comic-book hass

Interview With B. Alex Thompson About His New Comic-Book Series Hass

B. Alex Thompson is a comic book writer and creator who is on a mission.

 

Over a few short years he’s released a healthy dose of comics ranging from his signature series Chaos Campus to the Lazarus Factor, Vampires Unlimited, and many more. Stepping away from the world of fictional horror, he’s now tackling a more insightful and personal story: his new comic-book series Hass, which is sure to cause a heated debates.

Hass tells the story of a black hipster who meets a white girl and pays the consequence for daring to have an interracial relationship within a very dark and racist world. It’s a story with a long and violent history that’s rooted in America’s bloody past. However, there’s so much more to this series then meets the eye.

I had the honor of chatting with B. Alex Thompson to find out more about the world of Hass:

 

AB: What made you decide to tell this story now? And, what truths about yourself and your own dating life did you draw upon to tell Joshua’s story?

BAT: This project has been in the works since around 2010 and the themes I tried to touch on are things it’ll probably take the next 50 years to work on. Since the conception of the project I’ve always wondered if the tale might be too much for general audiences to check out and support. Each time I have that internal battle I always end up thinking that even if it only reaches a handful of people, it would be worth it. In 2012 we had the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis which only fueled my desire to make sure this story is told. Even lately with the Clippers owner Donald Sterling it further shows that racism is still alive in America no matter how much some people want to deny it or sweep it under the rug. Yes, we’ve progressed a lot as a country over the past 200 years, but we still have so much further to go as we move into the next 200 years.

As for truths about myself and dating life that went into Josh’s personality and situations, most of my relationships have been of the interracial variety. Early on my mother warned me about prejudices I could possibly encounter and thankfully I didn’t experience too much of that. A lot of what happened in the first issue were appropriated from my life and just easedinto Josh’s story. I have chased a few girls down, but only after being given an obvious sign that they wanted to be pursued (Josh on the other hand is far more aggressive and willing to take initiative). I love attending concerts and that love was put into Josh. The scene after the concert did happen with some weird random white guy yelling at everyone leaving that they were all “niggers” which struck me as weird. I did want to fight him and wanted him to look my way or make the first move, but he glanced my way and went the opposite direction. He continued yelling at people, but his tone was lowered and soon he just left. I did trade a guitar pick for a date at a concert the way Josh did with Maggie, but in an amusing twist the rock fan I asked out was Black, lol. (It didn’t work out because she couldn’t give up cigarettes.)

AB: Speaking of Joshua, he may be the first black hipster in comics. How would you describe him at the beginning of the issue and how he transforms after meeting Maggie and getting to know her? Or, do you think his sense of self and the world are the same up until the incident with her cousin?

BAT: Having Josh become the first Black hipster in comics was one of the goals I was going for. It was something I haven’t seen in fiction and I always love trying to make the protagonist something I haven’t seen or done before.

Personally I don’t see Josh as going through much of a transformation anywhere in the first issue. He opens up to Maggie emotionally, but only because she caught him off guard. Upon the encounter with Cole and his crew, Josh is humiliated and has to endure, but inside he’s still the same guy. The transformation is a process that will happen through the rest of the story.

AB: How would you describe Maggie and why do you think she decided to give Joshua a chance after he pretty much stalked her until she agreed to go out with him? Do you think she was simply annoyed by him and felt that by going out with him she could get rid of him?

Hass issue 1BAT: Maggie and Josh are two sides of the same coin. From the start they obviously had similar interests and tastes and the initial attraction was there. Maggie had her own internal battles. Deep down she wanted to go out with Josh from the start and was flattered by the attention he gave her, but other things in her life took more priority. She has a strong drive to succeed in college and refuses to let anything potentially take her focus away from her academics. Also she has a strong fear of getting close to anyone as people she loves are taken away beyond her control. Then there’s the Cole factor… though she doesn’t have any problem with Josh’s race, she knows her cousin does and that Cole pops up at her house whenever he feels like it. With all that combined, Maggie thought sacrificing her interest, attraction, and the possibility of a good relationship is worth keeping Josh at bay for his and everyone’s own good. Josh kept chipping away at her walls with persistence and finally she gave into her desires.

AB: She obviously knew that her cousin lived in town and was an active racist, do you think she’s done this type of thing before-dating a black guy? Or, could that be part of the reason why she was so resistant to Joshua at the begging because she knew that there were people like her racist cousin lurking around town?

BAT: I don’t think Maggie has ever dated a Black guy before. Actually, because of her situation it’s been a while since she has dated anyone. Most of Maggie’s time over the past 5 or so years have been nothing but school, work, and taking care of her sick parents (and after her mother’s death, her sick father).

AB: After being carved up with a Swastika do you think that Joshua will seek revenge? I mean he doesn’t seem like the type despite putting up a good fight, but he was willing to go down on another man to save his life.

BAT: Josh is a very prideful guy and he does have fighting ability. He was only taken down because Cole’s crew had the element of surprise (catching him literally with his pants down) and sheer numbers. Concerning the oral situation, when you take a prideful person down they are confused and completely uncertain of what to do at that moment. Josh was stripped down physically, psychologically, and had a gun pointed at his face… he just went with the flow with his base human desires to survive pushing him along. This is why most of the issue had so many captions Josh was constantly thinking of every move and trying to counter the moves of everyone around him. During that scene in Maggie’s backyard, Josh wasn’t thinking too much… no plans, no bravado, no philosophizing – strict auto pilot and for the most part mental shut down.

So yes, after what Cole and his crew did, the prideful and arrogant Josh with strong fighting ability will be going for revenge. He needs a little time to lick his wounds, recover, and figure up a game plan but after all that… it’s on.

AB: Do you consider his willingness to go down on another man an act of desperation or is Joshua’s sexuality a factor in this story to?

BAT: Complete desperation. A heterosexual man will always say what he wouldn’t “suck another man’s dick” in a million years, but things change if your life is on the line. That scene came to me because it was so strong of a visual and a situation, but it does bring up questions of not only Josh’s position on the sexuality scale, but maybe even Cole’s for bringing it up. I also wanted to pose that situation to the reader and what they think they would do if they were in that moment. I want them to think about it and get the initial bravado filled idea out-of-the-way and then allow them to really think about what they would actually do. Dollars to donuts I bet 9 out 10 people would do what Josh did no matter where they fall on the sexuality scale.

The story overall is about hate in all its various shapes and sizes. Homophobia is a thing, so even once we pin down Josh and Cole’s sexualities, what about the other characters in the story? More of that will be revisited in the rest of the story.

AB: On a side note, despite being an African-American writer/creator you’re not known for creating characters and comics that are focused solely on a black protagonist, did you feel any pressure from other black creators to write a story focusing on a black character? Or, was it simply the right time to tell this type of story?

BAT: I personally try to write characters of all races and genders, but yes, I have had a small guilty conscience about not having a story with a strong black protagonist since ChiSai. That said, I refuse to just put in a Black protagonist just because… it’s all about the story. In this case, it was simply the right time to tell this tale. The story started as an exercise in horror… though I love telling stories about creatures, I’m not actually afraid of vampires, werewolves, monsters under the bed or the closet. What am I afraid of? People with a skewed since of reality and the value of life. Someone who would kill a person just because of their race, gender, or sexuality. As I kept coming up with scenes for this twisted tale, Josh came into being and he happened to be a strong African-American man.

AB: What can readers expect in Hass#2 and how many issues is this series?

BAT: Hass is a four issue mini series, so expect the next three issues to be just as dense as the first issue because there is so much ground to cover before we can reach the conclusion.

In the second issue as I teased earlier, we see Josh come to terms with his beat down, his broken ego, his injuries, and his new tattoo. After that, it’s time for some payback and Josh goes to take the fight to Cole and his cronies. Situations twist that goal and Josh will find himself in a new strange situation where his pride, ego, and his damaged emotional core will lead him into an interesting direction.

AB: What made you decide to tell this story in a comic book format instead of writing a screenplay because I haven’t seen a story like this on film since Higher Learning and that was over twenty years ago?

BAT: If I thought of this story a year earlier it probably would’ve become a screenplay as for a few years I was pretty annoyed with the comic book industry and put all my drive and motivation into movies. Each time I get disfranchised with comics it never sticks and I always come back. Hass was created in that transition period and I gave the story the opportunity to be either a comic or a screenplay… it chose a comic, so that’s what I went with. I can still write a screenplay for the story and I even considered doing a teleplay pilot episode for a possible cable series. Who knows what the future might hold? Right now the main concern is getting the full story out in the chosen comic form.

AB: And, finally you’ve recently released the graphic novel Southern Hospitality which like Hass is also set in the South. What can you tell us bout this story and why should people pick this title up?

BAT: I kinda have a fear of the South and it seems that many other people share this fear. I know most of the south doesn’t even deserve this irrational alarm, but those few pockets of racial intolerant areas are the bad apples that spoil the whole bunch. While Hass takes place in a more racially diverse and tolerant Austin-like city in Texas, Southern Hospitality takes place in one of the more traditional backwoods towns that you find in horror movies dealing with this trope. And that’s the kicker… Southern Hospitality turns a lot of tropes on their heads. We have the usual set up… a lot of pretty people lost in a small southern town where they find a lot of inbred misfits and a slasher. Trouble begins, but what if it isn’t being caused with who you expect? The theme for this story could be a quote from Kanye West’s “All Falls Down” – “Sometimes the prettiest people do the ugliest things…”

This was a short story I did years ago in The Evil Inside horror anthology mini series, but I loved the story so much I kept expanding it. Eventually I want to film it as an indy film, but I need the time and money to pull that off. We’ll see. For now, I really enjoy the graphic novel.

 

To order a copy of Hass#1 check out Bart’s site here:  http://alexthompsonwriter.com

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