Monday, February 23, 2009

Finding Mike

Somehow, despite making up a bunch of crap off the top of my head, I managed to complete a rough draft of a script for Hero House. So now the question becomes...who's going to draw this thing?

Here's the irony: My father is a professional artist. My brother is a professional artist. I am not a professional artist. I used to hand storyboard sketches into my editor-in-chief and he'd say he felt like he should be hanging them on his refrigerator.

Clearly I needed to find an artist. I didn't feel like my dad or brother could devote the time I knew it would take, so I decided to hit them web - specifically the Digital Webbing message board, which I'd heard had an entire section devoted to writers trying to find artists, vice versa and etc. And that's where I found Mike Dimayuga.

It was a total stroke of luck...probably the biggest single bit of luck that lead to the comic actually being able to come out. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for, but I knew I wanted someone who could draw superhero action, but who also had the character drawing skills to tell stories with the facial expressions of the characters - important, if I was going to try to do any sort of comedy.

That's when I saw this piece of art that Mike had posted on the board:


I hadn't known what I was looking for, but here was exactly what I was looking for: a Hawkman that had elements of Art Adams and Steve Dillon. A Harvey Birdman whose expression leapt off the page. If one guy could do both these figures, he could absolutely draw Hero House.

Luckily, Mike was just as excited about the project as I was for having him aboard. And over the subsequent five years, Mike's enthusiasm and tireless dedication to the book have truly kept it going in its darkest days. It's no exaggeration to say Hero House wouldn't exist without Mike, and there's no way it would look half as good as it does without him.

I know that Mike's next project is something very exciting, and while it's not for me to reveal it here, I'll say this: keep your eye on Mike Dimayuga. Oh, and buy Hero House. I've gotta throw that in there, as well.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Curious Case of Brother Nozzle, OR, the Perils of Stream-of-Consciousness Comic Book Writing

Other than Nate and the basic premise, I really didn't have much of the plot decided when I sat down and started writing, and I certainly didn't have any of the characters mapped out. So I did something weird, and I'm not exactly sure why I did it, other than there was a spirit of "anything goes" happening at the time: I made up all the members of Hero House off the top of my head.

When it came time to mention a member in the script, I just wrote their name down. Sometimes this worked out really well. Brutal, Animale, Pseudopod...they were all just off the cuff, and their characters and backgrounds got filled in later. Sometimes this didn't work out so hot, and that's where Brother Nozzle came in.

Brother Nozzle was entirely invented to serve a joke. He was going to be serving the punch, and it was going to gross Nate out. Because Nozzle's power absorb and then redirect liquids. So he was going to be spraying the punch out of his finger into the punch bowl. Great gag...terrible, terrible character.

I got as far as getting Nozzle down on the page, when I stopped and thought about it. What the hell kind of power was absorbing and redirecting liquids? How could that help the Eps in a battle? How would that be in the least bit interesting to write about?

The answer, of course, is that it wasn't. It was incredibly stupid. However, given the fact that I made at least six heroes up on the spur of the moment and only one of them was a total dud...that ain't bad!

Even Pseudopod, if you stop and think about it, is kind of a weird name and power for a hero, even though I decided to keep him. But I could, at least, see how his power would be helpful in battle. And, perhaps in honor of his fellow strange-powered brother, Nozzle, who will never come to be, Pseu was even given Nozzle's gag in the final book:
Photobucket So rest in peace, Brother Nozzle. You will never appear in a comic book written by me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nate Hedges IS Turbine the Turbo Teen!

(Above: Ed McGuinness' art of Nate. When Hero House was going to be a four-issue mini-series this would have been the cover to issue 4. Now that it's an OGN, all four pieces of McGuinness art will be combined for the cover).

When my mom read the first chapter of "Hero House," she said to me, "So, Nate's supposed to be you?"

Not exactly, although I can see where the confusion lies. First of all, we spend the majority of the book inside Nate Hedges' head, hearing his internal monologue, so there's a natural tendency to think that must be the author's voice. And I do have a bit in common with Nate, even though our differences run far deeper than the fact that he's a super-speedster and I can't do much running at any speed.

When we first meet Nate Hedges, he leads a public double life as Turbine the Turbo Teen, teen superhero and idol of his small town of Jeffersonville. He's also about to head off to college, and when we pick him up a few months later, his life has taken an entirely different turn. He's no longer anyone's idol. He's just another superhero in a city that has plenty of them, and without that self-identification, Nate really doesn't know who he is.
Photobucket(Art at left: The original character design for Nate by Mike Dimayuga, circa early 2004.)

I was definitely never a superhero, and I never quite lost my identity like Nate does. But I had carved out a very comfortable niche for myself in my small town by my senior year of high school, and I had a very strong self-identity that took a blow when I went to college. I could no longer count on being one of the handful of "smartest" people in the school - not by a long shot. Luckily I never felt as aimless as Nate (I made friends quickly, and I found my Hero House-inspiring comedy group within the first couple of months), but I definitely saw people who struggled to the same degree that Nate does.

I love superhero comics, and I love superhero comics that are about something else, as well. The X-Men have been going for over 40 years with superpowers being a metaphor for alienation, for being different, for being discriminated against, etc. With Hero House, I wanted to create a different metaphor. For some of the characters, superpowers are freedom, in the same way that going to college for the first time represents an almost supernatural amount of freedom for young adults. For Nate, superpowers are what used to make him special, but what no longer make him quite special enough.
Photobucket (Left: Nate facial study by Mike Dimayuga)
Nate probably never would have joined Epsilon Epsilon Psi on his own. But in his purposeless state, he found himself considering the offer from University President Mayhew he might not have ordinarily: pledge the Eps, spy on them for the administration and get your grades boosted. At the very least it gives him a temporary purpose, even if he's got a bad feeling about it from the start.
I can specifically remember thinking that I didn't want the book to have a "point of entry" character - the guy who's coming in new to the situation so the rest of the characters get to explain things to him (at its most successful, think Winston in "Ghostbusters." At its most shoehorned, think the boring human guy who joins the BPRD in the first "Hellboy" film). Even though Nate is joining the frat, and the other characters do end up explaining things to him, I don't view him as a Winston character. The book is about his journey as much as it's about the rest of Hero House, so there's no way you can accuse him of being shoehorned in. I hope. Well, people can probably accuse anyone of anything. But in my mind at least, his essentialness lets him off the hook.

This ended up being a long-ass post, which actually leads me to a question - what would you most like to see on AclinCorp about Hero House? Sketches and pre-production art, like the stuff peppered throughout this post? Final art and preview pages? Long-ass philosophical rants about what I like superpowers to represent? All of the above? This is my first time blogging in this fashion, so I'm open to all suggestions. Just leave them in the comments!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The state of the comic - 2/10

Since this blog is primarily going to be concerned with how the comic came together, it's going to be mostly living in the past. But every once in a while I'll share with you what's going on right now.

For instance, I just sent Shawn the letterer an email saying the last bit of corrections for chapter 3 are good, which means the book is now 3/4 of the way done. And since we're so close and we've got a fairly firm release date, I decided it's time to strut:
Here's me at this past weekend's New York Comic Con, rocking the very latest in fashion: my Hero House t-shirt (a very thoughtful X-Mas gift from my very thoughtful penciller, Mike Dimayuga). I could be spotted sporting the shirt on two panels that I moderated, as well as walking the floor, like I was when I got my pic snapped here with my buddy, editor Ryan Penagos.

(Please forgive my weird facial expression - Ryan's friend was trying to snap the picture on Ryan's super-futuristic phone, and as a result we were standing like that for about 90 seconds, unaware of exactly when the pic might get snapped.)

So that's where we are right now - the book's almost but not quite done, and the merchandising has already begun.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Welcome! And Preview Pages

Welcome to the official launch of AclinCorp, a production blog dedicated to the superhero OGN Hero House. Before we get started, you can go here to learn more about Hero House, and here to learn more about this website.

From now until the book's September release and beyond, I (I'm Justin, by the way) will be posting sketches, designs, rough artwork, humorous anecdotes and exclusive first-looks, all related to Hero House. In honor of the website's official launch, I'm going to lead off with a first look at the first three pages of Hero House. You don't get to see the actual Hero House in these pages, but it should give you a good idea of the tone of the book and introduce you to our most important character, Nate Hedges:

Update: Due to whatever vagaries of the posting process, the colors for these pages ended up looking a little more...intense than they will in the finished product.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Secret Origins

All my life, I've wanted to write superhero comics. And while my experiences writing fart jokes for the Hulk's action figure helped scratch that itch a little bit, it's not the same as writing a full-out, illustrated action comic.

So five years ago I realized that I was never going to get an offer to write the X-Men based on said fart joke writing skills, so I decided that I was going to create my own comic, get it illustrated and get it published. That's not such a tall order, right?

But ah...what the hell to write about? Luckily, one day I had a flash: Super-teams. College fraternities. My college sketch comedy group. All three were groups of people who came together for a common goal and called each other by special code names (I was Hemlock DaRosa, btw). I could write about a college frat that was also a super-team, and I could draw on the experiences I had in my sketch comedy group. (You'd be amazed how applicable sketch comedy group experience is to both frat life and being in a super-team.)

That just left the small matter of plot. My mind immediately started to go to murder mysteries and terrible conspiracies, and I had to stop myself and think, "Hey, idiot - if people know you for anything, it's for dumb comedy. Nobody wants to read a depressing murder mystery from a comedy writer." (Unless it's Woody Allen, which I'm not.) So I set about coming up with a plot that had some drama in it, undoubtedly, but also left plenty of room for humor and would be, above all, fun to read.

And the first thing that plot needed was a main character. So the next post (after our preview pages - see above) will deal with Nate Hedges, formerly known as teen hero Turbine the Turbo Teen. Yeah...he's embarassed by the name now, too.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

About Hero House


Hero House is an original graphic novel coming in November from Arcana Comics. It's character-driven superhero action with a sense of humor and a simple concept: a college fraternity for the superheroes of tomorrow.

Written and created by: Justin Aclin (Twisted ToyFare Theatre)
Pencils and character designs by: Mike Dimayuga (Hack/Slash)
Cover by: Ed McGuinness (Hulk, Superman/Batman)
Inks by: Frank E. Stone
Colors by: Brian Gabrillo
Lettered by: Shawn DePasquale

Epsilon Epsilon Psi is a fraternity with a unique mission: to prepare the super-powered students of today to become the best superheroes they can be. Nate Hedges was a teen superhero and the star of his school, but at college he feels like a nobody. So when he's tapped by the university president to go undercover and investigate the Eps, will he find the super-powered hazing the administration fears? Or will he find a place where he finally belongs?

Hero House is slated for release on November 25th 2009 in comic shops and on Stay tuned to AclinCorp for all the Hero House news you need!