NYCC '09: Jeff Parker Brings The Hood into the 'Reign'
As announced at Marvel's Dark Reign panel at New York Comic Con, a five-issue mini-series beginning in May, Dark Reign: The Hood will explore the character's personal life while also defining the role the Hood will play in Dark Reign as a member of Norman Osborn's new secret "cabal."
"Norman Osborn sees The Hood as a way to manage a lot of the heavy powered underworld at once, which is why he gets a seat at the table with heavy hitters like Loki and Dr. Doom," Parker explained. "Yes, he is in WAY over his head and is very aware of that. But somewhere along the line he learned the valuable secret of Keeping Your Mouth Shut so people won't know what you can and can't do."
The mini-series, which will be penciled by Kyle Hotz, will follow the life of Parker Robbins as he struggles to juggle his professional role as the Hood and his troubled personal life.
"Brian Vaughan and Kyle Hotz began the story of The Hood at a very personal level. He had a pregant girlfriend, a ne'er-do-well cousin who was always putting him onto 'jobs' and a mother living through dementia in a care facility," Parker said. "Then in the pages of New Avengers, he's risen up through the ranks, on his way to being another Kingpin. We pick up with that higher status, but return the focus to his private life."
In that private life, Robbins' girlfriend has now given birth, so the Hood is a father. "Yet as devoted as he is to seeing his little family make it, he sure doesn't stop seeing Madam Masque," Parker said. "As I say, he's the king of justifying. He's also extremely driven, he's going to go as far as he can as fast as he can, which is why he's made his mark on the scene all at once."
Parker said he thinks readers will be able to relate to the Hood as he tries to do what's right for his life.
"All great villains or heavies share one thing – they don't see themselves as the bad guy," Parker said. "The Hood is justifying a LOT of things in his life. I think readers will be able to relate to him more. It doesn't make him right in doing any of it, by a long shot. But at least you'll see where he's coming from."
The Hood has no powers of his own, but wears stolen mystical boots and a cloak that give him the ability to levitate and turn invisible. While wearing the hooded cloak, he can also fire energy blasts and turn into a demon form, because his powers come from the demon Dormammu, who will appear in the Dark Reign stories.
The writer said the mini-series will be showing many of the Hood's power-broking deals by focusing on the personal side of them. For example, the "cabal" meetings themselves won't be front and center, but will instead act as a setting for the behind-the-scenes moments. "We'll touch on it. You mainly see him being anxious before a meeting and the way he handles himself just after one," Parker said.
The writer said the idea to focus on the Hood in his own mini-series was something Marvel suggested, but something he was thrilled to explore. "Bill Rosemann, who’s editing this story, told me he really liked Agents of Atlas and was interested in seeing how I'd write not just fake villains, but a real villain. I also suspect that because the character's real name is 'Parker' Robbins, it kept naturally cueing him to think of me," the writer said.
The mini-series also returns Hotz to the character after he co-created the Hood in his Max mini-series by Brian K. Vaughan. "He's put the definitive stamp on the character and it'll be cool seeing how he treats him this time out," Parker said of Hotz's work on the series. "All the elements you need for The Hood are what Kyle excels at – moodiness, seedy underworld, wicked people, demonic influence – it all fits together and makes complete sense through his line.
"Also, if you never read the original MAX series, you should pick it up if you can find a copy!" Parker added.
While readers may be familiar with Parker's more recent light-hearted stories within the Marvel Universe, the writer said this story will have a darker tone – but not so dark that it isn't overwhelming.
"There's a lot of heavy, but I don't like to play the same note all the time," he said. "You can watch The Godfather or The Sopranos without getting weighed down and depressed, and that's the way you'll be able to read this series."
And after writing a few upbeat stories, Parker's enjoying the chance to get into the head of a darker character like the Hood.
"It's fun for me, and necessary for me as a writer. I have no problem with that kind of subject matter, it just worked out that Marvel asked me to do a lot of 'peppier' books first," he said. "I enjoy both kinds, and I think a lot of readers are like me in that respect."
And while he's trying to show the personal side of the Hood, Parker doesn't expect readers completely warm up to the character. After all, he is still a villain.
"I think readers are going to find The Hood intriguing and very watchable," he said. "I don't expect you to actively admire him – if you do, I want you to get some help – but I think you'll want to walk through his life for a bit and get a sense of the bigger picture."More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage: NYCC '09 Video Page