One of the things I’ve been busy doing is giving interviews! Here’s an interview with my patrons at Arcana Comics that just went out in their latest email newsletter (hopefully they don’t mind me reprinting it). Give them a click and check out all the great books they’ve got coming out in addition to Hero House.
Now, onto the interview:
This month, Arcana’s Vice President of Operations, Mark Poulton interviews Justin Aclin, writer of the upcoming superhero frat graphic novel, Hero House, which is currently in this month’s Previews (SEP09 0592).
MP: For those unfamiliar with Hero House, how would you pitch it to them and where did you come up with the idea for such a fun book?
JA: The central concept of Hero House is really easy to explain: it’s about a college fraternity for super-powered students, working together to be the heroes of tomorrow. Once you get past the high concept, though, it’s really all about the characters. So our entry point into Epsilon Epsilon Psi – the titular frat – is a freshman named Nate Hedges, who was a big-time small-town teen superhero who just feels completely lost and directionless at college. He gets tapped by the university president to pledge the Eps and make sure they’re not getting up to super-powered shenanigans, and a lot of the story is about how he interacts with these characters he’d never normally be interacting with. We also learn early on that there’s a black sheep ex-member of the frat, Poltergeist, who had some sort of falling out with his fellow founders early on, and that’s a bit of a mystery that gets explored. If I’ve done my job correctly, when someone’s done with the book they’ll have read a fun, funny superhero action story, but they’ll also have met some characters that are either familiar to them or that they’ve felt like at some point in their lives. I think, even if you’ve never been in a frat or been a superhero, the feeling of starting out in college or someplace new and not knowing exactly who you’re supposed to be in relation to who you used to be is extremely universal.
How I came up with the idea is almost stupid. I remember I was just in my living room one day, probably looking at my DVD collection, when it occurred to me that both super-teams and fraternities, at least as seen in Animal House, are groups of people who band together for a common goal and give each other code names. And that was it. From there I knew I’d write about a frat that was also a super-team, and all I had to do was figure out who they were and what the whole thing would be about. You can read a lot more about the development of Hero House and see pre-production art and that kind of thing at my blog, www.aclincorp.com.
MP: Did you attend college? If so, did you pledge a fraternity? Any wild stories you can share?
JA: I did attend college at Boston University, home of the Terriers, but I did not pledge a frat. Shocking, I know. But even though I don’t have that specific experience, almost all the frat stuff in Hero House – what it feels like to pledge a group, coming in as a freshman when there are already established group dynamics – all that stuff was based on real experiences. My freshman year I tried out for a sketch comedy group and performed with them for all four years of college. And just like a frat or a super-team, each member got their own codename. I was Hemlock. So even though I was never in a frat, all of that stuff was drawn from my real life.
I don’t think we got to any Animal House-level wildness, though. Most of our parties were right after performances, and consisted of getting drunk and telling each other how awesome we did.
MP: Longtime Arcana fans may remember Hero House from the company’s early days. It was one of the earliest titles signed by the company. After years of work, what was it like to finally see the comic in printed form?
JA: Yeah, this book’s been cooking for a long, long time. At this point, it’s been five years since Arcana even announced they’d be publishing it. I’ve had my fantastic penciler, Mike Dimayuga, from almost the very beginning, but it’s taken us a very long time to get the rest of the art team put together and get the art completed. But it was definitely worth it – Frank E. Stone on inks and Brian Gabrillo on colors are a fantastic addition to the team, and the final product really pops. To finally see it printed and hold in my hands was amazing. It’s the culmination of a life-long dream for me.
MP: Your’e also the head writer on Wizard’s Twisted Toyfare Theatre, which is hilarious by the way. Who would you say is your favorite Mego figure to write for?
JA: Thanks! Yeah, I’ve been writing Twisted Toyfare for about seven years and I’ve been the head writer for the past several, since the Robot Chicken guys left to go work on that show. I was a fan before I started working on it, so I love writing for the classic characters like Doom, Hulk, Thing and especially Spidey. Mego Spidey is the everyman as exasperated jerk and he’s very fun to write for. As far as less established characters, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Electro and Mysterio, for some reason. I established this kind of adversarial friendship for them and I love when they appear together. I really need to make that happen more often.
MP: The creative team attended SDCC. How was the fans’ reaction to the book?
JA: We did really well at SDCC. Arcana brought a small early print run, but we were completely sold out by the end of the con. Hero House was actually making its debut at the show, so the fans I got to speak to were picking it up for the first time and hadn’t actually gotten to read the book yet. A lot of them were Twisted Toyfare fans who were willing to take a chance on the book because I’d written it, and I really appreciate that, or else they were drawn in by the amazing Ed McGuinness cover or Mike’s awesome art in the interior. The early reviews we’ve gotten have been very positive, though.
MP: Before we go, do you have any last words for fans?
JA: If you buy Hero House, first and foremost you’re getting a solid, well-crafted superhero story with great characters. It’s got a concept that’s potentially and I’m certainly known for a more gag-based comic strip, but it was important to me to let either of those overwhelm the story. You’ll read it and laugh, but this isn’t a collection of jokes. It’s a story that, hopefully when you finish it, you’ll be eager to read the next chapter. And hopefully the next chapter doesn’t take another five years.