It seems every day a comic creator is out there creating a new hero or new villain, but what if those fictional creations came to life and wanted a word with their creator?
That’s the story behind the upcoming miniseries Reality Check from Image Comics. Scheduled to launch on September 4, 2013, it follows a young comic artist named Willard Penn as he skyrockets to fame on the back of a comic called Dark Hour which follows a superhero crusader whose motto might extend past the ideas of “great power” and “great responsibility” to encompass a “great chance to get laid.” As if the comic inside comic didn’t sound intriguing enough, its when Dark Hour – and his nemesis, Devil-Inside – come into the real world that this drama is taken to a whole new level.
Reality Check is created by writer Glen Brunswick, who’s done a string of series at Image from Jersey Gods to The Gray Area and the recent series Non-Humans. For this series, he’s partnering with storyboard artist Viktor Bogdanovic to tell this story inside a story, and Newsarama sat down with Brunswick to ask how much of this fictional story is true – or could be.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about Reality Check, Glen?
Glen Brunswick: Willard Penn, a North Hollywood based artist, has been struggling for years to create a hit comic book. Well, he finally has that hit--but it doesn't work out exactly as planned. Dark Hour, his creation, a Batman type hero that's more concerned with his libido than serving justice, exits his series and enters Willard's real world. And to make matters worse now that he's here, Willard can't remember his story at all. It appears that Dark Hour's departure has caused this memory loss. Dark Hour refuses to return to the book unless Willard helps him find his true love. Willard agrees, his has no other choice. But as their search commences the homicidal villain, Devil-Inside, has also left the comic and is stalking their every move waiting for the perfect moment to kill them both.
Nrama: This is an unexpected type of comic – it’s about a comics writer who strikes it big but then sees his creations come to life and bring their problems onto him – both his hero and his villain. Can you tell us more about these superheroes and super villains come to life?
Brunswick: The hero, Dark Hour, is a force for good--an action hero--dark crime fighter. He's also a billionaire that owns the top four floors of the U.S. Bank building in Los Angeles. He launches himself into the dark night sky from this location when his mission is to battle crime. He has a mini-propulsion unit that extends from his belt that helps him cover distance in a spread out L.A. The villain, Devil-Inside, is a classic killer that enjoys what he does. He takes great pleasure in kidnapping, murder, theft, psychological torture, witty conversation and fine wine.
Nrama: What are these two comic characters looking for in the real world?
Brunswick: Dark Hour's need for companionship has been bubbling up for so long that it's become his main driving force. He's a looking for love in all the wrong places type Batman. And he's going to make Willard's life insane until he gets what he wants. Devil-Inside wants to punish Dark Hour, and anyone that's important to him. But he wants to do it in a way that's clever while administering as much psychological pain and torment as he can. Both of these characters were created by Willard, however, so there may be a bit more to them than meets the eye.
Nrama: Speaking of Willard- tell us about him.
Brunswick: Willard wants the big hit and recognition but it's not for the sake of fame. Everything he does is to honor his bother, who died when he was in college, and who's death he feels responsible for. He feels that his act of creation is almost an act of resurrection for his brother. He has a chip on his shoulder that his brother was the talented one--the kind of guy who was able to just float through life's difficulties making things easier for the rest of his family. His death left a huge hole in his heart. When Willard is focused on his art it actually brings him closer to his brother. He's striving to make him proud. You could say that since his brother passed, he's been trying to live his brother's life. The problem is he's forgotten to live his own.
Nrama: The main character is a comic writer – as are you, of course. Is this inspired by any real events of your own?
Brunswick: When you write about fantastic characters that can do all these amazing things you can never do you start to put yourself in their shoes. It's hard to write any character without being able to empathize with what they are going though. Once you've done that it's easy to imagine them coming into your world and handling the kind of problems you have to deal with on a daily basis. So although this book is not inspired by any of my true life events--it's certainly inspired by my darker fantasies. And of course there was that drunken night that all of my creations came to life and…
But we don't want to get into the police report that's on file for that night and drudge up all those compromising details.
Nrama: We’ll leave that for TMZ.
Glen, you’ve got a history of working with famous and excellent artists like John Romita Jr. on The Gray Area and Whilce Portacio on Non-Humans. For Reality Check, you’re working with a newcomer named Viktor Bogdanovic – what made him the guy to work with and stand beside you as a partner on this project?
Brunswick: Viktor's art has really gotten under my skin. When I first saw his work I felt there were shades of Tony Moore or Greg Capullo as an influence. But I think the thing that really struck me the most is how great a story teller Viktor is. He also handles the small moments of character expression with depth and certainty--you know exactly what the characters are thinking on all his illustrations. And he adds unexpected details that enrich the characters as well--it's very exciting to see his pages as they come in. I think story telling has been the main component of all the great artists I've worked with which includes, John Romita Jr, Whilce Portacio, Dan McDaid and now Viktor Bogdanovic.
Nrama: Most people in comics don’t know you’re coming into comics from the movie industry, but in fact you’re a former Hollywood agent turned screenwriter – you were even hired to adapt Ex Machina a few years back. Can you tell us about the Hollywood side of your writing life?
Brunswick: I've spent a fair amount of time pouring my soul into screenplays that were sold or optioned by studios with high hopes and promises of seeing the light of day that never came to fruition. My character, Willard Penn, and I share the theory that it can sometimes be better creatively to create for comics where your words not only come out as written but a few months after the work is complete they're actually published and touch your audience. As opposed to a few screenplays for which I was well paid that fifteen years later still haven't seen the light of day. I guess you could say I've been more focused on creating my own properties that I have a more personal stake in.
Nrama: Laboring a bit on that idea of a personal stake and wrapping it into the twist for this story, what would you do if you were in a situation like Willard, where one of your creations – say Barock from Jersey Gods – showed up in your life?
Brunswick: Oh man! Now you've done it. That's the pitch for my new story arc of Jersey Gods. Dan McDaid is sure going to be pissed.
I think I'd convince Barock that my plan was to get him hooked up with his Jersey Girl, Zoe, if he is willing to help me with some of the life goals I need to accomplish. I'd string him along for a while until he got wise to my plan and hope that he's not too angry with me afterwards when he finds out the truth. He's my character after all. I can do what I want, right? Sorry Barock, please don't hurt me. Ouch!