Comic-Con: Si Spencer Offers a Hot Take on Vertigo's 'Slash & Burn'

"We’re definitely in [the same territory as] 'Breaking Bad' and 'True Detective.'"
DC Entertainment
"We’re definitely in [the same territory as] 'Breaking Bad' and 'True Detective.'"

DC Entertainment's Vertigo imprint heats up in November with the launch of Slash & Burn, a series from writer Si Spencer and artists Max Dunbar and Ande Parks that focuses on a reformed pyromaniac trying to make up for her past by becoming a firefighter — and investigating a series of mysterious fires that remind her of her youth. Spencer explained the origins of the series to The Hollywood Reporter.

Slash & Burn sounds like it'll give you the chance to mix the spectacle of explosive (literally) fires with the personal drama of lead character Rosheen Hayes' addiction; it feels like the ideal solution to making the internal work in the visual media of comics. Was that the original impetus for the series?

[Editor] Shelly Bond and I were discussing a three-word premise — "Female Pyromaniac Firefighter" and I was immediately intrigued. What really fascinated me about the concept was the big question "Why fight fires? If you’re recovering from addiction, why not steer clear of all things flamey?" And addressing that contradiction seemed exactly the kind of story that this medium does better than anything else.

Comic books allow for so many levels of simultaneous narrative - there’s no other medium where you can combine third person visual narrative with a first person inner monologue and that seemed to me to be exactly what a lying addict does.

And hey y’know: fire good, fire pretty. And I like making up sound effects for things going kerboom.

The series, as described, feels grounded in a reality that feels closer to something like 100 Bullets or Scalped than other Vertigo books. Are series like that an inspiration for Slash & Burn — the idea of a long form exploration of character and genre that doesn't necessarily rely on the six-issues-and-done format of many comics?

Yeah. We’re definitely in that kind of territory along with stuff from outside comics like Breaking Bad, True Detective or The Place Beyond the Pines and Fargo. But I’m not sure that Slash & Burn or any of those titles actually deal in "reality" in the conventional sense. They use real settings and locations and situations, but they’re not "real life." 

What Slash & Burn and I think those other works aim for is to focus less on the world and the facts as they actually are, in favor of bending reality and suspending disbelief in order to subject their characters to moral, ethical and philosophical dilemmas.

With your last Vertigo series Bodies, you found a new twist on the murder procedural, and Slash & Burn sounds like you're doing something similar for a more general investigation genre. Are you on a mission to rehabilitate mainstream genres in a Vertigo style?

For whatever twisted reason, Occult horror seems to my basic default position but I like a lot of other stuff too. In particular, I love crime stories and I’ve been lucky enough in the past to work on a lot of TV crime drama which gave me the opportunity to do some golden research opportunities behind the scenes with real cops.

So this started out as a story about a very new take on a classic thriller about control and addiction in the best medium possible to show both the public veneer and the private agony. And of course a great chance just to blow shit up and burn stuff down. That sounded like just too much fun to resist and the plan was to just relax and enjoy myself with a procedural story.

But then I started to really hang out with Rosheen Hayes and she started telling me stuff. Dark, secret, private stuff. Stuff about joy and pain and want and desire. Dirty stuff, guilty stuff, violent stuff, frightened stuff. Stuff about beauty and fire and passion and fear and the hunger crawling under your skin and how good it feels to finally feed it. Big stuff. And now I think I’ve fallen in love with her… and I think a lot of other people are going to feel the same.

Slash & Burn launches in November.