What if superheroes - in fact, the entire comic book industry as we know it today - were just a government cover-up to hide the existence of real-life superheroes? That's just one of the high concept ideas behind Action, Ohio, a new webcomic by Neil Kleid and Paul Salvi. The comic surfaced as part of Zuda Comics, DC site where you can vote on the best new webcomics out there. We spoke to writer Kleid about the murder mystery story that leads to a new super world, and learned how you - yes, you - can do your part to fight a modern evil.
Action, Ohio - Loving tribute to superheroes or Watchmen-style expose of
the flaws of the genre? Discuss.
Now, Graeme... why can't it be both? Honestly, it's probably more tribute than expose but really explores what you see more and more in 21st Century superhero comic books - showcasing how superheroes or the existence thereof would affect the real world. If you discovered superhumans lived one town over, what would that do to YOUR life? How would it affect your family? The company you worked for? What if the company you worked for was a comic book company?
Showcasing the Silver Age, deconstructing the heroes that changed the face of superhero comics, allows me to look at our world through the eyes of a Barry Allen, a Steve Rogers, a Charles Xavier or Ray Palmer. It allows me to see the wonder, the horror, the gifts and blessing of being a superhero in today's Internet Age. And hopefully the strip conveys all of that to the reader.
We've kind of been here before - The strip is reminiscent of both Sci Fi Channel's Eureka and Wildstorm Comics' Welcome To Tranquility, where small town America is detourned by the fantastic - but this seems to be less about "Hey! Hicks with weird shit!" and more story-led. What made you come up with the concept, and this particular take on it?
Basically, I was sitting around and thinking about the new renaissance of comic book superhero movies. Remember when Spider-Man came out? Everywhere you turned in NYC, you saw a big, billboard Spidey swinging across the the skyline. Then it was Batman Begins. Now it's Iron Man. When you read a Marvel Comic and you see a throwaway billboard as Daredevil jumps across rooftops advertising an Iron Man movie, it's fun because it's comics. Did you ever think you'd be driving down the West Side Highway staring at a big old picture of Iron Man? It's almost like Tony Stark lives in our world, is the new celebrity. Well, imagine if you learned that those heroes - the ones you read about month after month, follow their adventures and watch their films, lived in this great nation of ours? As a comic book fan, wouldn't you want to visit?
And after reading a lifetime of books about Galactus, The Rogues Gallery and various Crises, wouldn't you be scared to death?
You bring the fear of the atomic age subtext of Marvel's superheroes to the forefront here, making it directly responsible for the creation of superheroes as a funnybook concept. Do you think that superheroes as we know them are inherently rooted in that kind of 1950s/60s timeframe? Are there any modern superheroes reflecting today's culture, or is that your next Zuda comic?
Well, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, when creating characters like Spider-man and the Hulk and the X-Men, and the various DC creators that dreamed up the Silver Age Green Lantern, Flash and the Atom knew that the advent of the atom bomb really opened up a whole new world of science - and storytelling. I feel the Silver Age has its roots in two things - that post-1950s, dawn of the space race, fear of nuclear warfare excitement, and a clinging legacy to the generation that came before - the Justice Society, Captain America, Superman and Batman. I LOVE the term "mysterymen", but the Silver Age heroes, while deeply rooted in their secret identities (and in many Marvel characters cases, their psychoses), were not "mysteries." Sure - you had your Spider-man and the X-Men, but they weren't hiding in the shadows with costumes like those, nor in the way they operated. The Justice League and Avengers were role models - loved by the world.
Today, I feel there are many cases where superheroes reflect our times... but much of that has to do with their evolution. Captain America will always fight terrorists and nihilists - he just needs to do it differently now than he used to do in 1944. I think we're past the violent nineties and getting back to smart, worldy superheroes - supported by the information age, fighting evil that's evolved to meet the new millenium. Examples would be the wonderful Birds of Prey comic and the completely overhauled Green Lantern series. One thing I love about DC is that you really have seen these characters grow - sidekicks become heroes of their own, heroes like the Flash and Red Arrow have children and new responsibilities. As the times change, so do the heroes. Only... not in Action, Ohio.
Seeing Action continue right now requires a lot of votes at Zudacomics.com; how're you planning to convince everyone to give you their X in the virtual box?
Well, it isn't enough to hope that good storytelling, amazing art and a genuine love for the medium will win through. I have to rely on the marketer inside me to make some waves, right?
First off, Action, Ohio is a full service comic - there's a production blog at http://actionohio.blogspot.com where folks can check out original sketches, behind the scenes commentary and promotional banners they can use on their website, blog, email signature and rocking denim jacket. Interested parties can also friend the MySpace page at www.myspace.com/actionohio and check out the Facebook group.
Paul and I are cooking up a contest for next week and to promote offline, I'll be a guest at Tuesday's Comic Book Club here in NYC on May 13th at 8PM. CBC is an improvised talk shows about comic books and the men and women who love them and is hosted by Alex Zalben, Justin Tyler and Pete LePage. Please come by and talk Zuda and Action, Ohio with me.
Finally... a vote for us is a vote against the evil that's evolved to meet the new millenium. You don't want evil to win, do you?