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.
(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.
(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!