ComicBuzz Chats With Steven S. DeKnight

We are delighted to be joined by the writer, director and producer Steven S. DeKnight. Steven has written, directed and produced for TV and films including Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngelSmallville, Dollhouse, SpartacusDaredevil and Pacific Rim: Uprising. With the Kickstarter campaign live for his new graphic novel Hard Bargain from Humanoids, we got a chance to chat with him.


Hi Steven, it’s so wonderful to have you here with us.

It’s a pleasure to be here! Thanks so much for having me.


Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Hello, readers! Steven S. DeKnight here. You might know me from my work in TV and movies. I wrote on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wrote and directed on Angel, Smallville, Dollhouse, created and ran Spartacus for Starz, helmed the first season of Daredevil for Netflix, co-wrote and directed Pacific Rim: Uprising, wrote a couple of one-shots for Marvel including stories for Wolverine, Black Widow, and Conan, and I’m currently hard at work on the Spartacus spinoff series House of Ashur.


Can you tell us about the origins of Hard Bargain?

Way back when I was a kid in the late 70s, I caught an old hardboiled noir detective movie on TV called Murder, My Sweet starring the incomparable Dick Powell as tough guy gumshoe Phillip Marlowe. I was absolutely mesmerized by the razor-sharp dialogue and aesthetic trappings of 1940s Los Angeles. Years later I discovered Murder, My Sweet was an adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely a book written by the master of private detective noir Raymond Chandler. From that point on I devoured every novel, short story, or essay penned by this amazing author.

Simultaneously I had fallen in love with all things science fiction, fantasy, or horror related. Movies, TV shows, books, comics — it didn’t matter. I consumed them all with a ravenous appetite for imagination. Flash forward to the mid 1990s when I found myself transplanted to Los Angeles and struggling to break into the entertainment industry as a writer. I was working as an ESL teacher during the day and cranking out spec features (screenplays written for no money that you then try to sell) at night.

One idea I had was to combine two genres I loved: hardboiled detectives and the supernatural. And so Frank Harding, the central character of Hard Bargain, was conceived. It would take nearly thirty years to bring him to life, ultimately not up on the silver screen but between the much more fitting pages of a graphic novel. Some ideas just never let go of you until you birth them into the world. And I couldn’t be happier that Hard Bargain was one of those.


How would you describe Hard Bargain?

Hard Bargain is a rollicking mélange of 1940s hardboiled detective stories, supernatural horror, and ancient myths and mythos with a light sprinkling of social commentary. Pour yourself a tumbler of scotch, curl up in your favorite chair, and enjoy!


What can you tell us about Frank Harding?

Frank Harding is your classic two-fisted private eye. A man with a deep sense of right and wrong, but someone who will bend the rules to the breaking point to see a mystery solved and justice served. And like any meaty character in this genre, he’s haunted by events and decisions from his past as he struggles to make the world a marginally better place.


Can you tell us about the world that Hard Bargain is set in?

Hard Bargain is set in the world of 1940s Los Angeles with all the glamor and glitz that goes along with it, as well as the grit and grime lurking just below the surface. It’s a world where demons and magic are all too real – and deadly – for those who know where to look for it.


What made Leno Carvalho the right artist for Hard Bargain?

I have to admit that I really tortured the good people at Humanoids over the artist for Hard Bargain. For over a year they sent me samples from one incredible artist after another, all of whom I would be over the moon to work with on any other book. But I had something very specific in mind for the style of Hard Bargain, a kind of a cross between the film noir movies of the 1940s and the grand guignol of the old EC horror comics. When they sent me Leno Carvahlo’s work, I damn near levitated off my chair. His style was a perfect match to the story I wanted to tell. It had all the emotion, action, and finesse I was looking for along with an indefinable 1940s yet modern aesthetic. And once the incredible colorist Bruno Hang joined the team, it all really came together.


How did Humanoids get involved with Hard Bargain?

I have to thank artist extraordinaire John Cassiday (Planetary, Astonishing X-Men) for getting Humanoids involved with Hard Bargain. I had sent John scripts for the first two chapters of Hard Bargain years ago when we were chatting about possibly doing a project together. John was at that time working with Humanoids to help bring talent in and suggested they meet with me. We hit it off, they loved those first two chapters, and we were off and running. Thanks, John! I owe you one!


How long have you been working on Hard Bargain?

Technically the idea for Hard Bargain hatched nearly thirty years. About fifteen years ago I wrote the first two chapters. Then in 2019 I met with Fabrice Giger and the team at Humanoids, which was when I started working on the book in earnest. So, four years intensely working on it, with about an extra twenty-six years of poking at it from time to time. It’s been a long time coming, and I still can’t believe people are finally going to be able to read the adventures of Frank Harding.



What has it been like working with Leno Carvalho and Humanoids?

Leno Carvahlo is just the best artist to work with. He takes what I’ve written on the page and elevates it far beyond what I ever could have imagined. Hard Bargain is just as much his creation as it is mine, and I’m eternally grateful for all his passion and dedication to the project.


As you are crowdfunding Hard Bargain and dealing directly with consumers, does that make Hard Bargain more special for you?

I’m delighted that Humanoids is offering this book initially through crowdfunding so dedicated fans of the genre can get it in advance of the mass market release. That along with some exclusive perks makes this feel extra special.


Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?

I hope you enjoy the tale we’ve whipped together in Hard Bargain! With your support, there should be many more Frank Harding stories in the years to come.

We would like to wish Steven and Leno the best of luck with the Hard Bargain graphic novel.

Feel free to check out the Hard Bargain campaign on Kickstarter.

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