The Eye of the Hurricane...
you've never picked up a copy of Violent Messiahs, you've seen
its alleged hero, Citizen Pain. Over the last couple of years,
the book has achieved critical acclaim and more than cult status
with its readers. Recently, Image Comics and Hurricane Entertainment
released a collection of the first eight issues, The Book of
Job, and next week will ship the first issue of the next arc,
co-creators William O'Neill (aka Bill) and Joshua M. Dysart
weave a tale of a dystopian metropolis overrun by crime -
perhaps on purpose. Shadowy powers that be have let Rankor
Island go to seed in order to introduce their own hero, the
media-dubbed Citizen Pain. Out of their control, however,
is a serial killer who considers himself just as noble - The
Family Man. And caught between them is one good cop.
tense, gripping, and grittily illustrated by Tone Rodriguez.
So when Hurricane Entertainment announced in late July that
they would soon be doing The Adventures of Snake Plissken,
it was clear that they were just the guys to do the job. Shortly
thereafter, CrossGen announced that it would be publishing
that title, putting Hurricane solidly in the spotlight at
the San Diego Comic-Convention.
minutes of meeting Jan Utstein-O'Neill, CEO and editor-in-chief
of Hurricane Entertainment, she had gotten us up to speed
on the history of the company and convinced us that the company
is worth the attention.
of weeks ago, I trekked down to Los Angeles to receive the
grand tour of the Hurricane Entertainment offices, and talk
to Jan, Bill, and later, Tone about their secret origins,
their love of comics, and the future of their enterprise.
Thanks, gang, for letting me barge in for a couple of hours
on a Friday evening.
one of the interview, we discuss the early days of the company,
why Bill became a Californian, and the genesis of Violent
Messiahs. (Coincidentally if you're lucky, you can still find
a copy of Violent Messiahs: Genesis at your local comics shop,
featuring the rarely seen first version of the title paired
with the Wizard ½ issue. Find it, effendi; it's entertaining,
informative, and a must-have in learning how to put a comic
book together when read with The Book of Job.)
McCaw: Before you started doing this, Jan, you were a
partner in a 3D animation company?
Utstein-O'Neill: Actually, it kind of overlapped. I was
partners in that company, and we did characters for games
for Disney Interactive and Virgin Interactive. We were building
the company, and just as we were building the company, there
was a bit of a crash in the industry. Virgin totally went
under, and Disney downsized by about 60 percent. Those were
our main clients, so we sort of decided that we should put
things a bit on hold for a while and regroup. I ended up leaving
that and going full-time into comic book work. I was doing
both at the same time, which was hard. Difficult.
Bill, where were you before launching your first book, Chassis?
O'Neill: I was living out in New Jersey, back east. I
had some minor jobs, working for some small comic book companies.
Then me and this other fellow created Chassis, and
pitched it around to a couple of companies at some con in
New York, in '95. And Millennium picked us up.
San Diego Con in '95, I met Jan. By October I had joined her
out here. (grins)
So in '95, Hurricane Entertainment already existed?
I had my own company, Spotlight Productions. I had actually
gone down there because of the animation company. We were
putting together a very large project. It had 3D animation,
animatronics, it was like an opus of a project.
were people from ILM, back from the days of puppetry and so
forth. They had moved into 3D animation, and we went down
to Comic-Con because we were thinking of doing a 3D comic
book based on our characters from a film we were doing together.
I was going down there to educate myself on the industry,
and that's when I met Bill.
So you weren't a comics reader as a kid?
As a kid I was, yeah. I was an avid comics reader as a kid,
and then stopped for a number of years, except picking up
comics here and there. Comics about opera, things like that.
The P. Craig Russell adaptations?
Yeah. Actually, I think before that. The Ring cycle (The
Ring of the Nibelung), the first one by Roy Thomas and
Gil Kane (DC published this in the late eighties.),
which was because I produced a film based on The Ring of
the Nibelung (the 1992 film Valhalla). Which is
another life I had.
So the Hurricane situation happened when we're doing Chassis
at Millennium, and we're disappointed at the way they were
handling pretty much everything. Other than paying the printing
bill, we were pretty much taking care of everything ourselves.
floated the idea to Jan, "why don't we just start up our own
company and start doing this on our own?"
I thought he was crazy. But I told him that I'd consider doing
it if…well, Bill pitched an idea to me.
He pitched Violent Messiahs to me. I thought there
was something there. It was really in its infancy. And I said
that I knew a writer in Texas, a friend of mine from back
when I was doing film festivals and so forth. And I said that
if the two of them could click and if he liked the idea of
working together, that I would publish it. And that was Josh
And so we brought Josh on board. He liked the idea. He was
interested in the idea of writing a comic. We started doing
all the research and stuff, forming up our own company and
coming up with the name.
Yes, coming up with the name…
We had this huge list of possible names, which ones sounded
best and which ones weren't taken, things like that. The first
book we did was a Violent Messiahs #1, which was in
black and white. Again, because we were just getting everything
up and running we thought it would be best.
And that's the book that's reprinted in Violent Messiahs:
Yes. That's one of the things reprinted in that.
That was in '97, when the book actually came out. It took
a little while. We had already published Chassis, as
we said, with Millennium. We were waiting for Chassis
#2 to come out with Millennium, and it took a year for them
to get out the second issue. And we had decided about that
time that we had put out Violent Messiahs #1, and we
decided to take on Chassis, so all at once Hurricane
So we brought Chassis over to Hurricane, and decided
to keep doing that book in color. We put Violent Messiahs
on the side, just because Chassis was doing better,
being a color comic book.
a long story short, in '99 we ended up teaming with Image.
First they picked up Chassis, and then that summer
we also pitched Violent Messiahs. They picked that
up as well.
And what's also important, though, is that we actually pulled
Violent Messiahs from the shelves. We never put out
issue #2. The orders were low, because we were our own company
with a black and white book. I knew it was too good. I said
this series is too good. I don't want it to just sort of go
off into obscurity because the orders are so low. Somewhere,
someday, sometime, there's going to be a better life for the
it off the shelves. The guys were upset. Josh was very upset.
But I promised him that we would publish it again. I didn't
know how or when. Then, like Bill said, we got picked up by
Through a mutual friend, we found out that Tony (Tone Rodriguez,
the artist) really liked the black and white that we did.
And he did a pin-up for us.
You were the artist on the black and white?
I was the artist on the initial black and white, and co-creator.
I should make clear that I was the original co-creator, and
then we brought Josh on as the writer and he just did such
an amazing job and added so much to it that he got bumped
up to co-creator credits. He added a lot. A lot.
our mutual friend, we ran into Tony. He showed his interest
in the property, and said he'd love to draw the book if we
wanted to re-do it. So it went from there. We took it to Image
and they were very excited.
The re-launch, at least from the first issue, seems so much
more expansive than the black and white.
Yeah, it gave Josh the chance to re-write it and re-launch
it. The initial black and white, the first story arc, was
going to be three issues. And then Josh getting the chance
to re-write it, he got to expand on the initial story.
Slowly. Originally, I think we said four. And then we gave
him six. And then as we were going…
Give a writer an inch…
And he'll take eight issues.
We pitched it at San Diego in a three-minute pitch to Image
in '99. Literally, three minutes and Larry Marder said yes.
To give you an idea of the difference, our print run on the
first one was 5,000. That's the black and white. Our print
run on Image for the color version was close to 50,000.
Which in '99, was pretty good…
We were happy.
part 2 of our interview
with the gang at Hurricane, Bill and Jan talk about the future
of Violent Messiahs, including what we can expect from the
next story arc, Lamenting Pain, on sale next week. From there
we get into the book that has brought them a lot of attention
from Hollywood over the last couple of months - The Adventures
of Snake Plissken!
you haven't already, get Violent Messiahs: The Book of Job
at Amazon -- 25% off!