After a sacred burial ground is vandalized, a deadly curse is released upon a small town in To Hell You Ride #1. The local townspeople are not prepared for the wrath of the four angry spirits who have awakened with a taste for vengeance. The townspeople are in deep as their skin suddenly begins to burn, flesh melting off their bones.
Known for playing such memorable roles as Bishop in Aliens and Frank Black in the Millennium TV series, actor/writer Lance Henriksen sat down with Bloody Disgusting to discuss his ride to hell, co-writing the script with his biographer Joseph Maddrey, and the experience of his comic-writing debut.
The first issue of Dark Horse Comics’ “To Hell You Ride”, written by Lance Henriksen with art from Tom Mandrake, hits the shelves December 12th.
BD: “To Hell You Ride” started out as a screenplay inspired by a trip you made to Telluride, Colorado. Tell me more about how this influenced your story.
LH: What happened was, the place, Telluride, is so unique. In the script, we don’t call it Telluride at all and that was on purpose. In terms of writing the script, the location was so powerful and somehow started channeling the whole story. I mean it came out of a number of things. It took me about 5 months to write that script after I got home. And of course, I was a young actor and no one was interested in doing anything. I think the worst thing for any producer is to see an actor coming with a script under his arm. But nobody was going to do it. It got lost over the years and I didn’t have any copy of it. It was registered with the Writer’s Guild and they burn all their scripts after 5 years; so it was gone.
It’s a created myth but it’s a myth about respect. That one time, it was the summer hunting grounds for the Indians. And then, the miners came in and drove them out. They exploited that land until it was desolate, relatively speaking. That’s what prompted me to write about it. It was all about the lack of respect.
BD: How did you become involved with Dark Horse Comics for this project?
LH: I had written a biography with Joe Maddrey and we were at Comic Con, down at San Diego, showing the book, getting it out there a little bit. Mike Richardson (Dark Horse Comics publisher) came up to me and said, “Would you like to write a comic?” Right on the spot, I said, “Yeah” and he said, “Well, it’s a deal.” Then, he shook my hand and that was it. Three months later, I got him the script of the whole comic, all five issues. It was very loosely done. And we made an agreement on doing it in 5 issues. I enjoyed it. We loved it. Mike works off of instinct; and I had a good instinct on this, I’ll tell you that.
BD: How was collaborating with Tom Mandrake?
LH: When I met Tom, it was at a convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I liked the guy immediately and I loved his artwork. He had actually drawn some art for the biography. We hit it off as soon as it happened. I said, “That’s the guy I want to illustrate it.” It’s become more than that. Tom is not just a guy doing the drawing. We’re also creating it together -Tom, Joe Maddrey, and I. It’s quite an event, a thing.
BD: After working with such visual directors like Kathryn Bigelow, Stan Winston, and James Cameron, did they have any impact on how you describe the imagery in your scripts?
LH: Oh yeah! I’ve done about 170 -180 movies. Over the years, the language I use for expressing an idea is usually very visual. I mean, I think more in pictures than I do in written word. Because I’m an actor, I visualize it. And Tom understood it completely. It wasn’t like we were speaking different languages. We realized what were going to do to channel this story. And the only way you know if you’re channeling something is if there’s affirmation springing up from the most unlikely places. It really works! We really bounce off of each other really well; the three of us I mean.
BD: Tell me about writing the script with Joseph Maddrey, who worked with you on your autobiography, Not Bad for A Human.
LH: We work the same way. Joe and I work on an outline. We start discussing it, building it. This is much more intense. Biography is easy because all you have to do is tell the truth. But I remember when I first met Joe, he was doing a horror anthology called, Nightmares In Red, White, and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film. He had written it and contacted my agent to narrate it. I saw it and i liked it. We became friends. We were talking about doing a number of projects together and he came up with the idea of me doing a biography. ” I’ll tell you what Joe. I’ll do it as long as we agree, if we get halfway through it, it’s a lot of b.s., we’ll throw it away and never look back.” He agreed and so we did it.
BD: The story seems to focus on themes of revenge and greed, especially with the Five George subplot.
LH: The Five George story actually happened. When I was sixteen, I met an elder from an Indian tribe and he told me that story, that his grandfather had done exactly that. He had been a medicine man in the tribe. The only alteration for our story, the payment he got for doing it was that they blamed him for it. In reality, he found the body in that way. He walked backwards for miles, then he stopped and turned around. It was a flat rock. He said, “She’s under that rock.” He also told them the person who did it would turn themselves in within a month and a half. And the guy did. That story stuck with me.
The relationship that I had with this Native American guy, at the tender age of sixteen, he actually changed my life. I never forgot a word of that story. When I went to Telluride, I sensed that story. I was really inspired.
BD: Tell me about the nonlinear storytelling, especially with the time jumps between Two Dogs and Five George.
LH: We decided we were going to let the story tell itself. There wasn’t a formula that we used for this comic at all. In fact, it happens throughout the five issues. And the reason for it is, we could have almost called the comic, “Channeling.” I have to say, the story is telling itself. I know that sounds kind of strange. We had done our work. This has been a real inspired piece of work. We talk all the time. We write, Tom does pencils, and we go over them. We reflect on all of it. And then, we come up with the final thing.
BD: How was your experience writing your first comic?
LH: I gotta hand it to Dark Horse for this reason. I asked Dark Horse from the very beginning, I knew we were going to have a way of working that might be a little outside the box, in terms of what they’re used to. And I said, “Please back us on this and if you do, we’re going to have a great series of comics over here. ” And they had the courage to do it. What I mean by that, we found our own process which we needed to do, because they’re three of us and we wanted to stay in communication. We wanted to work that way and that’s an unusual way of doing a comic. Scott Allie and all those guys at Dark Horse backed us on it, which was miraculous. They had to trust us in order to do that. When they got their first comic, I think they were really happy with it. That’s quite a tribute to them really.
BD: What are you working on now?
LH: I’m starting a movie next month called, Needle Stick. It’s a really nice movie. I’ll be up in Detroit making it. I’m starring in it. It’s about a surgeon that works in a hospital and he discovers almost the fountain of youth. It’s a thriller.
BD: After doing this, do you see yourself writing another comic?
LH: I’ll tell you this. I’ll know that when the five comics are there and done, and we’ve had champagne and a nice long nap. Then I’ll be able to answer that. I don’t know. This has been intense and so wonderful. I don’t really want to think that it’ll all be over, but it will be. I mean, we’re heading into the fourth comic now. By the time you read the first, second, and third, we’ll be completely done. And then I’ll talk to you again, okay?
Interview by Jorge Solis