Old and Tired: Brock Heasley on Superfogeys

Brock Heasley on Superfogeys

Superfogeys, collection 1

If superheroes aged, where would they go when they retire?

In the webcomic SuperFogeys by Brock Heasley, Captain Spectacular, his former superhero teammates and even his arch-nemesis Dr. Rocket are all residents of Valhalla, the "Home for the Supertired" in sunny Florida.

While it all sounds predictable, don't let the premise fool you. The webcomic originally focused on gags about aged superheroes, but SuperFogeys has now grown into a much deeper, well-developed plot as readers have discovered more layers of the characters' pasts while also uncovering a few ongoing mysteries. What has emerged is a webcomic with not only a growing cast of characters, but a growing and loyal audience.

In fact, it's gotten such a following that earlier this year, the webcomic added a "spin-off" called SuperFogeys Origins, which Heasley writes in full comic page format, working with artist T.L. Collins.

SuperFogeys has been collected into three books published by Th3rd World Comics, and recently, all three collections showed up on the CBS TV show Big Bang Theory as props. And this past weekend, the Th3rd World Free Comic Book Day offering included a one-page SuperFogeys comic.

As SuperFogeys just finished up its 200th strip and starts its seventh chapter this month, Newsarama talked to Heasley about the webcomic.

Newsarama: What's the basic premise of SuperFogeys?

Brock Heasley: What if superheroes aged? More to the point, where do old super-folk go when it’s time to retire and fade away? I know what you’re saying — “Duh. Florida.” And you’re right! They go to Valhalla, Home for the Supertired. Hero and villain living side-by-side, trapped in their old age and, in some cases, their own immobility.

But, really, it’s not the old age that interests me as much as the shared history of the characters and the fact that, for really the first time in their lives, they’re all in the same place. And they can’t leave. It’s kind of like high school in that way, a dynamic I try to be keep in mind when crafting the stories.

NRAMA: How did you come up with the idea for SuperFogeys?

BH: Well, like all great ideas in the history of the universe, it wasn’t mine to begin with.

Back in the summer of 2006, I had been doing some experiments in "comicking" on my then moderately successful and not defunct MySpace Blog (kids in the room: it was like Facebook, but even uglier) that was getting some nice responses. One day my fake internet friend Tad made an idle comment that went something like this: “What if you did a comic about something stupid like old superheroes in a nursing home?” We laughed; he moved on.

I guess I didn’t.

I thought about the idea for a few weeks, never really intending to do anything with it. In September of 2006, I ran across a contest being put on by Viper Comics. They were looking for new webcomics to add to their roster. I didn’t really know what a webcomic was, but I’d always wondered if I’d be any good at the traditional, four-panel newspaper type strip. To make it interesting, I challenged myself to come up with five strips over a five-day period. Simple art, black and white. I posted the first one in my MySpace blog on September 25. Two weeks later I had 10 strips and I knew I was on to something.

Viper ended up rejecting the strip (as well they should have those first strips were atrocious looking), but about six months later, Th3rd World Studios contacted me and SuperFogeys has been there ever since.

NRAMA: How has the series evolved over time?

BH: Adding color to the strips was the first in a long series of artistic steps towards making the SuperFogeys not look like something you desperately want to wipe yourself with. In the beginning, most especially the first chapter, I had this idea from some brief Googling that webcomics were easy and filled with a lot of cut-and-paste and shoddy looking art. So I followed suit. The deeper I got into the webcomics community the more I realized what an idiot I was. I’ve been trying to catch up with the truly terrific art and writing that’s available for free on the web every day ever since.

I’d like to think the growth has extended to the characters and story as well. I do my darndest to make each strip fully accessible, but at the same time I’ve really moved on from the gag-a-day stuff, and the SuperFogeys is much more story based now than it was in the beginning. I’ve got fans now who dissect each and every line the characters say and go back into the archives looking for clues to the mysteries and plotlines. I try to make that a rewarding experience while at the same time servicing those who are just looking for a good laugh.

NRAMA: Who are some of the main characters?

BH: At the center of the SuperFogeys universe is Captain Spectacular. He was the greatest hero of them all, but now that he’s retired he’d really much rather just take a nap than save the world. He figures he deserves at least that much. At his side is Spy Gal, his fiery ex-girlfriend who is now his fiancée. Unbeknownst to both of them is the fact that Jerry, Captain Spectacular’s sad sack sidekick (also a resident of Valhalla) is secretly in love with Spy Gal as well.

The big villain on the block is Dr. Rocket, Captain Spectacular’s old arch-nemesis and onetime friend. Swifty, the aging speedster, now needs a walker just to get around and it has made him incredibly bitter. Since the series began, I’ve also added two more residents: Star Maiden whose brain is addled and doesn’t seem to realize that it’s not 1960 anymore, and Tangerine who believes the only good villain is a dead villain, despite whatever special rules may apply at Valhalla.

Valhalla also features its own support staff. The mysterious Dr. Klein is the founder and chief doctor, but also secretly a villain known as the Third Man. By far the fan favorite is Valhalla’s anesthesiologist, the Space Pig, whose powerful piss can knock a man out for hours.

NRAMA: How many trades are out? Do you think the series translates well to print?

BH: Right now, Th3rd World is exploring a low cost solution to printing the SuperFogeys in the proper trade format for its unique dimensions. However, each chapter of the SuperFogeys, once completed, does get printed in standard comic book format. Those are available in the Th3rd World Store.

As someone who’s not a huge fan of reading comics on a screen, it’s important to me that the comic works well in print. Each chapter has been designed as a complete experience and, yeah, I think they actually work best that way.

NRAMA: Why did you start the spin-off comic?

BH: Ever since I started SuperFogeys, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the origins and early days of the characters. To answer those questions (and some questions that no one knew needed asking), I started “SuperFogeys Origins”” with artist TL Collins who does the great webcomic Bullfinch. “Origins” is done in the traditional comic book page format, which gives it a completely different feel from the strip proper.

NRAMA: What do you hope to see happen with the comic?

BH: I think with webomics there’s really only one game you’re playing and that’s to increase traffic. I love making this comic and I really just want as many people as possible to give it a chance. I think they’ll like it if they do. I see guys like Howard Tayler and Scott Kurtz and the Penny Arcade boys and I think “Yeah, man, I’d love it if this were my 9-to-5.” Ultimately, that’s the goal, but I gotta get the eyeballs first. SuperFogeys does very well, but I feel it in my gut that it could do a lot better.

NRAMA: You say it's not your "9-to-5." What can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Superfogeys Origins

BH: I’m a young pup who knows very little about what it is to be old, but way more than is healthy about superheroes. I always dreamed of working in comics as a kid, but I didn’t really see that as a viable goal. More important to me was to establish myself firmly enough that I could support a family. Once I had that (wife, 2 girls, a cat and a dog), it was like a switch went off inside of me and all I wanted to do was create. I’m spending my 30s doing what a lot of people use their 20s for, but it seemed the more responsible way to go. It’s made me pretty happy so far, so I must be doing something right.

NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell people about SuperFogeys?

BH: Just that whatever you think SuperFogeys is, it’s probably not that. I get that a lot — people tell me that it looks like one thing but once you get into it you realize it’s something else. I guess from the outside it looks like a simple parody, but parody doesn’t really interest me that much. I think it’s fair to say I’ve got a lot more on my mind than that. And if you don’t believe me, consider again the flying pig that pees on people a lot. You need profundity? I’ve got your profundity right there.

Click on the links to check out SuperFogeys and the spin-off comic SuperFogeys Origins. Also look for the SuperFogeys Collection #4, collecting Chapter 5, “The Redemption of Dr. Rocket,” this month in comics shops. The collection of Chapter 6, “Funeral for a Frenemy,” and the first SuperFogeys Origins collection will be available this summer, and SuperFogeys will also be available soon for download on the iPhone and iPod Touch through iVerse.

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