It’s no secret that creator-owned comics can have a hard time staying afloat–which is why we try to give new series, like Chew and Hack/Slash, a little extra love when they catch our eye. This month we’d like to highlight another upcoming series from Image Comics, Hoax Hunters, which centers on a mysterious group of superpowered individuals who investigate supernatural and paranormal phenomena–and then “debunk” them on their television show, also named Hoax Hunters.
Part B.P.R.D., part X-Files, and part MythBusters, Hoax Hunters is co-written by Michael Moreci, writer of Quarantined, and Steve Seeley, an incredible artist who has participated in our SDCC/CBLDF Autograph Card events for the past two years (and just happens to be the brother of Hack/Slash creator Tim Seeley). However, art duties on Hoax Hunters #0 were handled by JM Ringuet (Johnny Delgado Is Dead), with Axel Medellin (Elephantmen, 50 Girls) taking over in issue #1. We had the chance to interview Michael and Steve and pick their brains about the origins of Hoax Hunters and the hurdles of publishing a creator-owned series.
Make sure to pre-order Hoax Hunters #0, out March 21, and save 20% while you support creator-owned comics! Check out our five-page preview of issue #0, as well as some promo art by Medellin, pictured below!
TFAW.com: Michael and Steve, how long have you two known each other?
Steve Seeley: I think it’s been a couple of years, actually. We met two years ago on New Year’s Eve. Mike lives in the same neighborhood as my brother, Tim. We actually ended up spending NYE in a bar on the corner of Mike’s street. After running into Tim earlier that day, Mike stopped in a little after midnight. And the rest is history.
Michael Moreci: Pure magic, I might add. And I also appreciate Steve calling to light the detail that, midday NYE, I had absolutely no other plans. Ouch.
TFAW.com: How did the concept for Hoax Hunters get started?
SS: Tim offered us a backup story in Hack/Slash. We tossed around a few ideas before we finally decided on Hoax Hunters, which was really kind of an amalgamation of many of the ideas. It really plays towards a lot of our interests. The idea to make it a TV show seemed like a great way to combine all of those interests and keep it open for limitless possibilities. They weren’t just monster hunters, they weren’t a superhero team; they could go anywhere and face any foe, from urban legends to cryptids to UFOs. And possibly for an unlimited amount of issues . . . just like a TV show.
TFAW.com: Reading the #0 issue, it seems like the Hoax Hunters are superpowered individuals who investigate real paranormal events, but then pretend to “disprove” them on their TV show. Why don’t they reveal the truth on their show–wouldn’t they get even bigger ratings?
MM: That’s true, but we’ll see there is more to the Hoax Hunters television show than meets the eye. Dare I say . . . conspiracy? The year Steve and I worked on the backup story gave us ample time to think about the Hoax Hunters mythology from every angle; in that time, we were able to conceive a pretty involved, long-form story. We’ll come to find that there is a specific reason why these paranormal events and odd occurrences are kept secret. It’s a mystery that runs through the course of the series and will be revealed piece by piece.
TFAW.com: For people who haven’t read the book yet, can you introduce them to our Hunters?
MM: For sure! There’s Ken Cadaver, a re-animated corpse and former NASA scientist; Regan, a one-time child star who experienced a demonic possession that left her, let’s say, gifted; and Jack, an FBI agent with his own sordid, supernatural past. As the series progresses, we’ll learn a lot more about each of these characters and how they operate as a team. One thing that’s paramount to Steve and I is to make all our characters defined by who they are, not what they can do (abilities wise). So we’ve built pretty rich, involved histories for all of them, and we’ll see those backstories play out in the context of the cases they work on.
TFAW.com: I love that your “one-time victim of child possession” is named Regan, a la The Exorcist. What are your other inspirations?
MM: That’s awesome you caught that. Steve and I try to sneak those little Easter eggs in from time to time, just something fun for anyone who notices.
Steve and I are both X-Files fans, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. We’re also conspiracy nerds of the general order—cryptozoology, aliens, weird science anomalies, you name it. You’ll find both our library records full with titles on government cover-ups, science gone amok, and creatures such as the Montauk Monster on the loose. Some of the books are completely ridiculous, others are surprisingly convincing. I think it’s safe to say we like the ridiculous ones better.
Personally, I’ve found that Lost has had a big, lasting impact on the way I write. That show was such a unique experience (regardless of how it ended), and it’s amazing how much brain candy they squeezed into each episode. From thoughts on religion and science to pulp-inspired adventure to the unending stream of references they so ecstatically played with, Lost was pretty fearless, and that inspires me when I think about Hoax Hunters. Steve and I aren’t shy about doing the same; we’re aware we live in an era of recycled ideas, and we’re okay with that. Nearly everything comes from something else. The goal is to make it your own while still tipping your hat to the source (like naming a character who suffered a possession Regan).
TFAW.com: As you mentioned, Hoax Hunters started up as a backup story in Hack/Slash. How did that influence how you plotted the story?
MM: Being a backup played a tremendous role in how we approached the story, in a few ways. First off, obviously, writing something that feels at least somewhat complete in two-page bursts isn’t easy. Our strategy going in was to make each installment as full as possible, without allowing the story to become too compressed. JM’s art really made this work, and his role can’t be appreciated enough; he approached each page in a unique way, using different palettes and layouts every time out.
Also, it forced us to learn a lot about the characters and this universe we were creating—there was no room to figure things out as we went. Being backed into such a corner really honed our creativity and our focus on the story.
TFAW.com: Hoax Hunters #0 collects those backup stories, plus some bonus material–what does that include?
MM: We’re including a few preview pages of Axel Medellin’s Hoax Hunters work, which introduces the new story arc Steve and I are currently working on. We’re also including some character bios and a cool, double-page spread that will dig deeper into the Hoax Hunters universe in a pretty inventive way.
TFAW.com: So your original artist was JM Ringuet, but the ongoing series will feature Axel Medellin. What do these artists have in common, and what are their separate strengths?
MM: It’s weird, because they’re such very unique artists, but their styles both work in their own way for Hoax Hunters. JM is a bit more stylized, and his approach to the page is a little different than Axel’s. Axel, on the other hand, has what I guess you can say is a more traditional style and truly captures the characters to perfection; JM was more focused on the mood. Both of which are so very important to the Hoax Hunters story.
Ultimately, they are both amazing storytellers and Steve and I are lucky to collaborate with them. We truly appreciate the work they’ve done in making Hoax Hunters a reality.
TFAW.com: Steve, will you contribute any art to the series?
SS: I painted the cover for issue #0. At this moment, that’s it.
TFAW.com: What is your favorite part about writing the series?
MM: I think it’s safe to say Steve and I have hyperactive interests—a Venn Diagram of what we’re into would run from He-Man to physics to X-Files to Jack Kirby, and so on. The exciting thing about Hoax Hunters is that the premise allows us to cover a lot of that ground (well, maybe not He-Man); the book isn’t just noir, or a superhero story. We have monsters, aliens, conspiracies, mysteries; there’s a lot going on and so much that we can do, which makes it a perfect project for Steve and I.
And the more we dig, the more we discover that there’s just so much weird stuff out there. The world is stuffed with a lot of unexplainable phenomena, and it’s been pretty great to be able to research that as part of our “job.”
TFAW.com: What are the biggest challenges to getting a creator-owned series off the ground?
MM: Ha . . . get comfortable! That’s a joke (kind of).
The biggest challenge is the risk involved. Investing in a creator-owned book is like starting a business—you’re responsible for everything. You’re a writer, a project manager, public relations specialist, sales rep, everything. Granted, Image has been very, very good to us. But, there’s only so much they can do, and that’s part of the deal. So you have to be ready to make yourself a business, which is something a lot of writers/artists aren’t comfortable with. It’s essential, though; the comic market is a competitive one, and there aren’t a lot of readers to go around. Every issue you release is a gamble, because you live and die by sales, and that can be nerve- wracking. I mean, look at Green Wake, which Kurtis Wiebe just announced was ending 15 issues early because the sales couldn’t sustain its continuation—and that was a wildly acclaimed series! News like that terrifies me, because it’s a reminder of our own reality: If Hoax Hunters doesn’t perform well, then there’s no more Hoax Hunters.
But, at the same time, the gamble is pretty exhilarating. If you’re going to bet on anything, bet on yourself.
TFAW.com: The team got a new member in #0. Where will they go from here?
SS: At the end of issue #0, Hoax Hunters welcomes Murder into their team, but he will remain a background member on the show. After all, it’s pretty difficult for them to constantly cover up that he is a spacesuit filled with crows. As far as new characters, we plan to have a full cast of second-string characters that will guest star regularly.
TFAW.com: To sum up–why should readers pick up this book?
MM: I think Hoax Hunters is a good representation of what makes comics so great—big ideas, big plots, big action. In comics, you aren’t encumbered by market testing or appeasing advertisers. A story can exist on its own terms and is thus free to take risks and be as imaginative as possible. In a lot of ways, Hoax Hunters does that. Steve and I throw everything into our stories, our scripts, our panels. It’s going to be a fun ride, and if given the chance, readers will respond to that.
Our thanks to Michael and Steve for answering all of our questions, and giving us some sweet preview images of Hoax Hunters #0. Stay tuned for more: we’ll be throwing a Twitter contest in March celebrating the release of Hoax Hunters #0 by giving away some original art!
Think you’ll give Hoax Hunters a try? What creator-owned series do you think TFAW should highlight? Post your comments below!