Earlier this week David Hine gave us an intimate look into the world of Radical’s FVZA: Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency. Today, David gives us a look into the mind of Arkham Reborn, and gives us a sneak peek into the upcoming sequel to Marvel’s critically acclaimed Spider-man Noir, Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without a Face.
To check out Part 1 of our Interview Series with David Hine, just click here.
Alex Rodrik, Features and Interviews Editor
AR: Tell us a bit about Arkham Reborn.
DH: This is the follow-up to the Battle for the Cowl One-Shot. When I was given the BFTC book there were a lot of limitations on what I was able to do with the character. It seemed like every idea I had or character development I wanted to make was going to conflict with the plans for the Batman line or would have to wait a few months to be revealed. So in the end I chose to write a very enigmatic, open-ended story with a bunch of new characters who have come to be known as “The Three Beauties.” These are No Face, The Hamburger Lady and Mirror Man — three characters who are obsessed with their facial appearance in one way or another. It’s all to do with identity and masks and perceptions of beauty and self-value. Now that story ended with a lot of loose ends so I was very happy to be given this three-part series to follow through on a few of those plot threads.
AR: The architecture of the new asylum is a keen analogy to Jeremiah Arkham’s belief in the rehabilitative process. With the outside being very dark, gothic, and Tim Burton-esque while the interior is much more inviting and accommodating. Was this visual element something of your own invention or was it something that grew out of [Jeremy] Haun’s vision of what the new Arkham should look like? Also, what tone did you intend for this dichotomous building to present for the story?
DH: The exterior was very much Jeremy’s design. I gave a very imprecise and abstract description of the original blueprints in the One-Shot: “The drawing is of a building – a mad construction – both Gothic and organic – as if Gaudi had redesigned Castle Dracula, with elements of Hearst Castle. It is huge and magnificent and scary and totally insane. There are unreadable scribbled notes all over the drawing.”
For that spread in the first issue I left it very open. The only note was that it should have “a gothic darkness that foreshadows the terrible events that will transpire inside its walls.”
The interior had to be very different to any Arkham Asylum we’ve seen before and it really goes against the grain for me, because I love dark, dank shadowy setting with creaking doors and mould growing on the walls. But that’s not what Jeremiah Arkham is about. I had to play it against the instinct to create a horror movie asylum and instead make a clean modern environment with glass and shiny modern technology. I also specified a central atrium with a circular office that rotates so Jeremiah can spy into the glass-walled rooms where his patients are living. This is based on Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon design, created in the 18th century and which became the model for modern prisons.
Beyond the contradictions of the exterior and interior is the third asylum — the hidden layers that lie hidden beneath like a hellish Underworld.
AR: What can you tell us about Alyce Sinner?
DH: Alyce was brought up in a religious cult that committed mass suicide after they failed to pass over into Paradise on the pre-ordained day. She was the only survivor. She had lived with this insane pursuit of sin-free purity that she realized was an illusion so she changed her name to Alyce Sinner to reflect her acceptance of her own sinful nature. But of course there’s more to it than that. Her hair is woven into seven plaits. The seven plaits are wound with seven ribbons and on each ribbon is embroidered a single word…
AR: In the Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum One-Shot we were introduced to Alessio Morandi aka No-Face, Narcissus the Mirror Man, and Myrna Freud the Hamburger Lady. What will their involvement be in the issues to come? Will they become familiar faces in the Batman universe?
DH: I have a very definite plan for “The Three Beauties.” Their role in this mini-series is less important than in the One-Shot but I very much hope to have one more shot at Arkham Asylum where I tie everything up and their role in that story will be vital. As to whether they become familiar faces in the Batman universe, I can’t say. I think their role is limited because they aren’t villains and they don’t have superpowers and it would contradict my intention for them if they were developed as ongoing villains or heroes. They are there to comment on our perceptions of physical perfection, just as Alyce Sinner is there to comment on our belief in idealized moral perfection. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating fascinating little characters and then abandoning them.
My favorite characters in District X were the Falcones. They were a couple who were down on their luck. The guy was a mutant who hatches little monsters out of growths on his body. The creatures are ugly and they smell bad, but his wife tells the story of how they first met. Back then he used to hatch beautiful fairytale creatures because he was happy and in love. They only became monstrous when his own life turned ugly. Their story lasted five pages and they’ll never be seen again because their story is done. In the same way I’d like to tell the story of “The Three Beauties” and when it’s done, it’s done. Move on. Create more characters.
AR: What Arkham inmate intrigues you the most? Why?
DH: All the Batman villains are intriguing in their own way. I have a great love of the Two-Face character of course. When I was given a choice of characters to use in the Joker’s Asylum One-Shot, I had no hesitation. The Penguin has some real possibilities, too. In this mini-series I don’t have the opportunity to use those characters because they’re occupied in other Bat titles but I’ve had a lot of fun with Clayface. There’s a scene in the second issue inspired by a Robert Crumb character called Bo Bo Bolinski. Anyone who knows the original will spot the reference straight away.
I took Mr. Freeze out of his costume and concentrated on his vulnerability. He reminded me very much of a character in the H.P. Lovecraft story, Cool Air, about a man who had a rare condition where his body temperature had to be kept incredibly low to keep him alive. I had a go at turning that story into a comic strip when I was at art college and it’s lingered in my mind ever since. The great frustration for me, as always with monthly comics, is that there isn’t enough space to develop all these themes. I really think there should be an ongoing “Tales from Arkham.” It should be adult themed and have a mix of stories featur
ing both established and brand new characters. And I’d be very happy to write it.
Spider-man Noir: Eyes Without a Face
Alex Rodrik: As you know, I’m a big fan of your first run with Spider-man Noir. With Marvel’s recent announcement of “Eyes Without a Face”, what can you tell us about what’s to come for our “friendly” neighborhood Spider-man?
David Hine: This second series is set a few months after the first series ends, so it’s now September of 1933 and a new gang boss is trying to step into the shoes of the late Norman Osborn. If anything this guy is even more of a psychopath than the Green Goblin. While Norman Osborn had the respect of the underworld, built up over years of successful operations, this new guy sets out to intimidate through acts of unbelievable brutality.
There are several Spidey villains that we’re re-imagining for this series but I don’t think we’ve let the cat out of the bag on who they are yet, so I’ll leave you to guess. I will say that two of them are classic villains while one is more obscure. He appeared in the early Lee/Ditko series and has hardly been seen since, but he is the perfect character for the period this story is set in. Felicia Hardy returns and is once more a key figure in Peter Parker’s life.
AR: In the first mini, you explored the origins of Spider-man. Now that the restraints of the necessary origin have been lifted, how deep and dark will we delve into the underbelly of Spidey’s world?
DH: We’re really putting Peter through the emotional grinder in this one. The violence once again comes home to affect the people he loves the most. If anything, this series gets darker than the first. More brutal. And Spider-man reacts like a true pulp hero. There’s a cool scene in part two where he walks the streets of Harlem. He has to blend in with the public so he has a wide-brimmed hat as well as the long coat and he really does look like a pulp hero in the tradition of The Shadow or The Spider.
AR: Marvel’s press releases have given us a slight picture of the political climate that surrounds Spider-man’s world. How will the political climate be affecting the story?
DH: I enjoyed doing the research for part one where we used the Great Depression as a background. The whole story was predicated on the effects of the Depression — the grinding poverty and desperation of the unemployed. Without the combined effects of the Depression and Prohibition you would never have had gangsterism in the form it took in the 1930’s. We’re continuing to build on that with the second series.
The story takes place smack in the middle of the time when the big name gangsters were at their most active: Bonny and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, Dillinger and the rest. The FBI was in its infancy — not even called the FBI at this stage. We feature Jean De Wolfe who is a bureau agent tasked with cleaning up the gangs in Manhattan. Agents had only been issued with weapons a couple of months earlier. They had made very few arrests and had almost zero respect among the police or the public. J. Edgar Hoover was in danger of losing his job and desperate to make an impression by rounding up some big name bad guys. That’s the background against which Jean De Wolfe is operating.
DH: We’ve name-checked the Friends of New Germany. This was a real group of Nazis operating in the USA from 1933 when they were officially sanctioned by Rudolf Hess in Berlin. The Nazi Bund was active in the USA from around 1924, drawing support from the failing Ku Klux Klan and groups like The Christian Enforcers. American Nazism peaked in 1939 when a staggering 22,000 supporter attended a rally in Madison Square Gardens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrmY3QW8pqs.
Our story focuses on one particular villain and his relationship with the Nazis who are trying to influence government policy. It’s fiction but it’s not that far-fetched that the Nazis were trying to infiltrate Roosevelt’s government. You have to remember that the Democrats were a traditionally racist and pro-slavery party prior to the 1930’s and without Roosevelt, and particularly his wife Eleanor, they could easily have continued to pursue racist policies.
AR: Any teaser you’d like to throw out there?
DH: Okay, we’ve got one villain who hides behind a mask, one who’s disabled and one who never speaks. And one of Spidey’s traditional girlfriends appears. And somebody dies.
I hope you enjoyed our two part Interview Series with writer David Hine. Remember, you can check out Part One of our interview with David, here.
Until next time,