It's not easy to distinguish one super hero from another for many comic book readers, as they see so many books as being so similar, but Will Pfeifer promises that starting Feb. 12, DC Comics' "H-E-R-O" will be that different superhero comic you've been craving. When CBR News last spoke with the writer back in October, Pfeifer spoke extensively about "H-E-R-O," but he was glad to follow up with details about the upcoming stories and his newest fan, popular scribe Geoff Johns.
"'H-E-R-O' is the latest version of DC's 'Dial H For Hero' series," explains Pfeifer. "There's a magic dial or, in this case, more of a Palm Pilot-like device, which can give you different super powers and a costume when you press the buttons. Once you have the powers, the costume and the cool name, it's all about what you do with it. In this series, it's going to be a different person in each story or story arc, and we'll see how different people handle the thrills and responsibilities of having super powers.
"In 'H-E-R-O' I think we're trying to get to the core of what it means to be a superhero, and what it means to have super powers. Each person will be pretty ordinary before they receive the powers, so when they get the flight or super speed or flame powers or lightning powers or whatever, they won't have had them for years and have had time to hone them. They'll make mistakes -- and have a genuine sense of wonder about all this. I want to show what it'd be like if one day you could fly or you could lift a car. It'd be a lot of fun, and I hope I can convey that in the series."
In his previous CBR News interview, Pfeifer spoke about the first storyline and the protagonist named Jerry Feldon, but as the writer has said, the second storyline will involve a brand new character. He shared a few details about who would be involved.
"After Jerry, we'll have a couple of quick one-issues stories where we'll jump to people having the device. The guy who will get it next will be, in many ways, Jerry's opposite: Jerry was a depressed guy in a dead end job, in a dead end city. But the new guy receiving the device, Matt Allen, is a little older than Jerry. He's a successful executive with a wife and a daughter, a great job and the respect of his co-workers. But when he gets the device, he loves the super powers so much that it becomes like an addiction to him. He ignores his family, he ignores his job -- he just wants to play superhero, which I think is something that's understandable, because if I had the device, I might fall into that trap. It would be tempting.
"After that story, to really change things around, Matt's daughter will get the device, and she's much younger -- at 11 or 12, she's starting at a new school and trying to make new friends. But suddenly she's given the powers to become a super hero and she has to learn to cope with that- in some cases, she may handle it better than some of the 'adults!'"
Working as a full-time journalist, Pfeifer's first love is writing. Being paid to write, especially in the medium of comics, is something that makes him smile. He says it's hard for him to put his finger on the most fun aspect of the job, but he likes being able to go crazy with his ideas and the fact that DC has been so supportive of "H-E-R-O."
"It's like playing superhero," says the writer of Vertigo's "Finals." "It's like saying 'what would I do?' and you set up these crazy plots. It's great to put obstacles in front of these everyday people, and then ask yourself what it would be like if someone didn't know how to control their powers, or take a look at realistic downsides to certain powers, or wonder if certain people might become addicted to powers. The limits on this series are endless, and you can create anything you want."
With writing on the series well underway, Pfeifer says that he is noticing a new trend emerging in his writing and that it can perhaps be traced back to his work on the dark comic "Finals." - and to a controversial show on MTV.
"I think one trend that's evolving is more humor, maybe inspired by the television show 'Jackass' in a way, since I've wondered if people might use the powers to pull off more practical jokes or to create humorous situations. There are a lot of funny aspects to super powers, and even in Jerry's story there are funny moments. I hope I can strike a balance between the funny and tragic moments in 'H-E-R-O.' That sort of thing makes it a lot of fun to write."
Something you won't see in "H-E-R-O" is the series being used as a soap box for any preaching of Pfeifer's views or as a venue to tell "after school special" style stories.
"I don't want it to be the lesson of the month series," laughs Pfeifer. "It's not going to be that each month we learn a valuable lesson about being a hero, but there are some important themes about personal responsibility and the question of obligation when you have super powers that should be explored. When you have these super powers that can change the world, what should you do? We've got a responsibility to use our power for good, and like the old Spider-Man quote goes, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' In 'H-E-R-O' we'll ask the tough questions and see how both good and bad people respond."
Of late, one person whose been an outspoken supporter of "H-E-R-O" has been fellow DC writer Geoff Johns, know for his work on "Flash," "JSA" and "Hawkman." He's been using his column on TheFourthRail.Com to promote "H-E-R-O" as the book to look for this year. He's even gone so far as to offer a money-back guarantee to readers and reviewed the book twice in the last few months.
"Thanks for that 'pimping,' Geoff" laughs Pfeifer. "I tell ya, I've never spoken with him except for some e-mails, I like his stuff and think he's one of DC's best writers, but I'm shocked and flattered that he's so interested in the series. I can't thank him enough for putting his own money on the line for 'H-E-R-O,' and I appreciate all the attention he's bringing to the series. I was stunned to see the first review he did -- and then the money back guarantee blew me away. I was showing it to people at work and saying, 'Look, this guy doesn't know me and look what he's willing to do!' It makes me feel good and I think we've got a good book coming out. I hope it lives up to Geoff's expectations! [laughs]"
One of the reasons for Johns' rallying of fans was his belief that the pre-orders on "H-E-R-O" were lower than they should have been, and that fans would miss out on the issue, much as they did with hot series "Fables" and "Y: The Last Man." Pfeifer says that sometimes fans don't realize how important pre-orders are to a virgin series.
"It's because the comic book industry is full of people saying things are getting so much better and we're on an upswing, and I know sales are going up a little bit overall, but it's a risky business. They're paying me up front to write the series, Kano up front the draw and all the money to produce it -- and they've still yet to sell a copy. They want a book that's going to sell some copies. I know that 'H-E-R-O' didn't get as big an order as we were hoping it would, because it doesn't feature a name superhero in the title role, but I'm hoping once it's in the store and people read it, word of mouth will propel it to greater success. They'll see we're doing something different and hopefully, as Geoff used the example, it'll be like 'Y- The Last Man' where people saw that something different was being done and began picking up the book.
"I completely understand when people say they'll wait for the trade paperback, because I've said that -- I love those trades -- but the truth of the matter is, if it doesn't sell enough issues, it might never get to the trade. I understand the impulse, but I hope people buy the issues, because we need the buzz and momentum so we can have enough to collect into some the trades. I hope people realize we need the monthly support if they want those nice collections on their shelf.
"I really think people should people should pick up 'H-E-R-O' because it is a superhero comic, but myself, Kano, former editor Mike McAvennie and Pete Tomasi, the current editor, are trying to do something different with a superhero comic. It's very character driven, it's funny, it's sad and it's got action.
"I'm trying to write a comic book I'd like to read and if people give it a chance, they'll see there's nothing else like it out there."