big fans of the body of work that Neal Adams produced for DC in the late '60s and early '70s, and we wanted to recapture something of the excitement of those books: The Brave and the Bold, the Deadman series in Strange Adventures, the Green Lantern and Green Arrow series written by Denny O’Neil.

NRAMA: How would you describe the overall tone of the story?

DH: It’s a science-fiction thriller with enough twists and shifting ground to keep the readers on their toes. We wanted to create a whole culture that is completely alien to our own, and Dougie did a great job of that. The planet Kahlo doesn’t have the same clear-cut distinctions between animal, vegetable and mineral that we have. The architecture is bio-engineered, grown from genetically manipulated plants, so buildings are constantly evolving. The way of life on Kahlo revolves around the Belamort, a life form that shares aspects of plants and animals. It has a symbiotic relationship with the Kahloans, feeding off them, while in return sending chemicals to the pleasure centre of the brain. In effect, the Kahloans spend most of their time stoned out of their minds.

If we’ve been successful, the story will recreate the appeal that DC comics had for Dougie and I when we were kids. While the Waid/Perez run on The Brave and the Bold is a tip of the hat to the Silver Age, we’re looking to acknowledge our love of the watershed era at the end of the '60s, when realism began to enter mainstream comics, spearheaded by Neal Adams. I guess what you’d call the Bronze Age, although I don’t like that term. It sounds like a poor third place after Gold and Silver. For me it’s the real Golden Age.

NRAMA: Why did you want to approach this comic in this way? Was it intentional to divert from the previous approach on the series?

DH: I’d been talking to Dougie for ages, years probably, about the kind of book we’d like to do together. We’ll argue endlessly about what are the best books currently on the market, but we are both in total agreement when it comes to our roots. I was staying with Dougie for a weekend when he was coming up to the end of his run on Justice. That book was incredibly hard work, with virtually every character in the DCU appearing, often on the same page. It seemed the ideal time to do a short run on something, where he could draw the things we had been talking about. The Brave and the Bold had just been re-launched, and we both saw that as the ideal place to pitch our ideas. We didn’t deliberately set out to do things in a totally different way to what was being done by Mark Waid and George Perez. This was just the kind of Brave and Bold story we wanted to do. We also had no idea when we would be fitted into the run, but I always assumed The Brave and the Bold, with its rotating roster of characters, would be a book that could embrace all kinds of styles and approaches.

NRAMA: Let's talk about Green Lantern and Phantom Stranger. What's unique about the pairing of these two characters, and how does it play out in the comic?

DH: Green Lantern’s purpose is to uphold justice as part of a disciplined force of Lanterns and he operates under their rules. His abilities, no matter how astounding, are also governed by hard science. The Phantom Stranger’s abilities are mystical and unbounded by any rules of logic or science. Even within the DC Universe, I don’t think the limits of his abilities have ever been pinned down. The Stranger is a loner and an outsider, and although he believes in justice, he rarely interferes directly.

So we have two very different characters, Green Lantern, who operates in the light, where everything is morally black and white, and The Phantom Stranger, who exists in the shadows and recognizes all kinds of moral grey areas. For him free will is everything, so his modus operandi is to influence the protagonists to ‘do the right thing,’ rather than imposing his own idea of justice.

The story is about our relative perceptions of good and evil. It’s about the dangers and responsibilities of making judgments and enforcing a single interpretation of justice. Hal Jordan and The Stranger are both after the same result – to save the Universe, but they have almost diametrically opposed methods of achieving that.

NRAMA: Most DC fans aren't probably familiar with your work, David. What would you tell them about your style of writing and what kind of things you've written previously?

DH: I have quite a diverse background. My major work is probably Strange Embrace, a graphic novel originally serialized in the '90s, collected in 2003 by Active Images, and currently available as a hardback from Image. I’ve worked as an inker, penciler and writer, largely for British comics until 2004, when I began writing for Marvel. My credits there include District X and Mutopia X, Daredevil: Redemption, Civil War: X-Men, X-Men: The 198, Son of M and Silent War. I’ve also written 35 issues of Spawn for Image and the manga Poison Candy for Tokyopop.

The style of writing depends on the subject, but it’s usually described as dark, off-beat, morally ambiguous. Actually in some cases it has been described as “sick and twisted” but I wouldn’t necessarily agree. I guess I’m a bit of a square peg in the round hole of mainstream comics because I’m not a great believer in heroes or the idea that violence can resolve a conflict, so my fight-scenes are more often a shambles than a field of glory.

This is my second outing at DC. The first book I had published was the Joker’s Asylum: Two-Face one-shot. My next major project will be from Radical Comics. It’s the ultimate vampire book, based on a concept that you can check out at www.FVZA.org, where you can read the true history of the USA – one where vampires and zombies played an integral part in all the key events of the last couple of centuries. There have been an awful lot of vampire and zombie books of late, but this one is going to be very different. I’m really looking forward to working on a book with the Radical guys. Barry Levine is one of the most enthusiastic people in the business and the editor-in-chief is Dave Elliott who originally published Strange Embrace, so in a way this is coming full-circle.

NRAMA: How did you get the gig working on Brave and the Bold? Was this something you pitched?

DH: I don’t often pitch to publishers without being invited. Various editors at DC have approached me over the past few years, and although those projects never came off, I knew that there was some interest there. Going in with Dougie as collaborator obviously helped too. We pitched this a couple of years back, but it was a while before there was a gap in the schedule on Brave and Bold to fit us in.

NRAMA: How has it been working with Doug on the project?

DH: It’s always a bonus to work with people I know and like, and Dougie is one of my oldest friends in the comics world. He’s one of the most skilled artists working in American comics. There are too many people out there who put style and pyrotechnics over the skills of figure drawing, lighting, perspective and solid draftsmanship. Dougie also puts a huge amount of work into creating a believable environment and conveying the emotions of the characters. It was a genuine delight to see my story coming to life through his art, and I want to work with him again. You hear that, Dougie? This has been a labor of love for all of us. Bill Reinhold has done a fabulous job rendering Dougie’s pencils. They worked very closely on this one, and Bill really pushed himself to develop a new style of delicate brush and wash that captures the quality of Dougie’s pencils perfectly.

NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell people about this arc of Brave and the Bold?

DH: Everyone reading this should rush out and put this on their pull lists, so orders shoot up and DC gives me lots more work.

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