Joe Hill has a pretty killer sense of humor. Especially now that the award-winning novelist is set to release Dying Is Easy, a five-part comic miniseries for IDW Publishing that swaps his usual fantasy horror for a more reality-based crime caper set in the grimy, neon-lit corridors of the comedy world.
In this exclusive page below from Issue #1, which hits stores on Dec. 11 and sports illustrations from acclaimed artist Martin Simmons (Punks Not Dead), the noir tale follows Syd "Sh*t-Talk" Homes, a disgraced ex-cop turned bitter stand up comic with an ugly past who finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
SYFY Wire also spoke to Hill about mixing up the yuks with his 90s-era crime yarn. And if there’s one thing we learned, Hill doesn’t pull punches, he throws ‘em, as evidenced by his flawed hero’s penchant for fisticuffs and his “black-as-cancer” punch lines.
Dying Is Easy opens with Syd performing a macabre bit about his homicide days to an indifferent audience only to discover that a rival comedian, Carl Dixon, has been stealing his act when another funnyman asks him how much it would cost to have Carl killed. Later, Syd has a run-in with a woman who accuses him of mining laughs off her dead sister, whose tragic death that was part of a prior police investigation may still be haunting him. All the while, Syd's rage and apparent self-hatred entangle him in a murder mystery. That's the set up.
Hill, the son of famed horror master Stephen King, told SYFY he created the quip-tossing gumshoe as part of a series of four-panel gag strips in his newsletter Escape Hatch. But once he started adding the mystery elements — more characters, more clues, etc. — he quickly realized the traditional comic book format was the only way to go.
“Basically, Syd bullied me into giving him more space,” the author joked.
Tonally, Hill was partly inspired by Lawrence Block's series of crime novels featuring alcoholic ex-cop-turned-P.I. Matthew Scudder, but as a fan of pure action, the wisecracking heroes of his youth as well.
“As Dying Is Easy went on, it also began to echo some of the big 80's action pictures I grew up with, the kind of films that always starred Bruce Willis or Eddie Murphy,” he said. “It's interesting how the best of those pictures often featured leading men known for their comic timing. Do comedians make better action stars than muscleheads? I think maybe they do."
As for the throwback ‘90s setting (thanks to references to Jay Leno and Friends), Hill added that he wanted to dispense with cell phones which he said wreak havoc on the mystery genre since “we’re all carrying tracking devices in our pockets now.” Plus, he wanted to get away from social media and Trump and what's more timeless than morbid cop humor?
We’ll buy that for a dollar.
Dying Is Easy is available for purchase via IDW’s website and, of course, wherever print and digital comics are sold.