Hannah Means-Shannon interviews me about WAR CRY at Comicon.com
Hannah Means-Shannon: War Cry starts with a homeless orphan and a transformative experience of finding others. It reminds me of elements of classic super hero narratives, but at the same time, it seems new to me among the works you’ve created. Is this new ground for you?
Dean Haspiel: I’m definitely exploring new territory with WAR CRY. A kind of emotional conflict I’ve been thinking about for many years. And, with today’s politically charged climate, one could hazard that I’m not the artist that’s “allowed” to write and draw a story like this because it features a teenage African-American boy named Rajak who shares a body with a cosmically resurrected African-American woman; The Red Hook’s dead-girlfriend who has become a Human of Mass Destruction!
But, I was careful in finding a way to tell the tale while respecting boundaries. And, even though I didn’t have access to consult a war goddess (relying solely on my imagination), I did grow up with a diverse group of friends, including Mike Hueston, my best friend since we were 12-years old, and I got to observe and share in his plight as an African-American growing up in the 1970s/80s NYC.
HMS: What is the appeal (and I feel it too) of the weird, wild, and wacky heroes and villains from the Golden and Silver Age of comics—the ones who never became big stars? Where do you find the biggest troves of that strangeness?
It must have influenced War Cry and the whole New Brooklyn Universe. That kind of underground energy of super hero traditions without traditional super hero constraints is very compelling.
DH: Weird heroes are the best. I’m influenced by the oddities of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, C.C. Beck, Alex Toth, Will Eisner, Ramona Fradon, Irwin Hasen, Wally Wood, Gil Kane and a bunch of Golden and Silver Age cartoonists. But, as much as we love the more popular superheroes, there’s something undeniable about the off-beat heroes that skate the outskirts of normality. I’ve written and drawn Marvel’s Woodgod. I’ve drawn DC’s Wildcat, and, I’ve plotted and illustrated Archie’s The Fox. More recently, I’ve created a gallery of absurd yet meaningful characters for New Brooklyn because that’s how I wrestle with the world and those are the kinds of misunderstood monsters I’m attracted to. It’s their stories I wish to convey.
HMS: War Cry will raise some eyebrows in terms of gender perceptions, since our hero is a teen boy who becomes a female hero when he transforms. And as he seems to express, some of his proudest moments happen as a woman. What did you want to express about gender here? How do you hope fans will respond to it?
DH: Everyone knows women are more intelligent and more powerful than men. I’ve admired women all my life. Most of my best friend’s are female. My mother is my mama but she’s also a great pal. So, when I realized in War Cry that the boy was gonna transform into the most powerful hero of all, he had to become a she. Who’s kidding who? And, anybody who has a problem with that, well, they’re just thinking with their dick.
War Cry is influenced by Jack Kirby’s O.M.A.C. (One Man Army Corp), C.C. Beck & Bill Parker’s Shazam (the original Captain Marvel), Gerry Conway & Al Milgrom’s Firestorm, and Steve Ditko’s Hawk & Dove. Think of a black Billy Batson shouting “War Cry” instead of “Shazam,” and, instead of transforming into the world’s mightiest mortal, he turns into a female version of O.M.A.C. (or O.W.A.C.) where she is Hawk to his Dove with a Firestorm complex. You’ll have to read the damned comic to understand what I’m going for.
HMS: Is this the first female hero you’ve focused an entire series on? Do you think that changed the dynamic of your work at all?
DH: Not really. Female protagonists have always bolstered my male protagonists. Jane Legit is the smart one, the empathetic one who helps Billy Dogma find his way in my “last romantic antihero” series. Ava Blume aka The Possum aka War Cry is the emotional foundation for Sam Brosia aka The Rascal aka The Red Hook. But, I usually tell my tales through the male perspective because I’m a man. It’s no secret that my art, and my life, is profoundly affected by women.
HMS: Tell us about how Red Hook operates in this story. How much of his legacy is still present? I mean, he’s got some serious unresolved issues to deal with, surely. Not least that his [semi] deceased girlfriend Ava is now more powerful than him.
DH: The Red Hook is a bruiser with an uneasy past who was forced to become a superhero against his will or he would die. By the end of the first story arc, he embraced his fate as a fighter for good, but his world’s been turned upside down by the proposed death of his lover, The Possum, who has now been resurrected into a teenage boy. It’s a cluster fuck that’s only compounded by the fact that The Red Hook’s semi-psychotic mother has become a vigilante who calls herself The Coney. In War Cry, this sequel will reveal new things about The Red Hook’s family and challenge ideas of how to rekindle romance with a cosmic war goddess who shares a body with the opposite sex.
Read the entire interview here: http://www.comicon.com/2017/12/06/heed-the-war-cry-dean-haspiel-discusses-a-person-of-mass-destruction/
Start reading WAR CRY for free: http://www.webtoons.com/en/super-hero/war-cry/ep-1/viewer?title_no=1247&episode_no=1