To fight fire, you really need to understand and respect it. Yet intriguingly, those same qualities also exist in pyromaniacs—the disturbed and destructive people who revel in setting the blazes which the firefighters combat. Perhaps the two roles aren’t as far apart as they may look…
They certainly aren’t in the case of Rosheen Hayes, the protagonist of Vertigo’s new SLASH & BURN. A pyromaniac who battles her addiction by joining the fire department, Rosheen investigates a series of fires with alarming similarities to the ones she set in her youth. Over the course of the series, her complex psyche unfolds for the reader. It’s a hot, steamy (both literally and figuratively) tale that will ignite your interest when it debuts next month. But for now, we turn our attention from Rosheen to the team that created her, asking writer Si Spencer, penciller Max Dunbar, inker Ande Parks, letterer Travis Lanham, cover artist Tula Lotay and assistant editor Molly Mahan to answer our ten questions.
Tell us, briefly, how you would describe SLASH & BURN?
Si Spencer: Fire, murder, sex, mystery, fire.
Max Dunbar: It’s half a character piece about a firefighter suffering from pyromania, half a mystery thriller about her using her instincts, experiences and skills to stop a serial pyromaniac.
Tula Lotay: A dark gritty mystery about a killer and childhood secrets.
What's the theme of your series?
Si: Addiction, obsession, self-control, guilt and fire.
Max: Living with dark impulses and trying to channel them.
Ande Parks: Hmm...as an inker, I often think about story, but not necessarily about theme (which I always keep in mind as a writer). I would say the theme in SLASH & BURN relates to the corrupting nature of power. And there's a thread of alienation there, as well.
What would be your main character's epitaph?
Si: Burn the Sky.
Max: Better to burn out than to fade away.
Tula: The fire that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
What was your first Vertigo comic as a published contributor?
Travis Lanham: Probably as letterer for NORTHLANDERS or ARMY@LOVE.
Tula: THE WITCHING HOUR.
Si: BOOKS OF MAGIC: LIFE DURING WARTIME with some feller called Neil Gaiman – whatever happened to him? Is he still working?
Molly Mahan: The first issue of the DJANGO/ZORRO crossover. I was on the Dynamite side of things back then and supplied the playlists for each issue.
Ande: The great Lou Stathis hired me to ink a book called THE UNSEEN HAND. Lou fell ill soon after I was brought on board, and I still miss him from time to time. He was one of a kind, for damn sure.
When did you know for sure that comics were the thing you wanted to do?
Tula: Age 7.
Max: When I was a few pages into my first pro gig.
Molly: When I was thirteen or so. Whenever I first noticed the “edited by” line.
Travis I can hardly remember a time when I wasn’t trying to make comics. My earliest comic art memory is probably me trying to recreate all the drawings in MAD Magazine. Also, I was obsessed with The Far Side by Gary Larsen. I set up a submissions packet of single-panel gag comics and sent it to my local newspaper. To my great surprise, I did not become a syndicated comic strip artist at 10-years-old.
Si: You assume that I am sure. Actually, for a while I wasn’t, and then I tried TV, and now I’m damn sure I want to write comics.
What’s your favorite panel from a comic ever?
Ande: I'm lucky enough to own the original art for this. It's a panel from the last issue of Daredevil: Born Again by Miller and Mazzucchelli. The panel features my favorite Marvel character, Captain America. Two brilliant creators condensing everything about an incredibly rich character into a single image and a single sentence. It doesn't get better.
Si: Probably any one of a thousand by Daniel Clowes. I am in awe of his ability to use silence to tell the strangest and most important elements of his story.
Travis: I could never have one single favorite panel! There are too many! Here are a few I love, though. Go find them!: 1) The Crow, Page 28 of the trade version, panel 2, where it says” A funeral March.” 2) THE SANDMAN: THE KINDLY ONES, Chapter 5, Page 23, panels 2-3 with Lucifer. 3.) Scud the Disposable Assassin #6, Page 3, Panel 4 with Hindenburg, also, same issue, Page 4, panel 3 with Pavlov.
Tula: That’s so hard! There are too many to name one…so many panels from Batman: Year One by David Mazzucchelli. I love pretty much all of Jorge Zaffino’s Batman Black and White Panels. Every Massimo Carnavale Dylan Dog panel. Toth’s Creepy strips were amazing.
How does inspiration most often strike you?
Max: Almost always by looking at art from my favorite comic and concept artists.
Tula: Other artists’ work, photographs, and film.
Molly: A firm backhand typically does the trick.
Si: Smoking, peeing, or waking abruptly from dreams. I was on insomnia medication late last year and genuinely thought I’d never have another idea again for a while.
Ande: I get the strongest inspiration from great works of art: films, paintings, comics, or books. It's how I know when a piece of art has really reached me...I feel a strong desire to be better, as an artist, and even as a father/husband/friend.
What’s the most unusual part of your job, or something people can’t believe you do?
Si: There are some people who still believe I put the words in after the pictures, so that’s always an eye-opener. I think the thing I find most unusual is the inordinate amount of time I spend working on sound effects–trying to decide how big, what color, what font, and what exact combination of letters will most accurately convey a sound. SPOILER ALERT: I literally spent half an hour this afternoon trying to get the right combination that most accurately encapsulated the hoof of a one-eared giraffe striking someone a glancing blow to the forehead.
Max: Just the solidarity and time commitment aspect. Sitting at a table for 9-14 hours a day, head down, working.
Molly: Seeing Batman every day when I get off the elevator is pretty unusual, and definitely lust-worthy to many of my friends.
Travis: I think people I talk to are just surprised that this is what I do for a living at all!
Do you read on paper or plastic (device)?
Molly: I read on paper, but I do listen to a lot of audio books via the Audible app on my phone.
Max: Both! Digital is great for travelling, books at home.
Si: I haven’t had time to read more than a page of anything in one day for months and months. But I always read on paper–screens don’t smell. What’s the good of reading something that doesn’t smell?
Travis: Both! I don’t get to read new comics nearly as much as I’d like, but I think both formats have their strengths. Of course I have a ton of nostalgia and love for traditional comic book shops and the feel of a paper comic, but I also love the ease and simplicity of reading the comic on my iPad with no storage, no longboxes, etc. And the colors really pop on the digital comics!
Ande: I know it's sacrilegious for a writer to say this, but I like digital. I don't want to own any more things, and I like being able to hold my Kindle in one hand. Even for comics, I've grown to prefer reading them on the iPad.
Favorite adage that defines your world view.
Max: Practice makes perfect.
Travis: Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.
Si: Try everything twice, it may be an acquired taste.
Tula: “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” –Plato
Molly: “The whole world is three drinks behind.” –Humphrey Bogart
SLASH & BURN #1 will be available on November 11, 2015 in print and as a digital download.