Lance Henriksen has a new project to unveil, and it’s not what you might think. We spoke with him not about a new film or television show; he’s now a comic book writer and is proud to announce his upcoming title To Hell You Ride. Co-writer Joseph Maddrey also joined our chat.
Henriksen and Maddrey collaborated previously and have reconnected for the supernatural comic book To Hell You Ride. “Joe Maddrey and I wrote a book together, my biography, and in it we got comic book artists to do drawings of some of my movies, whatever movie they wanted to do,” Henriksen said. “Suddenly we were plugged into the comic book world with (Bill) Sienkiewicz and (Mike) Mignola and Tim Bradstreet and Eric Powell and Tim Mandrake. All these guys are the best in the business and they wanted to do the illustrations for the autobiography, and we didn’t want to just use photographs from the movies because we felt it would be visual snoot music that doesn’t mean anything. Then I went to Comic-Con and Mike Richardson from Dark Horse asked me if I wanted to do a comic and I said yes because I was already fascinated by the idea of how do you tell a story with no sound or music, and it all has to be very specific. It’s a whole other world and I’ve been loving every minute of it.”
Henriksen was thrilled by the entire comic book creation process. “How specific you have to be with storytelling in comics is just incredible,” Henriksen said. “I’m used to doing a film where you do a long period of gathering ideas and then you start the movie and you forget about them, but they come leaking out in the role. So writing a comic book is a whole different process.”
The inspirations for To Hell You Ride are quite varied, and Henriksen shared some of them. “I was traveling in the 70’s and ended up in this place that was like the end of the road…high altitude, small little town tucked away. And in the history of the location, they had slave miners and the way they could do this was the cliffs were so vertical that a couple of riflemen up on the ridges could hem them in and they could contain them. So I was in this town after hearing the story of the slave miners and I had this feeling that all the people in the town I was with at that moment were reincarnated and had arrived back on the scene and didn’t know why. Then I realized if there was such a thing as a curse…and certainly in Native American spirituality, there is no such thing as a curse…but what has happened is because the white man interrupted a ritual, it became a curse. So all that stuff was churning in my head, along with a line from a Dylan Thomas poem: ‘The ball I threw while playing in the park has not yet reached the ground.’ And here he was, an older man, and I thought, there’s my story. Also, Native American culture… they don’t have a timeline that’s linear. Theirs is a circle and today is no different than 50 years or 100 years ago. It’s simply the same events going on continuously. So that’s what caused the story.”
Henriksen also shared a story from his youth which he worked into To Hell You Ride. “I was a confused 16-year-old, with all that energy and all that range and I was tearing trees out of the ground along the sidewalk, little two-inch trees they had put in,” Henriksen said, “and a buddy of mine says, ‘I’ve got somebody I want you to meet. You’ve gotta stop this shit.’ And the man he wanted me to meet was a medicine man and I hung out with him for about three days. It was like he gave me a three-day smack in the mouth spiritually and emotionally that never left me. Even to the point where he smoked Pall Malls and he only had a quarter of a lung left and I asked him, ‘Why do you smoke if you’ve only got a quarter of a lung left?’ and he said, ‘Because I know when I’m going to die.’ And I said, ‘When are you going to die?’ And he said, ‘None of your fucking business.’ He would trap me, he would trick me like that, then he told me a story about his grandfather.”
And the story that medicine man shared with Henriksen was written directly into To Hell You Ride. “It was an actual event. There was a missing girl and they came and asked this man to help and he came and walked out of his house backwards,” Henriksen said. “He was the medicine man’s grandfather and he walked backwards for miles and walked into the woods and stopped and turned around and said, ‘She’s under this rock.’ It was a big flat rock. And they opened it and there was the girl. And the medicine man who found her said, ‘The man who did this will turn himself in’…and it happened. So he was a medicine man and had these kinds of powers, and when I was told this story… How can you not remember that story for your whole life? The medicine man was a wonderful person. We walked through the park in San Francisco and he would reach under some leaves and pull out a guava that no else in the park even knew was there. And I asked him how did he know these things? Well, he had gone from the northern tip of California to the southern tip and recorded every living plant. So that was a moment in my life that kind of woke me up. And so when this comic happened, it was included out of respect. The whole thing is about respect.”
Henriksen spoke on how society in general influenced the book. “Ambition and empathy don’t fit together,” Henriksen said. “If you’re ambitious, you’re not slowing down enough to be empathetic, and so, to me, the responsibility to each other as human beings has to come from somewhere because, in essence, we’re all a tribe, the Global Tribe if you will. And unless we can develop ourselves enough to keep that alive…families are falling apart, the economy, our trust, all of those things that are going on right now have been going on for a long time. It’s not like it just happened today.”
With Henriksen and Maddrey providing the writing, the artistic duties are being handled by Tom Mandrake. “Tom Mandrake is a brilliant, brilliant visual storyteller,” Henriksen said. “He really knows drama and knows how to do it.”
Henriksen’s co-writer Joseph Maddrey discussed their collaboration process. “We’re doing it today,” Maddrey said. “I’m here and we’re sort of using a similar process to what we did with Not Bad for a Human, which is a lot of sit-down discussion. We talk at length at least once a week, and some weeks we talk daily, just hashing out ideas to figure out a linear plot without losing the core and themes of these characters that Lance has been living with for some time. It’s a very personal story. It requires a lot of back and forth.”
Henriksen added, “It’s been a phenomenal experience because one of the things is the idea of channeling. A lot of ideas are coming to us and we have no idea where they’re coming from. And the reason we know its channeling is that we have confirmation coming from really unusual sources. But there are absolutely confirmations. Imagine how free that is, us discussing a scene or an idea with a great deal of comfort while challenging each other.”
“We’re all very open to different sources of inspiration and to each other’s ideas,” Maddrey said. “Everything that I’ve read during the last year, it seems, has constantly found a way to be connected to this story that we are writing, and I think we’ve all had things happen in the past year that have felt relevant somehow. We’ve had dreams that have made part of the story clearer. When Lance says he’s eating, breathing, sleeping this comic, we all sort of feel that. We’re all immersed in this world.”
Henriksen describes the pride he takes from this new work. “I’m proud of it in the sense that in a lot of ways it’s much bigger than I am. It feels larger than life. It feels larger than my daily grind. It’s got a wonderful nature to it.”
When we asked Henriksen where the story goes from here, he didn’t want to spoil the surprise. “Do you know that feeling of meeting a girl and you haven’t gone to bed with her yet?” Henriksen said. “You’re thinking about all the possibilities, the curve here, the curve there…the little bit of flesh on her leg. How beautiful her hands are…and, of course, the smell of her hair. That’s more like what I would rather leave you with than tell you about the final act. Believe me, if you get on this journey, you’ll see.”
Maddrey closed with his impression of the work thus far. “Lance turned me onto this story initially when we were working on the biography and he mentioned he had written a script,” Maddrey said. “I said, ‘Well, tell the story.’ And he was very detailed about what is now the first seven pages of the first book, that prologue which is incredibly enigmatic, and you don’t know where that is going to go. It’s something completely different. Really, the storytelling has unfolded and made the story something different, even from what was in the script. We’ve been letting the story tell itself to us. And I’m very conscious to how new agey that sounds, but it works.”
Henriksen concluded with a bit of levity. “I’ve got an expression I used when we were writing the biography,” Henriksen said. “I’d say to Joe, ‘The damn thing is writing itself!’ and he’d say, ‘Well fuck that! I’m the one that’s been typing for two weeks!'”
The first issue of To Hell You Ride will be available on December 12th. Be sure to track your copy down.
Got news? Click here to submit it!
Ride to hell and back in the comments section below.