Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Thirty


Having spent the last month reading and blogging about Hack/Slash, I thought I should finish by going back to the beginning. As a life-long fan of the horror genre, I’ve often wondered how best to handle these stories within the guidelines of library work. In school (Kindergarten through grade 12) horror stories are often limited due to graphic content, and as good horror “…allows the reader to feel the action and fear with all their five senses, and [comic books] use of illustration to help tell [the] story adds a new element to the appeal” (Spratford, 2012, p. 133) it is even easier to quickly pass judgment on a title and consider it inappropriate for young readers.

My first interaction with horror fiction, and not just YA fiction with scary bits in, was back in Junior High (middle school for my American readers) when I was sitting in the school library reading fantasy fiction and noticed another teen return a book called The Shining to the librarian, who immediately slipped it behind her desk. Gathering up the courage to talk to her, I was informed that although the school had a small collection of Horror novels, they were kept behind the library desk to ensure that they didn’t alarm uninterested students. Of course, finding out that my library had a secret library collection, and that it was deemed too dangerous for the average student, had me interested in seconds, and within a few months horror was the genre for me.  Over the next few years I became a fan of the stories, plays, games and films of the genre, and yes, that included the Slasher film.

Looking at the mechanics of Hack/Slash, I loved the crossovers, involving Cassie and Vlad with characters from film, fiction and both print and web comics in a way that made sense and probably introduced a lot of new readers/viewers to the crossed over material. The series played with horror movie concepts ranging from horror movie logic, sequels, and trailers, and then moved on to questions of how a horror movie-themed world would really work and what regular people could and would do in incredibly tense situations.

What I love most about Hack/Slash is the honest love it has for the genre, and specifically the slasher sub-genre. Considering that slasher movies are often considered to be bottom-of-the-barrel films, this series treats its source material with great care, pointing out some errors yes, but working the whole way to increase the emotional connection the reader will have with Cassie, Vlad, and every other human character it introduces, and getting the reader to care about what happens to these characters, and in the end, what else do you want from any story?

McDevitt, M. (2013) Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash [Image].  Retrieved from

Spratford, B. (2012). The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror. Chicago, American Library Assocation.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Twenty Seven

The Geography of Hack/Slash

Geography can play an interesting role in comics books.  While the DC Universe has made a number of false cities in their world for their heroes to inhabit (i.e. Superman - Metropolis, Batman - Gotham City, Green Lantern - Coast City), Marvel Comics has decided to go almost the other way entirely and have their heroes inhabit a world virtually identical to ours, which a New York, Chicago, Lost Angeles, etc. (not to say they mirror the real world perfectly, as they include the dinosaur infested Savage Lands and Doctor Doom's beloved homeland of Latveria).

In Tim Seeley's Hack/Slash virtually every issue begins with a descriptor of where in the world Cassie and Vlad are for the issue.  Even the crossovers which travel into the worlds of other comic book characters like Images Bomb Queen or the Webcomic Halloween Man, ensure that Cassie and Vlad have a start point in a recognizable location (Manhattan, New York and San Antonio, Texas respectively).

While I've spent the last month reading through the series, I decided to create a google map showing me where the majority of each issue's action took place and then (hopefully) be able to draw some conclusions.

NOTE: In the linked map - which you can view directly at
- I have not plotted each location as some of them take place in other worlds (Nef, an Intergalactic Women's Prison, etc), or even off of our own (the Trailers story ORBITuary, for example), also in some cases I've had to guess at the location due to its obvious connection to a horror movie/story already in existence.  Also I've linked to any crossover titles or blog posts related to the covered issue if appropriate in the descriptions for each location.

1) Cassie and Vlad never visit my homeland (Canada) at least in any issues of the series; I suppose I can take this to either mean my country is relatively Slasher-free, or perhaps we need our own home-grown Killer of Killers to take care of our Northern problems.

2) Although there are a small number of events that happen in the western United States (and in the case of the Re-Animator crossover, some very important events) Cassie and Vlad stick to the Eastern United States for the most part.  The series only travels outside of the US twice (a Trailers mini-issue in Tokyo and the four-issue Monster Baiting story arc set in Guyana)

3) If you wanted to avoid Slashers, Florida, Massachusetts, and New Jersey should be on your list of states to avoid, but Utah, Idaho and the Dakotas seem like some nice places to visit.

I've left the map open to the public, so feel free to let me know if I've got some of the spots wrong (as in all things, proof-reading can be invaluable), and for the Hack/Slash fans out there I hope that if the map shows you anything interesting you might share it in a comment on the blog.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash day Twenty Five

Man’s Best Friend…er...Low-Beast

The addition and expansion of characters in superhero comics is a standard phenomenon for any long running series, both Superman and Batman began to expand their respective families within a decade of their creation, and this wasn’t just limited to siblings, cousins and alternate versions of themselves; with“…the introduction of recurrent pets in 1955 – Ace the Bathound and the super-dog Krypto, each with his own “costume” to visually identify his ownership by a superhero” (Best, 2005, 90) animal sidekicks became a standard of the superhero genre, and in the case of Hack/Slash the “super-pet” has a very interesting twist to it.

Meet Pooch.

First introduced in issue three of the first ongoing series, Pooch is a hell-hound of sorts. After Cassie makes her escape from his world he is sent to Earth to track down and kill her. Pooch may be one of the most disturbing creatures I’ve ever come across in comics, he appears as a sort of skinless dog with the (unfortunate) ability to speak English, so instead of barking he literally says the word “Bark”, also he speaks of himself in the third person, often calling himself “Most Humble and Pooch”. Although he is initially sent to earth to find the “Most Hated Cassandra Hack” he quickly gives up his quest and moves in with two of Cassie’s allies, Chris Krank and Lisa Elsten, both survivors of earlier issues of Hack/Slash and the two principal members of Hack/Slash Inc., Cassie and Vlad’s support network throughout the series.

Although he begins his part in the series as a villain, Pooch is played as comic relief throughout the series, asking for Cassie and Vlad’s (and the audiences) sympathy throughout while acting as hideously as possible.

Image of Pooch from Issue 3: Shout at the Devil part 2 (of 3)

Best, M. (2005) “Domesticity, Homosociality, and Male Power in superhero comics of the 1950s” in Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies. 6(1), 80-99.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Twenty Three

Jack and Delilah Hack in happier days
Family History

Moving through the series I’m hit with a dilemma; either I can give more detailed information on the storyline, potentially spoiling some of the surprises for people who are reading my blog before the series, or I can write about overall themes and concepts, but as the storylines get more complex I end up writing less about the series and more about the Slasher sub-genre in general. So I’m going to compromise.

As the main series is complete (currently there is a six-issue post-series crossover with the Sam Raimi film Army of Darkness (1992)), but featured many stand-alone stories, I’m going to focus on one key story arc from 2008, which has Cassie meeting her father for the first time since her childhood. The story is fairly straight forward, and takes place in the first third of the overall series, so although there are spoilers, keep in mind that the series still goes a long way after this specific arc.

In issues 14-17 of the series Cassie and Vlad become involved in a standard horror convention, the sins of the fathers will be visited upon their sons. It’s important to remember that in the Horror Genre, and especially the Slasher sub-genre is that many of the concepts used are both ancient and primal. Classic Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft began his 1927 essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” by stating “THE OLDEST and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (Lovecraft, 1927), in these four issues, Seeley connects Cassie, her mother, and father with yet another figure from both classic and modern horror; Doctor Herbert West, created by H.P. Lovecraft in 1922 and adapted to film in the 1988 film Re-Ainmator and its sequels, Bride of Re-Animator (1990), and Beyond Re-Animator (2003). The character is a doctor looking to defeat death, which he attepts to do by bringing various corpse and corpse-parts back to life.

In the series Cassie’s father, Dr. Jack Hack is one of the government scientists who have been examining the phenomenon of Slashers, the reanimated killers that Cassie and Vlad spend most of the series tracking down and destroying. In issue 15 Cassie comes into contact with her father for the first time in years and finds he has been on the run from his old job with the government and is now working with Doctor West on a number of strange experients. What neither Jack or Cassie are aware of is that Doctor West has managed to get his hands on the remains of Cassie’s mother, (Delilah, better known as the Slasher The Lunch Lady, who was Cassie’s first kill), and plans to use his reanimating serum to bring her back to life.

The story arc shows through flashbacks that Jack met Delilah through his work in Slasher-research, typing her as a likely candidate for becoming a Slasher later in life – in the world of Hack/Slash Slashers often reappear in the same bloodline, and although their relationship starts out professional, they fall in love, get pregnant and go on the run to protect themselves and later their daughter Cassie.

As I don’t want to explain everything about the storyline I’ll leave it there, but I will bring up the fact that even though explaining exactly how a monster works in a horror story usually damages, rather than helps the story, (as the unknown has become the known), this story arc helps show more of Cassie and Vlad’s world, and works as set up for even bigger things to come.

Jack and Delilah Hack in Hack/Slash #16, Retrieved online from

Lovecraft, H.P. (1922) Supernatural Horror in Literature.  Retrieved online from

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Twenty One

Independent and WebComic Crossovers

In addition to crossing over with popular horror characters from film (Chucky and Herbert West), the series crosses over with the real-world goth modelling website Suicide Girls (Cassie has a profile page) the Evan Dorkin characters Milk and Cheese (pictured left) begin to make appearances in Cassie’s dreams and, Cassie and Vlad end up having crossover events with the webcomic series Halloween Man where Cassie and Vlad “…go to-toe-toe with Drew Edwards's Halloween Man in a free webcomic called “Hackoween,” available for download at “Several years ago, Drew Edwards had asked about doing a web-print comic crossover. And since ‘Halloween Man’ is a pretty fun, horror humor comic, I thought it meshed perfectly,” Seeley explained. (Richards, 2008)

Crossovers in comics are nothing new, they bring different types of readers together and introduce them to characters they may otherwise be unfamiliar with. The first crossover in comics was in Marvel Mystery Comics in 1940 where Namor the Submariner fought the Human Torch. As horror comics don’t tend to have the audience size of superhero comics, crossovers can be a benefit to both titles as they increase the exposure to another audience. Being a long-time fan of the horror genre myself, I’ve found that the crossovers in Hack/Slash have exposed me to a number of titles I had either never heard of or had decided weren’t my style.

Personally, one of the most delightful crossovers in Hack/Slash is with Author Tim Seeley’s earlier creation Love Bunny & Mr. Hell. A bizarre pairing between a cute super-hero and an H.P. Lovecraft-style demon who end up as roommates and friends. The 2002 series is an obvious precursor to Hack/Slash in many ways, but as it only lasted a few episodes, I had always wondered what happened to this strange duo. Although their appareances in Hack/Slash don’t specifically answer that question, it may introduce new readers to the title.

Image Used
Image from Hack/Slash Issue 12. Retrieved online from

Richards, D. (2008, October 29). "Happy Hackoween: Seeley talks Hack/Slash" in Comic Book Resources. Retrieved online from

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Eighteen

The Inevitable Wizard of Oz Crossover

The story of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.
– L. Frank Baum in his Introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of OZ (1900)

It’s strange to think that this was the sentiment behind the story that became the film that gave me nightmares as a child. The Wicked Witch of the West, the flying monkeys and the initial “floating head” version of the Wizard shown in the 1939 MGM motion picture each worked effectively as nightmare batter for my young mind, and as a young boy with bad eyes from the start, very familiar with lengthy and painful eye examinations, Dorothy’s question to the estheticians in the Emerald City “…Can you even dye my eyes to match my gown?” resonated with me in a way I’m certain was not the intent of the original author.

So In Hack/Slash #14: Over the Rainbow, Cassie and Vlad are attempting to track down a Slasher who is plaguing the film set of a remake of the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Now I’ll admit that at first glance perhaps no one immediately thinks that a horror-based story is going to inevitably crossover with either the classic 1900 L. Frank Baum novel The Wonderful Wizard of OZ or the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of OZ. But to be fair, the story, and especially the MGM film have become so influential in popular culture that I’ve seen it prequelled, deconstructed and even had that deconstruction turned into a musical. It has also been referred to in everything from the popularity of the quote, to reimaginings, and even a reference in the horror film Saw II.

Also the 1985 film Return to OZ may have one of the most terrifying sequences I ever saw in a film as a child.

So adding a Slasher-twist to the story is, in my mind, nothing short of genius. The story follows both two women on the set running from the Slasher (who has possessed the productions Tin Man and speaks only in lyrics from the classic “If I Only Had a Heart”) and Cassie and Vlad as they race to the set to put an end to the Slasher himself.
Hack/Slash of Oz Alternate Cover.  Retrieved online from

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Sixteen

They Knew All Along!

One of the interesting things of any continuing series is you get to ask the question of how the series effects and is affected by the larger world. In the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, for example, there comes a point where the original victims of the killer have all run out (mild 20+ year spoiler) as the killer was targeting the children of the people who had killed him years before.

In the world of Hack/Slash, wherein a number of killers have risen from the grave and then proceed to kill all sorts of victims, the question has to be asked? Hasn’t anyone put this together other than our protagonists Cassie and Vlad?

The answer is a definite yes, both in a good and bad way.

The good way is the creation of an organization (starting out as two people) called Hack/Slash Inc., which is basically made up of people who have been saved by Cassie and Vlad over the years and are now working to network with other survivors and help Cassie find more Slashers as she travels the world.

The bad way (and a really common way in Science Fiction and Science Fiction-themed Horror, seen in films ranging from Alien (1979) to The X-Files (1993-2002) and Resident Evil (2002)) is that of government and corporate agencies looking to somehow capitalize on the phenomenon of Slashers, which they have renamed Revenants, for personal gain. “…These are organizations populated by utilitarian capitalists, power-hungry careerists or selfish research scientists” (Parker, 2000, 81)  In the world of Hack/Slash, this begins as a private company, then becomes a shadowy agency and later may even involve Cassie in a way she could never expect.

As the series moves form one-shots to a continuing storyline, the world of Hack/Slash began to grow into new and intriguing ways, and a big part of these involve making Slashers a phenomenon that exist beyond Cassie and Vlad's experience.

Parker, M. (2000). Manufacturing bodies: Flesh, organization, cyborgs. Body and organization. London: Sage Publications, 71-86.

Hack/Slash: Slice Hard. Retrieved Online at :

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Fourteen

From One-Shots to an Ongoing Series

For the first three years of Hack/Slash the title was a series of one-shot comics, coming out a few times a year and although the stories connected with each other, previous issues were not necessary to follow the action in the series.

With the success of 2006's Hack/Slash vs. Chucky in which Cassie and Vlad fought popular horror movie character Charles Lee Ray (better known as the possessed doll "Chucky"), it was decided to move the series into an ongoing format from that point forward.  Also, the ongoing series featured penciller Emily Stone, who gave the series a more cohesive look overall, as compared to the many different pencillers and illustrators used in the earlier issues.  Different pencillers would work on specific issues of Hack/Slash as an ongoing title, but the artwork becomes much more uniform from this point forward.

In the original one-shots series Cassie fought Slashers which included a number of straight-forward "kill, but won't stay dead" types (like Halloween's (1978) Michael Meyers), a Slasher who attacked his victims through their dreams (like A Nightmare on Elm Street's (1984)Freddy Kruger) and even a Slasher who used her commands over another sleeping Slasher to kill her intended victims (not unlike the 1920 German film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).

With the ongoing series, Seeley was looking forward to "...introduc[ing] more supporting characters, and have crazy little things like subplots!..and...finally hav[ing] the space to tell the story of Cassie's dad, which we've never really touched upon in the space of the one-shots." (Richards, 2007) At this point in the series Seeley also begins looking at other aspects of modern horror films, beyond the Slasher sub-genre with concepts like the rise of torture horror (like the Saw and Hostel series), and even classic concepts like the Faustian bargain (deal with the devil) and more.

It's also interesting to note that even as far back as 2007, Seeley had an overall plan for the series; "I do have an end," he said. "But the hope is that I don't have to get to it anytime soon. I can see myself doing a Garth Ennis or [Neil] Gaiman and going for 60 issues. So, ya'know, make sure ya buy it, so I can do all the cool stuff you won't get in any other book!" (ibid.)

Hack/Slash Omnibus #2 Cover.  Retrieved Online from

Richards, D. (2007, February 8). "'Hack' Writer: Seeley talks Hack/Slash Ongoing" in Comic Book Resources. Retrieved online from

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Eleven

The White Elephant in the Room… or if you will, the Blonde Cheerleader.

A few days back I was talking to a friend about my blog this month and our conversation went as follows:

Me: So yeah, I’m spending a month examining a horror comic series called Hack/Slash

My Friend: Never heard of it, what’s the gist?

Me: It follows a girl who hunts down and kills the various Slasher killers in her world, like Freddy or Jason

My Friend: So a sort of R-Rated Buffy?

Me: Well…

And then I realized that there is a lot in common between Cassie and Buffy, at least in basic concept.

For those unaware, Buffy Summers is the main character in the film/television/novel and comic book franchise, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  In the original film she starts out as a self-involved popular high-school girl who finds out she is the reincarnation of “the slayer,” basically meaning she is destined to fight vampires and protect humanity.  The rest of the franchise expands on this, moving her to a town which sits above a “hell-mouth” through which all sorts of demons and monsters can access our world, and with the help of a number of friends and allies, Buffy spends seven television seasons, dozens of novels, and a comic book series finding out more of her destiny and saving the world.

Both characters come from a twist on Horror Film Tropes, but unlike Cassie, who is clearly meant to be the continuing adventures of a Slasher Film’s Final Girl – Buffy represents either the Final Girl’s best friend or the first girl killed in the movie – the popular blonde friend (examples range from P.J. Soles in Halloween (1978), to Amanda Wyss in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Rose McGowan in Scream (1996).  Joss Whedon, creator of the character stated the concept came about from “…see[ing] a lot of horror movies which I’d loved very much, with blonde girls getting themselves killed in dark alleys and I just germinated this idea about how much I’d like to see a blonde girl go into a dark alley, get attacked by a big monster and then kill it” (qtd. In Buttsworth, 185), which does describe a standard character in horror, but not the same one represented by Tim Seeley’s creation, Cassie Hack.

Looking up comparisons between the character’s online, I found a lot of Buffy vs. Cassie sites, asking who would win in a fight (as Buffy has a significantly larger fan-base and a fourteen-year head start on Cassie, most of these sites assume Buffy would win.  In my mind, it’s sort of beside the point, like some early comparisons drawn between Harry Potter (1997) and Neil Gaiman’s Tim Hunter, the protagonist of the comic book series The Books of Magic (1992), where fans of the comic book character believed that author J.K. Rowling had plagiarized his already existing character.

Gaiman has publically stated that “…no, I certainly *didn't* believe that Rowling had ripped off Books of Magic, that I doubted she'd read it and that it wouldn't matter if she had: I wasn't the first writer to create a young magician with potential, nor was Rowling the first to send one to school. It's not the ideas, it's what you do with them that matters.” (Gaiman, 1998)

As I see it, both Buffy and Cassie and taking long-used character archetypes from Horror Films and using them to examine larger stories.  The only difference I see is that of intended audience; as a (primarily) television series, Buffy is more accessible to a wider audience, while as a violent, often gore-filled comic, Cassie appeals to fans of the sub-genre that she represents.

Buttsworth, S. (2002). “Bite Me: Buffy and the penetration of the gendered warrior-hero” in Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies. 16(2) 185-199.

Gaiman, N. (1998, March 19) Neil on Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling.  Retrieved online from:

Image Credit

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Nine

Trailers and Crossovers
The next few Hack/Slash story arcs focus on a staple of comic books, the crossover event, and a staple of modern motion pictures, the movie trailer.
In Hack/Slash Vs Evil Ernie and Hack/Slash Vs Chucky, Cassie and Vlad begin to expand their world to include two other comic book characters published through Devils Due Publishing – Evil Ernie (a reanimated corpse that can control other corpses) and Chucky, the killer doll from the 1988 MGM film Child’s Play.  Generally comic book crossovers refer to an event where “…a hero with its own title series appears in an issue of another hero’s series” (Alberich, Miro-Julia, Roseello, 2002, 3).  With both of these crossovers, however it works a little differently.  Evil Ernie was a completed series at the time, and in his story the majority of the Earth had been destroyed, so a little exposition was needed to explain how he could possibly end up in Cassie and Vlad’s world.  For Chucky to appear inHack/Slash, on the other hand, it came down to a potential “…big screen adaption of ‘Hack/Slash’ in development at Rogue Pictures, which is also the home of the “Chucky” film franchise” (Richards, 2006) Unlike the extensive explanation of how Cassie and Evil Ernie could meet, Chucky and Cassie are simply written as already being aware of each other and begin moving through the story. 
In the first Hack/Slash trailers collection, the reader is treated to a number of short stories which are horror movie-style trailers for potential Hack/Slash stories.  In an interview about the issue, Seeley stated “…They’re written, really, just like a trailer, complete with bad one-liners, tag lines, and voice overs (you’ll have to pretend it’s the ‘Voice-Over Guy.’).  The ‘stories’ they ‘preview’ aren’t actually coming to comic stores (or theatres) anytime soon (as in ever).” (Richards, 2006)  As movie trailers are short advertisements for upcoming films, these stories work in much the same way, allowing readers to imagine Cassie and Vlad in Japan, fighting a killer shark, and even adventuring in space.  Also, as Hack/Slash trailers was my first experience with the series, I found the mix of violence, humour and self-awareness of the Slasher sub-genre definitely peaked my interest.
It’s also interesting to note that the crossover and trailers use characters from previous stories and even introduce villains and storylines that did eventually get used in the main series.
Alberich, R. Miro-Julia, J., & Rossello, R. (2002). Marvel Universe looks almost like a real social network. arXiv preprint cond-mat/0202174.  Retrieved online from
Richards, D. (January 3, 2006). “Playing in the Trailer Park: Seeley talks ‘Hack/Slash: Trailers’ in Comic Book Resources.  Retrieved online from:
Richards, D. (December 21, 2006). “One of the Good Guys: Seeley talks ‘Hack/Slash Vs Chucky’” inComic Book Resources.  Retrieved online from:


Monday, October 7, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Seven

Hack/Slash begins with three stories: Euthanized, Girls Gone Dead, and Comic Book Carnage, which all work to set up the overall story of Hack/Slash. Euthanized begins with Cassie Hack accompanying a camp counselor to a remote location where he attempts to murder her, but is killed first. The two page opener immediately lets the reader know that Cassie is quite savvy in terms of horror movie tropes and conventions, as well as clarifying that in Cassie’s world there is a significant difference between Slashers and Killers. The issue goes on to give us Cassie’s backstory and then focuses on the main event, a small town plagued with undead animals and a mysterious killer.

As part of the fun of the series is seeing how a character who is quite aware of how events are “supposed to go” in a horror movie works her way through to finding and dispatching the Slasher herself, some plot elements will be discussed but much of the main storyline will be left intentionally vague. Although Cassie is given an introductory backstory in the first issue, her partner Vlad is simply a left as a friendly monster who works with Cassie, is devoted to her, and seems to be almost an innocent in the world. It isn’t until the fourth story, The Land of Lost Toys, that Vlad is given any background except for a brief mention of the butcher and Cassie initially mistaking him for a Slasher.

The interesting aspects of the three series is that at this point they were all quite episodic, aside from mentions of Slashers from previous issues they could all work as stand alone stories and as Cassie and Vlad travel from location to location for their stories, there was no crossover of any characters past the two leads, with reoccurring flashbacks of Cassie’s mother. For me the standout was Comic Book Carnage as it takes place at a comic book convention, mixes up fictional characters with real world characters (two of the victims in the story are Steve Niles, author of the comic series 30 Days of Night, and Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead). In this story an unknown Slasher is targeting the creative team of a new comic book series which is reimagining a classic (to the Hack/Slash universe) superhero called Wunderkind as he is enraged at how the new creators are adapting his favourite character. What I really loved about the story was the focus on the comic book fan community, a look at how conventions work and the tongue and cheek way in which writer Tim Seeley has killed off a number of other horror comic book writers (to be fair, the Hack/Slash version of Tim Seeley is also killed (off-screen) in an upcoming issue).

Hack/Sash Girls Gone Dead Cover Art (2004)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day Three

Before we begin digging into the main storyline of Hack/Slash it's probably best to ensure we have a basic understanding of the key characters and concepts used in the series.

First the Characters:

Cassandra "Cassie" Hack: A 24-year-old survivor of her first Slasher; The Lunch Lady (who also happened to be Cassie's mother), Cassie travels with her partner Vlad in her continuing hunt for Slashers, and her goal to kill them before they kill others.

Vlad: Cassie's parter, Vlad is a slightly deformed giant, who, in addition to being a formidable killer of Slashers, is almost an innocent in Cassie's world, he enjoys children's comics and cartoons, protecting his friends and making jokes.

The Nature of Slashers Described in Issue 2
Slashers: In the World of Hack/Slash Slashers are "...a type of undead I guess...sort've like a vampire or a zombie.  They're so full of anger that they don't wanna die.  They hate love, youth, sex...things they miss, from life.  All I know for sure is that they're mean and hard to kill" (Seeley, 2004)  Slashers are also clearly differentiated from Killers (who may come back from death as Slashers, but are considered different while they are human).

and Key Concepts used in or addressed by Hack/Slash

The Final Girl: described as "...intelligent, watchful, levelheaded; the first character to sense something amiss and the only one to deduce from the accumulating evidence the pattern and extent of the threat" (Clover, 1992, p. 44), the final girl is a popular horror movie trope which represents the final surviving character in Slasher films.  Traditional examples include Laurie Strode in Halloween (1978) and Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Cassie (often compared to the character of Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)) is a subversive form of the Final girl, following many of the basic traits as outlined by Clover, but also moving beyond genre conventions as well.

Modality: The level of reality represented in any given text (comic book, film, television show, etc.), or 'truth claim' (Burn, 1994) where the higher the modality, the closer to reality the text is assumed to be - Hack/Slash plays with the concept modality almost from the first issue.  The main character shares a world with a number of characters known to be fictional to the reader (Chucky from the 1988 horror film Child's Play) and yet refers to the name of prominent Horror movie actress Linnea Quigley in the second issue, forcing the reader to ask the question, do Cassie and Vlad inhabit our world, or a shared world made up of all our popular horror films?  While Cassie is clearly a fictional character, she has a real-world profile on the website Suicide Girls.  The fact that the series includes a number of crossovers with film and comic book characters only add to the complexity of this question throughout the series.

Burn, A. (1994) "Potterliteracy: Cross-Media Narratives, Cultures and Grammars" in Explorations into Children's Literatures. 14(2) retrieved online from

Clover, C.J. (1992) Men, Women, And Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Seeley, T. (2004) Hack/Slash: Euthanized (Issue 1), Berkeley, CA: Image Comics. Image retrieved from

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash: Day One

A Brief Definition of Slasher Films

"What's the Point?  They're all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act, who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It's Insulting." - Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) in the motion picture Scream (1996)

Cover of Issue #1
Since the early days of cinema, the horror film has always been a standard of the medium.  The first film adaption of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was released in cinemas in 1910, and from the earliest days forward horror films have become a successful staple of the medium; after all, they're often cheap to make, and kids always want to see movies about monsters.  

Beginning in the late 70s, a sub-genre of horror, the Slasher film, called "Daed Teenager Movies" by film critic Roger Ebert and defined as " Generic term for any movie primarily concerned with killing teenagers, without regard for logic, plot, performance, humor, etc. Often imitated; never worse than the "Friday the 13th" sequels," (Ebert, 1985) would largely dominate the horror genre from the late '70s to the early '90s.  Villains with names like Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers, and Jason Vorhees gained their own infamy during this period and for the generation of kids who grew up with these films, a certain degree of celebrity as well.

This year I'll be spending my October looking at the comic book series Hack/Slash,  written by Tim Seeley and currently published by Image Comics.  The series focuses on a young woman named Cassie Hack, who having survived her own personal slasher story, decides to travel the world hunting down these slashers before they can do too much harm.  As a series it crosses over with horror film characters, comic book characters (both print and web-based), and works to turn many of the tropes of the Slasher genre sideways as Cassie works to make the world a safer place for those the Slashers would target.

A quick note: the series is definitely aimed at adults, with significant violence and many suggested scenes of sexuality throughout.  Although the series often works to satirize the Slasher sub-genre of Horror, it also works as a Slasher story itself.

Ebert, R. (1985) "Dead Teenager Movie" in Ebert's Guide to Practical Filmgoing: A Glossary of Terms for the Cinema of the '80s.  Retrieved online from

Hack/Slash Issue #1 Cover, retrieved online from