David Hine is just as well-known for his creator-owned work as his work-for-hire, and his new project Second Sight offers what he describes as the best of both worlds. But it might be hard to see that when you see the bloody opening scene previewed here in the article.
Debuting in February from Aftershock, Second Sight is written by Hine with Alberto Ponticelli on art. In it, bookstore owner Ray Pilgrim's old life as a psychic and police liaison gets dredged up when his estranged daughter Toni gets caught up in the old family business. Pilgrim must now get back into the head of murderers if he's to save his own child.
Hine is known for portraying the disturbing side of human nature, whether in his extensive work on mutants and Inhmans at Marvel, or on Batman villains at DC — or even his creation of one of Image's more dark and twisted run of Spawn. But Hine's also a creator-owned veteran, from his psychologically twisted Strange Embrace to his more recent Image series The Bulletproof Coffin.
Newsarama talked with Hine about Second Sight, how the veteran feels about Aftershock's hybrid work-for-hire/creator-owned working method, and more.
Newsarama: Dave, you've got quite an intricate story woven together here. I assume this is a long-form story, with a lot of twists and turns? Do you have this planned out quite awhile?
David Hine: I’ve actually had this story brewing for a very long time in various forms. The story is set in two time periods: the present day and 20 years in the past. To give you an idea of how long I’ve been nurturing Second Sight, when I first came up with the concept, the two time periods were the 1970s and the 1990s! Now I can pitch the story as “True Detective meets Hannibal meets The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”
The story has always revolved around a criminal profiler who has genuine psychic powers and can literally get into the heads of murderers. There are indeed a lot of twists to the plot and though the initial arc is six issues, there are many elements that will run and run.
Nrama: Tell me about the lead character, Ray Pilgrim. As you said, we meet him in the present day, but we also follow him in the past. What was it about this character that intrigued you?
Hine: The idea of getting into the head of a murderer is something that has always fascinated me. The greatest challenge as a writer is to inhabit the characters you’re bringing to life on the page, and that means the most appalling characters as well as the sympathetic ones. I followed the work of criminal profilers like Paul Britton in the United Kingdom and Robert K. Ressler in the United States. These are people who did their best to get into the minds of the killers they were studying in order to understand them. Implicit in that has always been the possibility that in order to understand evil you may yourself become corrupted, Ressler wrote a book called I Have Lived In The Monster. That says it all.
Ray Pilgrim’s psychic abilities mean he gets closer than any normal profiler to the monsters and that has a corrosive effect on him and everyone who gets close to him.
The flashback part of the story follows the career of the young Ray Pilgrim, who has a kind of rock star attitude to what he does, and like many rock stars, goes off the rails. That takes place in the 1990s. Then we see a more subdued present day version of Pilgrim who has retreated from the public eye and is trying to repair his relationship with his daughter, Toni.
Nrama: Yeah, he ends up reuniting with Toni. How does her knowledge of the modern world add to her father's investigation skills?
Hine: Everything kicks off when Ray’s daughter starts using her blog to expose a ring of child abusers and the media start to take an interest. I’ve deliberately contrasted the old school methods of crime investigation with the high-tech computer-based methods of today and also the way the media can invade our privacy. In the early 1990s we still used public telephone boxes and the internet was in its infancy. The technological leap has changed the way we interact in ways that we still don’t really comprehend and that’s at the core of the story. It’s about connecting as human beings, as family and as private individuals in a world that is increasingly intrusive.
Both Toni and Ray’s assistant, Sad John, kind of hold his hand when it comes to tech. Although I was an early adopter of new technologies I do still share a lot of Ray Pilgrim’s misgivings and distrust of a world where we interact through screens. Ray runs his own bookshop — real paper books. That’s always been a dream of mine.
Nrama: So in this story, is Ray looking for redemption?
Hine: It’s more a case of redemption coming looking for him. We see from the outset that Ray is deeply troubled by his past, but he’s hiding away from it, finding escape in the bottom of the bottle. He did live with monsters and that led him to do things that shame him deeply. There’s one particular event that represents his darkest hour. He is literally haunted by what he did and he won’t be able to shake that off until he relives it and shares it with Toni, but he’s also terrified that she will reject him when she knows the truth. It’s Toni herself who pushes him to open up about his past and also to take on his responsibilities by helping her to expose the network of influential child abusers who are protected by the their positions at the top of British society. That reflects what has been increasingly exposed in recent years about the corruption at the heart of our institutions that has been festering away for decades and is finally being dragged out into the light.
Nrama: As we've discussed many times, your work often leans dark, and the art we've seen previewed has that feel as well. Yet it's clear there's a detective mystery at the heart of the story. With Alberto Ponticelli on art, what's the overall tone of the comic?
Hine: My work is definitely on the dark side. Themes of betrayal, guilt, responsibility and the struggle to communicate are always there. I never quite got over the existential angst of my teenage years when I discovered Kafka, Sartre and Crumb.
This is indeed a detective story. Most stories are mysteries. It’s the promise of a central truth that will make sense of everything that keeps us reading. The detective story is the purest form of that search for the truth, though I don’t guarantee that there will be an “Aha!” moment when everything falls into place. It’s a little more complex than that.
Alberto has contributed a wonderful sense of unease to the story. He’s great on mood and his characters always convey a sense of conflict. He doesn’t do clean-cut heroes. I’ve followed his work for a while and been very impressed with his work for DC/Vertigo on Frankenstein, Unknown Soldier and Dial H. He also did a fabulous issue of Ales Kot’s Zero for Image that blew me away. I was very pleased when editor Mike Marts confirmed that Alberto would be available for the book and the relationship with him has been great. He’s incredibly open to communication and feedback and I’m loving what he’s doing with the story and characters.
Nrama: You've had experience with work-for-hire as well as self-published work. What's it been like working with AfterShock Comics, and what do they offer you as an artist as you put together this project?
Hine: AfterShock Comics are really the perfect balance for me. I’ve often talked publicly about how frustrating it can be to work on corporately owned characters. I often found a conflict between the needs of the story and the requirements of the character as commercial property. That’s possibly less true at the moment. Certainly there have been some very interesting twists on characters like Spider-Man and Thor and even Batman. But there’s never anything like the creative freedom of owning your characters.
That can also have its drawbacks of course. The investment of time and energy you need to promote and manage a self-published book or even a creator-owned book at Image, can threaten to outweigh the benefits. The deal with Aftershock allows me all the creative freedom I need and also gives me financial security and takes away the hassles of dealing with physically getting a book made, printed and distributed. So far it’s working very well.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell potential readers about Second Sight?
Hine: I have enormous respect for Mike Marts after working with him on so many books at Marvel and DC. AfterShock is clearly a long-term vision of how commercial comics should work. There’s a great sense of involvement in every stage of the creative process, so I even got to feedback to our logo designer, the amazingly talented John Roshell of Comiccraft. Everything, down to the crediting of our letterer, Jimmy Betancourt and colorist John Kalisz on the covers, shows that this is about teamwork.
Mike has also pulled off the difficult objective of having a diverse range of titles and creators and still getting the feel of a house style. It’s basically mainstream comics with an indie edge. I’m very happy to be part of a new and significant force in comics.