As a one-time stage actor, and lifelong writer, Todd Hunt graduated from Fordham University determined to tell stories similar to those of his heroes. His first published work was a Diamond distributed graphic novel entitled The Secret Adventures of Houdini. The Prism, First Literary Review East and Wilderness House Literary Review have most recently published his poetry.
Loren Kleinman (LK): Can you talk about The Secret Adventures of Houdini? What's your favorite scene from the graphic novel that you and Sean Van Gorman (illustrator and co-creator) produced?
Todd Hunt (TH): To distill a full-length graphic novel (The Secret Adventures of Houdini) down to my one favorite scene is difficult, especially when the entire book has proved to be a labor of love in the truest sense of that term. I love the opening page of the book where in one page we set the entire tone for the series, the power of belief. We delve into Harry Houdini's mind as he is on stage performing one of his most famous and dangerous illusions, "The Water Torture Cell." In this scene, Harry Houdini, as introductory narrator, reveals, "Magic is not created by magicians, magic is created by belief." With this sentence, we immediately convey Houdini's thoughts on the supernatural and where he believes power truly lies. This theme of belief is built upon throughout the book and rises to a powerful crescendo in a moment of solace with Houdini confiding to his journal what the action of the book has done to his "belief in everything he had trusted."
In one of the later scenes of the book, I loved being able to insert some poetry into a letter, which reveals to Houdini the beginning his next adventure, The Golem of Prague. This poem became the vital link in connecting our story to the incidents of Houdini's past, which we were reaching to find a creative way to express. I never thought that my poetry would find its way into my graphic novel but this creative dilemma helped me to realize that poetry is truly the well from which I draw all of my best ideas.
LK: Did you do any research before writing the Houdini series?
TH: A tremendous amount of research was done before attempting to create a series about the untold stories of the final years of Harry Houdini's life. Writers are not responsible for their reader's ignorance but we are, however, responsible for their education. It is up to us to present to them all of the information that they need to understand, follow along and appreciate our story.
With someone like Harry Houdini who was larger than life and remains to this day a name synonymous with Magic, I could not simply rely on the assumption that the readers would know the intricate or simple truths of his life, which we consistently play off of. When Sean and I met with Axel Alonso at Marvel Comics, he gave us some of the best editing advice we received in telling us that with a first book you have one shot to introduce your world, show where your story is heading and to create enough excitement for the reader to want to come back to it. This advice led us to the final edit of our first book where we introduced certain storylines and backgrounds on specific characters that we were planning on saving for later issues. Including these details greatly enriched and enhanced our first story overall. I initially wanted our first book to be my story about Houdini and the Golem of Prague but Sean Von Gorman, my illustrator and co-creator of the series, and I realized that we needed to truly set the scene and introduce the readers to our interpretation of the incredible world of Harry Houdini before we began his major adventures.
LK: Talk about your writing process. How do you write your scenes for the Houdini series?
TH: I write my scenes for The Secret Adventures of Houdini as a film script or sometimes, with dialogue heavy scenes, as a stage script as opposed to a traditional graphic novel or comic script. I am much more comfortable with directing a scene for a stage or film and I feel it gives a more cinematic scope to the book. Sean Von Gorman, my illustrator and co-creator, then takes these scripts and interprets them with his comic sensibility and direction, which is superb. With aspirations to one day to turn The Secret Adventures of Houdini into a television or animated series, this way of writing assists us with following through to further iterations of our stories.
LK: You're into CrossFit. How has that contributed to your life? To your work?
TH: I am a level one certified trainer in CrossFit and like nothing else in my life, it has taught me the benefit of realizing and coming to terms with my weaknesses. As we go through life, we learn to minimize our risks. We color inside the lines; we don't exert more effort than we must so that our challenges never prove to outweigh our abilities. We get comfortable with accepting the minimum amount of work that we can apply to our endeavors in order to convince ourselves that we are in some way pushing forward or getting ahead. CrossFit is the radical opposite of this idea, not only do you get a chance to redefine who you are on a daily basis simply by saying yes to a workout; but you learn quickly that you are only defined by your weaknesses and how hard you are willing to work to improve them. I have applied these lessons to every aspect of my artistic endeavors.
LK: What's next?
TH: I'm working on releasing my first book of illustrated poetry entitled, A Strange Occurrence of Magic. This collection of poetry will contain illustrations by such famed comic artists as Mike DiMotta, J.M DeSantis, Eric Rosner, Dave Mims, Sean Von Gorman, and many others.