Comic Book Dragons Don’t Need A Big Budget – Allen Son Of Hellcock With Will Tracy And Gabe Koplowitz

by Hannah Means Shannon

Allen Son of Hellcock arrives in comic shops this week from Z2 Comics, brain child of writers Will Tracy (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, The Onion) and Gabe Koplowitz (Viceland), and of artist Miguel Porto. In this book, you’ll get to know the hapless son of a great and mighty warrior who wants nothing more than to *not* be a comic book hero.

Deeply laced with humor, the book takes a look at the legacies that haunt us when trying to find our place in the world. For those of influenced by fantasy comic tradition, not to mention film and TV tradition, Allen Son of Hellcock is bound to strike many familiar, and hilarious, notes.

A good indicator of the irreverent humor at the root of this book is the fact that recently at New York Comic Con, Z2 Comics, Will Tracy, and Gabe Koplowitz engaged an actor to play Hellcock, as you’ll see in the photos included below. He presented cosplayers and fans with a business card reading on one side “Hellcock” and on the other “the greatest warrior who ever lived”.

Will Tracy and Gabe Koplowitz join us here on Comicon.com today to talk about Allen Son of Hellcock and the need for at least one of them to have a valid driver’s license.

Hannah Means-Shannon: So, we’ve heard about having a hero complex, but this is more like a “son of a hero complex” for all those with overbearing and self-assured parents who just want to get through life without battling world-ending menaces?

Will Tracy: Yeah, it’s essentially a comic book about a guy who really doesn’t want to be in a comic book. And he’s being literally haunted by the ghost of his father, who basically just floats around and heckles him for the entire book as he tries and fails at being a comics hero. It’s odd that we landed on this premise about sons disappointing fathers since Gabe and I actually have very kind and supportive fathers.

That being said, I’m sure they’re both secretly mortified that their grown adult children wrote a comic book with swords and wizards in it. I mean, I’m secretly mortified by it. I’m a 34-year-old man with no driver’s license who co-wrote a comic book about orcs. You really think this is the son my father wanted? Wow, your question is really dredging up some demons here…

Gabe Koplowitz: Wait, you don’t have a driver’s license? You’ve given me, like, a lot of rides.

HMS: What humor elements do you think work the same in comics as in TV and film, and what elements do you feel work differently? Is it hard to be funny in comics?

WT: I think the immediate appeal with comic books is that you can create absolutely any scenario you can imagine, which is definitely not the case in television. In TV, there’s always, always the issue of time and budget. If you want a dragon in your comedy TV show, well, then that’s going to cost you half your budget and someone will quite rightly tell you, “Hey, cut the dragon scene, you dummy.”

But in our book there’s a dragon in the first few pages, and it looks awesome and it didn’t cost us one more dime than if the dragon had been a kitten. So you can really do whatever you want. The real comedy challenge, I guess, is making a line of text on a page read as funny as it sounds in your head, with the same tone and inflection. It’s one reason why Gabe and I would often read the comic script out loud to each other. It helped a lot to treat it like a read-through for a film or TV script.

GK: Absolutely. Also, looking back now, a giant kitten would have been much better than a dragon. Man, this interview is really highlighting some of our many, many flaws.

HMS: Are the sword and sorcery elements in the comic inspired primarily from D&D or do other fantasy pop culture elements find a place there, too?

GK: Very little direct D&D-inspiration, actually! Growing up, neither of us had enough friends to reach a D&D quorum, so we spent more of our time sopping up fantasy and sci-fi movies, comics and books. The puerile humor of Groo was a big inspiration for me, and, like most people my age, I couldn’t get enough 80’s fantasy adventure movies: The Princess Bride, Labyrinth, The NeverEnding Story, Ordinary People 2: The Curse of Skull Mountain. We certainly have a passing familiarity with and admiration for the expansive world of D&D, though. I don’t go anywhere without my Satchel of Healing.

HMS: I’m reminded of “Brave Sir Robin” in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the idea that ideals are often very incriminating when compared to real life. What is it about Allen that makes him a worthwhile being, even if he isn’t cut out to be hero like Hellcock?

WT: I think part of what redeems Allen is the fact that, as the story goes on, we start to learn that Hellcock himself maybe wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. In fact, the legend that precedes him is actually way more impressive than the actual man, who is largely revealed to be a little thoughtless, very impulsive, not always too bright, and far more invested in preserving his own myth than displaying actual heroism. Which I think is probably the case with most heroes. They’re a mile wide and an inch deep. Or, deep down, they’re just as insecure and terrified and flawed as the rest of us. Let’s not forget, Sir Lancelot in that film murders an entire wedding for no reason. Heroes are kind of the worst.

GK: And on the flip side, Allen pretty consistently doesn’t give a rat’s ass about following in his dad’s footsteps. He lives his truth, even if his truth is being a hapless coward.

HMS: What are the dangers and problems of someone seeing themselves, and encouraging others to see them, as some kind of paragon or hero?

WT: Well, I suppose, perhaps, that said person might one day find themselves in a position where they run for public office, recklessly promise a series of utterly fantastical policy positions, delude millions into believing they alone are capable of delivering meaningful change, and eventually take power in a disgusting and nihilistic display of pure hubris and folly, thereby bringing the entire democratic experiment of a once proud nation to the brink of collapse whilst fostering global unease and endangering the very foundations of Western Civilization as we know it. I’m just saying, that’s one possible danger or problem that might ensue. But Hellcock is nowhere near as monstrous, ignorant, or laughable as the type of person I just described!

HMS: What kind of elements from your own lives make it into the comic? What experiences prompted the idea for the comic and the enthusiasm to pursue it?

GK: Will and I went to college together, but we didn’t become close friends until we both moved to New York and began our respective careers (Will worked as a janitor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he’d secretly complete Amicus briefs on a chalkboard at night. They were riddled with both spelling and logic errors, though, and once he just wrote the lyrics to “Don’t Phunk With My Heart” by The Black Eyed Peas. This, unexpectedly, was what finally earned him the respect and admiration not only of the faculty, but of the janitorial staff as well. I worked at a Gogurt factory, but I signed an NDA and can’t discuss what I did there).

We have very compatible senses of humor and both love comics, so went the title “Allen, Son of Hellcock” popped into my head one day, it was off to the races!

WT: He would stay late at the Gogurt factory every night and gently kiss each individual vat of Gogurt. There. I said it.

GK: As for elements from our own lives influencing the story, it should be noted that we actually are both lucky enough to have great relationships with our dads, who are very supportive. While it may seem niche, I actually like to think that Allen’s story is quite universal. His story is ultimately one of a young man trying to find his place in the world, and mostly failing.

HMS: How does the artwork suggest the atmosphere and tone of the story for you? What kind of mood was the creative team going for on the page?

GK: Well, first it should be mentioned that Miguel Porto is a God among men, and all should tremble before the mighty power of his stylus lest he be angered and unleash his fury upon us. Also, he’s very good at drawing and he lives in Spain, and I think he has a cat maybe? It was important to us that we find an artist whose work wasn’t too wacky or stylized, because a lot of the humor in the book is pretty over-the-top, and we thought that BIG art and BIG humor could get overwhelming for the reader.

As it is, I think the juxtaposition of Miguel’s classic, clean, Hergé-esque art and our more absurd writing actually elevates both elements. I think we also wanted the book to have a timeless feel; to have someone look at the book twenty years from now and not know if it was made in 2017 or 1987.

Thank you to Will Taylor and Gabe Koplowitz for taking part in this interview with Comicon.com and being such good sports!

Allen Son of Hellcock arrives this week on Wednesday, October 25th, in comic shops from Z2 Comics.

EVENT: Will Tracy  and Gabe Koplowitz will also be taking part in a signing for Allen Son of Hellcock this Thursday, October 26th, in Brooklyn, New York, at Desert Island. Desert Island is located at 540 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211, and the signing event will run from 7 to 9PM.