Once upon a time, a new Hellraiser movie (or comic) was cause for celebration. These days, after a series of franchise-wrecking films that paid little attention and even less respect to the source material, announcements of new Hellraiser material are usually met with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Christopher Monfette is working hard to reverse that trend.
Monfette is the scripter of a new Hellraiser comic series from BOOM! Studios. He came onto the project having already established a working relationship Clive Barker, the man who brought this unique vision of Hell to life with the novella The Hellbound Heart and, of course, the original Hellraiser film. That relationship has spilled over into this new series, and so far reaction has been positive.
With issue number two of the series recently on the stands (or maybe not – it’s selling out quickly), it seemed a perfect time to talk to Monfette about his work in bringing Pinhead and company back to life.
OC: Walk us through your history of working with Clive Barker prior to the Hellraiser comic.
CM: Clive and I have worked together on two film adaptations of his short fiction that I scripted a few years back (Down, Satan and Son of Celluloid) as well as a rather surreal, 3-D comic-book that we published a with IDW called Seduth. Hellraiser is really the culmination of that five-year relationship, spent building that level of artistic trust that would allow Clive sufficient comfort to open up his most iconic character to another voice, another perspective. And I think it’s been that give-and-take, that respect for each other and for the material that has allowed this project to develop as successfully as it has.
How did the job writing Hellraiser come about? Was it something you pitched, or something you were approached about?
Clive came to me about a year ago with the idea to revisit the Hellraiser mythology through the comic medium, an idea which I immediately responded to given how poorly that character, that universe had been treated by Hollywood over the last several years. Even today, despite two rather talented filmmakers attached to the project, the remake continues to languish, and the most recent film was an embarrassment to the franchise by all accounts. And as I’ve said before, as a life-long fan of Clive’s work and most especially of Hellraiser, I’d seen a weariness grow around the property, and even to some degree around its fans. So when it came down to deciding upon the story, it felt as if we needed to address that directly within the context of the narrative. Pinhead’s boredom, the ceaseless sameness, the enduring ennui…We needed to go back to the roots of what made the franchise great, and then we needed to turn it all on its pin-clad head in a way that would allow us to evolve our vision of Hell for a modern audience, a new reader. Give the diehards their due while simultaneously inviting in new readers…No easy feat, indeed!
To do that, I felt it was necessary to bring back Kirsty and to put Pinhead – not as a villain, but as a character – at the very center of the story, propelling the events forward, moving around pieces like the purveyor of some Hellish chess game. Clive then added his own thoughts, especially concerning a new iteration of the Harrowers, and together we found this very dark, very compelling story.
How closely do you work with Barker on this?
I’m extremely fortunate that Clive has allowed me to develop the voice of this series and these classic characters, reading over my scripts and adding that dash of Barker-quality madness that has defined his creations for decades.
The Hellraiser mythology – specifically, the novella The Hellbound Heart and the first two films – is among the best-known and best-loved of Barker’s works. Is there extra pressure working on this comic, knowing how closely it is likely to be scrutinized by hardcore fans?
Well, in a very real, very honest sense, I am the hardcore fanbase for this series. I’d be the first person reading these comics prepared to find fault wherever the universe went too far or came up too short. So that sense of pressure is more personal for me. It’s directed inward. If I feel like a script succeeds; if I took pleasure in writing it and truly believe that it served our intentions; if I feel that the characters are honest and the story coherent; if I feel that Clive or Doug Bradley would be proud…then I’m generally confident that the fanbase will responds in kind. If the page I’m writing doesn’t ring true to me as a fan, that’s when I feel the pressure. Not only do I owe the readers, but I owe this mythology that I love; I owe Pinhead; I owe Clive. And fortunately, I have the creator of Hellraiser within reach to help guide that story into existence.
What are you taking from Barker’s work and the film series, and where are you branching out on your own?
We’re really using the novella and the first two films as our canon. Where our series can fit in with previous films or comics, excellent. Feel free to allow yourself those connections where you find them. But we can really only put our best foot forward from the place that best represented Clive’s original vision.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from Barker regarding the new series?
This is very much Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, and I hope that even in these first two issues, fans have felt his presence on every page. I’m working to serve his vision, and he’s working to expand that vision and give me new areas to explore. Go bigger. Be weirder. No boundaries, no taboos. That’s what Hellraiser has always been about, and over the next few issues, and hopefully further into the future, we’ll offer a more elaborate, more intimate look at Clive’s Hell.
Is this a limited series, or is it open-ended?
We’re doing eight issues with one hell of an ending, Pun utterly intended. And if the fans, Lord love ‘em, bless us with the support to continue that story, there’s much more narrative to explore, many more sights to show you.
But if you should never, ever read another Hellraiser comic again – if Pinhead should vanish from store shelves and movie theaters – my hope is that fans would feel as if that final beat was a sufficient ending to the mythology. I don’t believe in assuming longevity, but I believe firmly in planning for the future. Great writing is about seeing something in issue #10 and realizing that the seed, the kernel, of that moment had been planted in issue #2. So there are certainly some elements here – some small, some not so small – that I’m hoping we’ll be able to expand upon in future issues.
One of the last really good things done with the Hellraiser mythology was the anthology comic series from Marvel/Epic – any thought of doing something like that, or perhaps some standalone graphic novels set in and around this universe?
I’m attracted to forward momentum. I like to see a story evolve, to be pulled into the lives and deaths and troubles of characters I care about…Even the villains…And I like to experience that in a coherent universe that can grow and expand while still remaining true to its spirit. The Marvel/Epic series simply never did that. To me, that Hell is a parallel Hell. It’s not the Hell of the first two films, or of the novella, or of the world in which I live. It’s a Hell of quasi-superheroes and strange, bizarre adventure, and for as brilliant and entertaining as that series was, it was never truly Hellraiser for me.
That said, Boom has very nicely gone back and reprinted the Hellraiser Masterworks for those who’d like to explore a number of very cool, very different takes on that mythology. As for our world, Clive’s world, it feels to me as if every corner of that box has been explored, so let’s not create boxes within boxes, you know? Let’s expand the box, let’s evolve the universe in a way that makes sense, so that we as creators and the readers, as fans, are hungry to search in every dark crevice, even those that aren’t directly related to Kirsty or Pinhead.
Do you have other projects – Barker-related or otherwise – you’d like to let us know about?
I’m working on a few projects right now, most presently a horror film called Deep Cuts currently in development with producer Jeff Katz. It’s a relatively insane script that combines horror sub-genres in the same way that Robert Altman or PT Anderson can masterfully interweave and multi-layer plot-lines. It’s got slashers, vampires, slow-moving zombies, fast-moving zombies, ghosts, torture porn, exorcisms, cursed objects, etc. It’s a virtual horror buffet and I hope that fans will respond to it with the same reckless enthusiasm that I wrote it.