Bleeding Cool had the opportunity to interview Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Fanboys, and Balls of Fury star Dan Fogler about his upcoming Chapter House Publishing comic series, Brooklyn Gladiator. He had a lot of interesting things to say about the book, its themes, and what it means to the world in which we live. The full transcript between Mr. Fogler and myself is available below for your reading pleasure.
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BC: So, reading Brooklyn Gladiator, I definitely get the vibe of Escape from New York and Blade Runner. Would you say that is a part of what inspired you? Are there any other sci-fi/dystopia works [that came] to mind while writing it?
Dan Fogler: Absolutely, yes, those are definitely up there. There's so many — I think about Akira — Akira is a big influence because in Brooklyn Gladiator, similar to Akira, you start to see all these blossoming psychics, and that's definitely what's going on with the hero of John Miller [main protagonist of Brooklyn Gladiator]. He's starting to hone all these psychic abilities and astral projection abilities, and he uses them to become what's kind of a modern Robin Hood. And, of course, he wants to get the hell out of New York, because he has this feeling that, outside of the walls of America, things are not as they seem — and he's right. It kind of harkens to Matrix; Neo, he's got that stink in his mind that things aren't quite what they seem. So, there's that. And it's a hero's journey, so it's similar to Star Wars in that sense. And, so yeah, I took all my favorite stuff and put it in there, you know? [Laughs]
BC: Did you read a lot of comics growing up?
Dan Fogler: I did, I had a comic collection. I collected comics — boxes of them — all the way through up until college, and in college I was like, "I have to be a man now." I started selling off a lot of my comics, at least half of them, until I could pay rent. And then I did the movie Fan Boys and I got some money in my pocket, and I sorta rekindled everything. We were basically being told to relive our childhood in that movie, so, since then, I've been collecting again and even more so. I have tons of comics. A lot of the time, I go to my favorite comic store on Wednesdays and see what's going down. I have way too many comics piling up to read. It's that kind of thing.
BC: Which series have stuck with you throughout the years?
Dan Fogler: The first thing that I picked up was Heavy Metal, and I was way too young. I had an older brother; he collected comic books. I was like 10 or 11, and I saw it on his shelf. It was over-sized, that's what stuck out. So, I pulled it out, and then, you know, I was reading Druuna and stuff that I should not have been reading at that age, and I was very impressionable. Then I saw Heavy Metal the movie, and, like, holy shit that was fantastic. So, at a young age, I got into that — I got into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before they were a big thing. Then I got into the mainstream stuff, Batman and Wolverine. Anytime Wolverine and the Punisher would fight, I'd love that shit. [I had] pretty eclectic tastes for books. Of course, the Watchmen, I read that. It continues to blow my mind — Alan Moore, he's so cool. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, yeah, and then, most recently, Grant Morrison stuff is very trippy. He's like, holding the mantle. I don't know if you collect comics now.
BC: I'm actually the head comics reviewer for Bleeding Cool, so I also have way too many comics [Laughs].
Dan Fogler: [Laughs] Yeah, you know what's going on. Yeah, this is like a real golden age for comics now. There's so much great content out. I'm loving East of West and Saga — I'm a dad — I'll read Saga and that'll make me cry. There's really powerful stuff out there now. So, yeah, I'm really just reading and getting inspired by what's out there right now and putting it into my stuff.
BC: To get a little more analytical into Brooklyn Gladiator, I did notice that, with the exception of John [Miller]'s grandmother, women seem to have a downplayed role or being used by terrible people like the dude up in the tower [a character named Kojima].
Dan Fogler: Yeah, it's survival of the fittest. It's martial law. People are seen as a commodity. People are being sold. There are important women — Cassandra — who become more relevant as the story goes on. She's kinda like Bonnie and Clyde. You know, Bonnie to [John Miller's] Clyde. It is an homage to those stories in the '90s. He is very much like Bruce Willis, Die Hard, [Arnold] Schwarzenegger kind of character. He's a hero that's kind of timeless, but he's displaced. He's a warrior. They're living in this martial law, this oppressive regime, and anybody who was weak or sick have been basically weeded out.
People are extremely mired in the current technology. It's all nanites. It's all microscopic tech put into your bloodstream. You have the police force who are nanite-enhanced warriors, pretty much. What this is is really this masculine, warrior, gladiator vibe. It's really the last screams of the Yang energy dying, because the Yin energy is rising. I don't know if you've ever heard that term, but the Yin Yang is a wheel, and we've been living in the Yang energy for a very, very long time. It's obviously this male energy, and you can feel it every day. The Yin energy is rising all around us. What happens over the course of Brooklyn Gladiator, John Miller is transformed. He becomes less of a bloody criminal and more of a warrior prophet, more spiritual. It's his transformation finding the Yin in himself with the appearance of this psychic energy that is rising. Are you following all this? [Laughs]
BC: [Laughs] Oh yeah.
Dan Fogler: [Laughs] Alright, cool, cool. On the surface, it appears to be, "Ah, this is Escape from New York. This is a testosterone-fueled hero trying to survive and make his way out." But, once he gets out, past the walls, he's in World War III, and the Yin energy is palpable because the most powerful psychics are the females. We find out as the story goes on. It may seem like the feminine energy is being pushed down, and it is. It's the last gasp of the male energy, but outside of America, it's chaos as the Yin energy is taking over. That's the best way I can describe it, but I would say, for the readers, be prepared. John Miller may be the hero, but he's not the strongest person in the whole story.
In a lot of my work — if you look at my book, Moon Lake, which is another book coming out from Chapter House in October in omnibus — [it's like] Heavy Metal, sci-fi, fantasy, horror anthology. My strongest characters are the ladies, Cave Girl, Z-Rex, Desensitized Dedra — these characters are probably the strongest and most influential in their whole universe. I try to infuse that in my all my work, that the feminine energy is taking over. There's definitely going to be chaos because of that. You can feel it. You can see it in our president, in the split in our society, that Yang aggression, that Yang energy is doing its best to cling on, but the fact is that their time is ending.
BC: That is very interesting, and it does go back to the Hero's Journey, the spiritualistic vibe that permeated throughout. One last question, if I may, what's the biggest thing you want readers to take away from Brooklyn Gladiator?
Dan Fogler: I would say the biggest thing is that the political climate — I started writing this book around the time that 9/11 happened — I started questioning. It didn't seem right on a scientific level, it didn't look right, it smelled weird. Since then, I went down this rabbit hole of conspiracy theories trying to figure out what's really happening — who's really in charge. By the time I was writing Brooklyn Gladiator, what if there was a universe where all conspiracy theories are true? And that's the world of Brooklyn Gladiator.
As I got close to finishing the project and finishing Volume 0, it was about the time that Trump was running for president. I thought,"Oh man, if he won, that would be like the beginning of Running Man, it would be the beginning of some scary sci-fi movie." And I thought, "Yeah, yeah." Brooklyn Gladiator is like, "What if Trump wins and he f*cking builds the wall and he builds so high that it f*cking wraps around all of America? And how that seems to the world." Once Trump became president, everything blurred for me. I thought, "Whoa, wow, we are living in the sci-fi movie." Brooklyn Gladiator 2033, as dark as it is, it doesn't see so farfetched at this juncture. It seems like everything is so volatile. I want to people to take away, after reading Brooklyn Gladiator, how far are we from this reality? 2033 isn't that far away. Where we are now, it could totally come to fruition, and I want that to scare the shit out of people.
To conclude, Mr. Fogler and I joke about how Trump really does seem like Richard Dawson's character from Running Man, Damon Killian.
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Brooklyn Gladiator is written by Dan Fogler with Andrew Harrison and Ben McCool and the art is from Tom Hodges with Derick Robertson, Nadir Balan, Mark Hiblen, and Stephen Bunting. Volume 0 is slated for release April 11th.