Tom Hodges: MidKnight Run

A comics interview article by: Chris Murman
Tom Hodges recalls with vivid images standing in line to see Star Wars back in 1977. I would have been in line with him, but I was being born that week. What that in mind, its apparent that Tom has two loves: the Star Wars universe, and beating up features editors who make Tom feel old. Over 30 years after the release of the movie, Hodges is still involved with the franchise. His work connected him to Paul Ens, who at the time was Director of Lucas Online and is co-founder of Red 5 comics. Ens helped his old padawan get a character into print that had been tied up for over a decade: MidKnight. This week, issue #2 hits store shelves and I wanted to get some of the creator’s thoughts on the title, as well as other projects he is working on.

Chris Murman: I was fortunate enough to hear the fascinating evolution of MidKnight as a character and the road he’s taken to becoming a part of the Red 5 publishing line at Wizard World Texas. What's been most satisfying about seeing the D'villes on paper?

Tom Hodges: The fact that after 10 years it final is on paper and in print. It’s been through so many interims of sitting on a shelf with one company and then needing changes here and there. I’m just glad to see it’s moving along.

CM: Just for the readers that don't know, moving along from what? This character's been through some ups and downs, correct?

TH: Yes. David’s whole becoming MidKnight will be told in a future issue. I prefer not to give too much away, but it has a lot to do with a very violent act. I mean whose origin as a hero doesn’t start with someone’s life being touched by violence? Batman, Spider-Man…it’s not an original tale, it just happens to be told differently. I’ve been playing with MidKnight (which later became Devilknight and then back to MidKnight) for the past 12-plus years. The origin was always the same. I’d love to give more then that, but I mean, honestly, if I give away the whole story, why would someone want to buy it?

CM: You’re getting some scripting help from Red 5 co-founder Paul Ens, but the story is yours and your wife Terri’s. How has the process been sharing your love child with another creator?

TH: Paul and I have a good work history. We worked on the Star Wars webstrips for a few years together. We get each other. We’re also both happily Married and we both have kids, so the idea behind the D’Ville’s and what they’re going through in their private life and how it effects everything else is no stranger to either of us. We may not wear tights… then again, I’ve never seen Paul at home so I don’t know, he may…. But if you keep that part realistic in a world full of superheroes you’re bound to touch someone and Paul gets that. The fact is, Paul and I agree on the story and he writes the script. The dialogue tends not to be finished until the art is done. Paul tweaks it after.

Terri is the main reason the characters went from one place to another. It was her who thought up the married team. She never thought that Tarilyn should be the Gordon or the Legal Eagle who befriends the hero. She thought, “Why can’t she get dirty too?” Then we kept evolving the idea.

CM: The kids seem to be growing in their role of the title as well. Has your son gotten into the story-telling process as well? What do we have in store about the D'ville children?

TH: Logan is very interested in telling stories in some way, shape or form. He’s a video game nut, but he’s becoming a movie nut too. He reads a lot, not unlike his mother, who loves to read. If we’re referring to Rowan (the daughter of the two lead characters), who knows which way we’ll go with her. We have a few ideas. I’m loosely basing her on my niece who is 4 and extremely smart and intuitive. When a 3 year old walks up to you and starts explaining the process of metamorphosis in great detail, you have a smart kid on your hands. I know 3-4 year olds who spend their days walking into walls with pots on their heads. Robbie, who we meet in #2 is Tarilyn’s younger, autistic brother. About 18 years old…. Robbie plays an important role in the “MidKnight-Verse” and we have yet to scratch the surface.

CM: One of the things I have been looking forward to most out of this series is the rogue’s gallery that we will see coming in future issues. Up first is Daybreak in this month’s issue #2. What can you tell us about this cat? He seemingly has something personal with our dynamic duo, what is his history with the D’villes?

TH: I can’t give too much away about Daybreak. He’s a collaboration between Paul and I and was developed when Red 5 took the book on. He was sort of a last minute addition. I had his origin but it wasn’t going this direction. It had a completely different path and now with Paul’s input, it went totally the other way.

CM: Speaking of the villains of the book, what else do we have in store in the coming months? Where do you get the inspiration for these baddies?

TH: Ok, well those I can talk about. We have the Fuzzy Bunny Gang. Take the name literally. Imagine five college buddies who are failing miserably and can’t afford their tuition because their folks are cutting them off. So, being the lazy asses they are, they spend most of their time playing video games, smoking up, drinking and watching movies. And so, without going into too much detail, we have Mr. Pink Bunny…Mr. Brown Bunny…you get the idea.

Bobo the Clown is another villain who is definitely inspired by four things. The Joker being the first, Captain Kangaroo being two, third is Krusty the Clown and last, Pokemon. I shit you not, Pokemon. Imagine being the number one children’s show host on TV. The kid’s freakin’ Oprah and then a show called “Monster Cubes” becomes the greatest thing since sliced bread and boom, he’s exiled to public access at 3 a.m. He snaps and loses it. You can only imagine what comes next.

I think for now I’ve said enough. There are plenty of others by why give it all away, right?

CM: I remember asking you in November if we were supposed to take the D’villes to be the Cosby’s of the comic community. We have a successful husband and wife in their public life and private, with kids and a nanny that support them. What kind of strains do you see that having on a family like that after a while?

TH: Someone is bound to get hurt. Someone is bound to slip in some way shape or form. One thing Paul and I said is that regardless of where the animated series goes or whatever, the comic should have a bit more of an edge to it. I mean, I’d eventually like to see the comic take more of a “super hero” look as opposed to an animated look. Whether it happens sooner then later, who knows? I’d like to see it evolve and maybe broaden the audience.

CM: Getting back to your wife collaborating with you on the story, did she help come up with this idea or did she get roped in after saying, “I do?”

TH: When we met, I had MidKnight, which at the time looked 100 percent different and you’ll see that in a future issue. She brought a lot of the changes to the concept. And it was more or less her saying “have you considered this?” and me playing with it and taking it further and then she taking what I did and stepping it up a bit more. I really don’t think we’ve scratched the surface yet. I personally would like the stories to get meatier, which brings us back to the previous point of evolving the comic into something deeper. I have the need to want things to go deeper, darker. Which why you have MidKnight and then you have my other creation, m. Polar opposites, but I could see MidKnight getting a bit dark.

CM: How do you as a writer make a story "meatier?"

TH: I actually am not writing MidKnight. Paul Ens is writing MidKnight. I just approve which way the story goes. Terri and I created the concept. The themes we’d like to see be touched upon and the direction of the characters. Paul will ask me, “So what do you think of this, this and this?” and I will give him my answers and we go from there.

Some people my think MidKnight is light in nature, I think if you’re a married man with kids and you read comics as I do, you’d like to see what a guy in your position would do if they had that life. Add on to the fact your partner is your spouse and then it gets a bit more complicated. You really have more at stake now. I’d say that’s “meaty”. Meaty doesn’t necessarily mean “darker” or “more dramatic,” it just means there are layers that you’re really not thinking about until they slap you in face.

In terms of what I do write, my stuff tends to be a bit darker. In the case of m, which I wrote, it’s much more violent, sexual. Think in terms this way, MidKnight is a movie the whole family can see while the theater next to it would be showing m and they’d be carding at the door. They’ve both got meaty stories, they’re just different. Polar Opposites.

CM: And just for fun, will you tell me again about your wife’s reaction to your Star Wars collection after moving in?

TH: I hid it from her until she was locked in. LOL She actually was more understanding to it. I’ve actually broken up with girls in the past that we’re down with the Star Wars. Even before I had a collection, I was a huge fan. Now I only collect selected items. The 12” Sideshows are my absolute favorite thing on the planet! I love those things like they were children. What’s funny is today my Master Replicas Stormtrooper Helmet arrived and it’s just wicked! Terri’s thing is the art. We have traded off art, original and prints, from other Star Wars artists and the whole house is filled with art.

CM: Speaking of Star Wars, I noticed you were promoting your book You Can Draw Star Wars at the con in November. What else do you have going on with the property?

TH: I am doing 2 new webstrips, one of which will debut, as far as I can tell, in February, but please don’t hold me too it. I’ll be doing a very different look on the webstrips, the one coming in the late spring/early summer will be something the fans have been itching for. We finally caved, LOL. Beyond that, I can’t say anything else or I’d have to kill you.

CM: I know I sing the praises of Red 5 Comics with regularity on our site, but I’d rather hear it from someone on the inside. How has your experience been with Paul and Scott (co-creator Chitwood) so far?

TH: Are you familiar with Germany around 1939? No seriously, a lot of fun to deal with, and very easy to get along with. I like those guys, always have. When Paul and I were early on with the webstrips, he realized I was trust worthy because I had material that in the wrong hands would have been devastating for Lucasfilm. I mean, I had full CG turnarounds of Clones, Grievous, all of the vehicles in Episode III about a year before it was released. I mean, things that to this day, I have never seen leaked. It got to a point he trusted me so much, he’d send me emails with “Check this out, don’t share!” and it would be screen caps from the duel. The kind of stuff no one had access to and it was an amazing thing to be able to see at that time.

CM:Anything else going on with you that I can plug for you while we’re here?

TH: m, which I wrote and will draw. Scott Harben will color and act as editor. Scott is best known for his collaborations with Tim Bradstreet. He does Tim’s Photo-Reference. m will be a Graphic Novel I wrote. It took 3 years to write, but it’s where I want it to be finally. The actually book may take quite away to put together, so this summer, I am planning on putting together a One-Shot/Sketchbook for the Summer Cons, likely only for San Diego and possibly Chicago. It’s a spare time project, but the One-Shot is already written, so now it’s a matter of getting the art done. It’s completely different then MidKnight in every way. The art is different, the tone is different. It’s definitely R rated where MidKnight is MAYBE PG-13 at its darkest right now. Red 5 wants to keep its lines PG-13, which is cool. But hey, if they decide to create a line called Dark RED maybe m would be a good fit… and they’ll give me create for the Dark RED idea.

I also have some work on some various Sketch Card lines from Topps… HEROES, Lord of the Rings Masterpieces II, Indiana Jones Heritage… From Marvel, Marvel Masterpieces II… Rittenhouse Iron Man (Comic and Film). In the Fall, I will have some “All-Star Vinyl” figures from Upper Deck. I’m really excited about it, I wish I could show the finished art, but I can’t yet. And well, some other stuff I can’t talk about right now, but will when I can!

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