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Interview with Signs and Voices Writer CJ Hurtt

CJ Hurtt Headshot
Signs and Voices
is a comic book series meant to teach deaf individuals valuable life skills, help raise their confidence in their identities in the mainstream community.  People who can hear will be able to learn more about deaf culture by reading Signs and Voices. The original idea for the series was Zammurad Naqvi, but the comic was written by CJ Hurtt. Now, let’s listen to what Hurtt has to say about the series and his other work.   

How would you describe Signs and Voices?

Signs and Voices #1 Cover
Signs and Voices
is an action-oriented super powered hero story that illustrates the needs and views of the Deaf community using a diverse cast. It is a comic that can be enjoyed by anyone, but seeks to represent a historically under represented group of people. There’s a focus on the importance of sign language and life skills. There’s a lack of Deaf heroes in comic books. There’s no reason for this. Deaf young adults need to see themselves properly represented in the medium. They’re ignored, invisible. We’re trying to help change that. Also, in our book, there’s a guy that can kick you…with fire.

Zammurad Naqvi created the story and the original treatment. My job was to turn the story (which is a massive epic) into comic script format. There were a handful of challenges along the way when adapting the story, but I think the script reflects Zam’s story very well. I was also able to put some of my own ideas and concepts here and there.  Jorge Correa jr is the artist behind the incredible look of the book and Diogo Nascimento is the colorist. Saduf Naqvi oversees Deaf Power Publishing. There are also several Deaf consultants including Ksenia Balabina and Neil Magdani. Russ Leach handles our covers.

Other than Signs and Voices, what projects have you worked on? 

I was the Fiction Editor of Dark Recesses Press, I am currently writing for Six Times Nothing’s upcoming video game Dawn of the Tyrant, and have had several prose and comics stories published. I recently sold a short story to Kazka Press and Shawn Richter and I created the comic One Last Song which was published by Brain Scan. Garbage Day, a graphic novel that I co-wrote with Devin Hylton is set to be published by Arcana later on this year.

What’s it like editing the awarding-winning magazine Dark Recesses Press? Can you explain what the magazine is to people unaware of it?

Dark Recesses Press Cover
Dark Recesses was a horror fiction magazine founded by Bailey Hunter and Boyd Harris. I came on board early on to help with story selection. The magazine ran for several years and in a few different incarnations. Michael Dixon was eventually the captain of the ship and kept things running for a long time.

It was one of the most fun insane asylums you could ever hope to work for or be sent to. We received anywhere from 150 to 250 submissions a month at our peak. The inbox was always full with some of the most amazing (and sometimes amazingly bad) stories. The work was non-stop, but it was really rewarding. We were a paying market so the quality of story that we got to publish was up there with the best markets out there.

We were able to attract authors like Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker. When you see something you helped build become a real part of the horror market, it inspires you to work harder. I’ll never forget it.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on, like the MMO from Six Times Nothing?

I can’t comment too much on Dawn of the Tyrant at the moment, but I will say it is going to have many unique features. The approach Six Times Nothing is taking to this video game is revolutionary. I can’t wait to see it in the wild. People are going to be shocked.

My job with Six Times Nothing is to write the lore for the setting and various other writing duties related to the game. The details are still under Non-disclosure though. It is a very dark and brutal science fiction story inspired by Babylonian and Egyptian mythology. 

I’m also currently working on a pair of crime novels, an historical fiction graphic novel, and a surrealist sci-fi comedy graphic novel. Always something going on over here. 

 Can you tell us what your other creator-owned series One Last Song and your story in Ape Entertainment’s UFO anthology: Whiffen’s Trick are about? 

One Last Song Cover
The concept of One Last Song was inspired by watching our civil liberties being eroded and how that has been dealt with in the past. In the book Amanda Casey lives in a time where free speech is a thing of the past. All media personalities and artists have to take a pledge to uphold the government sanctioned view of the world. They are issued a Performance Card that allows them to ply their trade. So Amanda, being a musician, travels around the country singing seemingly innocuous love songs. However, the lyrics to those songs are actually the real version of news events couched in metaphor. The government knows what she’s up top and seeks to subvert her in order to control the rising dissent. The government knows that if they allow people to let off a little steam a bit at a time, the revolution will never come. They can deflate the masses by allowing a small amount of controlled rebellion. Amanda must then make the choice of what to do. 

Whiffen’s Trick is essentially a true story. A friend of a friend that I got to know named Bill lived in Rachel, Nevada. Rachel is literally just outside the gates of Area 51. UFO nuts go there all the time for conventions and what not. Bill used to play pranks on the UFO people. He’d dress as an alien and hitchhike. He’d launch balloons with glow sticks tied to them at night. Anyway, Bill passed away a few years ago. This was my tribute to him.

Shawn handled art duties for both of these projects and the stories simply would not be without him. 

If you had to choose, what is your favorite thing to work on – comics, games or prose?

Comics. They’re all rewarding and I love working on games and prose, but comics offer a lot of freedom and there is something really cool about seeing your scripts be interpreted by an artist. There’s often a very garage band feel to working on an indie comic.

What inspired you to write? 

Comic Book Writer Cartoon
I think it’s some kind of mental disorder. Like a lot of writers, I’ve quit out of frustration about a million times and I have always been back within a day. Writing is what I do. When I was 15 I read Shatterday by Harlan Ellison and I haven’t been the same since. I read that book and knew that I had to write.

What inspirational words do you have for other people interested in writing?

You’re going to get figuratively kicked in the teeth a lot. No one will take you seriously. No one will willingly pay you. You will be missing out on a lot of fun things. You are going to feel like no one cares about your work and you will be right. You are going to be treated with scorn if anyone even bothers to notice you at all. You are easily replaceable and will be made to feel that your existence lacks meaning. You will be shunned for not growing up. You will have missed opportunity. Still here? Good. Get to work and make something great.

Thank you for your time, and good luck with Signs and Voices! Here’s to it making a difference for deaf culture!

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Meet the Author

About / Bio
An all-around nerdette, I’m a comic book connoisseur, horror aficionado, video game addict, anime enthusiast and an aspiring novelist/comic book writer. I am the head of the comic book department and the editor-in-chief of Entertainment Fuse. I also write and edit articles for Comic Frontline. I am also an intern at Action Lab Entertainment, a comic book publisher at which I edit comic book scripts, help work on images in solicitations and help with other comic book related project. My own personal website is comicmaven.com.

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