This week we have a special edition of TWiC, featuring Hero Happy Hour: On The Rocks and an interview with its co-creator/writer, Mr. Dan Taylor. I have been a fan of the series for many years. I stumbled upon it through some website or another and was excited by the concept, one that I was surprised nobody had thought of before. I ended up contacting them, and a few days later I received a package from Super Hero Happy Hour’s publisher, Geek Punk. If I remember correctly in it was a signed copy of the first two issues, and a couple of stickers and buttons. They were black & white comics with a simple yet unique art style, and quite funny to boot, and I was hooked instantly. To this day I wear a Geek Punk button on my jacket, and sport both a Geek Punk and Super Hero Happy Hour stickers on my car.
The series was hailed by both Diamond Comic Distributors and Wizard magazine, and has fans such as Steve Niles and Todd Nauck, who both had stories in the Super Hero Happy Hour Super Special in 2004, along with Ben Templesmith, Dan Wickline, and more. Though it has been a continuing webcomic series for the last few years, it has not seen print since IDW published the Super Deluxe Hero Happy Hour: The Lost Episode in 2006. This series needs to come back, and bring its fantastic sense of humor to the masses. I had the chance to interview series co-creator and writer Dan Taylor, and he shared with us the series’ origins, why the title had to be shortened, and why you should pledge to this campaign.
Dan, before getting to the Kickstarter campaign, let’s talk origins. How did you and Chris first meet, and how did Super Hero Happy Hour originally come about?
Chris and I met online. I wanted to write and publish a comic book, so I was checking out the help wanted ads on the old Digital Webbing website (digitalwebbing.com). I replied to an artist’s ad looking for a writer to collaborate with. Chris rejected my first initial comic book pitches, so I ended up sending him a script for a short film that I wrote called SUPER HERO HAPPY HOUR and he made the call that would be the comic book we would self-publish.
What was it like in the early days of self-publishing?
Primitive and barbaric. Chris lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and I live in Southern California. We corresponded via email and the US Postal service for over a year (without ever meeting in person) before we finally had the first issue of SUPER HERO HAPPY HOUR ready to go off to the printer. Neither one of us had ever published a comic book before. We somehow convinced artist Scott Morse to do a cover for our first issue. Not knowing how to get the comic distributed, I went to the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con with a box full of finished product and marched into the Diamond Distribution booth. I showed a director of something-or-another the book and he was impressed enough to give me his card and told me to give him a call. Six months later the comic was on store shelves.
That experience was almost surreal. I got home from a meeting with my manager (Yes, the comic got me an manager/agent.) about setting up meetings with networks and studios about a possible animated SUPER HERO HAPPY HOUR, and found a large envelope waiting for me on my doorstep. It was from New York and I was thinking “Yes! We’ve made the big time.” Turned out it was from the legal council of “The Big Two Publishers” and they had a problem with us using the term “Super Hero” in the title of our comic since they co-owned the the trademark on “superhero.” We were noticed enough to get hit with a cease and desist order, but not enough to get hired. So, we just dropped the “super” and went with the alliteration of HERO HAPPY HOUR. We ended up with an entertainment lawyer to handle the matter and it was relatively painless.
You started off self-publishing through your Geek Punk brand before eventually finding a home briefly at IDW. How did the IDW deal come about, and what was the biggest difference between the two?
I was working at IDW at the time as an editor on their TRANSFORMERS and STAR TREK titles, as well as additional books. It was more of a favor than anything else. It was a book that IDW didn’t have to pay for any talent, and it allowed Chris and I to get another HERO HAPPY HOUR comic out without having to shell out the money for printing. The IDW published SUPER DELUXE HERO HAPPY HOUR: THE LOST EPISODE came and went with very little fanfare. But, we were appreciative of IDW letting us do it. The difference was that it was just another title in the mix of many other comics coming out that month — and not treated and spoiled like “an only child” like when we self-published through GeekPunk.
How long have you been doing the webcomic, and what have been the benefits vs risk compared to print?
The HERO HAPPY HOUR webcomic has just celebrated its 4th anniversary, and has featured original stories as well as “digital reprints” of the published issues. The benefit of doing a webcomic is that we were able to do some timely jokes and gags. The downside is a webcomic producer always needs to be hustling to get readers to click onto their site. There are a lot of webcomics out there, and while the cost can be relatively cheap, it’s easy to get lost and go unnoticed.
There have been tons of comics published through the use of Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Why did you choose to go this route with Hero Happy Hour?
If Kickstarter existed back when GeekPunk was originally publishing (SUPER) HERO HAPPY HOUR we could’ve and would’ve done so much more. While I loved every minute of self-publishing over a decade ago, I never made a cent. I lost money. But, the experience was great. We’re hoping that maybe there are still enough fans out there of the ol’ (SUPER) HERO HAPPY HOUR comics that they’re willing to shell out $15 to see HERO HAPPY HOUR return to print — and in color for the first time.
I know that a lot of thought goes into these campaigns and their backer rewards. What was the hardest part for you, and what do you feel is the biggest mistake people make with their campaign?
I think that backer rewards often overshadow the actual project that the campaign is for. It’s fun for creators to come up with all sorts of clever knickknacks and doohickeys to entice would-be backers to help fund their projects, but in the end it should be about financing the production of the comic book or graphic novel and getting it into readers’ hands. That’s why we’ve kept incentives to a relative minimum when compared to other Kickstarter campaigns. Yeah, a little swag bag with a bumper sticker, a button, a bottle opener, and a signed flyer, plus a classic t-shirt and limited original sketches, and that’s it for us this round. Another hard part about running a crowd-funded campaign is promotion. Every post that I make on Facebook or Twitter about the HERO HAPPY HOUR: ON THE ROCKS – Graphic Novel Kickstarter I feel like I’m bugging the crap out of people. I hate nagging my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to check out my Kickstarter, but there’s the hope that maybe enough people will share through their social media habits that you’ll make enough of an impression to get prospective backers to support your effort.
After On The Rocks what’s next for Hero Happy Hour?
It all hinges on this Kickstarter, pretty much. If we don’t reach our financial goal we’ll probably continue the story-line on the webcomic site — and that might be it for HERO HAPPY HOUR. Not to sound grim, but if there’s not enough interest to publish this trade paperback it might be time to shutter the Hideout Bar & Grill for good. Hence the campaign #savethehideout. If the campaign does succeed, I know Chris and I would like to get SHARK KNIGHT introduced to more readers. Also, I think it would be fun to do another HERO HAPPY HOUR anthology like we did with the SUPER SPECIAL back in 2004 when we had the likes of Tom Beland, John Kovalic, Scott Morse, Todd Nauck, Steve Niles, and Ben Templesmith (among others) contribute their own tales of The Hideout Bar & Grill.
Much of the ARMARAUDERS universe was already worked out by Don Figueroa and Valent Wang when I was brought on to script the first four or five issues. It is a military space opera on a galactic scale that is much different than super heroes hanging out in a bar.With ARMARAUDERS I get to explore much more gritty subject matters of war and military technology while being inspired by the Don Figueroa’s kick-ass art. The ARMARAUDERS comic series is setting up the universe for the release of a mech action figure line coming out next year from Mecha Workshop. With HERO HAPPY HOUR, I get to bounce jokes off of artist Chris Fason — who somehow knows exactly how to draw any character I have in mind just by giving him their super hero name — and poke fun at the ridiculous memes and tropes of the super hero genre. Sometimes the jokes are just for me and Chris, but that’s the advantage of writing and drawing a creator-owned comic.
This is your third Kickstarter campaign. The other two were unfortunately unsuccessful, even though they looked awesome. Have you thought about relaunching either campaign?
You had to bring up those two, huh? I think RENFIELD & IGOR is a fun idea that I’d like to revisit someday. Inspired by Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Crosby & Hope. As for C.R.A.Z.E. (Community Resources Against Zombie Epidemic), I’m reworking that into another project. Unfortunately, I guess the world wasn’t ready for a zombie safety and awareness coloring/activity book for kids.
Any last words for our readers?
Yes. Please check out the HERO HAPPY HOUR: ON THE ROCKS – Graphic Novel Kickstarter campaign (http://kck.st/W1Kndh) and consider backing the project. Also, help spread the word and share on the social media outlets of your choice. To help our cause, you can download a “Save The Hideout Bar & Grill” flyer (http://herohappyhour.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/save_the_hideout_FLYER.pdf), print it out, stick it up and/or display it somewhere neat or unique, take a picture and post that picture with the hashtag #savethehideout.
Thank you for your support. Cheers!
Now let’s head down to the Hideout Bar & Grill, and hang out with the heroes of first city.
“Imagine pulling up a stool to the bar and sipping a frosty pint of your favorite beer as you listen in on the conversations of the “regulars” that frequent the neighborhood tavern. But, this establishment is unlike any other bar. The Hideout Bar & Grill caters to the super heroes of First City. And, it serves as more than just a place to wash away the troubles of serving and protecting society as crime-fighting crusaders. For the regular heroes it’s “a place where everyone knows your name…” secret identity or not.”
Partially a love letter to superhero comics, and partially a parody of them, Hero Happy Hour takes the concept of superheroes and turns it into comedy gold. Featuring a bartender who used to be a superhero serving drinks to the city’s finest, the concept alone is awesome, but creators Dan and Chris elevate the concept with their brilliant storytelling. We’ve laughed at the hijinks of Night Ranger (he had the name before the band, and no he isn’t changing it!) and his sidekick Scout. We’ve thrilled to the adventures of the villain swapping Guardian and Eradicator (First City’s Number One Bad-Ass Super Hero Vigilante), and enjoyed many pints poured by Rusty the Bartender. But it is time to bring this fantastic series back to print.
“The Hideout Bar & Grill is once again open for business! Rusty the bartender once again serves up specials for his super heroic clientele of regulars, including Guardian, Night Ranger, Scout, Psiren, and the other super heroes of First City. But, the happy hour is shaken when a new dilemma stirs up trouble, and the heroes begin to drop like flies. Is there a new threat slipping mickeys around the Hideout? Or, has an old foe returned for another round to declare “last call for Hero Happy Hour?”
The first half of the comic is available to read for free here, with an archive of past stories here. Now don’t you want to see that as a remastered 80+ page paperback? I know I do. They’ve kept the backer rewards simple, and much like the package I received all those years ago. There are buttons, stickers, a t-shirt, Save The Hideout Bar & Grill prints, original issues signed by the creative team as well as cover artists Scott Morse and Jim Mahfood, original sketches by artist Chris Fasan, a digital version of the omnibus collecting five original Hero Happy Hour stories for every pledge level, and of course the trade paperback in print or digital.
This really is a book worthy of your time and money, and will only be printed if it meets its goal, so get pledging. Cheers!