Writer Dennis Hopeless has written Gearhead and has numerous other projects in the works. Artist Kevin Mellon drew Gearhead and has also worked on books such as Deadline, Hack/Slash, and Thirteen Steps. They’re reuniting for LoveSTRUCK which is available for preorder from Image. Westfield’s Roger Ash recently spoke with Hopeless and Mellon to learn more about the book.
SPECIAL OFFER! All copies of LoveSTRUCK preordered through Westfield will be signed by Dennis Hopeless and Kevin Mellon! They will also include a special print by Mellon.
Westfield: How did you two get together on this project?
Dennis Hopeless: We worked together on a book called Gearhead back in 2007. Kevin and I have been friends for six years now. We actually started working on LoveSTRUCK pretty much right after Gearhead got done. Kevin had some other projects that he did first but it’s been a long road for this one. We first talked about it… Maybe 2006?
Kevin Mellon: Yeah. We were in the middle of promoting Gearhead being solicited. We were just going to cons without a book to sell. You had pitched it to me as something completely different a year or two before. Then you refigured it and repitched it to me on the way home from Chicago, I think.
Hopeless: That sounds right.
Mellon: Basically, on the car ride home from the airport you outlined what you wanted to do. At the time you didn’t have full notions for how it was all going to work out, but you’d refigured the characters, you’d added in the dynamic scenes.
Westfield: Where’s the story come from?
Hopeless: I read Preacher for the first time in college. Pretty much immediately after I put it down, I knocked out a rough plot for my 75 issue epic modern fantasy. I’m guessing a lot of young writers have their versions of Preacher rotting in drawers. In mine, Cupid and his winged minions were the primary villains. I think that’s what Kevin’s talking about; that’s probably the story I originally pitched to him. Once it became clear that a 75 issue indie series wasn’t going to happen, I took my favorite notion from the story (the idea of Cupid as this gluttonous, megalomaniacal being who uses his power over the human race for his own gain) and wrapped a smaller, more character-driven story around it.
Westfield: Why did you decide to do this as a graphic novel rather than a mini-series?
Mellon: The realities of publishing. This will be, depending on which hits first, either Dennis’ second or third book. It’ll be my eighth or ninth. At the time, it was supposed to be both of our second book. With the realities of pitching a series and the realities of publishing, it took a while. We initially got turned down by Image. We started looking at different publishers. Basically it became in order to get it out, the publisher we pitched it to that liked it, that’s the way they did things. I’m a huge fan of wanting to put it out as one big thing. I would like more original graphic novels but I understand the realities of publishing are such that you need a series to pay for the graphic novel. But the original publisher – that was their format and we very much wanted to be a part of that and test that out.
Hopeless: When we originally pitched it to Image, we pitched it as a full color mini-series.
Mellon: The original pitch pages are actually in the book. I just redrew them like three times. I think we pitched it as six issues. Doing it as a graphic novel, the only constraint we had was time. There was no page constraint. The page count is 190-some, but the story runs about 180 so that’s nine issues worth of stuff.
Westfield: What can people expect in the book?
Hopeless: The general premise is what happens if people who don’t believe in love are given the power to wield it? You’ve got a megalomaniacal Cupid love-powering the most cynical, bitter, “I have no interest in relationships” people he can find. It stars a character – Kalli Monroe – who’s just coming into this world and is about to become Cupid’s favorite minion.
Mellon: The thing I’ve been telling people is that while the high concept is pretty high – Cupid running a multinational corporation – it’s a very personal story because you’re following a cast of six or seven and you’re very much following the main protagonist, Kali. You’re exploring Dennis and my ideas about how relationships work and how they don’t work, more often than not. Also trying to come to terms with growing up; shedding the things that you loved as a child. When you become an adult you’re more jaded and you question everything. You don’t follow the leader as easily as you used to.
Hopeless: We’ve kind of personified that period of time when you’re struggling to transition from teenage relationships and interests into harder but more meaningful adult relationships. Our characters are all sort of stuck in a state of arrested development. Wallowing in self-pity instead of moving onto the next stage of their emotional lives. Instead of getting their own s**t together, they spray love flames around and mess with other people’s lives.
Mellon: The thing that I love about this and the thing that hit me a lot while working on it was that not only did I heavily relate to what the characters were going through, more than I probably should have, but the fact that they all mess up; they all do bad things. They don’t mean to hurt people but they do. There are consequences and they have to deal with that.
Westfield: Something I liked with the cast of characters is that you get different views of love from a young, 17-year-old girl to an older man.
Hopeless: The primary cast members are all fundamentally broken in that they can’t make relationships work. We know people like that in our own lives. We may be those people; people who are really talented, interesting, smart, and engaging but who completely fall apart when it comes to relationships. Our characters are all in different stages of life, but they’re all equally useless in that one way. They suck at love. And then, ironically, we give them the power to make other people fall head over heels.
Mellon: That was something I discovered through working on it and exploring scripts with Dennis. As I said, I relate to what the characters are going through and infused a lot of that into the book. Everyone has gone through periods in their life where you feel like you can’t love properly, or people can’t love you properly, or some combination of the two. Each character has their own personification of how they’re broken in love.
Westfield: In addition to talking about love, there’s also a look at how corporations work and how people are manipulated. Is that something that you intentionally put in there?
Hopeless: Yeah, definitely. We come at it like love is basically a product. A very very popular product. That product is sold on every street in every country and somebody is getting rich. So Cupid’s our power mad CEO who manipulates the market by controlling that most powerful emotion. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And nothing is more corrupt or more powerful than a big bad corporation.
Mellon: Something we don’t say in the book but it’s something that people may or may not know is that in America, corporations have the same rights and privileges as individuals. For me, while working on it, there was the metaphor of even corporations that maybe have good intentions can be broken about how they treat the people that either run them, or buy from them, or work for them. They can be fundamentally flawed in that same way that we as individuals can be about our intentions towards other people.
Westfield: There’s also a huge music connection in the book. Where did that come from?
Hopeless: You noticed that, huh? [laughter] This one’s tough to explain. Kevin and I had talked a lot about how people hold onto the music that was important to them when they were in high school, in college. Ever notice how most pop music lyrics stop being even remotely relatable once you reach a certain age? There’s something to that. And I just saw an obvious connection between music and love. In both cases, it’s just doesn’t hit you the same once you grow up. Kalli, our main character, was very much a punk rock girl growing up. Now she’s in her late twenties and as much as she hates to admit it, pop punk just isn’t doing it for her anymore. There’s a direct parallel between that sense of outgrowing a music scene and outgrowing immature notions about love and sex and relationships. Like so many things, we crammed that into the book.
Mellon: For me it has a more personal connection because I grew up playing in bands. I still play music. I’m working on a story that’s dealing with the same sorts of things I was dealing with. I don’t know if Dennis was watching me go through it or it’s just how stereotypical I am; watching my dreams about music shift and change and going from being in bands to switching to working in comics. The music connection is heavy because I first learned to play the guitar around the time I got into girls. The two have always gone hand in hand. For me, that connection is a huge part of the story. There’s a portion later in the book where there’s a meeting of the minds and the music connection is driven home even further in a way that I hope’s rewarding for the audience.
Westfield: We’ve been talking a lot about concepts, but I do want to add for our readers that this isn’t just a concept piece. It is a very exciting story.
Hopeless: Well, thanks. I guess it’s easier to talk about the concepts without giving away big chunks of the story. But the characters are the reason I wanted to do the book from the start. Putting them through hell and then bringing them back out. The journey of these characters is the focus of the book much more than my ideas about corporations or even love.
Mellon: As Dennis talked about his ideas with me and we developed the characters visually, it very much became that these characters and this story only exists in this world. While it mirrors our world, it’s not and I hope people enjoy the character’s journeys.
Westfield: Are there any other projects you’re working on that you’d like to mention?
Hopeless: I have a couple of Marvel projects coming up. I’m writing a 4-issue Legion of Monsters series drawn by Juan Doe. That starts in October. Then I have another not-yet-announced Marvel series coming up after that.
Mellon: I just finished working on an iPhone/iPad game which also hasn’t been announced. I’m working on another series for Image and I’ve got a fully drawn book that I just need to color that will be out from Ape Entertainment.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Hopeless: The book makes a lot more sense than it probably sounds. [laughter] I think we put together a pretty fun and relatable story around these weird ideas of ours.
Mellon: I would just like to say that it’s a graphic novel, it’s 190 some pages, it’s 17 bucks, and it comes out in September. September’s going to be a really hard month for comic dollars. It’s going to be a great month for retailers. It’s going to be a weird month for people like Dennis and myself who are putting out something like this. I hope people give it a chance. I hope people try it and like it and support weird, off-the-wall, off kilter books.