Interview: Derek Hunter on Image’s Pretty Violent

Pretty Violent #1 Derek Hunter cover

Pretty Violent #1 Derek Hunter cover


Derek Hunter is an artist, animation designer (DuckTales, Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors), and draws mini-comics (Skid Marks). Now he introduces you to Gamma Rae, a hero new to the game, in Pretty Violent from Image Comics. Derek sits down with Westfield’s Roger Ash for an inside look at this comic filled with tons of carnage and humor.

Westfield: What’s the origin of Pretty Violent?

Derek Hunter: I grew up in a super conservative, fundamentalist Christian household, but was always a bit of a black sheep; listening to punk rock, skateboarding on weekends, making weird comics, zines, and concert flyers while my family went to church 4 times a week. What I wanted to explore in Pretty Violent is what I experienced as a kid… being a weirdo outsider within a family unit that loves you and supports you, even though they may not understand you.

Thinking about the best way to explore this sort of story, my mind kept going back to superheroes. A hero born into a family of villains. A hero who desperately wants to be a force for good in the world even though she has no real frame of reference for what that looks like, and a supportive (yet mystified) family that wants to help her achieve her dreams despite thinking she’s completely lost her mind.

A hero born into a world of grey trying to navigate the very black and white world of superheroics was the starting off point, and everything sort of fell into place as I started thinking of ways our hero, Gamma Rae, would unwittingly screw things up and struggle to find her place.

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 1

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 1


Westfield: Reading the first couple issues, it feels like this takes place on a very complete world. How much world building did you do for the series?

Hunter: I think most of the time was spent creating a character with very specific goals, very specific hopes and fears and weaknesses, then creating a world that would best serve to challenge her, to frustrate her, to give her places to question her reality, and grow from these experiences. Once the character was created, I had to figure out what the chaotic world around her would look like… and I realized that a world of superheroes and villains, of black and white thinking was the best place to put her.

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 2

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 2


Westfield: What can you tell us about the book’s hero, Gamma Rae?

Hunter: She’s actually based on my eight year old daughter. She loves getting dirty, being rowdy, being a loudmouth, and being in charge of as many situations as she can get away with. But at the same time, she loves pink and princesses and trying her best (and often failing) to be good and kind. Watching her evolve as a person, witnessing these little incremental moments of growth in her social and emotional maturity (and the frustrations that come when she feels she falls short) started to get me thinking that it would be really fun to watch a superhero with a near complete lack of maturity and social grace try to insert herself in an utterly foreign world; and see how the world reacts to her and her unorthodox approach to heroics.

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 3

Pretty Violent #1 preview page 3


Westfield: Who are some of the other characters readers will meet?

Hunter: Gamma Rae (of course) and her siblings, Merc, Necrosis, and Sludge are the main focuses of the book. Gamma Rae is horribly unprepared to be a hero, but her loving siblings are there to help… but being super villains, their help is rarely useful. Misty Meadows, a hero that can control animals, is her unwitting partner and best friend. Brodie Perron is the mayors son, a total asshole, and Gamma Rae’s unfortunate crush. And most of the other characters you meet suffer horrible, gruesome deaths, so I won’t bother going into much detail about them.

Westfield: What can you say about your collaboration with co-writer Jason Young?

Hunter: Jason and I have been writing comics together off and on since 2008 and there’s not much to say other than we work really well together. Over the years, we’ve each written things on our own, but I feel like we do some of our best work together… and that’s true in the case of Pretty Violent as well. I had written the first 2 issues without him, but after toiling away on the story and art for months, I knew it would be more fun to have him on board; and give us a good excuse to have weekly skype writing/hang-out sessions. We like to make each other laugh as we escalate our stupid ideas to idiotic heights and then make stories about them.

Pretty Violent #1 Ryan Ottley cover

Pretty Violent #1 Ryan Ottley cover


Westfield: Aside from being Pretty Violent, the book is also pretty funny. Why was it important to you to make humor a part of the comic?

Hunter: I’ve always written funny comics. And even in the case of an over the top gory and profanity-laden comic, I think the humor adds a spark of reality to even the darkest of subject matter. Humor is a great way to cope with uncertainty and fear…and Gamma Rae encounters her fair share of both.

Westfield: A theme for the book seems to be the difficulty of being a hero. What intrigues you about that idea?

Hunter: Because I think we all go through life envisioning the perfect outcome of every day before we even live it. We set up impossible expectations of ourselves, partly because that’s what the world shows us on TV, in movies, on social media, and I think following a character as she encounters those daily frustrations (and often fails to deal with them in a healthy manner) is rewarding. We all stumble through life trying to figure out the rules as we go, and it’s no different for a superhero coming up through the ranks… Gamma Rae has a lot to learn and I hope you have fun watching her deal with the outcome of her missteps.

Pretty Violent #2

Pretty Violent #2


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Hunter: I just want to thank everyone who gives this book a chance. It was a lot of fun to make, and a very personal project… even though it’s dressed to the nines in blood and guts and irreverent superhero antics. Thanks for the interview, and feel free to check me out on twitter and instagram (derekdraws) where I post random doodles, sneek peeks and information about future releases.

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