Teen Spirit: Clint Hilinski talks "HyperActives"

The cold, wild and untamed land called Minnesota has given much to the United States of America, from a quirky pseudo-Canadian accent to critically acclaimed comics stores such as "The Mind's Eye Comics" to the awe inspiring Mall Of America, but their latest contribution is of a different kind. Born out of a convention meeting, artist Clint Hilinski, best known for Devil Due's "Voltron" comic book, will be teaming up with writer Darin Wagner and Alias Comics to bring you "HyperActives." The series follows a new group of teen heroes and CBR News caught up with Hilinski about the series.

"It's a teen superhero book. Yes, another teen superhero book," laughs the artist. "But wait, there's a twist…they're all mutants! Or wait, that's been done, nevermind. I know the teen superhero genre has been done before, but we're going to take a stab at it anyways. The easiest way to describe it is, think of Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton as superheroes. The HyperActives are way more interested in ending up on Entertainment Tonight than saving the world from an alien invasion.


"It really began when I met writer Darin Wagner at the Minnesota Comic Book Associations Spring Con. (Great show by the way.) Darin was sitting next to me as I was doing sketches and took a look through my portfolio. The next thing I knew we were talking about doing a book and pitching it. I've dealt with a lot of writers who have pitches for the next big hit, all they need is a penciller to draw it for them, but creatively Darin and I clicked pretty much right away. So, creatively, that's when things started, but the actual creation of the 'HyperActives' was still a few months away. It went through a number of different versions before it became what it is now.


"The HyperActives is made up of Rush, the resident cocky super speedster. Reactor Girl, the radioactive total hottie. Scandal, think Paris Hilton without all the morals. Surefire, weapons master and cold-blooded killer, the perfect teenager. Panzer, giant armored thug and bully. Honeychild, Halle Berry's hotter sister with giant bee wings. Wereclaw, lycanthropic slacker. And Boy Genius, 13-year-old prodigy and the only one on the team who really does anything. Their creation evolved from Darin and I spitballing ideas on the type of book we wanted to work on."

Part of the series' hook involves these heroes caring more about their spotlight than their job, an accusation lobbied at many politicians and artists these days. While this may remind some of Todd Nuack's "Wildguard," Hilinski says the two series aren't that similar. "I'm addicted to TV and comic books and just watching these teen celebrities on the E channel and the behind the scenes true Hollywood stories got me thinking if there really were teen superheroes out there, would they all really be such responsible stand up kind of heroes like say Robin or Superboy. I think it would end up just like high school with cliques and cool kids and nerds and everybody wanting to be famous. The 'HyperActives' definitely plays to that. These guys haven't learned the 'great powers, great responsibility' speech yet. All of their favorite uncles are still alive. And if people compare us to Todd Nauck's 'Wildguard,' I'll take it as a compliment. 'Wildguard' was a great book and a ton of fun. Our book has similar angles in that it's a teen hero book and deals with teen celebrity, but that's about as far as it goes. Todd had the contest angle, which was a great idea and his book kind of sprung from that. Our book has these teens already in the limelight and how they're dealing with that. It also has a new member joining in the first issue and the story kind of revolves around his introduction to the team."


The series, while aping "Identity Crisis" covers for the first issue, features a lighthearted tone meant as a throwback to more fun times and a conscious rejection of the "darkness" permeating the majority of superhero comics. "I definitely had my blue armband on the day they shot Blue Beetle. I like fun comics and I wanted this to be fun escapism at it's best. Like I said I loved 'Wildguard,' I'm definitely a fan of J. Scott Campbell's work too, which we'll get too. But probably one of the biggest influences on me was Giffen and DeMatteis's 'Justice League.' That's the book that got me back into comics after I'd quit reading comics in high school. That run and the characterizations in it were right on the money for me. So, I definitely wanted the 'HyperActives' to be a fun book with great characters, people you're actually interested in. That's one of the reasons Darin Wagner and I clicked so well creatively."

In a superhero market with "Teen Titans," "Invincible," "Young Avengers" and a plethora of other teen super hero comics, the question has to be asked-- can Hilinski and Co bring something different to the table? "Absolutely nothing, if you look closely enough this is just reworked old Teen Titans plot from the 80's. I refuse to be fresh or unique. Leave that for those black and white indy books where the creators wear vintage clothing and those weird black rim glasses from the '50s," joked Hilinski. "But seriously, there's been a ton of teen hero books. It comes down to how you tell the story. I look to Robert Kirkman, as you could have asked him the same question before 'Invincible' came out, but he had a unique story to tell. Does it have elements of stuff you've seen before? Yes, but is it still a great book, definitely. That's what I'm shooting for, yes it's another teen hero book, but it's Darin Wagner and Clint Hilinski's teen superhero book and we've definitely got our own unique story to tell. I hope people check it out and decide they'd like to see more of our story.

"Me, personally, I'd love to be drawing the 'HyperActives' for the next couple of years. Have a solid successful book with a good fan following. I don't want to create a mini-series that fans like and then have the characters and stories disappear. I look at Robert Kirkman and his work on 'Invincible' as the perfect example of what a creator owned book can be. I'm a big fan of 'Invincible.' I'd love to be drawing issue #25 of the 'HyperActives' a couple years from now. It'll be up to the fans and retailers to decide if that happens though."

A quick look at the artwork reveals a strong J. Scott Campbell influence on Hilinski, who admits that the similarities aren't a coincidence, but that he's been influenced by a lot of artists. "Yeah, you caught me. Campbell has influenced my pencils on 'HyperActives' just slightly. Or a whole bunch, depending on how you look at it. I'm probably going to get hammered on message boards, but I don't care. I figured Al Rio hasn't drawn anything in a while, so somebody had to ape Campbell, might as well be me. I was going to ape Humberto Ramos, but the line was already too long.'

"Campbell comes from what I like to think of as a line of artists that I admire greatly. In my head it starts with Michael Golden and then goes to Art Adams, who I believe perfected this style, then to Jim Lee, my personal artistic hero, and Marc Silvestri, then to Travis Charest, J. Scott Campbell, Michael Turner, David Finch and Brett Booth. The Wildstorm/Top Cow guys basically. All of these artists are a huge influence on me. With the 'HyperActives,' Campbell's influence shows up more due to the subject matter. When you think of a fun teen superhero romp, Campbell's pretty much mastered it. I'm totally loving 'Wildsiderz' and think it's kind of funny my book will be coming out at the same time. I can only hope some of the people who bought 'Wildsiderz' check out the 'HyperActives.' Hell I'd be happy if half or a third did, I'd love those numbers. But when it comes down to it, my storytelling is much different than Campbell's-- his influences in my work that you see, while obvious, are really just superficial. I'm probably as influenced by him as he is by Art Adams or Mort Drucker."

While Hilinski may be helping to create a book that eschews modern trends, he's the first to admit that the comic industry is a business and the companies have to do what is fiscally responsible. "Hey, I'm all for big events, whatever it takes to drive up sales and make more money for retailers, sign me up. You might think I'm kidding, but I'm not. This is a business-- if my book sells well it makes more money for retailers and they'll order more of it. That's simple math. If crossovers and shocking events are what it takes to do it, I'm all for it. If anybody wants to cross over with the 'HyperActives,' just let me know. If I've got to kill somebody or make them gay by issue #3 to boost sales by a couple thousand, you can be damn well sure somebody is going to be dead or gay. And I'm not afraid to start a clone saga either. Of course it's the art and the story that really matters, it's not about the money."

So if you're still not sure about "HyperActives," Hilinski is ready to give you a few more reasons to pre-order this series from your local comic retailer. "Imagine Invincible joins the Teen Titans drawn by J. Scott Campbell. Our book will be almost as good as that!! The zero issue will be out in December for only .75 cents, so everyone can check it out for cheap and it also has an homage cover of Michael Turner's 'Identity Crisis' cover. Issue #1 comes out in February, so retailers and fans will have time to check out the zero issue and really get behind it hopefully. Plus my wife doesn't think being a comic book artist is a real job, so this is everybody's chance to help me prove her wrong. Oh yeah and hot chicks! Our book will have tons of hot chicks!!"

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