Dan Fogler is a busy guy. Besides doing promo work for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, recording the cinema-centric “DAN FOGLER’S 4d Xperience!” podcast, and spending time with family, he’s been working to bring the fan-favorite graphic novel he Kickstarted with Andrew Harrison to a wider audience. Brooklyn Gladiator is a smart cyberpunk story in the tradition of Akira or Blade Runner. Now that it’s found a home at Chapterhouse Comics, Dan talked with The Geekiary about what’s next for his psychic brawler.
Note: This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
The Geekiary: You’d finished Brooklyn Gladiator when you got the role of Jacob in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but you were already someone with name recognition. Were you tempted to leverage that into having a publisher do Brooklyn Gladiator right off rather than using Kickstarter?
Dan Fogler: What I was told by everybody that I went to was that they liked the idea, they wanted to print it, but I had to get at least three issues in the can. That was with an amazing artist. The way I pitched it was, “I want to have Simon Bisley to do Volume 1.” They said, “Great! Have him put down 100 pages of material.” That takes money. (Editor’s note: Chapterhouse now has Simon Bisley illustrating Volume 1.)
My buddy Andrew Harrison, who really helped shape the book, said everyone’s doing Kickstarter, so I went for it. I don’t know if I’ll ever do a Kickstarter again, but it taught me a lot. I love all the people out there who are rooting for this thing and are checking in on it, but I did [Kickstarter] out of necessity.
TG: There’s some art in back of Brooklyn Gladiator of characters we haven’t met yet. How far ahead is the book finished and when can we expect to see more?
Dan: Volume 0 started out as a preview of the universe. I was using it as a pitching tool. Like all Volume 0s that I’ve read before, it’s basically an introduction. It gives you a sense of what you’re getting into. Simon Bisley is working on Volume 1 right now and hopefully that’ll come out in the Fall or this time next year.
I’m trying to put out a volume every year. (Laughs) Until I get an influx of tons of Fantastic Beasts residuals and I have money to burn, then I’ll put out more. I’ve been writing this for a while, and looking for a home for it for a little while. During that time it’s become my Star Wars. My Epic. I’ve got prequels and sequels.
TG: The world of Brooklyn Gladiator is pretty heavily male-dominated. John is conspicuously the only person noticing and validating female characters. He greets the sushi girl, he pays attention to his grandma – are you building towards something with that?
Dan: John Miller – on the outside he looks like a real tough Schwarzenegger-style action hero, but on the inside there’s this awakening. What he sees as a psychic awakening. It’s coming out in his dreams, he’s travelling on the astral plane, and he’s becoming an antennae for all this collective information. While he becomes more enlightened, everyone else is being pushed down. The feminine energy is being pushed down.
TG: Kind of reminds me of the real world right now.
Dan: Imagine marital law is declared and Emperor Trump is being enthroned. Imagine what that would be like. It’s a testosterone-fueled death match, and everyone is forced to become corrupt just to get by. The Police are all hyped up on nanite tech, ripping people’s arms off for any little crime. That feminine energy, that Yin energy, has been pushed down.
The thing is, you can try to pour drugs and tech and mind-controlling info all over the population, you can marinate them in that for years, but there’s gonna be an oddity, a glitch. John Miller is that glitch. He’s rejected all the drugs and tech. He has become uber-physical, and going into that process he’s been able to get in touch with his psychic energy. As he gets more connected to his Yin, it starts to grow in him and he gets out.
TG: So he does leave America?
Dan: Once he gets out of America, it’s World War 3 out there. Outside of the walls where there is no dampening, psychics are blossoming everywhere. His abilities grow while he’s outside. Then when he gets to Canada his abilities get out of control, and he meets new teachers. In this world, most of the most powerful psychics are women.
TG: For a book that looks so oppressive to women from the outside, it seems exponentially more spiritual and balanced as it goes on.
Dan: I’m trying to go along with this certain phenomenon that I was researching while I did Don Peyote. The Yin and Yang energy – they say it’s like a wheel. We’ve been in the Yang energy for years, but the wheel is turning and we’re moving into the sacred feminine energy.
I want all the readers to understand that there is a real evolution in [John Miller] that’s going on, and it has very much to do with the fact that we’re moving into this energy in the real world. And the book will reflect that. I’m turning it into science fiction, but we’re living in science fiction.
TG: The coloring in this book stands out. The real world is so dark and kind of bleak while the astral plane glows.
Dan: It’s like The Wizard of Oz. In America it’s black and white, and when he leaves America it turns color.
TG: So Brooklyn Gladiator is coming out now from Chapterhouse Comics. How did that happen?
Dan: Randomly one day my friend Jay [Baruchel, Chief Creative Officer at Chapterhouse] said, “I’m a partner now at Chapterhouse. We’re making a lot of changes and we’re opening the doors to my friends. I know you write. What do you have?” And I said, “I have Moon Lake, we’re doing an omnibus come Halloween.” Then they looked at a preview of Brooklyn Gladiator and they said, “We love this, we want to print it now.”
So now we’ve ended up at Chapterhouse, which is great. They’re excited, they’re hungry, they’re growing and they’re putting out some great stuff. They’re really supportive.
TG: On a craft level, can you talk about how you write your comics? Do you use a notebook, writing software, anything like that?
Dan: I do a lot of audio recording. I got that memo app on my phone because I can’t type fast enough to keep up with my ideas. I can’t keep up with everything. I’m such a pothead! I usually sit with a pal who’s a like-minded person. I have many different people who I write with. We’ll have brainstorming sessions. I sit and record our sessions, then I go back and I’ll break something down into like, 4 chapters. Verbally I flesh out a few chapters in a shared document so the other person can see. Once I get it on audio I can write out the idea in a bullet point form. Then I break that down into panels.
TG: Before we let you go, what comics would you recommend outside of Marvel or DC?
Dan: Saga. As a father, Saga is just incredibly meaningful to me. Also East of West, it’s a sci-fi apocalyptic Western, you gotta read that.
Thanks to Dan Fogler for giving us so much time! Backers of the Kickstarter campaign have already seen the thought-provoking 96-page Brooklyn Gladiator Volume 0, but everyone else will have to wait for the April 11th release date. Look for our full review of the comic as it gets closer to release.
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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