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Hogan's Heroics

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“Hero@Large takes place in Megalotroplis, a city with the largest superhuman population on Earth. Here superheroes have become the celebrities they feel they should be. We see what it would be like to be a hero in a competitive, media obsessed society.”

That is how Erick Hogan describes his comics debut and Speakeasy ongoing series Hero@Large, a book in which super-powered people are recognized as they think should be—kings of the world. The number one superhero of Megatropolis is Alpha Major, a Silver Age superhero who is fading into oblivion now that Diesel, a young upstart, has stolen his spotlight and is now the talk of the mega-town. Still, Alpha won’t go down just like that… he fights to reclaim the spotlight every step of the way. As Hogan says, “We follow [Alpha’s] decent to rock bottom and then watch him pick himself up by his bootstraps, with a little help from his friends.”

“He pretty much steals the show this issue, but we are also introduced to Diesel and the members of the Justice Five. Each will be dealing with the aftermath of Alpha’s dismissal from the team in later issues.”

Although his book is about super-powered characters as well, Hogan does hope to steal a few rays of the spotlight that mainstream superhero’s grabbed decades ago and still hold firmly clutched in their hands. With Hero@Large, the creator thinks he’s bringing something new and refreshing to the medium, “a comic that would take readers on a ride and leave them satisfied when it ends,” he anticipates.

“I remember not so long ago you could read a comic and actually laugh. There are a few funny books out there but the majority is warmed-over Silver Age superhero yarns. It seemed odd to me that while other mediums reinvent themselves regularly, comic book storytelling has been stagnant for decades. I wanted something that wasn’t like everything else on the shelves. I saw so much inadvertent humor in comics that was never tapped on, I felt compelled to point it out. Hopefully we hit the mark.”

While making people laugh is the main goal of Hogan and artist Jeremy Treece, it’s not like Hero@Large is going to be all fun and games. “We’re going to sneak some more serious stuff in between the jokes,” Hogan offers. “I always felt that the best stories affect people on multiple levels. If we can make you laugh while touching on a serious topic, then we’ve succeeded.”

As Hogan said only a moment ago, he wants his comic debut to stand out from the crowd. Even though telling stories that don’t feature concepts that have become stale and boring, the rookie creator fully realizes that production quality is probably more important than the message he is articulating. And that’s how Hogan became part of the young family that is Speakeasy Comics. “I was impressed with the quality of [their] titles and jumped at the opportunity to work with them. I saw that Speakeasy was taking some risks and wanted to establish itself as something unique in the industry. I pitched Hero@Large, Adam [Fortier] liked it, and the rest is as they say “history”.

“Speakeasy Comics is doing big things; Adam is a visionary with a firm grasp on the pulse of the industry. I feel blessed to be getting in on things at the ground floor; next stop -- the penthouse.”

The project was already in the works with Speakeasy when Hogan reached out to Treece to do a back-up story for his first comic book. “When I saw his finished work my jaw dropped,” the writer recalls. “I immediately asked him to come on as full time artist. Luckily for me he said yes.

“He’s not just the penciller, he also inks, colors, and letters the book. He even sneaks in jokes when I’m not looking. Readers can thank him for the dancing mice and the crotch joke they’ll come across in the story.”

Though Hero@Large marks, as stated, Hogan’s comic book industry debut, he’s  not a newcomer to the world of our beloved medium. He has written a few articles for J. Torres’ Open Your Mouth column at CBR, as well as a column called The Spin Doctors for Comic World News. The question is, now that he finds himself on the other side of the fence, does Hogan still dig comic critics?

“Wow, I’m surprised anybody remembers those,” he answers. “I had a great time as a columnist and will be forever thankful for J. Torres and Ed Cunard, respectively, for giving me a shot.

“I love critics. I have to admit I spend way too much time online reading columns, message boards, and blogs. I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion and has the right to express it. Not everyone is going to dig what you’re doing but that’s OK, that’s part of the game. You (i.e. the creator) can take these critiques and use them to make your work better.

“Creating a comic is hard work; you become personally attached to it. I understand why some creators get touchy. It’s like someone calling your kids ugly. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that sometimes the kids are ugly. Then again, some of the criticism is harsh and without merit. I don’t think the personal attacks and name-calling is necessary.”

Aside from being a creator, Hogan is also known to have a vast knowledge of the comic medium’s storied history. Yet, the writer says he isn’t really a historian in the literal sense of the word. Hogan’s simply a person who has read a lot of comics over the years and has amassed all of his comic book IQ by doing what we’ve all been doing—reading comics for as long as we can remember.

“One summer on a road trip with my parents, we stopped off at a Seven Eleven for gas, and that’s were I first laid eyes on a spinner rack. After that, comics were in my blood.

“These days, I read as many comics as I can get my hands on and I’m not ashamed to go mining through the discount bin for buried treasure. You never know what you’ll find—like an issue of Werewolf by Night with the first appearance of Moon Knight I recently got my hands on… that was sweet! 

“However, age and beer is slowly eroding that vast reserve of knowledge between my ears. Hopefully, I can get on a comic book-themed episode of Jeopardy before the well runs dry.” [Laughs]

Hopefully, when Hogan appears on Jeopardy the show will feature a few questions about black characters. As a black creator, Hogan has an outspoken opinion on how African American characters are portrayed in comics. How exactly does he feel about how fellow writers like Reginald Hudlin and Allan Heinberg are handling African Americans in Black Panther and Young Avengers respectively?

    

“I think that Allan Heinberg is doing an amazing job on New Avengers,” Hogan says appraisingly. “I have to admit that I was one of the naysayers who labeled this a Teen Titans rip-off before it came out. Boy, was I wrong! This is simply one of the best comic books out right now. Making the Patriot the grandson of the black Captain America from The Truth mini-series was genius—I didn’t see that one coming. There are enough twist and turns to keep me guessing and the dialogue is top notch. Heinberg has earned a fan."

Hogan is not as overjoyed about Hudlin’s work on Black Panther, though. “I was a huge fan of Priest’s Black Panther run, so Hudlin starts at bit of a disadvantage,” he admits. “Canceling the previous series and bringing it back with a Hollywood writer less than a year later stuck in my craw a bit. 

“I’ve got a few gripes with the story so far: the urbanizing of the historic Wakandan dialogue made me cringe, the political satire isn’t my cup of tea, the supporting cast seems out of character and I don’t have a clue when in Marvel continuity this story take place.  Otherwise Hudlin’s Black Panther is decent. Not great but not terrible either, however, considering the amount of pre-release hype the book received, I was expecting more.”

Overall, Hogan feels that people from different races and social minorities are treated properly in our medium. But still, while comics surely have gone a long way since the World War II days where Asians, for example, were portrayed rather one-sidedly, there’s room for improvement. And that improvement can only come, says Hogan, if minority creators get more of a voice in the industry, not just as creators but as decision makers: “The comic book industry needs more minority editors, publishers, vice presidents, etc.,” he adds. “Black, white, gay, straight, male, female; comics are a big melting pot and I think there’s enough room for us all.

“When creating Hero@Large I wanted to make a conscience effort to touch on subjects like racism, sexism, ageism, and other social ills. I try to keep them subtle and illustrate them in a humorous light. I wanted to point it out without forcing it down people’s throats.”

If that is the case, one may wonder why Alpha Major, the ‘star’ of Hero@Large is white and not African American, Asian or Hispanic. “Some believe that a well written story can only take place in a certain location with a certain set of characters,” Hogan points out. “If you change the setting from New York to Boise or you change the protagonist from Batman to Spider-Man and the story still works, then you’ve pretty much written a bunch of crap. I felt that for the fall of Alpha to work, the character had to fit the classic comic book mold. Therefore he had to be white, for a few different reasons. 

“First, there are very few Golden or Silver Age superheroes of color; the introduction of ethnic characters didn’t start in earnest until the seventies. 

“Second, the fall of a black character wouldn’t have the same effect as would his white counterpart. The descent of an A-list character would be earth shattering. Just look back at the death of Superman and the broken-back Batman period. The fall of a Black Panther or the new Firestorm just wouldn’t have the same effect; therefore wouldn’t be nearly as funny to parody.

“Third, I wanted to make Alpha’s replacement black. Diesel represents the urbanization of society. I remember when I was a kid, seeing black people in a McDonald’s commercial on TV was an event, now hip hop culture is universal. Pimp this, crunk that; the language of the urban neighborhood is everywhere. Hell, world famous pimp Don “Magic” Juan is coming out with a line of clothes; I think that says it all.”

Don Juan becoming some sort of fashion king exemplifies that anything is possible nowadays. In a world where he’d have his projects for the picking, Hogan says that one day, he would love to take on an icon for the Big Two or revamp some second or third-tier characters. “Someone needs to give hapless characters like Baron Brimstone the attention they deserve,” he quips.

All joking aside, though, Hero@Large is the only thing where Hogan’s mind is at right now. “[The book] is my number one priority,” he says while stepping back into reality. I want to make it the funniest comic book on the market today. There are other projects I am working on at the moment, but they’re all in the conceptual stage, so there’s no real news there.”

“As for Hero@Large itself, we have a lot of fun and try to challenge the reader’s perception on what to expect from a comic. Plus, each issue is a self contained 22 page story, so every issue is a good “jumping on” point. 

“If you’ve ever wanted to read about forgotten superheroes drinking away their blues, jealous boyfriends who can’t keep their hands to themselves, sleazy Hollywood agents who would rip-off their own mothers, and mice in a mosh pit; then this is the comic for you.”

Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge

Is Hogan using figurative speech, or do his words reflect the real deal? That’s up to you to decide when Hero@Large #2 hits in October! If you can’t wait that long, go grab a copy of the debut issue at your local comic book shop!

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