On April 20, say “Aloha!” to another installment in B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin’s popular tiki-noir Hawaiian Dick detective series as the first issue in the fourth volume hits newsstands this spring. And while series writer B. Clay Moore and incoming artist Jacob Wyatt promise this new arc will deliver more of what longtime fans have come to know and love about Byrd, they also look to introduce new readers to the world of sunny side of crime.
With only a month before the release of their first issue, Newsarama spent some time talking with both Moore and Wyatt not only about the history and development of Hawaiian Dick but also some hints about what’s to come!
Newsarama: Clay, it’s been almost ten years since the last Hawaiian Dick series debuted back. You had been turning out a new series fairly frequently prior to that point (the first arc released in 2002 and the second in 2006). I’m curious what led to your putting the series on hiatus?
B. Clay Moore: Well, it's complicated, but we've actually been working on this series off and on for a few years. The last series was intended to be an ongoing book, but the sixth issue went unpublished. (It's now a part of the Great Big Hawaiian Dick hardcover we just Kickstartered) Long story short, we wanted to make sure this book didn't run into any scheduling problems, so we took our time.
Nrama: This series is coming just as NBC optioned the rights to do a Hawaiian Dick television series. What can fans and viewers expect with this NBC series? Given that it will be going to network TV, do you think this will be challenging given the dark themes of Hawaiian Dick and noir in general?
Moore: Well, any time you move a story from one medium to another, it's a safe bet that changes will be made. In the case of Hawaiian Dick, I think they're attempting to embrace both the humor in the book and the more serious themes. One of the initial inspirations for Hawaiian Dick was The Rockford Files, and despite the fact that that show's been off the air for thirty years, I think a lot of people would love to see something recapture that vibe. Also with ghosts.
Nrama: Do you have any ideas as to casting? Who would be the ideal actors and actresses that you’d like to see involved with the show?
Moore: Nope. But Johnny Knoxville's co-producing. He was attached to the New Line deal way back when, and I'd love to talk him into taking the role, but whatever works works.
Nrama: For this fourth comic book series, you are bringing Jacob Wyatt on board. How did you two come together?
Moore: A few years ago, Eric Stephenson sent me some samples Jake has done for something, and told me he thought Jake would be great for Hawaiian Dick. He was right, of course. What was originally going to be a one-shot was ultimately expanded into five issues. In the meantime, Jake has grown into a monster, artistically speaking.
Also of note, Jake brought artist Paul Reinwand on board to help finish the last couple of issues. Paul ended up contributing to Great Big Hawaiian Dick, and is a perfect fit for what we're doing here.
Jacob Wyatt: I showed my portfolio to Eric Stephenson at a convention way back in 2009 and he passed my work on to Clay, who got in touch. I love the tiki-noir vibe of Hawaiian Dick that Steven Griffin established, and I really liked Clay's scripts, so we started working together.
Nrama: Clay, you mentioned elsewhere that “the tone of Aloha is a little darker than in previous series.” Why is that?
Moore: We've spent over ten years producing, up until now, a total of thirteen issues, telling the story of Byrd and his friends. I thought it might be time to push his story forward a bit more, and set things up for the next chapter in his life (and in the lives of his co-stars). So, the book introduces his brother, Mike, and a star-crossed trumpet player named Tread Lightly. But we also lose a cast member. Or two.
Nrama: You also mentioned this story will be rewarding for long-time fans of the Hawaiian Dick series. In what ways do you see this story connecting to Byrd’s continuity?
Moore: As I said, it pushes him forward. So far, readers have mainly seen Byrd get swept up in events that surround him. In this series, events finally push Byrd to the breaking point. He can only drink and slack his way around the island for so long before addressing the ghosts in his past.
Nrama: Likewise, how do you see this book appealing to readers who may not have read the first three mini-series? In what ways does it appeal to the traditional noir / crime genre fan and how does it differ a bit from the typical entries within this genre?
Moore: I assume most crime genre fans are always looking for something a little off the beaten path. This series actually opens in 1972, as Byrd's brother, Mike, is interviewed by a young reporter about events that happened back in 1954. From there we visit Kansas City circa 1954, and then we're off to Hawaii to catch up with our cast, half-dead gang lords, and creeping FBI agents. Also, a little mutilation, a funeral, some wicked as hell tattoos, and a bunch of dead guys. We'll catch new readers up.
Wyatt: Visually, Hawaiian Dick offers a lot that other crime stories tend to lack. Where most crime stories are steeped in darkness and twilight, Hawaiian Dick is all pastels and sunshine. The cast is nice and diverse, and they deal with the issues unique to their place and time. It doesn't look or feel like what you expect from a crime comic set in the 50's.
Nrama: Jacob, given how the tone and atmosphere in a noir story deeply depend on the visual elements, can you talk us through your process of bringing Clay’s scripts to life especially given the way you suggest it deviates from more traditional approaches to noir?
Wyatt: Hawaiian Dick was my first commercial project, so it was a huge learning experience for me. Clay's writing is really clear and economical, the character's voices are strong, and he's good about writing for comics, specifically, writing towards the end-product as drawn on the page, so that made the learning curve pretty easy on me. The trick about detective comics (the genre, not the series) is that there's a lot of walking and talking, and that can be hard to translate into visual excitement. Clay was great at helping me out there: When conversations ran long, characters were always walking through someplace interesting as they talked (along the beach in Hawaii, or through the grounds of an ultra-70's hotel), so I always had a lot to work with, visually. Sequences that might have been filled with talking heads opened up and became about landscape and environment and the tension between figures in space. It's a trick I've cribbed for my own work.
And honestly, a lot of the things I picked up for on from Hawaiian Dick have ended up defining me as an artist.
I tried to borrow my line quality for the series from mid-century illustrators like Austin Briggs to reflect the period in which the story takes place, and those lines have stuck with me.
I borrowed a lot of color from Steven Griffen's original palettes, which ended up having a HUGE impact on the way I use color generally. Before Hawaiian Dick, I tended towards darker, unsaturated palettes--too much noir and not enough tiki, but now I push color wherever I can.
Nrama: Jacob, I know you’ve already started leaning into my next question, but who would you both say are your greatest influences while working on this particular story?
Wyatt: As I mentioned, Austin Briggs and Steven Griffin to start, but also Bernie Fuchs, Katsuya Terada, Alex Toth. And a million other people. I bit a lot off of Japanese wood blocks, yakuza films, crime movies. The whole fifth issue (which my friend Paul Reinwand is drawing and coloring) was laid out to feel like a Sergio Leone movie, with all 'widescreen' panels. I didn't have much experience when I started, so I pulled from everywhere I could.
Moore: I'm not sure about specific influences, but I did want to get a little heavier vibe going. One of the new characters, trumpet player Tread Lightly, is sort of influenced by Chet Baker and Art Pepper, and some of the West Coast jazz musicians who struggled with addiction. Pepper played the sax, but for whatever reason, trumpet players seemed to have a rougher go of it than other musicians.
Nrama: Last question – what do you think differentiates your series from the other crime books out on newsstands today or that will be available once Aloha, Hawaiian Dick releases that is going to command readers’ attention?
Moore: I don't know. Hawaiian Dick has a rich vibe. Jake (and Paul) have done a stellar job with both the art and the color in the book. Aloha is definitely in step with the previous Hawaiian Dick arcs, but also carves out a new direction quite nicely.
Wyatt: I think Clay's research into the period and culture of our story is tremendous. I tried to mirror that fidelity in the clothes, cars, buildings, and props that appear in the series. I probably fell short, but I did my best. And tonally, Hawaiian Dick is a thing apart. I didn't create the tiki-noir world of Hawaiian Dick; I really just inherited it--but I've tried my best to do right by it because that flavor is so fun and unique. There's also an element of the supernatural in Dick that I really love. It's not as overt as what you see in a lot of crime/horror books like Revival or Fatale (which are both excellent) but it adds a nice texture and weight to the proceedings, as well as an element of mystery that defies the kind of clean explanations and conclusions we look for (and generally receive) in crime fiction.