Talking With Nate Cosby About ‘Alter Ego’: A New Super Hero Graphic Novel Now On Kickstarter

by Olly MacNamee

You may have read about a new Kickstarter we featured yesterday, Alter Ego from Nate Cosby, Jacob Edgar, Kike J. Diaz and Rus Wooton. A Golden Age superhero in the Golden Age of Hollywood splitting his crime-fighting time between two different identities too. Well, I managed to grab a word or two with writer and co-creator Nate Cosby to ask him more about the all-new graphic novel and the campaign too. And, you can check out that very campaign here.

Olly MacNamee: Alter Ego is an all-new graphic novel set in the Golden Age of Hollywood and featuring two very different superheroes. Contrasting characters, but underneath the mask, the same person! I dare say it would be easy to set this story in more contemporary times, so why Hollywood of yesteryear?

Nate Cosby: As with most parts of this book, there’s a duality to the reasoning… first, the Golden Age of Hollywood is where my favorite movies come from!  Casablanca, Singin’ In The Rain, The Bad & The Beautiful, The Third Man, Christmas In Connecticut… I’ve always loved the vibe of classic films and their “Let’s put on a show!” energy, and I wanted to fuse that with a superhero adventure.  

Second, our story focuses heavily on identity, and the idea of performance. Our main character is a stuntman and a frustrated actor, who embraces the acting aspect of being a superhero. He sees Whiz-Bang and The Black Dog as the roles of a lifetime, and each call for a different physicality, an altered tone of voice. And what better setting for a story about acting, than 1940s Hollywood?

OM: Our hero, Ace Adams, seems to reflect both the more swashbuckling aspects of early superheroes as Whiz-Bang, while his other alter ego at night, Black Dog, will be seeing a seedier, darker side of Tinsel Town. I take it this allows you to explore not only the diversity of the superhero genre, but also other genres too? Especially given the setting of Hollywood. 

NC: For sure! Our idea of Hollywood is kind of like Disney World, where there’s entire neighborhoods dedicated to different genres… Noir, Sci-Fi, Westerns, Musicals and more. Depending on what crime is going down in what neighborhood, you’re going to see lots of genre-based villains, plenty of people who couldn’t make it big in the movies, so they’ve turned to crime as a way to get back at the city. 

OM: Okay, so we have the concept, the setting and our hero. But, what more can readers expect from this new book? 

NC: Aside from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and the thrilling super-action… at its core, Alter Ego is a story about the concept of help. I’ve never written a superhero book before, and I wanted to examine what it would look like for someone to try and help ALL THE TIME. It’s not that Ace wants to help… he NEEDS to help. Spends all day smiling and punching, spends all night growling and attacking from the shadows. And even though he knows he can’t do everything, can’t help everyone, he’s going to try anyway. It comes from a good place, but it’s also an obsessive tendency that could lead to destructive behavior and mistakes that have dire consequences. 

OM: Ace is a Black man living in a segregated America. And, at a time when Hollywood would only cast them as subservients. Will this play into the story in anyway?

NC: For sure. When we were developing Ace as a character, our starting points were the physicality and grace of Gene Kelly, combined with the cool and commanding presence of Sidney Poitier. When we decided that Ace would be a Black man, it made me reconsider almost everything about our story and setting. Because the intention was to tell a big superhero escapist story, but I didn’t want to lazily fall back on my white guy privilege and tell a colorblind fantasy where no one thinks or talks about their culture, race or ethnicity. 

So I took a cue from places like Bridgerton and Hollywood, shows where the trappings of a time and place are maintained, but diverge from historical reality. We’ve built an interpretation of the 1940s film industry that embraced cultural and racial diversity very quickly…there’ll be big sections of town focused on productions by Japanese filmmakers, Egyptian, Indian, Nigerian, Korean and many more. The idea is to present a progressive melting pot, where anyone from around the world could show up on a bus and maybe become a star!  

OM: As well as your good self on writing duties, you’ve got a great team producing this 100 pager.  Jacob Edgar (James Bond), colourist Kike J. Diaz (Red Sonja), and letterer Rus Wooton (The Walking Dead) are all onboard! How did you manage to get them involved? And, what does each one bring to the party?

NC: Jacob and I have worked together for a few years now… I knew he was eager to do something with superheroes, so I presented this one idea (I only had one) to him, and the creative juices started flowing from there. Alter Ego wouldn’t be what it is if he weren’t my co-creator. His willingness to try stuff out, to be respectful to our inspirational touchstones and then push further to create something new… it’s been a pleasure to watch him work. His art alone is worth the price of admission! 

I put Kike and Jacob together on their first project together, and it’s crucial to have someone as intuitive and talented as Kike coloring over Jacob. There’s a warmth and texture that he brings, that makes every panel inviting to the reader. And Rus Wooton is THE MAN. There simply isn’t a better letterer and designer working in comics today, and I’m endlessly amazed at his ability to make balloons and sound effects feel of a piece with the art and color. I’m lucky as hell to be a part of this creative team.

OM: It’s a Kickstarter, so that means pledges. And pledges mean prizes! What’s on offer for those with limited budgets and those with larger pockets?

NC: We’ve got the book itself, which is worth it just for Jacob’s art alone. We’re also offering a wide variety of alternate covers from some of the greatest artists working in comics today: You can take your pick from covers by Phil Hester & Klaus Janson (Green Arrow), Declan Shalvey (Moon Knight), Wilfredo Torres (Superman), Chris Eliopoulos (Ordinary People Change The World), and SOZOMAIKA (Catwoman). Each of their covers will also be available as prints. Plus we’ve got super-limited offering for Jacob to draw pledgers into the Alter Ego book, and they’ll even be given speaking parts!

OM: I know this may be a bit early but if this is a success, have you any plans for future adventures for Whiz-Bang and Black Dog?

NC: We’ll have to see! I really want this book to stand on its own as a complete story, so I’m throwing pretty much every superhero idea I’ve got into it. If there’s an audience asking for it, I’d be willing to open up my notebook and stare at the empty page until a new idea comes to me…

OM: Thanks for your time, Nate, and all the best for the Kickstarter.

NC: I appreciate it, Olly! Really great questions, thank you for your interest!

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