The third issue of the Victorian horror series The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde released last week and, thanks in large part to Twitter and to his extremely obliging personality, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Cole Haddon, the mastermind behind this intriguing mash-up style comic book.
For those of you unfamiliar with Cole’s work, The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde is a series published by Dark Horse Comics. The first issue was released in late April of this year and in the time since The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde has stirred up quite a bit of buzz. The series follows the investigation of Thomas Adye, an Inspector from Scotland Yard who is trying to unravel a series of disturbingly brutal murders taking place in London. Unfortunately, Inspector Adye’s best resource also happens to be one of the most infamous murderers of London’s recent past, the amoral libertine Dr. Henry Jekyll.
The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde pits two of London’s most infamous monsters — Jack the Ripper and Jekyll/Hyde — against one another in what is sure to be a psychologically thrilling series that horror comic fans won’t want to miss. Issues #1-3 are available from Dark Horse Comics and wherever comic books are sold, and The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde #4 is set to be released on July 27th (you can already pre-order it from most retailers).
Paige MacGregor: So, can you tell me a bit about how you became involved in writing comic books?
Cole Haddon: Well, I used to be an illustrator. Thought I was going to draw comic books for a living, in fact. But I was much more interested in stories, or rather telling them, than I was the art of it all. Film was, at the end of the day, where my heart was and, once I accepted I was a much better wordsmith than artist, I was off and running… for about a decade. With no success. Very little, at least. And then this guy Keith Goldberg, over at Dark Horse Entertainment, heard this crazy, kind of off-the-wall idea I had about smashing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Jack the Ripper. He thought it would make a great film and Mike Richardson, Dark Horse’s head honcho, thought it could make a great comic book, too. I’m not so sure any of them thought I could actually write a comic book, but I grew up reading them religiously. It’s a medium I’ve been ceaselessly fascinated by. Hopefully I justified the faith they showed in me.
PM: What interests you specifically about the Jekyll and Hyde story?
CH: That’s easy: the nebulous nature of proscribed morality. I’m half-American, but the other half of me is Australian. I’ve traveled a lot because of that and experienced enough different cultures to understand that morality is a matter of perspective. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a moral relativist. I think moral relativism is total bulls***. But I am fascinated by how morality is delegated by those of a certain perspective, and so morality, by virtue of that, can never wholly be trusted. If those in power are defining morality, you can bet your ass that they’re defining it for their own good. Mr. Hyde, I thought, had liberated himself from that mindset once he took his serum. For this sequel, I got to wondering what would happen if Dr. Jekyll’s sense of reason managed to amalgamate itself with Hyde’s new philosophies. Would the two personas, Jekyll and Hyde, combine to form a personality that could be trusted more than the so-called voices of morality that pervaded Victorian England and, of course, because all science fiction is allegory, our world today?
PM: When I read the first two issues of Mr. Hyde I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between the conversations between Hyde and Inspector Adye and those that take place between Agent Starling and Hannibal Lecter in the movies based on Thomas Harris’s books. Coincidence? Homage? Care to comment?
CH: It’s homage, I can’t deny it. The Silence of the Lambs was the first B-film I ever saw that had been elevated to the level of true art, and it left an indelible mark on me. Lecter and my Jekyll share the need to free their young protégé from some pretty nasty mental trauma. In my inspector’s case, it’s the trauma of a rigid class system and puritanical morality that, despite Adye’s scientific training, leaves him unable to imagine a world that isn’t good and evil as described by, as I like to call them, “the powers that be.”
PM: Is this the first comic book series you’ve worked on? How does it feel to see your work in print for the first time?
CH: It is indeed the first, and the feeling of seeing my words in print is… well, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it. But, if I’m honest, I’ve been working on this story for almost three years now. By this point, I’ve been with it so long, there’s something anti-climactic about it all. The real pleasure came from seeing how my artist M.S. Corley and colorist Jim Campbell brought what I wrote to life. I’m most excited, right now, for people to see how amazing their work is.
PM: Can you describe for our readers the process you go through to create an issue of The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde from beginning to end?
CH: The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde is a wholly unique experience in comic book writing, I think. I’d love to find someone else who has experienced something similar. For this project, we developed a screenplay treatment first. We went and sold this to Skydance Entertainment, with Dark Horse Entertainment and Mark Gordon Company producing. Afterward, I wrote the four issues of Strange Case, all in a row, based on that treatment. Next came the screenplay, which wound up informed by little discoveries I made about story while working on the comic script. After the screenplay’s first draft was done, I had found so many cool ways to improve upon the story, I had to go back and heavily edit the comic script. At that point, we were pretty much done. Mike, the artist, came in and would chicken scratch out each issue, then I’d tweak the script, usually to de-densify the pages. I mean, they’re still dense. That was always going to be the script’s style, but Mike would find ways to improve upon it. He then illustrated it, then Jim, the colorist, would take the fifteen or so pages of notes and references I would provide him, and bring color to our twisted little world. It was really a collaborative process between the three of us much of the way, with heavy doses of influence from Keith Goldberg and our editors Dave Land and Sierra Hahn.
PM: What kind of response have you received from fans regarding The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde thus far?
CH: That’s been the most fun of seeing the comic book go to print. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I’m able to keep track of what all sorts of people are saying about the comic. Luckily, it’s almost all been great. Thanks to the Internet media, the ability to communicate with readers and fans makes the whole process that much more gratifying. If anyone out there reading this wants to say hello, look me up on Twitter: @colehaddon.
PM: Were you a comic book reader growing up? If so, what types of comics did you read regularly?
CH: Huge comic book reader. Batman was my gateway drug, but, after I got a taste, I couldn’t get enough. Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman. These guys were my comic book gods in the same way that I worshipped filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, and Sergio Leone.
PM: Is The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde slated to be an ongoing series, or will there be a finite number of issues?
CH: At the moment, it’s a four-issue mini-series. Issue #3 is out this week. Fingers crossed, we get to do several more mini-series. Sort of like an ongoing series of mini-series, I guess. If you read the first series, you’ll catch more than a few references to the world of gothic literary horror; I wanted this to be a wholly interconnected world of super-villains, -monsters, and historical crime. By the last issue’s final page, you’ll also have a good sense of what comes next for the characters.
PM: What else, if anything, do you have in the works right now?
CH: Kickstart Entertainment is publishing a graphic novel I wrote sometime this year. That’s called Space Gladiator. Not sure how much I can say about it at the moment. It’s been largely out of my hands for a while now. I’m also co-creating another mini-series with the amazing John Romita, Jr., which is kind of blowing my mind. I used to read this guy’s stuff when I was in junior high and now I’m working with him!
A big thanks to Cole Haddon for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us! Stay tuned for more reviews of Cole’s work, and look for The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde #4 in stores July 27th!