'Brooklyn Gladiator' preview
Credit: Trigger Street Productions

One of the stars of the cult movie Fanboys is once again showing his stripes as a comic book fan.

Dan Fogler is one of the most prolific character actors working today. Currently seen on ABC’s Secrets and Lies, he’s appeared in dozens of movies, TV and stage projects, including his Tony-winning role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. For some, he's best known for the Star Wars-themed comedy Fanboys, along with writing and directing the films Hysterical Psycho and Don Peyote.

Fogler’s passion for the arts extends to comic books – he’s done the horror series Moon Lake for Archaia, and now he’s Kickstarting a wild action-packed science fiction storyentitled Brooklyn Gladiator. The graphic novel, which Fogler co-wrote with Andrew Harrison and has illustrated by Tom Hodges, is billed as “the lovechild of Orwell, Huxley and stoner conspiracy theories” and features special covers by Vertigo legends Glenn Fabry (Preacher) and Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan).

Newsarama spoke with Fogler by phone about this new sci-fi series, how it came to be, and how it might indirectly kick off a Fanboys TV series.

Newsarama: Dan, let’s talk about Brooklyn Gladiator and what you’re doing with the Kickstarter.

DanFogler: I love comic books, I collect them and always have since I was a kid, though there was a short hiatus when I got out of college and had to sell some books to pay some rent.  That was a dark time! [laughs] And then I did Fanboys and got some more money in my pocket, so the love of frivolous comic-book-buying was rekindled in me.

It was always a dream to make comics – I made my own little comics books as a kid, I’d draw them and my brother would write them. I did my own book recently, Moon Lake at Archaia and BOOM!, which was a sort of twisted Twilight Zone, my homage to Tales From the Crypt and Heavy Metal and the books I loved growing up.

Brooklyn Gladiator is tribute to Akira and Mad Max and other things I love. I grew up in Brookyln, which is where I grew up – it’s like an epicenter of the world, everyone knows Brooklyn. It’s set 20 years in the future, and it’s like a mirror of things going on today with water shortage, overpopulation, heading toward the singularity.

In this future, the ocean levels have risen so much that there are mega-tsunamis. America has cornered the market on nanites that are building a sea wall, and policemen are being injected with these tiny robots to make super-soldiers.

It’s basically a military state. All of our rights have been taken away – beer, weed, everything’s been taken away! The government is issuing “Smog,” which is this awful gray cotton-candy stuff people smoke to get enlightened and sit around.

Our hero, John Miller, has rejected all of this. He’s basically the Robin Hood of this world. He does underground mixed martial arts cage fighting for money. He’s into parkour, and quite amazing at it, and it’s all fueled by this new kind of psychic ability he’s brewing.

He’s sort of a new Jedi in a ways! And he starts taking trips on the astral plane and flying around the city and looking into nooks and crannies to avoid Big Brother. He makes a purified form of Smog and sells that to the people for nothing.

Basically, he gets set up –  he sells his soul for a ticket out of America, he pays like half a million dollars for a plane ride to another country, but he gets shot down and crashes in Canada, and sees the rest of the world is in the middle of World War III.

 He goes through this whole journey – he transforms through the course of it, and becomes this Jedi, prophet, kung-fu master (laughs) and makes his way back to America to save its citizens, whether they want to be saved or not.

It’s Biblical! Very large and sprawling and crazy.

Nrama: It sounds like you’re drawing from many influences, ranging from your cultural loves to your own experiences to very spiritual aspects.

Fogler: Oh, absolutely! You ever hear of HAARP? It’s this military program to modify the weather, almost like the Weather Dominator from G.J. Joe. Look this stuff up! More of it’s real than you’d think.

I’m tapping into the zeitgeist here with Brooklyn Gladiator [laughs]You know, I’m taking stuff like HAARP, and calling it “SHAARP.” It’s taking technology we have right now and imagining it 20 years later, where it’s being used for mind control and world domination and taking the energy of the sun and using it to zap people like ants if you want to.

And yeah, my experiences growing up in New York, and Brooklyn, and being in New York City when 9/11 happened – that was my first step going down the rabbit hole of conspiracies. I was like 15 blocks away from Ground Zero, I felt the vibrations.

Brooklyn Gladiator could be a real future for us. It’s a scary world. It could happen.

Nrama: And you’ve got Darick Robertson with this, which I note because this gives me some echoes of his work on Transmetropolitan

Fogler:  …which I still need to read! But I loved him on The Boys, it’s so bloody and visceral and funny. I’d have him draw the whole thing if he wasn’t so busy!

The guy we do have drawing the book, though, Tom Hodges – just amazing. He’s known for drawing Star Wars books, so it all kind of works out! [aughs] He comes from that mindset – that Star Wars, that Akira mindset. John Miller – the midichlorians are waking up in his system and he’s going exploring. [laughs]

Nrama: With that aspect of the story, I’m curious about your personal interest, because you’ve done Don Peyote, and it’s clear that you’ve got a real interest in spiritual/philosophical ideas.

Fogler: Ohhhh yeah. I am an avid pot smoker, and I think it is imperative for our evolution that we dream, that we partake in these particular substances. I’ve never done heroin, I’ve never done cocaine, I’m sure they have their place in that culture, but I think that the biggest high I’ve ever felt has come from meditating. I basically opened up all of my chakras [laughs] and this amazing energy just filled my entire body. I’d bet that felt like heroin times a hundred. [laughs]

We have receptors in our mind, that are designed to take in certain substances that have been there since the first apes stood upright. And I think it’s important that we experiment – DMT is made of chemicals that are already in our minds. It’s the dream molecule! It’s so imperative to our species that we dream, and realize that even though we are so tiny, we are so connected – to each other, to animals, to the universe. And it’s important for humans to feel these things.

But yeah – I’m very interested in unlocking doors in the mind, in the next step of evolution. It seems like it’s going to come from using more of our minds – some kind of leap in our mental capacity, one that will get us on a more peaceful path.

And that’s what’s depicted in the book. John’s journey – he’s a gladiator! He starts as this guy who beats the s**t out of people to the point of almost killing them, he sells drugs, he steals to survive, and by the end of it, he’s a psychic prophet (laughs). He’s a changed man.

Nrama: What are some of your favorite comics?

Fogler:  I got into comics around the time of Todd McFarlane – I got everything he did. I just love his style, I love everything Spawn and even the HBO cartoon of Spawn. And Image Comics – I’ve been looking at a lot of them. Low is great, been reading Descender,Revival – Tim Seeley is a buddy of mine. And Dr. Strange, I first encountered a lot of spiritual concepts when I saw his comics as a kid!

And I do a lot of Robot Chicken, I do things with Seth Green, and he’s a great writer, he’s one of the hardest-working men in show business, and I learn about all these crazy toys and comics through him. [Laughs]

Nrama: And you’ve got some interesting rewards and things connected for this Brooklyn Gladiator Kickstarter.

Fogler: You were talking about Adam Goldberg earlier, and when I was on The Goldbergs recently playing Uncle Marvin, we were talking about Fanboys, the next step for that – maybe a TV series or a sequel, who knows, but for the Kickstarter, I will help facilitate this.

If people help me see this book to fruition, I will become a large force in making Fanboys 2 or the TV show happen in the very near future. People seem to be into that one!

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