By Nikolai Fomich
The constant threat of terrorist attack. A sick city stewing in fog. Frighting technology in the hands of a government accountable to no one. These aren't just today's headlines – they're the world of Brooklyn Gladiator, a new comic from actor Dan Fogler (Fanboys, Kung Fu Panda, Balls of Fury), writer Andrew Harrison (Moon Lake, Golgotha), and comic artist Tom Hodges (Star Wars: The Clone Wars webcomic, The Mandalorians: People and Culture). As their Kickstarter draws to a close, I spoke with Dan about the series.
Nikolai Fomich: Dan, what is Brooklyn Gladiator?
Dan Fogler: Brooklyn Gladiator is my graphic novel sci-fi odyssey. [It] takes place twenty years in the dystopian future where the sea levels are out of control, and nanites are building a wall around America to keep the terrorists and the tsunamis out – and the citizens in. New York is on military lock down and Brooklyn is the epicenter of our story. John Miller is our antihero, rock and roll kung fu Robin Hood. He is honing some newfound psychic abilities and dabbling with the astral plane. He makes extra cash by gambling and fighting in underground MMA death matches. His psychic abilities give him an edge.
John gets fed up with not knowing what's really going on outside of the American walls so he basically sells his soul for a plane ticket to Canada. As he travels over the wall his plane is almost instantly shot down – John survives only to find out that the rest of civilization outside of America is very much mired in WWIII. And perhaps America is responsible and is now hiding under a tortoise shell waiting for the dust to settle…and to start over. John lives through hell and masters his telekinetic skills and eventually returns to free the American sheep…whether they want to be freed or not.
NF: As someone who's had a successful acting career, spanning stage, film, and television, you must have a deep love for comic books to jump into the world of making indie comics. Talk a bit about your connection to comics and why you decided to make this book.
DG: I've been reading comics since I [was] a kid, and drawing my own little comics since I was ten. I got into it when McFarlane came on the scene and I collected everything he did. I had to sell off a box or two in college to make rent, that was sad. And after doing the Fanboys film I got some extra change in my pocket and my love for my comic book collection was rekindled. Now I have more comics than when I was a kid!
I grew up in Brooklyn and I live there now. George Washington set up his forts in Brooklyn, he knew what was up. The "cool" energy of Brooklyn is felt around the world and I wear it as a badge of honor, and so does John Miller the hero of Brooklyn Gladiator. I had created Moon Lake, volumes one and two, with Archaia/BOOM!, which is an anthology book akin to Twilight Zone on THC. I wanted to write my Star Wars, my "hero's journey" next. It was right around the time that 9/11 happened that my love of conspiracy theories was born (go figure), and thus Brooklyn Gladiator was born.
NF: You have Tom Hodges of Star Wars fame illustrating Brooklyn Gladiator, as well as a couple of other well known extraordinary artists working on the book. Talk a bit about working with them.
DF: Tom's great – he did some pin ups for me in Moon Lake volume two and he was available for Brooklyn Gladiator, and his work is delightful. His love of Star War and sci-fi is apparent when filtered into the design. Darrick Robertson (The Boys) does some art as well. And I'm so excited that we got Glen Fabry (Preacher) to do the covers!
NF: This series explores the dangerous mix of centralized government power and invasive technology, and how that combination is used to keep people in ignorance over to the nature of their government. What does John Miller learn that makes him public enemy number one and what exactly is he up against?
DF: If John is [the] kung fu Robin Hood of the future then of course the cops are nanite enhanced, hive-minded, cyborg psycho killers. John Miller is dangerous because through astral projection he is able to slip through the cracks and operate freely in the black market of this dystopian military state. He rejects their slave making agenda. He sees through the government's plan to keep civilians complacent, dumb, unhealthy and hypnotized. He could be the leader of a revolution but decides to escape instead and finds himself in an apocalyptic nightmare. What is John up against? Mega-tsunamis, inflation, starvation, overpopulation, z-bola, killer Russian robots, mass hypnotized Chinese civilian soldiers, psychic warrior dwarves, the Wrath of God…and we haven't even gotten to the gladiator pits yet!
NF: Sounds intense! You describe your book as "the lovechild of Orwell, Huxley and stoner conspiracy theories." Were there any particular stoner conspiracy theories that served as inspiration for Brooklyn Gladiator? And which conspiracy theories are you most fond of?
DF: The idea of a New World Order agenda is quite fascinating – the exact themes you would find rampant in Watchmen. A secret society operating behind the scenes to bring on the end of the world and who try to start from scratch and create a "new," more controllable world. They bring on global devastation in order to unify the survivors in "peace." It's the stuff of the dreams of Bond villains.
Ever heard of HAARP? In Brooklyn Gladiator we call it SHARP. The tech is real. It exists and it acts exactly like the weather dominator from GI Joe. Also the singularity is quite intriguing – the theory that soon humans will combine with technology to form a new hybrid race… Nanite tech is real. HAARP is just reverse engendered Tesla tech… they're cloning human ears on the backs of rats today people! Reality is stranger than fiction.
NF: You're giving me goosebumps Dan! Finally, what can backers of your Kickstarter expect from supporting your project?
DF: I'm a loyal creator – and I want the fans to be involved for as long as the book runs and it could be epic! We're offering character designs in people's image, artwork, signed copies, signed DVDs of my films! I'm offering to call folks on their birthdays for years to come for Pete's sake! If the Kickstarter meets it's goal, I'm going on a pilgrimage to make Fanboys 2 happen!! I'm like crazy Eddy over here! You have a product you want to advertise?! We'll product place the crap out if it throughout the book!
And this campaign will not fail! This book is getting made no matter what. Be part of something cool! Back Brooklyn Gladiator now!
Dan Fogler is a Sith Lord from Brooklyn, New York. Follow him on Twitter @mrdanfogler
Nikolai Fomich is a Philadelphia-based writer and teacher. Follow him on Twitter @brokenquiver