Tim Seeley is going to "Hell." Want to go with him? The trip only costs $14.99!
It might seem like a steep price to plunge into the fiery depths of tortured afterlife, but fans are actually paying for a much richer and considerably less painful experience when Seeley's "Lovebunny & Mr. Hell" trade paperback hits comic book stands next January through Image Comics. Filled to the brim with old and new content, this 136-page collection from the creator of "Hack/Slash" is the one-stop shop for all things "Lovebunny," a title Seeley first created over a decade ago.
"I first started drawing the adventures of 'Lovebunny & Mr. Hell' in 1997," the writer and artist told CBR News on the history of the property. "I wrote and redrew and worked with friends, and made several versions of the first issue. Eventually my friend Josh Blaylock got the rights to G.I. Joe and started Devil's Due Publishing. I pitched him 'Lovebunny' and he went for it, so I wrote and drew three issues between 2001 and 2004. The book is about a woman who spent her entire childhood and teen years as a superhero sidekick, but when she struck out on her own, she wasn't taken as seriously. She eventually had to settle for her own sidekick, a giant, omnivorous demon named Mr. Hell. The book poked fun at superheroes, comics, relationships and religion."
And it will poke fun at all of those things once again as the adventures of Beth "Lovebunny" Bowers and Mr. Hell are recollected in one convenient location. The "Lovebunny & Mr. Hell" collection, which was first announced at New York Comic Con this year, includes an assortment of old and new material, as Seeley described: "We're recoloring all of the previous stuff that wasn't in color. We're also including all seven strips I did in the back of 'Hack/Slash' and adding three new ones. I'm also going to be 'remastering' some of the art, as I can't resist doing a bit of a George Lucas style tinkering."
Included in the collection is Lovebunny's unlikely first encounter with Savage Dragon, the Image Comics icon created by company co-founder and partner Erik Larsen. "'Savage Dragon' really is my favorite all-time superhero comic book, today and eight years ago," Seeley said, explaining the crossover. "As soon as I had a book at Image, I went straight to Erik to see if he'd let me use Dragon. He was incredibly gracious and I got to do one of my favorite stories I've ever done."
Several years have passed since the original publication of "Lovebunny," with the original material now very hard to come by. As a result, Seeley has actually been thinking about this upcoming collection for quite some time. "I've wanted to put out a new version ever since the old black and white digest version came out," he said. "I'll admit it, I hated the small, manga-sized version. Now seemed like the right time, with a fresh start for 'Hack/Slash' at Image Comics and an opportunity to put all of my babies in the same place."
Aside from being a phrase that never gets old, Seeley's "Lovebunny" is like a "first girlfriend" for the comic book creator. "Ah, our love was so pure and new," he laughed. "Actually, I think 'Lovebunny & Mr. Hell' was the first time I really made something that was all me. I was old enough to have my own voice and creative identity, but I wasn't too old to be full of hopes and dreams that one could have success doing a humorous superhero comic book. I grew up loving 'The Tick' comic and now I can't get enough of 'Venture Bros.' 'Lovebunny' lets me do those kinds of stories."
"I think people are looking for a new approach to superheroes," he continued. "We've spent 15 years with superheroes getting darker and more violent, and dumber and less fun. Time for some Lovebunny!"
Of course, while Seeley would love to continue fleshing out the adventures of Lovebunny and her overgrown, demonic sidekick, further stories depend on the performance of this upcoming collection. "I'm sure this'll shock people, but it depends on how the trade sells," Seeley said of the chances of future "Lovebunny" tales. "I know, what a firm commitment from me! But I feel like this is my chance to test the water, and if people like it and buy it, I'll do more. I'll even draw a 'Lovebunny & Mr. Hell' series if people make the new collection successful, I promise!"
But even there isn't another round of "Lovebunny" after this latest collection, Seeley has his hands full with the "Hack/Slash" franchise. Since moving the property to Image, Seeley has released numerous "Hack/Slash" titles including "My First Maniac," "Murder Messiah" and two omnibuses collecting old material. There's more to come in November, when Seeley releases "Hack/Slash: Trailers Part 2," a sequel to his 2006 one-shot inviting various creators to tell over-the-top, standalone stories with Cassie Hack and her killer partner Vlad.
"The first 'Trailers' book was a one-shot I did which had these weird trailers for over-the-top 'Hack/Slash' stories — this was before 'Grindhouse,' mind you," he said of the title's origin. "I always liked the idea and wanted to do more, but the ongoing 'Hack/Slash' book kept me plenty busy. But when I brought 'Hack/Slash' over to Image, I assumed all of the unpaid freelancers that DDP wasn't able to pay. I belong to an email group with a bunch of great artists and writers, and someone, I don't remember who, suggested they do a benefit book to help out. It was incredibly generous and it also allowed me a perfect place to use the 'Trailers' format again."
The result is "Trailers Part 2," a 64-page one-shot with stories from Scott Allie, Gail Simone, Chris Burnham, J. Torres and more. "My wonderful friends paired off and made great short 'Hack/Slash' stories or trailer style shorts, and they turned out amazing," said Seeley. "I'm lucky enough to be friends with a whole host of talented and generous people, and the book rocks. It'll also never be collected in trade, so 'Hack/Slash' completists will have to get it in the 64-page one-shot format."
Beyond "Trailers," Seeley is crafting a "My First Maniac" inspired one-shot for January titled "Hack/Slash: Me Without You." Whereas the former focused on Cassie Hack's origin story, this new issue brings readers back to year one for her partner Vlad. "I've known Vlad's story for four or five years, so I've really wanted to get into it, even though I never had the right place for it," said Seeley. "We're told the parts that Vlad knows before. 'Me Without You' will give us the parts he doesn't, as well as show Vlad before becoming Cassie's 'partner.'"
While Cassie's origin in "My First Maniac" was fleshed out as a full-fledged miniseries, Vlad's story is told in a single 32-page tale. "The reality is that I just can't keep pushing off the ongoing series," said Seeley. "I'm sure I could do more on Vlad's story, and I will, but I think it's time to get back into the story of both of our heroes."
Indeed, Seeley told CBR that the ongoing "Hack/Slash" series will return in February, with the first arc currently underway and the first 20 issues already planned out. "The ongoing is going to go back to basics, but also deal with the larger story and cast as well," he said. "In the first issues, we'll have Samhain, Cat Curio, undead animals and lots of Cassie and Vlad action. If you've read the previous series or if you started with 'My First Maniac,' you'll be able to pick up the new ongoing and get right into the gore, action and comedy."
Tim Seeley's "Lovebunny & Mr. Hell" trade paperback arrives in stores on January 12, 2011. Before that, fans can pick up "Hack/Slash: Trailers Part 2" on November 17, 2010 and "Hack/Slash: Me Without You" on January 5, 2011.