Last year, Heroic Publishing celebrated its 20th anniversary in comics. The company’s actually a little bit older than that, but during our first five years we weren’t Heroic Publishing, and we weren’t doing comics. And it’s also true that during the past twenty years, there were some gaps during which we were engaged in setting up revenue-producing services that had nothing to do with comics.
Need an e-commerce website? Or Internet-based database application tools? Then by all means get in touch with me. It’s what I do. And it’s how I really make my living.
But the fact remains that despite several stuttering stops and starts, Heroic Publishing is now entering into its 21st year. In some cultures, that means we’re about to come of age. So I’m thinking it’s time to pause and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. And as I look back on it, it occurs to me that there’s been a serious omission.
At no point during these past twenty years have we ever much talked about the fundamentals what it is we’re trying to do. About why we’re publishing comics. About why the superhero comics we’ve published have been designed to be substantively different from the vast majority of superhero titles currently on the market.
That’s why, with encouragement from Jason Brice, I’m writing the first in what I hope will prove to be a series of mostly weekly columns about the comic book medium in general, about the superhero genre more particularly, and about Heroic Publishing specifically. Though I’m sure I’ll veer off occasionally into discussions of other topics, I will try as best I can to stay focused on a comic book core.
As to the title of the column, “Light and Shadow,” that was inspired by the character who’s historically been our most popular, our glittering goddess of the light, Teresa Katrina Feran, a.k.a. FLARE. Although that popularity is currently being challenged by the extraordinary success of the LIBERTY GIRL, Flare remains the heart and soul of Heroic Publishing. When you get right down to it, Flare, as a character, pretty much embodies the essence of what Heroic Publishing is all about. And what it’s about is telling stories about heroes.
We’re not necessarily telling stories about good guys.
We’re telling stories about heroes.
Flare is a hero. Indeed, a superhero. Despite her many flaws and foibles, despite her quick temper and her tendency to lash out viciously against those who’ve offended her, Flare does hero’s work. When there’s something that absolutely needs to be done, Terri Feran meets the challenge. She does whatever it takes to get the job done.
Understand this: Flare is not a nice person. She’s strong and beautiful, resourceful and smart. She is, to quote the Huntsman, “an instinctive tactical genius.” Niceness never enters into the equation. But she tries to be good, to do right by others, and to project an air of niceness. In the end, it’s her desire to be seen as a nice girl that makes her all the more resentful and dangerous whenever a situation arises in which she’s obliged to drop the mask.
Flare is light and shadow. There’s undeniably a brilliant core to her. But that core is surrounded by darkness, by a shadow that she tries consciously to obscure with her light. In the archetype, she is what was summoned out of the darkness in Genesis when God spoke, saying, “Let there be light.”
This is what heroes are: They are bright and brilliant. Even in darkness, they shine with courage and clarity of purpose.
Heroes are not always right. They can question themselves. They can be tragically wrong. But when the choice is clear, heroes do not hesitate. They do what needs to be done.
There are many people working in comics these days who either don’t understand, or who display an abiding contempt for the very concept of the hero. There are people working in comics these days who for the past twenty years and more have made a conscious effort to deconstruct the mythos of the superhero. At Heroic Publishing, we reject that.
The Batman is not an insane vigilante. In the world in which the Batman exists, where there are creatures such as the Joker and the Penguin and Two-Face to be dealt with, the Batman is a bright and shining example of the hero who shrouds himself in a cloak of darkness.
There is, to our mind, great value to be found in the concept of the hero. There are, on occasion, principles and ideals that must be fought for, without hesitation, no matter the cost. There are, on occasion, circumstances in which compromise will lead ultimately to defeat. The trick, of course, is for the hero to recognize such circumstances. And to pray that he’s got it right.
Next week, I’ll talk a little more about Flare, and about why some of the silliness we engage in with her is so important to the core concept of light out of shadow. I’ll also talk a little bit about Flare’s counterpoint in our comics, the naughty Black Enchantress, and let you decide whether or not our wicked, evil little sorceress just might actually be a hero, too.