AJ Frost interviewed me about WAR CRY for The Comics Beat.
AJ FROST: The Red Hook is this epic story about a “bad guy,” a thief who becomes a superhero, and its one of the most dynamic explorations of using the vast digital space of the web as the mode of dissemination. What excites you about exploring the ambiguity of “goodness” in your work with Red Hook, and now War Cry?
DEAN HASPIEL: Thanks for the cheer! I don’t know anyone who is 100% good and, frankly, those kinds of people make for boring stories. Sorry! I believe most people can be sympathetic to others but not necessarily empathetic. And, that’s a huge difference. To step into another person’s shoes and experience their truth is something most of us can’t do or won’t do. It’s easier to acknowledge pain and struggle and then look the other way or donate to a cause because you’re dealing with your own struggles and pain. People are complex souls and time is an enemy. Some people choose to spend their time understanding others while most people glean a cursory understanding of the human condition, at best, and move on. I’d like to think I observe people well enough to get a good sense but who knows? Our subconscious tends to seek a narrative that supports our personal beliefs rather than energize a third eye for spelunking what’s alien. But, I get it. I’m just as culpable as the next person when it comes to turning a blind eye, but I try to keep an open mind.
I don’t know how many more times I can become outraged by gun violence, racism, and sexism, but I can ask questions in my work and try to impart good will. So, with that in mind, I find that the bad guys or the misunderstood monsters are much more interesting to navigate because they are the ones who have the most to rehabilitate. Thus, my reasoning for starting The Red Hook‘s story as a super-thief who is forced to become a superhero against his will or he will die and the choices he makes to foster positive change. War Cry has to deal with a lot more than just sharing a body. He/she struggles with purpose over persona while desperately holding onto what makes them individual.
FROST: The character of War Cry is a gay, teenage African-American boy who becomes, as you say, a “Super Goddess” when going into hero mode. When did the idea for War Cry come about? And when did it seem that the potential for the character was there to create a new and separate story?
HASPIEL: I came up with the idea of WAR CRY many years ago but didn’t know where to put it or how to use it. So, it incubated until I created The Red Hook and co-created the New Brooklyn Universe. When I was thinking about a sequel to The Red Hook, I knew I wanted to explore the evolution of heroism and the crisis of identity. WAR CRY is about two very different binary characters who share a non-binary body. After being graced with the power of America’s superheroes (think a bastardized combination of The Avengers and The Justice League of America), a teenage boy named Rajak shouts the words “War Cry!” and instantly evolves into a war goddess, the resurrection of The Red Hook’s dead-girlfriend Ava Blume (think of a mash-up between Shazam and OMAC with Hawk & Dove). It’s a big idea that I explore through the eyes of The Red Hook while presenting the concerns of Rajak and Ava. In some ways, the concept is above my head but I’m not a journalist or a reporter and, instead, I’m a cartoonist who is challenged by the idea of what that might be like and express it in my art. As communication artists, we grow up in public, warts and all, but I won’t let that stop me from telling an existential story that explores the shores of identity.
FROST: As I said, The Red Hook is epic in scope and grand in execution, but it’s obvious that the universe you’ve created needs more exploration. When did the idea to do a sequel story become a tangible idea? How much of an influence was Jack Kirby on these projects?
Jack Kirby is the bell I strive to ring every time I tackle a superhero comic book. Kirby is one of the forefathers of the superhero lexicon. I believe the acolytes of Kirby, of which I hesitate to include myself because I don’t know that I have what he had, are unafraid to explore the depths of imagination while making human connections. It’s that very notion that keeps me from suffering writer’s block.
And, yes, there is MUCH MORE of New Brooklyn to explore and make work. The idea of a sentient Brooklyn that’s heart is broken by the apathy and indifference of the world, so much so that it secedes from America to start it’s own republic where art can be bartered for food and services, is a fantasy that could probably never really happen but, like a Jack Kirby comic book that asks questions about God and then dares to answer them, WHY NOT put out stuff that might could alter the tide of the human condition? That might could help affect change? I’m no kinda revolutionary but art has proven to influence and innovate.
Read the entire interview here: http://www.comicsbeat.com/interview-dean-haspiels-new-brooklyn-prepares-for-war-cry/
Start reading WAR CRY for free: http://www.webtoons.com/en/super-hero/war-cry/ep-1/viewer?title_no=1247&episode_no=1