In the new Dark Horse comic book, Sundowners, “superheroes” congregate at a self-help group trying to understand why the world thinks they are going insane. Written by Tim Seeley with art by Jim Terry and colors by Sean Dove, Sundowners promises to be an introspective, realistic look at the superhero phenomenon. What would happen if superheroes started to appear in the real world? Would they be accepted like so often happens in the movies, or would they be cast as outsiders?
“[Sundowners] kind of came out of sort of the movement in the mid-2000s, the real superhero movement,” Seeley said recently during a phone interview.
He wanted to explore the cynicism of recognizing these superheroes and their obvious identity issues. He was greatly inspired by the horror comics of the 1970s, stories where “you can’t really ever know if you’re sane.”
There are several characters in this self-help group. In the recently released debut issue, each superhero is given time to introduce his or her nighttime adventures. When we meet them at the Chicago Mental Health Center, the heroes are attending a “Sundowners Support Group.” David Shrejic is the host, a mysterious man who takes an interest in the sorrow of others.
Among the group members: Crowlita, Citizen, Arcanika and Karl. Except for Karl, who looks like a depressed old man, the heroes wear their costumes/outfits and generally are shunned for their peculiar actions.
“Hopefully the book is sort of always about leaving a doubt in your mind,” Seeley said. “I think that’s what keeps it kind of fresh is that you’re never going to be 100 percent sure, but we’ll see some stuff that answers one question while sort of opening another. The cool thing about the book is that I don’t think all of the characters are kind of on the same page. … It’s not sort of black-and-white answers to who’s what, who’s actually mentally ill or who’s actually some kind of avenger from outer space. They’re all going to have questions.”
Seeley characterized Shrejic as the main character but also someone who may be villainous. He has a redemptive personality, but his motives are brought into question. “They’re all characters I made up for different projects sort of in the past 10 years, and they were all sort of hanging loose as ideas that I had for characters that I never got to put into their own stories or whatever the case may be,” he said. “So I kind of combined them into this one story and then modified their personalities.”
Terry’s art style helped solidify the book in Seeley’s mind. “A lot of what Jim said and drew reflected back on the book. There’s a lot of stuff I’m taking from Jim’s art as I’m forming the characters. It’s a collaboration that way.”
One interesting novelty about Sundowners is the narration. While most superhero comics feature first-person narration, where the characters narrate their own lives, Seeley’s book sometimes features a third-person narrator, a voice that may be untrustworthy or complicit in a larger conspiracy. The storytelling device is inspired by those same horror comics, including Dracula and Swamp Thing. Every issue will end with a twist that the readers (and sometimes the characters) don’t see coming.
Seeley said he was happy to be with Dark Horse for the project. “It has always been a place for creator-owned books to thrive, and Hellboy is obviously one of the greatest examples of that,” he said. “They actually really know something about doing sort of horror-superhero books because they made Hellboy work for 20 something years. So I thought they were kind of the perfect place for this book.”
The comic book artist, famous for such titles as Hack/Slash, The Occultist and Revival, said Sundowners could go for a long run. He sees a lot of exploratory routes for these characters. Plus, the “vast conspiracy” can go for many stories. Currently, Seeley and Terry have completed almost 10 issues.
“We live in a world where superheroes are more popular maybe than they’ve ever been,” he said. “I realized like if I had written this 20 years ago, if someone was walking around the street in a superhero costume, it would have been weird. Now, if you saw someone walking around in a superhero costume, you’d probably just point it out to your friends.”
By John Soltes / Publisher / [email protected]
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