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Folk Heroes vs Superheroes: A SDCC Interview With Joe Casey

Written by Tim Midura on Friday, August 03 2018 and posted in News with Benefits

Folk Heroes vs Superheroes: A SDCC Interview With Joe Casey

On the timelessness of folk heroes, Joseph Campbell, and "heavy metal."

Source: San Diego Comic Con

Joe Casey is a comics and TV writer as well as a member of Man of Action. His TV work includes Ben 10Generator Rex, and Ultimate Spider-Man. His comics work includes Automatic KafkaOfficer Downe, and Wildcats. The first issue of New Lieutenants of Metal was released July 4, while the first issue of MXMLXXV is set to release September 12.


Tim: MCMLXXV tells the story of Pamela Evans, who you describe as a folk hero, as opposed to the modern notion of a superhero. Could you go into the difference and similarities between the two?

Joe: Modern superheroes are very of their time. They're usually somewhat science-based. They try to be up to the moment, in the moment. Folk heroes are more timeless. There's more myth involved. It's usually the character and the story that translates across generations. Pamela Evans is sort in the vein of Paul Bunyan and Babe The Blue Ox.

Tim: You have a long history of writing superheroes. What makes you want to go in a different direction with a folk hero?

Joe: The mechanics are the same. But we made a conscious effort for the DNA to be different. Whereas most of my superhero stuff is trying to be of the moment and exist in the moment I'm writing it, something like this I'm going for the old Joseph Campbell timeless feel.

Tim: One of my questions was how much of Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces did you read right before writing this.

Joe: I boned up, but when you're a writer who writes any kind of heroic fiction, that stuff is ingrained in your DNA. Whether it's from watching Star Wars as a kid and realizing how much of that is the Joseph Campbell stuff. Then when you dive into it, all kinds of stories you heard as a kid fall into that paradigm. It's kind of always there. What I've done in some of my other superhero work, just to make it interesting for me, is to find things outside that paradigm. For this, I kind of re-embraced it in a big way because I felt the character and the story we're telling is that kind of mythological underpinnings. Whether we wanted it or not. It's the story we thought of and the character I came up with, so we leaned hard into it.

Tim: MCMLXXV is a genre-blender set in New York City. As a melting pot, is NYC the only place this story could be told?

Joe: Yes. I mean, I could've strained credibility and went to other cities, but New York has that cab-culture, which is important to the story. It's a hyper-real version in our story. There's also the street gang culture that is very prominent in the story. If you're a monster from the underworld, I can't think of a better place you'd want to go than New York in 1975. Garbage strikes. Corrupt political systems. It's all there for you if you want it.

Tim: With something like monsters invading NYC, how much of a backstory do you come up with or is it just a thing that happens?

Joe: It's a huge backstory that plays out over the course of the series. It's not a random occurrence that Pamela is the one fighting these monsters. She has a history with them. They have a history with her. As the series plays out, we'll find out what that history is.

Tim: Let's talk New Lieutenants of Metal. What's your history with metal?

Joe: I grew up as a kid of the '80s. Not a lot of culture around besides comic books, movies, and MTV. MTV was my radio. That's what it was. It wasn't obviously the hardcore metal, but "heavy metal" in air quotes was kind of a big part of MTV in the '80s. It's very visual. I think it was a lot of white kids watching MTV and that's the music they gravitated towards. It made early imprints on me. As I got older and my tastes improved, I got into other things. But what's fun about metal now is that when you go back and look at it, there's a lot of social excavation you can do when you look at those bands and that music. A lot of them were trying to make a buck, but that's still interesting to me. The lengths that musicians would go to make that buck. There's nothing about it that's uncool to me. I know it's not hip, but that doesn't mean it's not cool.

Tim: Metal music has always been about being over the top. I feel like that's a good match for comics. How do you bring that feeling to the page?

Joe: The genre splicing isn't much of a splice job like you said. Superheroes by their very nature are over the top. Especially in the '80s into the '90s, they got way over the top. The comic has those kind of metal-ethos at the foundation but it's also a very loving tribute to those early '90s superhero comics, where the designs were over the top and the attitudes were over the top. The only thing that wasn't happening back in the day was the overt music connections. There were some but not as far as we're pushing it. Those things sprang out of each other. You can't look at bands like KISS to GWAR. Those guys read comics. That's where they got a lot of their visual inspiration. I just tried to make it a lot more overt.


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About the Author - Tim Midura

Born in the frozen tundra of Massachusetts, Tim Midura has long possessed a love for comic books and records. After stealing the beard of Zeus and inventing the pizza bagel, a much more heavily tattooed and bearded Tim Midura has finally settled in San Diego. He's the world's first comics journalist who doesn't want to become a comics writer. Find him on twitter, facebook or by email.

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