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Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego'

Comic Books

Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of ‘Alter Ego’

A super tale of Golden Age Hollywood and split identities launches on Kickstarter this week.

Whereas some creators sometimes flounder with the platform, comics at-large has taken to Kickstarter in a big way. And while there’s plenty of exacting, dare we say innovative projects, being funded all the time, there’s no denying that even the classic superhero comic is still a big draw.

Case in point: writer Nate Cosby (of the Eisner-winning Cow Boy) has landed on Kickstarter to launch his latest project, Alter Ego. Cosby is joined by a similarly packed creative team, including artist and co-writer Jacob Edgar (James Bond), colorist Kike J. Diaz (Red Sonja), and letterer Rus Wooton (The Walking Dead). Alter Ego takes place during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and follows Ace Adams, a stuntman-turned-superhero with a secret: he’s both the Whiz-Bang, the “gregarious defender of goodness,” and The Black Dog, a “mysterious vigilante determined to strike fear in cowardly criminals.” It’s a story of a morality and heroism, of having your cake and eating it too, and the depths men go to try and save the day.

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Ahead of the campaign’s launch, we caught up with Cosby via email, where we talked about the story’s origins, his research process, his favorite hero to write, and much, much more. And be sure to check out the Kickstarter page for even more info, including the various incentives and variant covers from Phil Hester, Declan Shalvey, and more.

Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego'

AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Alter Ego?

Nate Cosby: What if one man was two heroes? By day, the crime-fighting WHIZ-BANG bounds around the Golden Age of Hollywood, battling giant robots and super-powered bank robbers. By night, the brooding vigilante THE BLACK DOG prowls Los Angeles’ grimy underworld. But no one suspects that these guys are the same person!

AIPT: Why set this in the golden age of Hollywood? What about this era feels like the best time for this very specific superhero story?

NC: The core idea of a superhero is a person that wants to help. But the way they help, by putting on a costume and fighting evil for everybody to see…that’s acting. So Jacob and I figured the best place to set our story was at a time and place where the idea of “putting on a show” was front and center. Our main character, Ace Adams, is a struggling stuntman with dreams of making it big as a movie star. But when he falls into the superhero biz, he sees the opportunity to be two completely different people. The way that Whiz-Bang walks and talks is nothing like The Black Dog, and neither are like Ace in his “normal” life. But problems arise when Ace is confronted with the question of when you’re spending all your time pretending to be totally different people…who are you really?

Alter Ego

AIPT: How much research do you do in order to nail the tone and feel of this specific era?

NC: Lots! By which I mean, we watch a lot of movies. The concept and setting for Alter Ego came out of mine and Jacob’s shared love of classic films, particularly musicals, and specifically Singin’ In The Rain. There’s a heightened theatrical tone in musicals that we wanted to capture for our story, and we aimed to funnel a palpable energy and enthusiasm into every character and all scenes.

AIPT: There’s clearly some embellishments at play, like “cosmic-powered turf wars” and “gangsters with magic wands.” Why opt for this more “fantastical” take on the city and how does that enhance everything?

NC: Why? Because making stuff up is fun! There’s TONS of embellishments, we’re not trying at all to portray a realistic Los Angeles. Matter of fact, our version of Hollywood is akin to Disney World, where entire parts of the city have been overtaken by different film studio “lands.” You’ve got the Musicals part of town, Westerns, Sci-Fi, studios that focus on Bollywood films, Korean cinema, Japanese movies, a Hong Kong section, and on and on. We’re creating a sprawling melting pot of movie-making, a playground with endless possibilities!

Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego'

AIPT: The storyline obviously tackles big issues of moral dualism and identity. Is there anything specific you think you’re trying to say in this regard?

NC: It’s a story about the sense of self, and the “masks” we wear when we’re in front of people, or how we hide when we don’t want anyone to see what we’re doing. The core I started with was the id (The Black Dog), the ego (Ace Adams), and the super-ego (Whiz-Bang). That’s partly why it’s called Alter Ego…Ace is a guy that thinks he can compartmentalize and balance his brain in order to maintain totally different personas, all while staying anchored in a central sense of self. But (spoiler) this goes very bad, VERY fast. And he’ll realize that he can’t be all things to all people…he’ll need some outside help.

AIPT: Were there any Golden Age heroes that served as inspiration for Whiz-Bang and/or The Black Dog?

NC: Plenty. There’s Superman and Batman, of course, because every superhero after was inspired by them. There’s also Wildcat, the original Green Lantern, the original Flash…pretty much the entire Justice Society. Then there’s The Phantom, The Shadow, the original Captain Marvel.

But the “Golden Age” heroes we were most inspired by were Gene Kelly and Sidney Poitier. Ace Adams doesn’t exist without my love for those two guys, and the way they carried themselves in their movies. Look past the capes and masks and you’ll see a lot of Mr. Poitier and Mr. Kelly in the “performances” of Ace/Whiz-Bang/The Black Dog.

Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego'

AIPT: Who’s more fun to write: the brooding avenger type or the happy-go-lucky do-gooder? Do we need one more over the other these days?

NC: Got to have both! No fun with just one. For me, part of this project is embracing the idea that I don’t have to choose which I prefer…I get to write both! And you’ll see that imbued in Ace’s character too; that idea of not having to just be one person, or do just one thing. He’s liberated by the idea that he can be what’s called for in any situation. But the idea of that, and the execution of that idea, are two very different things…

AIPT: Is the “transformation” undergone by our dashing hero, Ace Adams, perhaps also a response to the massive cultural changes that happened in the ’40s/50s?

NC: For sure. But the changes in culture we’re inspired by stretch into the 1960s, and even to present day. I wouldn’t describe our story as overtly political, but you won’t need to squint terribly hard to see a reflection of where society was, where it went and where it might be going.

Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego'

AIPT: Everyone’s worked on some rather different projects. What was the collaborative process like between the creators?

NC: Jacob and I created the world of Alter Ego together. It wouldn’t be what it is without the two of us being able to jam back and forth on what we like, what we don’t, what works, what doesn’t. Maybe it’s my editing background, but when writing, I feel it’s incumbent on me to figure out how to put the artist in the best position possible, so that they can do their best work. Visuals are the primary engine to driving sequential art, and I try to know when I need to help guide and when I need to get the hell out of the way and let Jacob draw dazzling pages. And the fact that we get to have beautiful, vibrant colors from Kike J. Diaz and masterful lettering and design from Rus Wooton…it just makes me so happy to have incredible collaborators coming together to help make something so special and personal to me.

AIPT: Why should anyone contribute to this Kickstarter campaign?

NC: Because you’ll get to own 100 pages of rip-roaring adventure, full of heart and humor and drama and double-crosses and robots and old-school airplane dogfights and superheroes of all shapes and sizes!

Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego'

Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego'

Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego' Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego' Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego' Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego' Nate Cosby delves into the history and heroism of 'Alter Ego'

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