BOOM! Month presses forward today, and we’ve got something very special for you horror fans out there! We’ve got an exclusive interview with Christopher Monfette, who’s teamed with Clive Barker to pen the new Hellraiser comic book series, which kicks off with today’s release of issue #1. Throughout the interview, you’ll find preview pages from the first issue, so be sure to check those out in greater detail by clicking on each image.
I got the chance to read an advanced preview of the first issue, and I was completely blown away. The whole team knocked it out of the park. I couldn’t be more excited for the story that Barker and Monfette have set up, and Leonardo Manco delivers stunning visuals.
Before you dig into Monfette’s interview, you’ll want to check out the link below. We’ve got access to an original eight-page Hellraiser story that serves as a prelude to the first issue of the series. It’ll put you in a good place to read the interview.
Now, on to the main event. Warning, some readers might find the images below disturbing. Not recommended for younger readers.
TFAW.com: Can you tell us a little about the new Hellraiser comic book series?
Christopher Monfette: Despite all that’s come before–the films, the comics, etc.–this series is the true continuation of Clive’s vision as he presented it 25 years ago. This Pinhead is Doug Bradley’s Pinhead; this world is the world of Kirsty Cotton, of the Channard Institute. Our canon is simple: The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser, and Hellraiser II.
The story finds Pinhead at the height of his melancholy. He’s murdered the masses; he’s solved the riddles of the flesh. And because he secretly clings to the ambitions of his former humanity, he constructs a plan to claw his way up out of Hell.
He makes a literal deal with the Devil. But that notion requires the unwilling participation of Kirsty Cotton, who’s been busy battling against the Lament Devices alongside the Harrowers since we last saw her in Hellbound. Thus begins a very deadly game of chess as these two characters spiral toward each other . . .
TFAW.com: So the Harrowers play a pivotal role in the series?
CM: The Harrowers do, indeed, make an appearance in this series, but not necessarily in the same incarnation as we’ve seen them in past comics. This is a more grounded, realistic ensemble–a group of men and women working together to track down and destroy LeMarchand’s devices. Who they are, and where they’ve come from–not necessarily as comic book heroes, but as damaged human beings–all plugs directly back into Kirsty’s story, Kirsty’s experience. The human toll. So in that sense, we’re using the word “Harrower” as a general term; Hunters of Hell, so to speak. Readers will learn much, much more about them in issue #3.
TFAW.com: How did Leonardo Manco come to work on the series?
CM: Manco’s work had caught Clive’s eye somewhere along the way, and I can only imagine that it was his gritty, stark, brilliantly illustrated realism that made him perfect for the series. My own experience with Manco as writer–and–artist has been a revelation.
Working with an artist for the first time, you can never be certain whether your visions of the world will be the same, or the degree to which they might pluck a description from the page, an imagined image from your head, and make it rise above.
Fortunately, Manco’s work has elevated my own and opened up possibilities for me as a writer because of his jaw-dropping ability to communicate these increasingly bizarre and twisted visuals on the page. But that he can do so in a way that makes them feel like they’re appearing in a real world–our world–is what makes him the only choice for this series.
TFAW.com: What’s been your favorite part about working on the comic so far? Have you been a fan of the Hellraiser series for awhile?
CM: Long before I ever met Clive–and decades before I got this gig–I grew up with Hellraiser. Of all the horror icons that popped up in the early ’80s, Pinhead was the one figurehead that really spoke to me as a younger, emerging genre fan.
The design, the mythology; there was a sense of something new, something deeper and more interesting than wholesale slasher villains. And a sizeable part of that–aside from Clive’s contribution as a visionary–was Doug Bradley’s portrayal. The voice he brought to the character, deep and resonating. Moreso than having the opportunity to craft and sustain a Hellraiser narrative, there’s a childish glee I find in scripting Pinhead’s poetic eloquence and passing it through the filter of Doug’s voice.
If I can’t imagine how Doug would deliver a particular line, I’ll likely change it, and since this story happens within the cinematic world that Clive created, that seems like a both a fitting and necessary tribute.
TFAW.com: What have been the biggest challenges?
CM: The process has been surprisingly organic, but it’s never an easy task to sustain horror within a serialized format. These aren’t simply one-off issues, after all, but rather one continuing narrative, and that comes with a unique set of demands.
Granted, this is Hellraiser, so it might have been easy to simply toss a few odd visuals and a metric ton of gore onto the page and call it a day, but everything in this series stems first from character. Pinhead, Kirsty, the Harrowers–each of these figures have their own motivations, their own melancholies, their own fears. Demons, literal and figurative. And we, as creators, have a responsibility to deliver our trademark horror alongside actual characters and challenging ideas.
You do a disservice to the genre when you downplay drama in favor of two-dimensional bloodshed. So delivering upon the demands of terror while offering up substantive characters–with the potential to actually move the reader–all while threading one main story through eight issues–which each must offer something new, something terrifying–is no easy feat . . .
TFAW.com: Why did you decide to bring Kirsty back?
CM: In a sense, the series is really a torch-passing, a transition from the Hellraiser that Clive created 25 years ago into a completely new vision of Hell.
By the time you really get into the series, the themes, the characters, the aesthetic are going to be very, very different from where they first started, but you can’t make that kind of transformation lightly, or abruptly. We’re not rebooting the series; we’re evolving it. And in creating something that would invite new readers into the Hellraiser mythology, it felt somehow appropriate to begin in a place familiar to the fans who’ve been there all along. A mid-point between one circle of Hell and another.
Consequently, it never seemed to me that Kirsty’s story was complete, and since we were only using The Hellbound Heart and the first two films as our canon–and since we were embracing the actual time that had passed–and since we were exploring Pinhead’s personal melancholy, his desire for a challenge–it seemed fascinating to bring back the one character who’d bested him, to explore the effects that wearing your stepmother’s skin, or falling face-first into to the flayed corpse of your father, or battling demons in Hell, might have had on Kirsty over the years.
TFAW.com: How did you come to work on the project?
CM: Clive and I have known each other for about six years, and I’ve scripted feature adaptations of two of his short stories for his production company: “Down, Satan” and “Son of Celluloid.”
In 2009, we collaborated on a beautifully strange–or strangely beautiful–comic for IDW called Seduth, a surrealistic 3D horror one-off. So when the opportunity came to resurrect Pinhead–Clive’s Pinhead, the ever-real and only Pinhead–on the illustrated page, I got the phone call to come aboard. And that Clive would trust me with this iconic character, and allow me such sprawling, creative space to shape the series, is absolutely an honor.
TFAW.com: What is it like working with Clive Barker on his beloved story?
CM: Clive is a fantastic collaborator not only in that his impulses are furiously creative, but in that he truly listens. Clive’s original thoughts for this series were wildly different from what you’ll see on the page, and when I offered up my own–about Kirsty, about the eventual endgame–he took them in, considered them, and together we developed an arc that combined themes and images and narrative elements that were important to both of us.
As creator and fan, he’s exceptionally generous and uniquely open to the creative, collaborative process. The ideas that go into the mind-factory don’t exclusively have to be his own, but what comes out the other side will certainly have his artistic fingerprints. As I deliver these scripts, he’ll come back with minor notes, with sketches, that push the weirdness a bit further, that heighten the horror, that challenge the expectations of the reader.
TFAW.com: Were you worried about joining the franchise?
CM: Not at all. Largely because I wasn’t going in blind. In fact, I was fully armed with 25 years of ideas and a long, abiding admiration for the series. I knew from having worked with Clive in the past that I’d have a voice in the process. It’s certainly intimidating for a creator to say, “What would you do with my creation?” but the opportunity to shape the fate of an icon isn’t one that allows for much fear. And between Clive and the folks at BOOM!, the landscape was one of confidence and creativity.
TFAW.com: What characters/elements have you brought to the story? Have any of them wowed Clive?
CM: Certainly, the collaborative process is organic, but I felt passionately from the beginning that Kirsty needed to be a driving force behind the series. And having watched Pinhead be cinematically abused for nearly two decades on-screen, it felt to me that the tiredness of the character deserved exploration, as well.
Those two things suggested a story in which Pinhead, having solved the mystery of the flesh–bored with the tortures of Hell, half-remembering his own discarded humanity–must manipulate the puzzle box back into the life of the woman who once escaped him. Not simply to service the diehard fans, but to be the catalyst for a massive transformation that would offer Clive a new Hell to imagine; BOOM! a fresh vision, a continuing series; and readers a little bit of something familiar before charting an entirely new territory. Clive really responded to that creative challenge and offered up particular themes, suggested the Harrowers, etc . . .
TFAW.com: How would you describe the comic to a new reader? Who’s going to dig this series? What kind of reader are you looking to hook (no pun intended)?
CM: How does one describe Hellraiser? That seems like an impossible task! But this series is a character-driven horror tale of tremendous scope that serves as a mid-way point for both new fans and old.
New readers will meet Kirsty and Pinhead at a pivotal time of change–as if they were new characters with a mysterious, unspoken past–launching them both into an entirely original vision of Hell. Long-time fans, however, will watch these aging nemeses–with so much history between them–expand into a much deeper, more complex mythology than Hellraiser has ever explored. And make no mistake, if this series is successful, this will mark the beginning of a much larger, much stranger, much more terrifying story.
We want to thank Christopher Monfette for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about Hellraiser.
We hope you’re as excited about this series as we are. This first issue definitely delivered. What did you think about the prelude and preview pages you saw here? We want to hear what you have to say–post your comments below.