Going Postal With Bryan Hill Part 3

Welcome back to the third and final part of my interview with writer/editor Bryan Hill. In the first part we talked about his working with Matt Hawkins on Postal and part two focuses on his taking the writing chores on alone. With this third part we look at his upcoming Top Cow series Romulus.

DAN WICKLINE: Let's shift gears here and talk about another project you have coming up, Romulus. Now I know nothing about the series yet… unless you are talking about Romulus and Remus from Rome's foundation myth or the home world of the Romulans in Star Trek. So what is this series about?

00d55426-4464-4b16-aa71-db4e5f201ef6BRYAN HILL: ROMULUS is the story of "Ashlar," a warrior raised by "The Order of Romulus," an occult, secret society that has influenced civilization since the Roman-era. She breaks free from them and starts down the long, violent and terrifying road of breaking their hold on our modern world. It's about a young woman fighting a war, internally and externally, battling the fury in her own nature as she fights against this corrupt organization that has woven itself into the most powerful elements of society.

I'm a student of esoteric history, as is Nelson Blake II, the artist of the series. We wanted to explore and expose the role that secret societies have played and continue to play in our world. We also wanted to create a female hero that challenged the notions of what a female hero can be, what a female hero can endure and what a female hero can achieve. It's a book about sacrifice, honor, and the suffering that comes from making heroic choices. It's confrontational about the way elitism and occultism still operates in our world, told through a violent and kinetic story about Ashlar redeeming herself by seeking to destroy the corrupt forces that trained her from birth.

Romulus and Remus are part of our mythology, for sure. The historical Illuminati also factors into the world of ROMULUS. It's hard to look at the evolution of the world and not see a pattern of elitist power, from the wars we fight to the debt we all share. Whether people fall on the left or right side of politics, many see and sense a hidden architecture that serves the very few at the expense of the many. ROMULUS is about a character raised and trained to protect the will of that hidden few, a hero who accepts the near-impossible task of facing and destroying her former masters — but violence, no matter how righteous, affects the people that commit it. Ashlar risks her life to do the right thing, she spills blood to do the right thing, but with anger as her guide, her own morality is always on the precipice.

Ashlar might win battles against The Order of Romulus, but she could lose her soul in the process. That might be exactly what The Order of Romulus wants from her.

DW: You said the Order of Romulus has had influence since the Roman-era… what era does the story take place in? And what type of threats will Ashlar have to deal with. Is this series a suspense / thriller? Are there supernatural elements involved? What type of story will people get when the pickup Romulus?

3efac757-bf7e-471a-83ee-b9d65c48e0aaBH: Ashlar's story, the bulk of the series takes place now, but will we journey into the past when it helps flesh out the world and her story. A major part of why Nelson and I are excited about the series is the opportunity to cross fiction with real world history (which is often stranger than fiction) into a seamless, fictional world. We're not just focused on events in western history. We're looking at events in Asia, Africa, the history of the whole world. The Order of Romulus has woven itself through the world for generations, but the series focuses on Ashlar in the modern day.

The genre of ROMULUS is what I call "Hyper-Action." It's ballistic action, martial arts, and cutting edge technology with ties to occultism. Hideo Kojima's work on the METAL GEAR franchise is a big influence. We love the way Kojima laces his grounded action with huge, not-quite-possible conceptual elements. Nelson and I are both martial artists so we wanted to explore Ashlar's training, her growing skillset and the role of ancient martial technique in a world of surveillance and firearms.

I will say that Ashlar still uses a sword. Swords are cool.

ROMULUS is an unabashed hero story with coming of age thematics, but it's as intense as we can make it. She is a female hero, but we're not protecting her because of her gender. That's reductive to me. Expect action, grief, tragedy, loss and broken bones on both sides of the conflict.

My favorite comic book character is Batman, the Batman of YEAR ONE, ARKHAM ASYLUM, that era Batman. The detective warrior with the existential bend and the indomitable will left a deep impression on me as a kid, so expect an experience about righteousness, dramatic violence and the will to battle both physical enemies and a dark philosophy that has permeated the world of the story.

ROMULUS is for people that sense something is wrong in the world, that there's an intention to the chaos we see every day. We're saying yes! You're right! Now read a story about someone risking her life, her sanity and her soul to fight back against it.

a33aaa7a-aa35-45d0-83c5-94f52d125f8fDW: So tell me about your partner-in-crime on this series. You mentioned him twice. Was does Nelson bring to the series and why will fans be talking about his art after reading it? Who else is involved in the series? And while we're at it… when will we see the first issue?

BH: Well, writers should always mention the people drawing their projects as much as possible, hahahaha. There's this silly "who does the most on the book" conversation that drives me up a fucking (can I say fucking?) wall. Whether it's Isaac Goodheart on POSTAL or Nelson on ROMULUS, for me it's always a collaboration and the only thing I worry about is making sure every book is worth your money and time.

Nelson is a great friend. We've been through the Clone Wars together. He's such a smart fella and so thoughtful about artwork and storytelling. We've been looking to do something together for a long time and this was born out of a long conversation about wanting to create a female hero with an old school "I'm gonna struggle until I make it" 1980's hero vibe. So many characters now are charismatic and well-designed, but they never have to work for very much. Life isn't like that. Nelson's life wasn't like that. Mine wasn't like that. We both have our scars, as most creators do, and we wanted to create a story about overcoming, not just getting things because you're on the cover of the book. That was VERY important to us.

Technically, he uses such a clean line, such a strong graphic style. That lets me amp up the violence and the action without worrying about clutter. It's like having a highly skilled director interpret your action movie. You get memorable images and precise sequences with characterization front and center. Dare I say it, we wanted to do something that had the technical prowess of a big two title, but the sensibilities of an underground, indie book. Nelson helps us achieve that with every line he draws.

a091bbbf-caa0-4226-8f82-a5051c698814The first issue drops around San Diego Comic Con, maybe a little before or a little after. Not exactly sure yet. On shelves or not, we'll definitely have something for you at the Top Cow booth and I'll be there to chat it all up. I'm friendly. Sometimes I have candy.

DW: Let's wrap this up with the crystal ball question. With the New Year just ahead of us, what does 2016 look like for Bryan Hill. If we do this interview again at this time next year, what would you like to have accomplished and what would be ahead of you at that point?

BH: Well, I'm a black writer in comics so maybe just to still be able to write comics? LOL. I'm kidding. Sort of.

Honestly, I don't know. To quote THE DARK KNIGHT, I'm a "dog chasing cars." Beyond the pithy response, I would like to find my way to a Marvel or D.C. book just so more black writers see we have a shot at writing those characters. I never set out to have a political agenda. I just want to tell good stories. What's always bothered me is writers of color are generally assigned to characters of color as if our perspective is always filtered through race. We have Batman stories. Good ones. Superman stories. Steve Rogers stories. Wonder Woman stories. Matt Murdock stories. James Bond stories. I'm proud of my work on POSTAL because it's not filtered through the prism of race. It's not about a black protagonist. It's about characters. If the work I'm doing on ROMULUS and POSTAL and other titles shows companies and editors that you don't have to wait until you have a black character to work with us, then I'll consider that a victory.b58ff67e-ded1-4503-a80d-d4caaceca62c b221a955-4273-4571-aa5d-f3dd72cf813e

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Dan WicklineAbout Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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