Hatchet: How And Where
I Got All My Great Ideas





     Last updated: April 18, 2011

So this is how I got all these ideas for Hatchet, starting in 2004 and going through 2011.

2004

In 2004, when I was 16 years old, I came up with the character Hatchet. But to trace it back a little farther . . .

In 2003, when I was 15 years old, I tried my first attempts to make up my own serious, not-parody superhero characters. Power Knight was the name of my own superhero: a hero wearing a red and black suit of knight armor. Wielding a sword, Power Knight would fight Dominion, a woman (Sarah Cypher) with all the same powers as him, in the setting of Boston in the 1970's. A while later, Warcatt was the second original superhero I thought of: a metal robot superhero being controlled by three human scientists in a laboratory.

Well, in 2004, at age 16, I had the idea for Hatchet: the superhero, the name, the costume you can now see on the front cover, and the idea for the villain, Mr. Red, the leader of a dangerous cult that worships the color red.

But for some reason I always wanted to do it as a RADIO show. That's right, a rrrrrrRADIO show.

Overall, Hatchet was meant to be:

- really old - like in his late 70s
- armed with one single hatchet
- homeless
- drifting from town to town; rather than having one permanent city, like most superheroes, Hatchet would always be traveling, and so each adventure could take place anywhere from Washington, D.C. to Chicago to Vegas
- clinically insane; delusional, hearing a voice in his head

And my original vision of Mr. Red was to be one of those mad-scientist villains, a scientist who had devised a formula to deliberately raise adrenaline levels in a person. Rather than the traditional Spider-Man villains who test something on themselves to have it go horribly wrong, this scientist would see animal and human testing go right. It would only be in his own case - with himself - that the serum would have bad side effects, combining with all the other different chemicals and things he had put into his body. A serum meant to raise human adrenaline levels is permanently in his system.

Mr. Red's present state of being: driven physiologically insane, he is a killer and a master planner, though his primary power is that he can think his own way into a temporary adrenaline rush. This must be backed up with science SOMEhow, because aren't there certain terrible drugs somewhere out there, like PCP, which, they say, could somehow make a person able to lift a car? . . . And he's the leader of a cult of people who worship the color red, and each person in this cult is assigned a two-digit number.

Hatchet's origin story:

After being drafted at age 18, he spent some time in Vietnam before coming back home, just to live the classic tale of human downfall, being crucified as the villain. So his own schizophrenic mind began to twist and distort the traumatizing truth into a surreal fantasy of what had happened, the twisted story being a science-fiction-like visions of aliens, an alien war, an encounter against the alien King (who nicknamed him Hatchet), and the theft of a time-traveling device used to go back in time and prevent the entire alien invasion, thereby erasing everyone else's knowledge of the whole thing, except for Hatchet. And that's his belief of how those years of his life went - trying to drown out the truth of war. (Really, it turns out, he was also "one of those kids" who was always reading science fiction books . . . anything about aliens, U.F.O.s, time travel . . .)

Well it turns out Hatchet and Mr. Red once met very briefly, years ago. The first time they met was when Mr. Red (who had yet to become Mr. Red) nearly ran Hatchet over with his car after he wandered into the street. He nearly killed Hatchet in their first encounter! That was so long ago . . . he went on to become an accomplished scientist. His crowning acheivement is the formula that can bring about adrenaline raises in animals and people, though it's permanently in his system in his case. His invention could once have been a breakthrough; imagine a war being fought with soldiers who could tap more deeply into the power of adrenaline, rendering a person oblivious to the pain of cuts and stabs. It's also driven him from being a scientist to an insane criminal.

Hatchet vs. Ultimate Thor

Well, all of that was before I discovered some similarities between my own little ideas and the superhero Thor as depicted in Ultimate Marvel - the Ultimates, in 2001, remade Thor to be an insane man whose delusions make him think he's Thor, the Son of Odin. In regular Marvel, Thor, created in 1963, is a Norse God and Norse mythology is real. Ultimate Marvel offers you a half-and-half possibility for Thor: half the evidence suggests he's just an insane man with delusions and a love for Norse mythology . . . and half the evidence suggests his crazy words were right all along.

Well, except, with Hatchet, he really is delusional and wrong, and there's no doubt about it.

Other Villains

For some reason, after a while, some other ideas for villains came to my mind:

- A villain with no powers, who simply owns five dogs, whom he trains to do his bidding. Obeying his every command, they walk, stop, run, stop, and/or attack as soon as he tells them to. A human being armed with no guns and no powers, his dogs do all his work for him.

- A villain with some kind of suit that makes you turn invisible. But then Hatchet also climbs into such a suit and they both have an invisible fight, where all you see is a hatchet flying through the air.

But, then again, it gets kind of silly to think that far ahead, before one has finished one's first story.

Hatchet As A Play?

Nothing became of Hatchet in 2004. Some day, I figured . . . by the time I'm 30 . . . I should somehow do this as a radio show. Somehow.

In 2008, I was 20, and that was the year I discovered the joy of writing plays. "This Is Just A Nightmare" was a play I wrote to 60 pages, with 3 acts, and 20 pages per act. So, in 2009, I figured, why not try to write Hatchet as a play?

It would stay true to the old vision: Hatchet would be a war vetaran, with a very decades-old state of mind and attitude. He would also be an alcoholic, and sometimes drunk during his adventures. Hatchet would be an illegal hero whom the police are searching for, so that he can be arrested. I probably got about 13 pages into the first act before I stopped writing it as a play.

At first, Hatchet is walking around in public, getting food from some fast-food place. Discussions and speculation among the people nearby reveal who and what Hatchet is. People just can't believe he's "such a fucking weirdo", just walking around talking to himself all the time. Soon, in a scene I eventually remade in the final movie script, two people walk around and talk about what it is that Hatchet does, moving like a hard drug dealer, in silence and violence. With no one single city to serve as his permanent home, Hatchet goes from place to place. Later in the night, Hatchet is stopped by a cop, who can bust him for being drunk in public. Drunk and caught, Hatchet begs the cop to drive him to the liquor store.

Well, that draft never made it to completion, and I started to consider going beyond a 60-page play and into a full movie script / screenplay. So I wrote a summary for the movie script version, which would be inspired by "The Fugitive (Harrison Ford / Tommy Lee Jones movie) and other things".

Movie Script Summary

Washington, D.C., the capital, would now be the starting point for Hatchet's journey, with him eventually traveling to Virginia and Maryland, possibly even Pennsylvania at some point. Eventually, if I were to get ahead of myself, and write a sequel or something, he could go to Chicago, Dallas, who knows . . . I just wanted to avoid using New York City, a setting that was just fine for Stan Lee's Marvel heroes, and all right for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but which would be terribly unoriginal of me.

Washington, D.C. What if I were to apply my limited knowledge of D.C., based on the times I'd been there, to the story? The sight of the long driving tunnels, with all the yellow lights lining the ceiling inside. The cold weather. I remembered being in D.C. in 2001 and 2004. Maybe I could even use real-life locations like the Pin-Dell hotel for action scenes.

I even had Hatchet have an "old friend" character who would pick him up and give him a place to stay for a short while. But then what? What would the rest of the script entail? How about . . . THREE VILLAINS.

So I began to realize that what I really wanted to write was something structured like a half-comic book, half-video-game. I say "comic book" for the obvious reasons: Hatchet is a superhero, although one with no powers at all, like Marvel's Punisher (who simply shoots bad guys with guns, rocket launchers, etc.). A superhero protects the people in a big, real-life city, from the wrath of three villains. That's why it would be a "comic book style" movie script, despite the fact that it's not based on a comic book, but is comprised completely of an original cast. But I also say "video-game" because all the action in the movie script would be executed in a video-game style.

Video-Games Based On Movies Based On Comic Books

When you have a comic book, that's a comic book.

But a movie - or movie script - based on comic books and superheroes, that's roughly what I was going for.

But, specifically, "a video-game based on a movie based on comic books" was the kind of feeling I wanted to go for in my writing, with Hatchet as a movie script.

I wanted to play the game "Watchmen", the video-game based on the movie based on the 1987 comic book. Such amazing possibilities, I thought, to have this kind of mixed media, and then to try to write something imitating that effect. Except the Watchmen game, it turns out, is not on the Wii, and I had no PS3 or X-Box 360, nor the money it would take to buy them. I wanted the "Watchmen" game to exist on the Wii, but it did not. So I watched a couple videos of the game on YouTube, and thought to myself . . . I should write something that's like a video-game.

A couple quick examples of some good video-games based on movies based on comic books / superheroes, which inspired me to write Hatchet that way:

- Batman Begins: the 2005 video-game based on the film: AMAZING game. I truly thought it was the next level in cinematic-style, video-game style, comic book-style presentation. That game certainly inspired me to want to write something as deeply into that "next level up" as the BB game.

- Spider-Man: the 2002 video-game based on the film. It was amazing, in a way, how you could have the Spider-Man movie in 2002, and it showed you his encounters with a single villain - the Green Goblin - just to then take two whole years to show you the second villain in 2004, and three more years to show you the third film in 2007. Well, in the 2002 video-game, four super-villain characters were seen, taken of course from the comics, but adapted to the cinematic style. Overall, I would say a full-length movie beats a video-game, but in certain areas the games were able to extend and reach beyond.

Sometimes, a video-game goes beyond the boundaries that still exist in movies. Batman Begins, especially, was an example of a movie where the camera jolted around too freakin' fast for me to keep up with . . . yet, in the video-game based on the movie, the camera work was more smooth and solid than the film. The entire digital "world" within a video-game is CGI, so the camera has complete and total unrestricted movement. Because, you see, it's true: once you get to the level of detail of Grand Theft Auto 4 on a TV screen five feet wide and four feet tall, honestly, what more can you possibly accomplish with technology?

Batman Begins was a 2005 video-game I just could not believe stayed so undiscovered. I had gotten it for seven bucks because it was four, five years old. The camerawork was smooth in the game, far smoother than in the movie, because in a video-game where the whole world is CGI, the camera can move anywhere seamlessly, from the outdoor Himalayan mountains to the entrance of a temple, never once having to jolt away. A camera can stay locked on to one person, keeping that person at the center of the action, as five thugs go in and out of the scene - without jolting to a new angle once per second, like in a film. Dear God, a video-game looked more at-the-next-level, with the camerawork, than the film! If only somebody could establish that perfect in-between level.

"Metal Gear Solid", a 1999 video-game, is pretty much what established the trend in video-games of a) sneaking around a room full of security guards, and b) sneaking through the air ducts and vents. Soooo many video-games after Metal Gear Solid incorporated the concept of "sneaking around and trying to stay unseen".

Come to think of it, the 2002 Spider-Man game also included some levels that involved sneaking around the OsCorp building to stay unseen by the security guards conducting routine nightly patrol. Sneaking around, and stealing five fragments of the super-password from five locations, it would all become an anxiety nightmare if you were caught by a guard. Batman Begins, the video-game, also involved plenty of segments of sneaking around to remain unseen by the enemy, though there was more emphasis on sneaking up on someone from behind to take him out quickly and by surprise. Some parts involved sneaking around high above or underneath the thugs patroling certain areas, hearing their words and then causing a great distraction nearby.

So now I knew my goal: I wanted to write Hatchet as a movie script, a superhero story, comic book style, that would also feel like a video-game in its execution of action sequences. At times, his mission might even be to sneak around a building and avoid the police who are searching for him. (In the final draft, a scene in the hospital ended up involving Hatchet sneaking around, trying to avoid the doctors, looking for his weapon which has been hidden somewhere.)

Hatchet vs. Three Villains

Normally, a superhero fights one villain in his first movie: Michael Keaton's "Batman" pitted the hero against the Joker, Christopher Reeve's "Superman" pitted the hero against Lex Luthor, and Tobey Maguire's "Spider-Man" pitted the hero against the Green Goblin. Of course, I'm just referring to the actors' names. But in the 2002 Spider-Man video-game, he takes on four villains in one single game, or five in the X-Box version. Do you know how many freakin' YEARS it would take to see the Spider-Man movie series accomodate theatrical versions of the Vulture, the Scorpion, the Shocker, and Kraven? Exactly: many, many years.

Spider-Man 2 and 3, the video-games, were able to show you partial glimpses of like 10 what-if possibilities for Spider-Man movie sequels: they showed you, in the cinematic style, Spider-Man taking on such villains as the Kingpin, the Lizard, the Rhino, and even the lesser-used characters, like the Enforcers . . . even Shriek from Maximum Carnage, remade to fit Spider-Man 3. If one Spider-Man film came out per year, it would take a decade for there to be enough movies to accomodate that many encounters with villains.

So, there would be three villains in Hatchet's first movie script, to provide a truly video-game style story. 2003's DareDevil movie had pitted him against the Kingpin, Bullseye, and Elektra. I had once mistakenly believed that the first Spider-Man film would pit him against the Green Goblin, the Vulture, and the Shocker - until I learned that was the video-game. So why not pit Hatchet against three villains in one big story?

Three villains: Psychopath, the Dog-Trainer, and Praying Mantis. Praying Mantis would fulfill that concept of a super-villain who uses an animal as his theme: a man dressed as a silver praying mantis. The Dog-Trainer, a tentative name until I could think of the real name later, would be the guy who trains his dogs to do his criminal work. Then, Psychopath would be 18 years old, but, despite being young, he would be an amazing criminal mastermind with a high intellect, a formidable mind for Hatchet to go up against.

So I wrote the first scene, feeling that the movie script format would flow better than a play, in this case. Except this test scene was randomly set in the middle of the story. Hatchet is inside a video store. The cops are looking for him. He is on LSD, or "acid", and realizes that the cops are closing in on him from all sides. Outside the store, one cop car after another blocks off all possible escapes. His mission is to get out of the video store alive and escape the cops. This is his challenge. But it ends badly: for the mistake of holding up a hatchet, a deadly weapon, before an officer, after being told to drop it, he gets shot at by a cop, and he collapses to the floor, bleeding. But, don't worry . . . he was only shot in the side. The goal was to take him down for the moment. Badly hurt, Hatchet is still alive.

Y'know? Wouldn't you want to see a movie like that?

Influences From the Punisher, the Hulk, and the Fugitive

At first, I would think to categorize Hatchet as being somewhat like the Punisher: a superhero, but an antihero, a killer who is far less noble or nice than Captain America. He has no powers, and no superhuman strength, just weapons. But while the Punisher has a very high homicide rate and body count of bad guys per story, Hatchet would be a lot less extreme. I would write a lot less violent moments like getting stabbed at by a knife, compared to the Punisher.

In 2008, there was the awesome movie "The Incredible Hulk" - WAY better than the 2003 Hulk. The 2008 Hulk was part of what fueled my inspiration to write Hatchet. In that film, the Incredible Hulk was also on the run and going from town to town to escape persecution, starting out in Brazil, going to Columbia, getting to Virginia, and finally ending up in New York City to complete the Marvel-ness of the movie.

Also in that film: the names MR. GREEN and MR. BLUE. Whoa. What were the odds. Those are two names, so the only logical third name following that pattern would be MR. RED. It is arguable that yellow counts as a color, but if you can only have three colors total, and if green is already chosen, as well as blue, then red is the only logical third color.

A coincidence: I thought of the name Mr. Red in 2004, 4 years before seeing those names in the 2008 Hulk. But, then again, if the 2008 Hulk was based on a comic book character going back to 1963, then the names Mr. Green and Mr. Blue were probably there in the comics before 2004 - at least as far back as 1999.

The movie "Watchmen" also began to look awfully similar to Hatchet. Rorschach wears a brown hat and coat. At some point, he uses a hatchet. He even encounters a villain who trained his dogs to do terrible things to people. The comic book goes back to 1987. Still, it was just another one of those cases of realizing there's not an awful lot of stuff I could write that won't look identical to something else. However, Hatchet is far more down-to-earth than Rorscach, who wears an impossible mask with a constantly-shifting inkblot. And, while Rorschach can easily use a hookshot to get to a rooftop, Hatchet would be more likely to stop running from exhaustion, and to know that his limitations fall far short of being able to jump from roof to roof.

Other People's Hatchets

Speaking of which: "The Hatchet" was already the name of a movie in 2006. "And It's Not Based On A Japanese One", brags its tagline. By 2010, there was a movie called "Hatchet 2" and a movie called "Red", with one of my personal role models in it, Morgan Freeman.

There was also a book called Hatchet in 1987. Very famous book. You can't miss it. If you look through 1,000 stories written by other people, you might find hundreds of amazing similarities: even a book whose title begins with the word HATCHET and which covers stories of Vietnam.

SO WHAT CAN I DO THAT IS NOT IDENTICAL TO SOMEONE ELSE'S ALREADY-ESTABLISHED WORK???

My goal became to write something fresh and somehow different and not already-done.

So, though the 2008 Hulk had been a source of inspiration at first for me to write Hatchet as a movie script, I then thought of the 1995 movie "The Fugitive", where Harrison Ford is a fugitive being chased by Tommy Lee Jones, from building to building, from city to city, through a St. Patrick's Day parade, through more cities . . . the difference with Hatchet is that, instead of being pursued by one man, like Tommy Lee Jones in the Fugitive, or General Ross in the Incredible Hulk, Hatchet would go from city to city and always be pursued by the police officers and sheriffs of whatever town he's traveling through at the time. No one single sheriff would be Hatchet's permanent Tommy Lee Jones.

And then I got the great idea to just scrap that whole story and start all over, working with whatever ideas had worked the most before. Instead of three villains . . . why not save that idea for a sequel, and pit Hatchet against one villain and one villain alone, the first original villain, Mr. Red, who has a wholt cult of followers?

Now, in the world of post-2008, I would model it all a little bit after "The Dark Knight", which brought the conflict between Batman and the Joker into a world that is ultra-realistic, with everything happening in the film possible in real life, replacing far-out ideas (like the Joker having all-white skin and green hair) with stuff that could actually happen (like the Joker simply wearing makeup and hair dye). I wanted to write an ultra-realistic, ultra-lifelike story where the whole thing could and actually MIGHT happen!

So, in the name of realism, I remade Mr. Red as a man with no supernatural powers, no background as a scientist, and no amazing serum that he devised himself. Instead, he is just a random psychopath who really loves the color red. The threat he poses is that he is the leader of the Color Red Cult in Washington, D.C., a dangerous cult of criminal operations. That was true to the old ideas from 2004: in his cult, every person wears red and is assigned a number.

One experimental idea, which I never quite ran with . . . if his Color Red Cult people were to use PCP, that would give them super-strength, in an ultra-realistic, ultra-lifelike "Dark Knight" kind of way. So by now, clearly, I was going for a feeling sort of like the Dark Knight, and sort of like HBO in general.

Research

I watched several episode of COPS on TruTV (though it was once famous for airing on FOX) to teach me the parts I didn't know about how things actually work in the system. So I learned that my line of dialogue "Requesting backup now; three, max" was actually ridiculous, as real people actually say "Dispatch! Assist officer." I looked up police codes on Wikipedia, so that the police characters could correctly identify Hatchet as being guilty of a 245, assault with a deadly weapon. I watched a few judge shows - including Judge Hatchet - to get my one courtroom scene right. But at some point every single thing on TV seemed to become a diabolical message put there just for me . . . a theme I ended up exploring heavily in Hatchet.

So I started writing the full movie script. "Hatchet 2010" was the tentative title - a 2010 reboot of an idea I'd been kicking around since 2004. The idea of "a superhero with a cult" had also flashed through my head when I was 15 or 16, but I had never pursued it farther (it would eventually become the Servo Cult in 2011). The idea of a vigilante with no powers, an ordinary human being who simply involves himself in whatever he thinks to be someone else's case of abuse, was also an idea I'd had flash through my head when I was 16, to eventually become "Isaac Gardens", something I'm planning for the future (as of March 2011).

Anyway. In the 2010 movie script, I ended up not having a lot of alcohol after all. I never really ended up showing Hatchet drunk, let alone frequently. Hatchet went from being 77 years old, to a meager 64, when I realized that that him being 77 (with such a history of crime-fighting as his) and still so healthy was pushing it. But mostly, I wanted him to turn 18 years old some time in the 1960's, so that he could be drafted at age 18. Changing the age from 77 to 64, and changing the story's year from 2010 to 2012, and calculating everything from Hatchet's birthday to the year he was drafted became almost intense.

I had it finished by August, September 2010.

But it's amazing how you can write these things and then look back in March 2011 and see nothing but mistakes, and then it's back to the drawing board. So I made a March 2011 Revision, correcting many mistakes, adding 2 pages to the total page length, and making the front cover smoother and easier on the eyes. I had to fix inaccurate information I'd written before with correct information found through research. For instance, on Page 1, Hatchet is at the Washington Monument. Within a couple pages, he is entering a subway station. Well how the Hell does this stuff work in real life??

On one hand, I wrote the script in 2010 and had visited D.C. as recently as early summer 2009. My real-life ride on the carousel in D.C. influenced my description of the carousel in D.C. on Page 1 of the script. The script's description of a man selling bootleg DVDs was based on countless memories of such video-tape dealers in D.C. in 1994, when I was in second grade - I had a VHS tape of "The Lion King", "The Mask", and "True Lies" months before they came out on video. Still, that did not answer the question: how far would Hatchet have to travel to get from the Washington Monument on Page 1 to the nearest subway station from that spot? Living in Florida, it was hard to say for sure. See what happens when a 23-year-old writer tries to write something to entertain readers older than himself!

But through the magic of MapQuest, Google, and Google Earth, I was able to get it right. I asked Google the question: "What subway station is closest to the Washington Monument?" It answered: the Arlington Cemetery Metro Station. I cross-referenced information from both MapQuest and Google Earth to diagram how Hatchet's journey could actually go. I used Google to look up bus routes and subway train schedules, to know that Hatchet gets off at the Capitol South exit by 1st Street. It was difficult to write this way, trying to be accurate wherever I could, but it was worth it.

I ended up writing something completely down-to-earth and procedurally-realistic, with no supernatural phenomenon in the story at all. The action in Hatchet falls far short of jumping from roof to roof, or from a roof to the ground. Yet, in the end, there were characteristics of Hatchet that, at times, were inspired by the characters of Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David on HBO, and, at other times, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"' portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson.

So, overall, that's comic books, video-games, COPS, court shows, TruTV, the 2008 Incredible Hulk movie, the Fugitive, Larry David, and Hunter S. Thompson, all in one magnificent package.

The old, original front cover can still be seen HERE.

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